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From Every Tribe and Nation

A Historian's Discovery of the Global Christian Story

series: Turning South: Christian Scholars in an Age of World Christianity

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Christianity's demographics, vitality, and influence have tipped markedly toward the global South and East. Addressing this seismic shift, one of America's leading church historians shows how studying world Christianity changed and enriched his understanding of the nature of the faith as well as of its history.

Drawing on personal experience, Mark Noll illustrates the riches awaiting anyone who gains even a preliminary understanding of the diverse histories that make up the Christian story. He shows how coming to view human culture as created by God was an important gift he received from the historical study of world Christian diversity, which then led him to a deeper theological understanding of Christianity itself. Along the way, Noll shows how he came to enjoy greater respect for the particulars of the Christian tradition in which he was nurtured as he began studying Christian traditions that differed greatly from what he had known. He also offers advice to students who sense a call to a learned vocation. From Every Tribe and Nation will appeal to professors and students in history of Christianity courses as well as discipleship-of-the-mind campus ministry groups.

About the Series
The Turning South: Christian Scholars in an Age of World Christianity series offers reflections by eminent Christian scholars who have turned their attention and commitments toward the global South and East. In order to inspire and move the rising generation of Christian scholars in the Northern Hemisphere to engage the thought world and issues of the global South more vigorously, the series books highlight such reorientations and ask what the implications of "turning South" are for Christian thought and creativity in a variety of cultural fields.

1. Cedar Rapids
2. Rescued by the Reformation
3. First Teachers
4. Settling In
5. Moving Out I
6. Looking North: A Guide
7. Looking North: Insight
8. Moving Out II
9. Moving Out III
10. Missiology Helping History
11. Courses and Classrooms
12. Experts
13. By the Numbers
14. Looking South: A Guide
15. Looking South: Academic Insights
16. China Watching
17. Explorations with Pen in Hand
18. Notre Dame
19. The Story So Far
Appendix: Checklist of Publications on World Christian Themes


"Many of us have learned so much from what Mark Noll has taught us about the past. But now we have the book that we have been hoping he would also write: a marvelous, personal account of his own journey thus far, from his early days as a teenage baseball fan in Iowa to his groundbreaking work as a gifted historian of global Christianity."

Richard J. Mouw, professor of faith and public life, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Mark Noll takes his readers on a fascinating journey in which they can share his enthusiasm of discovery regarding one of the most remarkable developments within recent memory: the burgeoning of Christianity around the globe. Noll's range of expertise is truly wonderful, and he offers a host of insights along the way."

George Marsden, professor of history emeritus, University of Notre Dame

"Yes, I'm prejudiced. I know that any new book by Mark Noll is undoubtedly a cause for excitement, both for myself and for anyone interested in the history of Christianity. I am especially delighted by From Every Tribe and Nation, which takes the literature on world Christianity to a whole new level. The book's foundation is the modern-day evolution of Christianity into a global faith, and it asks the essential 'So what?' questions about the implications of this overwhelming fact. Readable, insightful, and often moving."

Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history, Baylor University

"Experience is all. From Every Tribe and Nation is a spirited tale told in the first person of how a boy who grew up in a Baptist community in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came to know, in his life and in his scholarship, the truth of the words of Revelation, 'By your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation.' Noll is a good storyteller, and his lively accounts of Christian life and witness across the globe, in Asia and Africa and Eastern Europe, will delight and inspire readers."

Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus, University of Virginia

"Mark Noll invites us to join him on the intellectual and spiritual journey that led him to realize that Christianity from its origin onward must be understood and evaluated as both cross-cultural and global. Noll points out significant signposts along the way that encouraged him to reconsider the methodologies he employed as a historian of Christianity and to embrace an approach that combines serious historical scholarship with greater attention to broad and local contexts, empathetic interpretation, thoughtful criticism, and history as theology. As an 'autobiographical memoir,' this engaging book gives insight into the mind of an important scholar today, but it also summons historians and scholars in other fields to assess the approaches they take in the study of Christianity."

Karen Westerfield Tucker, professor of worship, Boston University

"Mark Noll applies his characteristically meticulous attention to precision and complexity to the story of his own journey of engagement with world Christianity. What emerges is fascinating. We get a rare glimpse into the mind and heart of a historian as he reflects on the intertwining of his own professional and personal story with the story of world Christianity. The book leaves us hungry to know more--more about how the study of history can enrich our own spiritual journeys, more about the rich and unfolding story of a changing scholarly and pedagogical orientation toward world Christianity, and more about the power of the gospel as the incarnate Word both finds itself 'at home' in and at the same time transcends the particularities of every culture of the globe. This book has the potential to kindle many productive conversations among friends and colleagues in both the church and the academy!"

