Andy Miller III
Cover Image for C.S. Lewis in America with Mark Noll

C.S. Lewis in America with Mark Noll

January 18, 2024

Perhaps no other literary figure has transformed the American religious landscape in recent history as much as C. S. Lewis. But who exactly was reading his work? And how was he received? With fresh research and shrewd analysis, noted historian Mark A. Noll considers the surprising reception of Lewis among Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical readers to see how early readings of the Oxford don shaped his later influence. It was a treat to have this conversation with one of the leading historians of our day.

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Welcome to the more, to the story podcast I am so glad that you have come along. Look, many people who are in my audience, love CS. Lewis, and if you love. CS. Lewis. You're gonna love this episode. But we're coming at this from a different perspective. And that perspective is of reception history. And so you might not even know what I mean when I say that. But I'm excited for you to hear about it. So just hang on.

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Andy Miller III: come on here, and I'll introduce my guests in just a second. But first, I want you to know that this podcast. Comes to you from Wesley Biblical Seminary, where we are developing trusted leaders for faithful churches, and at this particular moment, within the broad Pan Weslam movement, our seminary has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly with the emergence of the global Methodist church where we've just added.

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Andy Miller III: Alright. I am so honored as somebody who's working in history right now to have one of the preeminent historians of our time within the Christian world particularly, but just in the scholarly world in general. Dr. Mark Knoll, who's Emeritus Professor of history at Wheaton College and the University of Notre Dame on the Podcast mark. Welcome to the Podcast well, thank you. It's a real delight to be with you today.

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Andy Miller III: I I've followed you for a while of my first introduction to you came with your famous book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which some of my friends in the holy institution might not always love how you pushed us a little bit there, but nevertheless, we're so thankful for your scholarship, and the way you've served. Not just a church, but you've served the intellectual community with helping us understand who we are.

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Mark Noll: Yes, that that's been a a a long standing, desire to to look at Christian movements and to take the Christianity very seriously, but also to try to position them

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Mark Noll: in their times and places, and then by doing that positioning to understand more about the Christianity. But then more also about how surrounding forces, factors, influences

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Mark Noll: have shaped the development of of Christian traditions in different places around the world, especially in the for myself, the Us. Canada, to a little bit the UK.

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Andy Miller III: Yes, and and before we get into your book, which I know people will be anxious for us to talk about. I'm holding it up here. Cs. Lewis, in America, readings and reception

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Andy Miller III: 1935 to 1,947. We'll get into that. But I want my audience to hear a little bit about you and your vocation as a scholar and historian, and I think that will help us understand your approach to this book, because there's been a lot written on CS. Lewis, and some people say, Well, why do we need another book? But you come at it as a historian, particularly a historian who's focused on American

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Andy Miller III: theology and American Christianity that, I think, is incredibly

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Andy Miller III: tell us a little calling as a scholar and as the historian.

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Mark Noll: Yes, and I'm I'm glad you use the word calling, because tha, that certainly is my sense that

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Mark Noll: in the Christian Church the body of Christ has many different functions, many different features. A few of us, I think, need should be

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Mark Noll: called to be scholars, and

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Mark Noll: in in cooperation with the rest of the church, learning from the rest of the Church, even as the rest of the Church hopefully can learn from us. In my case I felt called to look at the history of Christianity, and

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Mark Noll: primarily North America, to see what

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Mark Noll: it positive things that Christian churches and Christian individuals have done, but also the way in which the the surrounding culture, the situation, and

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Mark Noll: North America has influenced and affected the way in which Christian teaching has been presented. The way in which Christian life has has gone going forward.

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Mark Noll: My main areas of of study have been in the eighteenth to nineteenth century, every recently finished 30 or 40 year long project, and studying the Bible in eighteenth and nineteenth century America, where

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Mark Noll: one of the chief intentions and this would be relevant where, you all teach

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Mark Noll: was just to understand why the Methodists in the era of Francis Asbury were such a dynamic force

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Mark Noll: and such a successful force from the 17 eighties to 17 nineties to to the past, civil war, and what

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Mark Noll: what was necessary to understand the Methodist was what obviously people like Francis Asbury and Freeborn Garretson and their life were doing. But then, also the situation in the culture

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Mark Noll: that made a let's put it a dynamic.

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Mark Noll: Evangelical Bible centered but for many years determinately nonpolitical

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Mark Noll: message resonate so powerfully well? In order to answer that question, you have to do some comparison. Other Protestant churches were some of the Protestant churches almost as energetic, almost as Bible centered, but tended to be

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Mark Noll: more directly political.

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Mark Noll: interesting, some deep deeply committed to the more traditional American political parties, some more strongly attached to the rising Democratic tide, and this was, I think, quite, quite normal. But what it seemed clear to me, after many years of looking at this was that the Methodist success

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Mark Noll: had to do with their ability to stay clear from what were encumbrances now

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Mark Noll: the rest of that story, however, is not so favorable to Methodist, because, by the by the time we get to the 18 forties and fifties.

