1 Sep 2010

With a Book … Communion across the Page

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Books, Church History, Gordon Fee

For those out there that are Civil War buffs as well as disciples of the prince of peace I want to call attention to Mark Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. Noll is one of the foremost historians of religion in its North American contexts and has done us all a huge service in this small (200 pages) and very insightful work. The Civil War was for all intents and purposes a religious war in many ways akin to those in Europe. The religious dimensions of the war have often been minimized and even downright denied by much 20th century scholarship. Noll explodes this myth and does it soundly. Of particular interest to those who take following Jesus seriously, Noll’s chapter on “The Crisis over the Bible” is worth ruminating on at great length. Put this one on your to read very soon list.

Over the last decade Thomas Cahill has become one of my favorite writers. His “Hinges of History” series has been a delight to read, entertaining and informative. His Mysteries of the Middle Ages and the Beginning of the Modern World is larger than his previous volumes and it is beautifully and lavishly illustrated. I love it for the medieval art alone! People were not as dumb in the “dark ages” as popular mythology would have us believe. Again one can not read through this period of history and not at the same time learn something of the ways of God’s ever flawed people in this world.

Sometimes it is interesting to hear about what others think about certain books or authors. One author that has been influential in my “scholarly” development has been Gordon Fee. His book, with Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth changed forever how I read the Bible. Fee’s works are some of the preeminent examples of not only what scholarship is but what faith scholarship must be. So it was interesting to me to come across this short interview with him on who he finds to be stimulating. Enjoy.

Blessings and Shalom.

12 Responses to “With a Book … Communion across the Page”

  1. John Says:

    “I imagine God grows weary of being called down by both sides.” – the movie “Gettysburg,” I forget if it was Lee or Jackson.

  2. kingdomseeking Says:

    I always wonder what it must take for two or more Christians to overlook their own faith and the same shared faith of the others before them so that they can kill each other for a cause of this world. That curiosity extends beyond just the American Civil War.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Of course, the American Revolution doesn’t seem to fit a “just war” cause either. Is “taxation without representation” a “just” cause to take arms against a government established by God?

  4. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Not sure what your comment has to do with the post or even the comments above. If you plan on making another comment … sign your name or it will be deleted.

  5. Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Thanks for the write up about the Noll book. Of course, now this is making me think about how the religious war between the states impacted the young Stone-Campbell group.

    Right now, I’m reading “The Landscape of History” by John Lewis Gaddis. Every page makes me jealous of him. It’s that good.

  6. Randall Says:

    Thanks for the tips on the books. I’ve read Fee’s book and thought it was helpful though I had heard most of in my younger and more active years. His bias in favor of the NIV did put me off just a teeny bit though.

    I have not read the other books you mentioned, but I intend to, so please forgive me if this next comment is written from a position of ignorance.

    Generally the victors write the history so I was raised being taught the war was all about slavery, which was a horrible evil. This was particularly true as it was practiced in north America. And one’s view of slavery was closely related to one’s religious beliefs. OTOH, Shelby Foote (Civil War series on PBS 20+ years ago) has argued that too much emphasis has been placed on the slavery aspect and too little on States rights as the most significant factor. Foote also suggests none of the original 13 colonies would have ever signed up to join the union if they had thought they couldn’t get out of it later; or that the union could usurp sovereign powers reserved for the several states.

    Side note: Both Lee and Jackson were devoted Christians – I’m not positive about Longstreet but I think he was. Jackson even taught the bible to black slaves – a little irony there?? But Jackson was dead long before Gettysburg. He may have called for God’s help for the Virginians and his wrath on the invaders from the north earlier in the movie, before the war had progressed towards the battle of Gettysburg.

    Could you guess I might be a native son of the Old Dominion?


  7. Wade Tannehill Says:

    Thanks for sharing and making us aware of this good stuff. I would, and do, buy anything by Fee or Wright. Who wouold have thought an Anglican and a Pentecostal would be so united?

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Wade the Pentecostal and the Anglican I suppose can do that because they are so committed to what the text says rather than some prior theological commitment. Nothing illustrates this better than Wright’s response to John Piper in his “Justification.” What a breath of fresh air.

  9. John Says:

    Hi Randall

    The quote may have come from ‘Gods and Generals.’ I think it was Jackson. I may try to review the movie some time, God willing. I understand most of the Confederate enlisted soldiers were not slave owners, but I dont have a source on that. Why did they fight?

  10. Randall Says:

    Hi John,
    The view of so many Americans regarding the union was very different before the war than it was/is in the USA we grew up in during the 20th century.

    I think the majority of southerners fought to defend their worldview; or their view of the union and in particular their view of the sovereignty of their state(s). They, like we, were caught up in the spirit of the times.

    In Gods and Generals we see that Stonewall and others viewed their fight to be against northerners invading the soil of their sovereign state(s).

    I do not think they fought to defend slavery. As you pointed out, the majority of those that fought did not own slaves and they were they not fighting to defend slavery per se.

    I do not claim to be any kind of history expert, but that is my understanding.

    I again affirm that slavery, especially as practiced in the USA, was a horrible evil fraught with many evils.


  11. fraizerbaz Says:

    Wow, I guess I never realized that the Civil War had anything to do with religion. I’d always assumed that it was about greed, money and power – regular politics.

    I wonder if we will life to see another Civil War here again?

    Glad to see you are doing well.

  12. Daniel Oden Says:

    Hey Bobby,

    I read the following book as a teen after my Dad brought it home. It is the memoir of an enlisted confederate soldier. He describes the exhortations of the preachers to those about to do battle. Thought you might be interested if you have never read it.



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