Shirley A. Mullen, president, Houghton College

"Mark Noll's story of how he came to engage world Christianity is powerful and instructive--and a delight to read. It should be required reading for seminarians and widely discussed in churches interested in the global contours of the Christian faith. Here we witness how thinking changed, but much more--how a life was reordered and transformed."

Nathan O. Hatch, president, Wake Forest University

The Author

  1. Mark A. Noll

    Mark A. Noll

    Mark A. Noll (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is research professor of history at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and professor of history emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including...

    Continue reading about Mark A. Noll


"If you are looking for a single book to guide you through the emerging study of world Christianity, this should be the one. Noll packs a remarkable amount of material into a short space, including a moving account of his personal discovery of the wider Christian world. His breadth of cultural knowledge continues to amaze and delight. This is going to be a classic in the field."

Philip Jenkins,

Christian Century

"Enthralling and beautifully written. . . . This book is in large measure autobiographical, almost a Bildungsroman, in which an inquiring and fiercely intelligent Christian from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, describes how he discovered the realities of that new world lying outside the traditional Western heartlands of the faith--in fact, how he learned to think globally. . . . Noll's book is admirably nondenominational and irenic in its approach, and he has something to offer readers of any church background."

Philip Jenkins,

First Things

"I recommend [this book] highly. . . . [It has] a thread of personal narrative interwoven with the larger story, and for some readers that will be particularly compelling."

John Wilson,

Books & Culture

"In the introduction to his book, Noll credits those who, against all his inclinations, persuaded him to write 'a personal narrative to describe the process by which I came to share their belief that full attention to the non-Western world had become essential for any responsible grasp of the history of Christianity.' It was the emphasis on a 'personal' narrative that Noll balked at . . . but finally he agreed, for which we can be grateful. . . . I wish everyone who set out to write about Evangelicals and Evangelicalism in the contemporary U.S. would read [his first] chapter--for its candor, its irony, its affection, and its insight."

John Wilson,

First Things

"Mark Noll is a careful and humble historian from whom one always learns. . . . Noll's careful combing of data yields a host of tantalizing finds. . . . Noll's stories are just as illuminating. . . . This book is ideal for courses in the history of Christianity, especially global Christianity. It is a delightful read for anyone interested in the transmission of the Gospel."

Gerald R. McDermott,

Theology Today

"Given the way [Noll] is wired, and given the convictions that drive his life and work, his own story could never be the main point--witness his 'grave suspicion about personal memoir as a genre.' There is a much bigger story to tell. His own story is a foil--fascinating foil--for the expression of the passions of his life (even historians have these): the nature of the Christian faith, the nature of Christian thinking about history, and the paradoxes and limitations of human life. . . . I hope the book is widely read by pastors, academics, and thoughtful lay people, who have--or wish they had--a compelling and reliable vision for God's new global work in our time."

John Piper,

Desiring God blog

"[Noll's] pilgrimage is rich, readable, and easy to follow. For those of us who seek to increase the awareness of the North American Church to the realities of our Global Christian family, From Every Tribe and Nation serves as both a description of one scholar's journey and as a case study in how people become globally interested. Pastors and parents, biographers and missionaries, faculty and statisticians will all be encouraged to read how contributions from their ilk helped shape this brilliant mind. . . . From Every Tribe and Nation serves as a wonderful reminder that we're headed toward that great day when people from every tribe, language, people, and nation will join together in worshipping the Lord Jesus."

Paul Borthwick,

Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"[This book] is a memoir of discovery, offering a rare glimpse into how a leading historian's understanding of global Christianity has developed over time. . . . The insights and resources mentioned throughout the book . . . assist the reader with further research. If you are an evangelical who asks questions about your faith in relationship to global Christianity, you will find this an engaging read. Likewise, those who find themselves on a journey toward a more nuanced understanding of their faith will find Noll's reflections encouraging. For those considering a career in academia this book also provides a view from the front row of how a scholar develops and pursues intellectual interests."

Andy Johnson,

Englewood Review of Books

"[Noll] has the erudition, clarity, wit, recall, generosity of spirit, and eye for detail that memoirists need. . . . The book shines brightest when Noll drops the artifice and writes as a historian. . . . As Noll presents his sources, the reader parachutes into a Ph.D. seminar as an encyclopedic mind burns through lists of seminal sources. The leader pauses and a bold student wonders, 'What will I learn from these essential authors?' Noll obliges. . . . This memoir has many fine notes about the spread of Christianity."