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Mark Noll: the questions of the culture just could not be avoided

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Mark Noll: when it came time for Methodist to to confront particularly the the, the really really serious problem. American slavery methods were pretty much like the rest of the believers in the United States. But try trying to write a story, or see a story, or or figure out the history

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Mark Noll: where Christian teaching and Christian actions were central. but to do it

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Mark Noll: by a, a, a study of context, intentions, what people thought they were trying to do at the time turned out to be at least for

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Mark Noll: my own purposes, and I think for a small set of of others just just fascinating now, trying to translate that historical work into something that's that's useful and practical to Christian churches today is is tricky. Because if

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Mark Noll: if you do, if you go to the library a lot, you're gonna accumulate a lot of details. And most people don't have time to do a a lot of detail historical work, but for for the academic contribution to the church, and then the Church's contribution to those who are in a academia.

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Mark Noll: there is, a a synergistic relationship that at its best is helpful.

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Mark Noll: So when I was working at at, for example, on, on on the Methodist.

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Mark Noll: II could focus on how their message was comforting to some and threatening to others, which is actually a well documented in the historical record.

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Mark Noll: But if I was also able to keep in mind

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Mark Noll: that the reason for the threatening and the comforting had to do both with the Methodist message and with how the Methodist message was presented. Then I was able to see a fuller sense of how the Christian Gospels working in that time and place for good, but then also for some problems, and this is

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Andy Miller III: rambling on, on and on. Let me jump in. So this is right up my alley, and I think it's so helpful with. Even in my introduction I mentioned that the the Global Methodist Church is a part of what's happening in the life of of the seminary I serve.

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Andy Miller III: And II think that all of these questions are incredibly related to that period. Now I'm in a tradition, and I have. I know that you have friends like Ed Mckinley. And Skip Elliot, who taught Asbury University? You're aware of that world in its modern type of

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Andy Miller III: the the way it's it's exemplified now. But I think this kind of Wesley and holiness world is incredibly connected to the Francis Asbury tradition. And so for me. I go down for me, not just from my reading, going back to 1,784, when John Wesley or Danes Thomas Coke, and then, you know by eventually, then, Francis Ordain we have the Christmas Conference of Methodist Church. What's happening in this period is is a shift

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Andy Miller III: in as much as I love Wesley, I have a I have his bust behind me. There was this like II he was his commitment to the Church of England.

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Andy Miller III: and John and and Francis Asbury's move toward embracing the American spirit, and in part the the Revolution. I think this, then, creates a almost a different trajectory, and I like to think what's happened. Now, this is this is skipping a couple of 100 years. So forgive me. What's happening in Methodism now

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Andy Miller III: is the kind of the heirs of Francis Asbury finding an avenue for surface.

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Mark Noll: I'm curious if finding it like a denominational avenue. Well, II mean, II do think

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Mark Noll: people who really get into history should be cautious about saying the past illuminates away to the future, but by the same token it should not be nervous about saying, Well, there's certain things

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Mark Noll: about the past that repay serious

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Mark Noll: attention and the might offer insight. So I you mentioned the the Christmas Conference in 1784, and it's always struck me it just really

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Mark Noll: shrewd on Asbury's part.

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Mark Noll: He's appointed by John Wesley, but he waits to take authority position until in a more

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Mark Noll: American mode is democratically elected. And you think, Well, what's going on there? Is it? Just a

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Mark Noll: just a happen sense? Well, maybe, but but

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Mark Noll: it shows that Asbury was sensitive to the conditions in which he was going to be doing Christian work, and I think to to bring matters. As to the present.

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Mark Noll: I've been struck and trying to pay attention to debates amongst Wesley and holiness people.

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Mark Noll: How important worldwide Methodism has become in debating

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Mark Noll: contentious issues among American Methodists, and in some sense

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Mark Noll: you have a something like the Wesley, the Wesley heritage being passed down to Asbury in America. And now you could say

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Mark Noll: the Asbury

00:12:54.240 --> 00:12:57.260
Mark Noll: Nathan Bangs. Yes, tradition

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Mark Noll: being adjusted in a world that very different in 20

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Mark Noll: 20, whatever we are, 2024 yeah. Left America Asia than the United States was in in 1784. So so th the adjustment

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Mark Noll: that Asbury made certainly authorizes Methodist

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Mark Noll: to think about adjusting now world circumstances

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Mark Noll: a instead of simply what was inherited, because if Asbury had not. Counterfactuals are difficult, but conceivably Asbury had said, well, I'm going to remain so strictly

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Mark Noll: and arm of John Wesley.

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Mark Noll: Probably the the the tremendous Methodist impact in the first 30 or 40 years of US. History may may not have taken place or may not have taken place so so fruitfully as they really did.

