Noll and Enns on Theological Diversity and Christian Unity


This quote expresses some of my recent thinking to an eery extent:

So if we find ethical, theological, and historical diversity in Scripture, we begin with the assumption that what the Bible intends for us to learn is not primarily concerned with textual unity or precise moral consistency as construed by modern ethicists, theologians, and historians. Rather, “The unity of the Bible is more subtle but at the same time deeper. It is a unity that should ultimately be sought in Christ himself, the living Word…”

Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, p. 139, quoting Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.

Of course, this leads to several important questions: How much theological or historical disharmony can be tolerated? How much unity should we require for fellowship or organizational structures? What do we do with ethics or theologies that oppose each other? Nonetheless, I think Noll and Enns are on to something important here.

Mark Noll: The Atonement Points Us to Morally Complex Stories


> Since the atonement involves tremendous complexity and great mystery, **the best narratives will not be simplistic** (like movies were resolution comes through a car chase or gunfight). Neither will the best narratives be Manichean (where the good guys are all good and the bad guys are all bad). Nor will they be simply heroic (where protagonists triumph over obstacles through reliance on their own inner resources) or simply nihilistic (where the point is to enact the futility of human existence as in novels of Thomas Hardy like *Jude the Obscure* and *Tess of the D’Urbervilles*). Rather, **the best narratives will be morally complex**, as in fact the enduring tragedies, comedies, and novels — like *Oedipus Rex*, *King Lear*, *Paradise Lost*, and *Crime and Punishment* — regularly are. Such morally complex narratives are most satisfying because, in terms of atonement theology, **they are most true to life**.

Mark Noll, [Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind](, p. 71. Emphasis added.

Mark Noll on Why the Atonement Matters for Christian Scholarship


> If, then, the **act of substitution** is a primordial human reality, the **seriousness of sin** is the essential human dilemma, the **divine initiative in salvation** is the basis for human hope, the **narrative movement of grace** is the primary shape for human knowledge, and the **complex nature of reality** is the inescapable challenge for human understanding — then the **human study of the world should reflect these realities.**

Mark Noll, [Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind](, pp. 70-71, emphasis added.

By “complex nature of reality,” Noll refers to the multiplicity of the atonement. Who put Jesus on the cross? Judas? Pilate? The priests? God? Jesus himself? Yes — they all did. Does God love sinners or punish them? He does both. Was the cross the worst moment in human history or the best? It was both at the same time.