Dan Doriani,

The Gospel Coalition

"The combination of Noll's scholarship par excellence, storytelling ability, transparency, humor . . ., logical and smooth flowing writing style, and usual humility . . . make the short, bite-sized nineteen chapters an easy, insightful, and entertaining read. . . . A variety of readers can benefit from From Every Tribe and Nation. These include fellow historians who want an inside glimpse into the life of one of the English-speaking world's leading Christian historians; veteran professors in need of fresh intellectual challenges and career invigoration . . .; missiologists . . .; North American missionaries serving overseas; local church leaders and members committed to Jesus' Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and who are interested in the global contours of the Christian faith; students desiring a less abstract/statistical and more personal understanding of the world's 'first truly global religion'; any Western Christian wanting to flee his or her ethnocentrism and be more globally minded; and those readers--academicians or otherwise--who enjoy autobiographies and biographies. . . . A fascinating read. Highly recommended."

I. Francis Kyle III,

Mission Studies

"[A] highly readable book. . . . The volume should find widespread use in church study groups along with college and seminary classrooms. . . . I especially appreciated that while Noll describes his growth over the decades, he never trashes the heritage from which he hails. It should also be noted that the story Noll tells is not only rich in information but also explicit in theological orientation and gospel appeal. It will not only illumine the mind but fortify the soul for continuing missional maturation among Western believers in coming years."

Robert W. Yarbrough,


"An engaging account of an American evangelical scholar's journey from childhood to mature adulthood. . . . [An] interesting and lively book. . . . The audience is American lay evangelical Christians. . . . To nudge this group toward an encounter with global Christianity is a delicate operation, and Noll nicely finesses the task. . . . [A] skillful attempt to raise global awareness in the U.S. evangelical Christian subculture."

A. Cameron Airhart,

International Bulletin for Missionary Research

"If you are curious about how a Christian historian grows intellectually, this is your book. . . . At first sight this book is concerned with the huge growth of Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere and Noll's own gradual focusing of his interest on that global expansion. Noll is a historian of himself as well as of evangelicalism, a man who is acutely conscious of his own consciousness. He tells us here the tale of the spread of the gospel and in doing so recounts the dynamic changes in his own intellectual horizon, and how and when and by what agents this change has taken place: he started out as a historian of early American Protestantism and has ended as a historian of the worldwide church. . . . If you were to draw up a bibliography of important figures who moved Noll toward the study of global Christianity, from the Canadian George Rawlyk to Lamin Sanneh of Yale University, you would have the markers of the movement of Evangelicals from church history of an older sort to the history of the church in a postmodern world. Noll himself is a model of Christian intellect in that world."

William M. Shea,


"This book is Noll's academic memoir, tracing and reflecting on a paradigm shift that has transformed his life and career. . . . The humility shown in Noll's eagerness to learn from his fellow scholars as well as students is clear. . . . By mustering accounts of spiritual development, academic formation, and teaching experience, Noll has arrived at a renewed appreciation of world Christianity to provide insights on issues of methodology, geographical regions, and the significance of world Christianity. As a memoir, the book does not shy away from the author's own spiritual struggles or critical reflections of his own evangelical background; he treats them with honesty and grace. As a scholarly reflection, the book provides an insightful window onto the academic development of world Christianity. . . . I hope this book attracts not only students of world Christianity or fellow church historians but also all those who have yet to make their encounter with Christianity as a true world religion."

Zexi (Jesse) Sun,

Calvin Theological Journal

"I have raved about this unfolding series of books before; this new one is the third in the 'Turning South' series, which tells the stories of 'Christian scholars in an age of world Christianity.'. . . [The book] shows how this leading historian, by offering his own personal account, has come to do his work, and particularly his recent work on the global Christian story. . . . Who knew that Noll was such a good storyteller--he tells of his own boyhood growing up Baptist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his early love of baseball, and, now, to his groundbreaking work on global faith."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"Honors to Baker Academic for this surprisingly thrilling, very informative series. . . . Mark Noll, of course, is an eminent historian whose every new book is met with enthusiasm, both among historians and scholars, but all who read the best Christian writing. This new book, however, is more personal. . . . Noll is a good storyteller, of course, and his telling of how 'global Christianity' has become known in our generation is truly remarkable. One of the very important, and lovely books of 2014, for sure!"

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"Mark Noll's formidable body of work on North American religious history has already secured his legacy as one of the preeminent scholars of a generation. Among the reasons for this well-deserved reputation are Noll's insatiable intellectual curiosity, genuine humility, and modeling of faithful scholarship. All three of these characteristics are on display in From Every Tribe and Nation, a compelling memoir about Noll's professional and personal discovery of the global expressions and implications of Christianity. . . . Noll's book is highly recommended for its embodiment of faithful scholarship and its remarkable blend of intellectual acuity and humility."

Patrick L. Connelly,

CCCU Advance