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Andy Miller III: Yeah. And and we think about the the non political nature. What John Wesley was pretty critical of this very political move that was happening in the United States. So it was one of the chief complaints like our it. You have this British movement. And, by the way, not very fond of the British at this moment. So I think, like there was a maybe in part, that a a reason there this is. This is really interesting, I think.

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Andy Miller III: I'm a part of a tree. I grew up in the Salvation Army.

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Andy Miller III: That was my I was. I was 6 generations into Salvation Army, and II think in part, this willingness to diverge politically or in our polity, is in part what leads to all of these various denominations, even though the term might not have been used. So it's taking a heritage and then and adapting it for a new time, and I like I like how you said that Francis Asbury was one of the ones who's a model of that.

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Mark Noll: Well, I think that's a Salvation Army, too, because you you get in the urban London work in England in the 18 seventies and eighties

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Mark Noll: something that's obviously connected to early Wesleyan holiness roots, but also venturing out and and and new ways of social action. And the the Booth family is

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Mark Noll: not afraid to let the women speak up in public and and and have a have, a, a, a, a, a really important say, so there's again a a kind of combination between holding on to what's important from the past, but then, also being alert to to the to the present day, I think what what historians are able to do looking back is is certainly not to

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Mark Noll: solve contemporary problems, but just to show some of the factors

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Mark Noll: and some of the patience that's needed to work through the complexities of actual, real historical situations and that kind of patience, not gonna solve contemporary problems. But it's least gonna let them be discussed

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Mark Noll: openly and and critically, and with some real light instead of just heat. And we, of course, everyone know we we're living in an age of great heat, really strong light.

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Andy Miller III: That's helpful. Thank you. I'm really glad. II think we could go on this route this road for a long time, and I'm gonna maybe pivot. We'll probably come back. I actually hope we do. But I'm I'm curious. Your where your own, with some of the details of your own biography. Where did you do your graduate work? Why did you do your dissertation on before you landed at Wheaton? And before you came more well known, with at least in the academic circles.

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Mark Noll: I was a literature major as an undergraduate at Wheaton College, and did a master's degree in comparative literature before

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Mark Noll: coming to the personal and academic conclusion that I needed to understand more the history of the the Christian Church. I've been greatly helped in my own personal life by

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Mark Noll: th. The finding out about the Protestant Reformation, and especially the life of Martin Luther, and it seemed like historical study. With was, it was a good thing to do, so I did a Master's degree in in church history at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, and then a Phd. In

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Mark Noll: the history of Christianity, America at Vanderbilt, studying 18 century New England theology and church life. So

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Mark Noll: and then, what was fortunate to to find a position, teaching history at Trinity College in Deerfield for a few years, then at Wheaton for for many, many years

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Mark Noll: working almost all the time on the relationship between

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Mark Noll: Christian thinking, Christian institution, Christian actors, and the surrounding

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Mark Noll: national and national culture so worked for many years in a book on how the small are Republican

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Mark Noll: thinking of the American Revolution redirected in in some ways the main theological traditions in in American history. And then, as as I mentioned, for for even more years, and on how

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Mark Noll: life, as Christian communities in America influenced, how the Bible was put to use, and what people said about the Bible, and and how reliance in the Bible proved to be both a tremendous source of strength, energy, direction, and

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Mark Noll: when it came to issues like with the Bible, permit slavery a real problem. So

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Mark Noll: I do think that that historical we're

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Mark Noll: helps slow people down in rushing to judgment just because any serious attention to most serious problems reveals many layers, many different factors that all need to be at least recognize to some extent to understand in this case how the Christian faith is helpful. How? How those who call themselves Christians don't contribute to a public well being

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Mark Noll: but but I must say

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Mark Noll: for someone like myself, who likes to go to the library, likes to read. It's it's it's been a real privilege to have a vocation like this.

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Andy Miller III: Yes, when sometimes when I'm asked to describe myself, I'm I'm I'm notably like a kind of a very public extroverted person, and like nobody would doubt that I'm an extrovert. But I like to say I'm an extrovert who likes the library. I still like the library, and there's this so much to gain from our our time in figuring out what people have said in the past

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Andy Miller III: and illuminating our own thoughts. And I've I've appreciated your work, too, on the civil War and understanding the theology that undergirded much of what is going on there. And so that's so helpful to me, too. So many of the denominations within the whole industry tradition emerge in that exact period and and caused by that theological crisis.

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Andy Miller III: so I I'm curious. As we make through move to this place. I'll get to your your book now. This helps to see the your. You weren't necessarily a Cs Lewis scholar. This hasn't been your vocation like there there are people who have done that sort of work, and even even other reception histories of Cs. Lewis.

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Andy Miller III: But your particular skill and gifting and reading and time in the library over the past couple of decades, has positioned you to give a new slant

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Andy Miller III: on Cs. Lewis's impact. So tell us a little bit of what led to this new book.

