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America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  212 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Religious life in early America is often equated with the fire-and-brimstone Puritanism best embodied by the theology of Cotton Mather. Yet, by the nineteenth century, American theology had shifted dramatically away from the severe European traditions directly descended from the Protestant Reformation, of which Puritanism was in the United States the most influential. In i ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published April 21st 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 13th 2002)
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Sep 09, 2011 David rated it really liked it
This book is fascinating not just to those interested in history, for many of the views discussed in this book are still prevalent today.

Noll talks about what happened in America that happened nowhere else: the combination of historic Christian orthodox belief and republican political freedom. Everywhere else, when people started to desire political democracy they were often also desiring to reject Christianity (i.e. French Revolution). Noll shows that the Founding Fathers were, for the most par
Jay Perkins
"America's God" is an incredible work of historical and theological scholarship. Noll's main goal is to explain how republican ideology based on Scottish common-sense moral reasoning changed and developed theology in early America. This development is surprising since traditional Christianity had been fairly antagonistic to republicanism and the liberal (or Lockean) ideology. Yet during the war for American Independence, and the disestablishment of state churches, orthodox Christians began to fi ...more
Luke Evans
This was a good book. It is very detailed and very academic. I wish he would write a layman's version of this book and argue his main theses. This would help his important message make some headway in the evangelical world.
It is good to see evangelicals doing first-rate historical work.
Apr 03, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it
It's almost obligatory to describe a work this long as "magisterial." But the shoe fits. In a lengthy, detailed but cogent argument, Noll shows how American theology developed from the Revolutionary war to the Civil War. In particular he demonstrates how a blend of historic, Reformed Christian theology, republican political theory, and commonsense moral philosophy combined both to create the new nation of America, and also to create a very distinct American version of Christianity. Well worth th ...more
May 01, 2008 Matthew rated it really liked it
Mark Noll is one of the historians who has been working to revolutionize our understanding of evangelical Christianity in America. This work, perhaps his greatest, gives an account of the shape of evangelical Christianity in the United States from before the Revolutionary War to time of the Civil War.

Each chapter is brimming with information. Noll has command of a huge amount of source material, as well as the in-depth knowledge of other work in his field. The material was never overwhelming, ho
Rodney Harvill
Dec 07, 2015 Rodney Harvill rated it really liked it
This book explores trends in theological thought between the 1740s and the 1860s and the interactions between theological and political ideas that influenced the course of our nation's history.

