Mark Noll’s The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization

I’ve long admired Mark Noll’s work. This 2022 800+ page text is no exception. In America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, Noll wrote the quote at the bottom of this post. The last sentence is of particular relevance for Christians today. That sentence and Noll’s supporting evidence point to a dual claim:

1) Christianity and this grand and beautiful experiment that we call the United States of America are not one in the same, and Christianity does not depend upon this one nation to exist now or in the future.

2) At the same time, Noll makes the case that many values that help the United States work are scriptural values [my addition – or sometimes values coming from that longstanding public theological wrestling match between American Calvinism and Arminianism] and that some past and current efforts to extract those values from the American experiment may prove far more dramatic than advocates realize, perhaps proving necessary to maintain a stable democratic republic.

At a minimum, these claims seem important for Christians to examine, understand, and discuss.

“From Christopher Columbus to the present day, the appropriation of universal scriptural values in American history has mingled constantly with its use for particular purposes, sometimes in keeping with those values, sometimes violating them with abandon. That mixed record must temper anything triumphalist Bible believers might say in its favor. Yet an honest assessment of the nation’s history, and at no time more than the present, should also recognize that a democratic republic needs something like the Bible more than Bible believers need a democratic republic.”

— Mark Noll