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Mark Noll: Yes, during the decades I taught at Wheaton College. I was enjoyed

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Mark Noll: pretty close connection to the people in charge of of Wheaton College's wage center, which is a center designed to collect

00:20:47.290 --> 00:20:57.630
Mark Noll: the works by and about Cs. Lewis, and then 6 people and influential in his lives. JR. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield.

00:20:57.660 --> 00:21:03.029
Mark Noll: Gk. Chesterton, George Mcdonald, Dorothy L. Sayers,

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Mark Noll: And so, what? Never being a Lewis scholar, I certainly, like many other people, enjoyed reading a lot of Lewis work, and and actually is, a historian found particularly helpful a book that not too many people read which is his Oxford History of the English

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Mark Noll: Literature of the sixteenth Century, excluding drama.

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Mark Noll: which is, which shows those to be a really careful reader as a literary scholar, but also able to position literary works in their historical context. Well, anyways,

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Mark Noll: After I moved to Notre Dame, the the

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Mark Noll: the the current director of the Weight Center. Chris Mitchell wanted to do a program in 2,013

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Mark Noll: to memorialize the fiftieth anniversary of Cs. Lewis's death, which people know, took place the same day as the tragic assassination of of John John Kennedy

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Mark Noll: and III as as someone just hanging around the wage center at waiting for years I was impressed with people who knew a lot about Cs. Lewis, but I also was nervous that that sometimes Cs. Lewis adoration, but in the way of Cs. Lewis explication. So for for Cs. Lewis books to be read and and to be popular. So

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Mark Noll: Chris said, well, W. Would you think of doing a paper for this observance of of the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis death? And, as it happened at the time my wife, Maggie was employed by Notre Dame to work several hours a week as my research assistant. It's terrific. Yes, she does she?

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Mark Noll: Her only problem was that her boss occasionally wasn't too clear performance evaluations that would have been pretty tough. Well, I could always say she did a great job with whatever the boss said to do, but the boss sometimes had trouble telling her what to do. She she is a trained library, and actually worked in college library for for many years, and so

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Mark Noll: I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to see

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Mark Noll: who was reading Lewis early on in America, because I knew that he'd been an act? He had an academic reputation.

00:23:12.530 --> 00:23:24.799
Mark Noll: but was not known in the public until later. II was thinking that Narnia tales and mere Christianity. But it's all also obvious that that the screwtape letters have made a big splash

00:23:24.870 --> 00:23:31.440
Mark Noll: in in the English speaking world in general. So, but knowing just a little bit, I thought well, it'd be quite interesting to to go further.

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Mark Noll: and just to see to to use the resources of the Hessberg Library at Notre Dame. And and

00:23:38.420 --> 00:23:54.109
Mark Noll: when she did the research, it was just beginning to, have opportunities to go online to find out things. So a combination of going to the stacks, looking at periodicals, doing a little bit of online research, turned out that that there was a really interesting story

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Mark Noll: in the reception of CS. Lewis before

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Mark Noll: he became hyper, famous

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Mark Noll: with the beginning of of I think the Narnia Tales begin in 1950, and mere Christianity is published in 1952. I knew that there was related to earlier smaller works, but not too much.

00:24:13.350 --> 00:24:26.450
Mark Noll: And and she did a a tremendous amount of work, actually was looking at reviews and and reactions into the early 1950. But they just they were just too many, and

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Mark Noll: a very convenient stopping point was

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Mark Noll: September 1,947, when Time Magazine, which at that time had a

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Mark Noll: an impact in the United States, I believe, unlike any single medium, does today.

00:24:44.830 --> 00:24:51.730
Mark Noll: Time was just Henry and Henry looses vehicle

00:24:51.740 --> 00:25:03.819
Mark Noll: for telling Americans about the world and for for since it's origin that had featured Brahman individuals on its cover, and Lewis appears on his cover of Time Magazine in in September, 1947.

00:25:03.900 --> 00:25:12.929
Mark Noll: So and so this was a good good stopping point. and again the the question could be raised. What did Americans think of Cs. Lewis before

00:25:13.120 --> 00:25:17.609
Mark Noll: he became so famous with Narnia and and

00:25:17.820 --> 00:25:31.639
Mark Noll: the mirror Christianity? So we we just went back, and and Maggie's work discovered that there was a the first review of a Cs. Lewis book appeared in the New York Times in December of

00:25:31.800 --> 00:25:34.359
Mark Noll: 1935 of his.

00:25:34.730 --> 00:25:41.379
Mark Noll: his, his work regress like the kind of redoing of the the Bunion

00:25:42.140 --> 00:25:54.419
Mark Noll: Pilgrims Progress. And then it was interesting. In the late 1930 S. And early 1940 S. There were a handful, not a lot, but a significant stre trickle.