In other parts of Christendom, the Catholic doctrin of original sin and the Calvinistic doctrine of total hereditary depravity resulted in opposition to republican ideas. At the extremes, the implication of these doctrines was that people were incapable of any moral or ethical good without the intervention
Goodson Gary
An excellent overview of the religious scene in America before the Civil War. One of the things I found disturbing, yet probably true, was this: given the way the Bible was viewed and read in the years before the Civil War; the really only conclusion one could come to was that the Bible sanctions slavery. Again note, given the way the Bible was viewed and read in the time before the Civil War; which could be termed a "fundamentalist" approach that tended to see the Bible as inerrant and infallib ...more
Jun 25, 2010 Keith rated it it was amazing
For understanding the current upheavals of politics in the US, especially in the large chasm of understanding in the visions that spawned this nation, Noll's opus here is probably the most important book to read this election season. He has done a thorough job in dissecting and laying out the various influences and trajectories concerning the confluence of politics, religion, and world-views from pre-Revolutionary times to the climax of the Civil War. For those who are comfortable with viewing t ...more
Mike Horne
Sep 21, 2013 Mike Horne rated it liked it
This is a fairly difficult read (the three stars are more a reflection of my inadequacy perhaps). The thesis (as I far as I can make out) is that American evangelical theology (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.) became very American after Jonathan Edwards and after the Revolution. By 1840 it was republican (whatever that means!), common sense (again very specific), and Bible centered. And yet though it really gripped the US (much more than during Revolutionary times), it was incapable of re ...more
Mar 31, 2014 Naum rated it it was amazing
A tour de force look at theological streams in the United States from the 1700s up until the Age of Lincoln. How fledgling Republicanism was subsumed by all of the expanding denominations that mushroomed in the post-Revolution era. How roots of Scottish philosophy infused themselves into the American religious divergence. The significance of Jonathan Edwards. Profiles of nearly all the influential religious voices. The rise of Methodism, which at onset, appeared to be the most un-American religi ...more
Sep 05, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
Several professional reviews have called this book "magisterial." I must concur. This book is a study of American Christian theology from the Puritans up through the Civil War, the way American society has been effected by its dominant religious traditions, and the way such values as individualism and mistrust of inheried authority have shaped the way theology developed in America. The author further accenuates the unique character of Christianity in America by drawing occasional comparisons wit ...more
Oct 30, 2015 Peter rated it really liked it
A reference work on the role of religion in American society.
Brianna Sowinski
Dec 04, 2015 Brianna Sowinski rated it it was ok
Not my favorite topic and too long winded. Personally I would have found religion in the wider context of early America much more interesting. Also since I personally am not super familiar religious history, I found Noll to be too specific and wanted a more general introduction to the topic so I could get my bearings.
Apr 07, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing
Without much question, this is the best book written on the history of religion in America. Noll, a Notre Dame History Professor, is able to weave through American history without the hazards of facile conservative rhetoric for the present, and arrogant liberal denunciation of the past. His look at President Lincoln is of particular note. Lincoln rises above his hyper-religious contemporaries to provide the most profound and nuanced theological commentary on politics and God--all from a man who ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Carissa rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand American religion and American patterns of thought, read this book. I can't recommend it too highly.
Aug 19, 2009 Eric marked it as to-read
Recommended to Eric by: Jan Stump
This book is interesting to read along with A Peoples History of the United States for the attention that it gives to the unique way that republican language of individual freedom and autonomy was enthusiastically embraced by Christians. This was an anomoly in the western world at the time and so far Noll has been exploring why this was.
The book gives some deeper context to what was going on religiously behind the frankly disturbing injustices in colonial america that Howard Zinn is interested
The reflections on Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural are alone worth the price of the book. However, perhaps I am misunderstanding, but I thought the whole argument about the relationship between Calvinism and Common Sense Realism was perhaps skewed by the author not distinguishing between the illumination of the Spirit being necessary for the saving understanding of scripture, as opposed to the intellectual understanding. Still, no reader of American religious history can afford to do without ...more
Eric Molicki
May 13, 2012 Eric Molicki rated it really liked it
Shelves: church-history
Noll's study is magisterial in scope and definitive in its insight into the changes in the American theological landscape brought on by: 1) The Revolutionary War, 2) 19th century Revivalism, and 3) The Civil War. I have gained a much thicker understanding of the current American church as a result of this work. I have to take off a star, though, as I thought some significant editing work would have greatly benefited the strength of his case without taking away from both the magisterial scope and ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it
Turgid stuff. You see the ongoing dialogue between a whole variety of theologies and how they play out in their American context. The story is so broad that even with this thick a book we seem to hope around. That Mark Noll has a handle on this is astonishing in and of itself.

What is most stunningly interesting to me is, at the end, the author's take on Lincoln's theology per the Second Inaugural and how mature Lincoln was to his theological contemporaries.
May 03, 2010 Tyson rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read. Noll traces the attitude toward religion from pre-revolutionary times, and shows the split in thinking that took place from religious to secular, church to political governments in American culture. The chapters about Edwards were really insightful. It is a big read and sometimes is very "textbookish," but overall is invaluable to anyone who wants to think deeply about American views of religion and culture.
Jan 11, 2013 Kristi rated it liked it
A dense and thorough study exploring the intellectual evolution of a uniquely American Protestantism. In particular he concentrates on changing cultural meaning and the political ideological contexts for changes in American Protestantism during the first half of the 19th century. The book includes a very useful glossary of terms.
Jan 14, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing
Noll continues his excellent career with a work that is nothing sort of stunning. America's God is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in American religious history. His findings will shed much needed light onto America's unique theological history and revise many (mis)conceptions.
May 11, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it
I first read this book several years ago, but now I am revisiting it. Though I am still not convinced by some of the author's conclusions, I am learning more the second time through than I did the first. A top-notch work of history, well worth consulting repeatedly.
Feb 26, 2016 Emily marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I didn't even get through the introduction. I like history and I like religion, but I guess I don't like them enough to read 600 pages about them for fun.
Abigail (42stitches)
Read some 75% of this book for a history class and wasn't bored to tears. I actually quite enjoyed it.
Wyatt Houtz
Feb 11, 2013 Wyatt Houtz rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Warning: May cause paradigm shift for american evangelicals
May 23, 2010 Rachel added it
Good history of evangelical religion in this country
Ronnie Chang
Ronnie Chang marked it as to-read
Jul 28, 2016
Emily marked it as to-read
Jul 17, 2016
Hampton Harmon
Hampton Harmon marked it as to-read
Jul 16, 2016
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Mark A. Noll (born 1946), Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, is a progressive evangelical Christian scholar. In 2005, Noll was named by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America. Noll is a prolific author and many of his books have earned considerable acclaim within the academic community. The Scandal of the Evangelical ...more
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