00:25:54.690 --> 00:26:01.580
Mark Noll: little bit more the trickle of serious engagement with CS. Lewis, the Scholar of

00:26:01.990 --> 00:26:04.789
Mark Noll: Renaissance, and late medieval work.

00:26:05.250 --> 00:26:16.439
Mark Noll: Then the tremendous transformation took place in early February, 1943, when the screwtape letters which had been published a year before in England.

00:26:16.710 --> 00:26:21.350
Mark Noll: came out in America, and then the publisher. Mcmillan.

00:26:21.720 --> 00:26:28.670
Mark Noll: the American publisher of the Screwtape Letters, noticed that there was this tremendous interest in that book, and it rushed into print

00:26:28.790 --> 00:26:39.260
Mark Noll: quite a few what Lewis had written in a more popular way, in, in, in into print. And then, as soon as Lew Lewis kept writing, Macmillan brought

00:26:39.820 --> 00:26:43.639
Mark Noll: those works into the American audience. So

00:26:44.240 --> 00:26:54.079
Mark Noll: Lewis. There were 17 works that Lewis had published before 19 at at through 1947.

00:26:54.180 --> 00:26:58.450
Mark Noll: So those were the works we looked at. How how were they received?

00:26:58.570 --> 00:27:07.549
Mark Noll: The academic works were not published in America, but were available in America because most of them came from the Oxford University Press, which had a New York office and made

00:27:07.620 --> 00:27:22.429
Mark Noll: the academic books available to to scholars. So it did to this turned out to be great fun to do that. I did the paper for Chris Mitchell in 2,013 we have way way, more stuff. Then we we could put to use. And then

00:27:22.630 --> 00:27:34.859
Mark Noll: the Wade Center has had for 7 or 8 or 9 years, an annual lecture series, where somebody connected to Wheaton College is asked to to give lectures on some aspect of some of the one of the authors in

00:27:35.650 --> 00:27:37.060
Mark Noll: in the waste center

00:27:37.130 --> 00:27:46.700
Mark Noll: with the design, the desire, the aim of getting the Wheaton College community interested in what this is because, as we know time moves on.

00:27:46.950 --> 00:27:48.580
Mark Noll: There are, there are

00:27:48.590 --> 00:27:53.430
Mark Noll: freshmen.

00:27:53.440 --> 00:28:02.070
Mark Noll: Oh, and Barfield never, never, never, never heard of him. So the series is designed to have lectures, and then 3 Wheaton College

00:28:02.810 --> 00:28:04.970
Mark Noll: faculty are connected

00:28:05.110 --> 00:28:32.940
Mark Noll: provide responses, and then th. The lectures have been published by an anniversary press. So we had this material that th the current lead leaders of the wage center Crystal and David Downing with it with help, with Associate Director Marjorie, said, well, why don't? Why don't would you like to do one of these lecture series? I said, well, I've got all this stuff that Maggie has done. I've I've been adding little. How would a lecture series on Lewis's reception

00:28:33.860 --> 00:28:35.280
Mark Noll: in this period?

00:28:35.830 --> 00:28:47.759
Mark Noll: Work, they said, about fine go for it. So so they did, and I must pause to to say that they they did a terrific job because the lectures were actually given during covid time. Okay.

00:28:48.290 --> 00:28:58.919
Mark Noll: shift the venue to a big room where people didn't have to sit next to each other and work on some some ways of projecting them to people who might be interested, but could, couldn't attend.

00:28:58.950 --> 00:29:09.380
Mark Noll: and they did a terrific job. And then they they continue particularly merging and helping out to bring the lectures revised somewhat, expanded a little bit into into print.

00:29:09.500 --> 00:29:34.349
Andy Miller III: This is great. I've the Wade center. I've had many people on the podcast who've done work there on Sayers and various other people. Of course, with Lewis as well, I know there's in the Evangelical world view of other institutions like Westmont and and others that have Cs. Lewis centers and people are probably like competitive about who has the real, the real wardrobe never left

00:29:34.350 --> 00:29:58.369
Andy Miller III: like, and even how this intersects with evangelical culture today is interesting, as you said, like freshmen coming in at Wheaton, or any Christian institution might may not even know, for instance, but they make sure that, you know quickly. One of my stories is that my freshman year at Asbury for 3 different classes I had to read mere Christianity for philosophy, for literature and for a music appreciation

00:29:58.370 --> 00:30:35.379
Andy Miller III: so like it. Just kind of shows the prominence of this. But this interesting your book doesn't deal with those big books mere Christianity or chronicle Sonaria thinks he's most famous for. And it's so helpful, too, because many times I ha! I've known. Okay, well, this is a scholar. Cs. Lewis is a scholar of English literature, a medievalist a certain degree. Also, he had, you know, written prefaces to other other books, but it would really. I've concentrated on those books that are mainly prominent within evangelical circles, like reading chronicles and narnia out loud a couple of times through to my kids and these type of pieces. But it

00:30:35.380 --> 00:30:45.600
Andy Miller III: I'm really interested that in 1,947 you said that you highlight this a little bit the prominence of Time magazine and for Time magazine.

00:30:45.970 --> 00:31:03.940
Andy Miller III: And and you have a whole chapter, and maybe we could just talk about that chapter and come back to Catholic chapter. Wh. About Cs. Lewis's reception in a mainstream media. This is fascinating to me. Huh! We don't have. I don't know if we have something that compares to what time magazine was

00:31:03.940 --> 00:31:20.480
Andy Miller III: and that they would recognize a Christian author, I mean, they also had East Stanley Jones on the cover at some point. But tell us a little bit about Cs. Lewis in the mainstream media, and help us understand why this was such a significant event that he was on the cover of time.

00:31:21.560 --> 00:31:28.649
Mark Noll: So it is a an interesting matter that in into I would say, maybe even the 19 sixties,

00:31:29.430 --> 00:31:34.129
Mark Noll: the kind of world in which we live now, where it's unusual

00:31:34.370 --> 00:31:44.939
Mark Noll: for a straightforward, we would say orthodox Christian voice to receive widespread attention. It's not. It's not unknown in our day, I think. Thinking of Tim Tim Keller, for example, recently passed away.

00:31:45.120 --> 00:31:47.820
Mark Noll: had that that kind of presence?

00:31:47.940 --> 00:31:59.640
Mark Noll: But but it was more common then, and part of the the research goal of this project was to say, what was American culture like?

00:31:59.800 --> 00:32:10.429
Mark Noll: It certainly was not a Christian culture in any thorough or systematic way. But there's there was also a sense

00:32:10.550 --> 00:32:20.559
Mark Noll: that the virtues of what had been customary in Western Christian society was good were good, and that they were under threat.

00:32:20.630 --> 00:32:32.079
Mark Noll: Really, really interesting aspect of this research was that most much of what I was reading were were reviews or articles about Csu was published during World War 2.

00:32:32.540 --> 00:32:44.450
Mark Noll: And I was really, I've been really helped by a book by Alan Jacobs, called Year of Our Lord 1942 or 1943, in which he he looked at several people, including Lewis.

00:32:44.550 --> 00:32:46.810
Mark Noll: Christian people, who who

00:32:46.990 --> 00:32:50.710
Mark Noll: who were in a sense saying in effect, saying.

00:32:51.360 --> 00:32:56.530
Mark Noll: the West is engaged in this war against Hitler. supposedly to

00:32:57.080 --> 00:33:20.779
Mark Noll: defend Western Christian values. But what are those Western Christian values in in different ways? simon Ve. And CS. Lewis and Ts. Eliot were trying to make a fresh statement about the importance of Christianity, not in any direct and immediate political way, but responding to the question, What

00:33:20.790 --> 00:33:22.070
Mark Noll: Christian

00:33:22.550 --> 00:33:38.410
Mark Noll: resources are there for people as individuals, but also for the West? Remarkable thing about the Lewis works, and III maybe turned every page. I don't think I read thoroughly every every word that was published in those years the 17 works.

00:33:38.860 --> 00:33:40.999
Mark Noll: but there. There is either no.

00:33:41.420 --> 00:33:47.769
Mark Noll: or almost no commentary on the Second World War. Screw tape letters has

00:33:48.360 --> 00:33:49.480
Mark Noll: some

00:33:49.710 --> 00:34:04.980
Mark Noll: references, but but they're not about the war. You you don't know. Interesting from these published works what Lewis felt about the British Government. You don't know what he felt about the American the the Franklin Roosevelt and the new deal.

00:34:05.110 --> 00:34:09.179
Mark Noll: but but he's writing at a time when people are looking for

00:34:09.219 --> 00:34:19.450
Mark Noll: ultimate answers to ultimate questions the works themselves are are creative. Some of them are brilliant they recognize that way.

00:34:19.489 --> 00:34:27.019
Mark Noll: But it was also a time when when the American public new that first order

00:34:27.489 --> 00:34:32.410
Mark Noll: questions we're requiring first order answers.

00:34:32.510 --> 00:34:42.769
Mark Noll: and at least some of what the attention drawn to Cs. Lewis tells us is that that was a very deep. deeply ingrained American

00:34:43.340 --> 00:34:53.380
Mark Noll: concern need in those desperate days of of late late depression, and then the war and immediate after the war, when, of course, you, we move them immediately from

00:34:53.580 --> 00:34:54.650
Mark Noll: fighting

00:34:55.199 --> 00:35:00.149
Mark Noll: Hitler and and and the Japanese to to the Cold War.

00:35:00.210 --> 00:35:06.939
Mark Noll: So th these are crisis times. And some of the reviews actually referred more to the

00:35:07.010 --> 00:35:10.070
Mark Noll: crazy as the times that then did Lewis himself.

00:35:10.110 --> 00:35:14.079
Mark Noll: but it was obvious that he, he was providing answers

00:35:14.580 --> 00:35:22.960
Mark Noll: for questions. At least many serious people were raising about. Well, how do we really want to talk about the the

00:35:23.070 --> 00:35:28.540
Mark Noll: existing values, the eternal values of what had to come down in in the Christian tradition.

00:35:29.140 --> 00:35:44.270
Andy Miller III: This is one of the helpful pieces that he brings, and this might be a a segue to talk about. Why Catholic audiences would receive him, because the and you highlight this, it's so helpful. I think people will pick up on it, and maybe one reason some Evangelicals.

00:35:44.430 --> 00:36:13.409
Andy Miller III: or in Protestants in general, can connect to Lewis is that he might be an introduction to some of the natural theology pieces that come through with his, as I mean, mere Christianity is in it initiates. This idea is about built on the idea of the moral law, and then goes out from there. But that's not. And you highlight this. This isn't necessarily something that in Lewis's time Protestants or Evangelicals were emphasizing. But this gives him the ability to speak to all these places.

00:36:13.680 --> 00:36:24.549
Mark Noll: Yes, anyway, what being at Wheaton College and knowing a little bit about Lewis, and and as you've you've indicated it kind of gross evangelical enthusiasm for Lewis.

00:36:24.570 --> 00:36:37.680
Mark Noll: II had known that that enthusiasm was a little late and starting, but then, having Maggie's research on these different reviews and articles about Lewis, it became very clear

00:36:38.230 --> 00:36:43.839
Mark Noll: that of the major constituencies in American public life. With respect to CS. Lewis.

00:36:43.850 --> 00:36:48.050
Mark Noll: the Evangelicals post fundamentalists are the last ones.

00:36:49.640 --> 00:37:02.809
Mark Noll: So th. The this study goes up through 1947, and there's one group of Protestants who who really are engaging with Cso. Get to the answer to your question. But in general.

00:37:02.820 --> 00:37:10.440
Mark Noll: magazines like Moody Monthly. The denominational periodicals and evangelical groups either don't touch Lewis at all.

00:37:10.730 --> 00:37:12.570
Mark Noll: or if they do, they say.

00:37:12.640 --> 00:37:25.740
Mark Noll: like the the National Association Evangelical Magazine. Had a couple of short reviews, really interesting writer, really, really good to see Christian themes coming out of Oxford University. But and then there would be a message.

00:37:25.750 --> 00:37:34.469
Mark Noll: The Bible. What he says about the atonement really kind of makes us nervous. So there was

00:37:34.590 --> 00:37:37.900
Mark Noll: for much of the evangelical and post fundamentalist world

00:37:38.690 --> 00:37:48.680
Mark Noll: almost no interest. And the interest that was there. With this one exception, I'll get to what was nervous. Unlike, as you indicated.

00:37:49.000 --> 00:37:52.990
Mark Noll: mainstream American media and the Catholic world

00:37:54.700 --> 00:37:58.630
Mark Noll: Catholic. The the most enthusiastic.

00:37:59.010 --> 00:38:01.340
Mark Noll: early. and

00:38:02.000 --> 00:38:15.220
Mark Noll: intelligent, thorough understanding of Cs. Lewis in America comes from Catholics. Some of that has to do with the training of Catholic reviewers in literature.

00:38:15.550 --> 00:38:22.129
Mark Noll: A lot of it has to do with exactly what you mentioned. Lewis begins his

00:38:22.170 --> 00:38:32.399
Mark Noll: radio broadcast talks, and these these would be eventually amalgamated into mere Christianity by saying, Isn't it? Isn't it the case that everyone

00:38:32.750 --> 00:38:36.149
Mark Noll: has instinctive moral judgments.

00:38:36.220 --> 00:38:48.480
Mark Noll: but good and evil about the phenomena of life. and Lewis develops that theme, and then tries to show that that instinctive

00:38:49.100 --> 00:38:57.429
Mark Noll: belief in a right and wrong is a good foundation to move on to recommend, then, the specifics of the Christian faith.

00:38:57.770 --> 00:38:59.110
Mark Noll: Well, Catholic

00:39:00.570 --> 00:39:01.830
Mark Noll: reviewers

00:39:02.110 --> 00:39:08.289
Mark Noll: recognized immediately that this was not exactly formal, scholastic Catholic theology.

00:39:08.330 --> 00:39:10.359
Mark Noll: but it had a lot to do

00:39:10.710 --> 00:39:21.119
Mark Noll: with the Catholic appreciation, natural law as a not a necessary foundation, but beginning point for a fuller understanding of Christian faith.

00:39:21.800 --> 00:39:34.519
Mark Noll: The one Protestant, the one Evangelical group that paid attention to Lewis were Conservative Presbyterians. associate with Westminster Theological Seminary in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

00:39:34.910 --> 00:39:36.299
They are the one

00:39:36.520 --> 00:39:48.600
Mark Noll: group of Evangelicals who actually write fairly extensive reviews in the 19 fortys about Lewis's work. And they're quite interesting. Usually the the something like this, it what a wonderful thing

00:39:48.620 --> 00:40:04.529
Mark Noll: to see a forthright Christian voice at Oxford University, and and then the very specific works, brilliantly creative or thoroughly helpful for Christian life! And this will go on for a page or 2, and but

00:40:04.630 --> 00:40:07.610
Mark Noll: and then and then the particular

00:40:08.190 --> 00:40:21.389
Mark Noll: apologetical stance of the Presbyterians come into play because they're at their at the time, and and to some extent to the present time. And I I'm a Presbyterian and sympathetic to this way of reasoning.

00:40:21.410 --> 00:40:23.429
Mark Noll: Wha why is that that

00:40:24.120 --> 00:40:29.040
Mark Noll: a. A. A true understanding of Christian faith, requires a

00:40:29.270 --> 00:40:37.530
Mark Noll: presupposition of belief. and the truthfulness of Scripture is given by God. What what comes by nature

00:40:38.170 --> 00:40:51.349
Mark Noll: might have some kind of subsidiary value, but is not a real good foundation for the exposition of Christian faith or a Christian life. So they? They were objecting to the very thing

00:40:51.620 --> 00:40:53.359
Mark Noll: that some of the Catholic

00:40:53.600 --> 00:41:01.290
Mark Noll: reviewers single out is a really interesting contribution from this non-catholic Cs slip.

00:41:01.290 --> 00:41:24.319
Andy Miller III: So that's also what makes him popular in the mainstream media. It makes it, we think, about West Vensor Seminary in its influence. Like so. And you highlight a few of his reviews, Cornelius Fan, till that. Okay. So everything that he has is built upon a a different view, right? That there's not going to there are.

00:41:24.430 --> 00:41:46.099
Andy Miller III: Forgive me like for those in the tradition. I always want to be cautious not to seem too narrow in my description of Calvinism, like in and out that sort of thing. But if there's people who are not going to respond to the light, well, then, how can you say that the moral law is available to everyone. So this I kind of butts up against kind of

00:41:46.100 --> 00:41:57.180
Mark Noll: some of those key doctrines of Pre. You know, at least at least the way that they're being extrapolated at the time. But but again, the the really fun thing about

00:41:57.180 --> 00:42:08.349
Mark Noll: what appeared in those those reviews were at least some of the the younger people who who actually, I had a little bit of contact with when they when they're elderly, really, really wonderful people

00:42:08.410 --> 00:42:11.290
Mark Noll: just they couldn't hide their enthusiasm.

00:42:11.310 --> 00:42:25.090
Mark Noll: What a what a terrific gift Cs. Lewis was to the world! And yet then they have, and tried to position and and it's some sense that there is a parallel to the Catholic right? Because, although

00:42:25.370 --> 00:42:39.399
Mark Noll: there's, I think there's more or less more extensive Catholic reviewing of Lewis, and then Mainline Protestants of the General. There there was a Catholic undertow of of resistance.

00:42:39.420 --> 00:42:42.800
Mark Noll: and and it had to do not so not so much

00:42:43.090 --> 00:42:47.399
Mark Noll: with Catholic reviewers being excited about CS. Lewis.

00:42:47.430 --> 00:42:53.250
Mark Noll: but with the with the idea that a few, not very many, maybe 3 or 4 that we could find

00:42:53.360 --> 00:43:01.830
Mark Noll: Catholic officials associated with Catholic University of America, and and people who followed

00:43:02.140 --> 00:43:06.640
Mark Noll: really serious Catholic theology in the UK. They were nervous

00:43:07.030 --> 00:43:14.939
Mark Noll: that other Catholics were excited about a Protestant whose works had not been approved by the Church.

00:43:15.080 --> 00:43:19.319
Mark Noll: and there were, there were a couple of

00:43:19.370 --> 00:43:29.149
Mark Noll: Catholic reviewers, one really interesting woman and Fremant away. In fact, the the one woman who reviewed several of Lewis's works in this time

00:43:29.340 --> 00:43:46.990
Mark Noll: she she liked Lewis, and she thought he was. She was. I think, she said at 1 point. She he she's the most refreshing public Christian voice, and Gk. Chesterton, but she said, he doesn't really give enough attention to the Church and the Church's contribution to understanding it, which is a standard.

00:43:47.110 --> 00:43:50.100
Mark Noll: Kathleen. So it wasn't as though

00:43:51.120 --> 00:43:55.559
Mark Noll: Catholic reviewers were mindlessly excited.

00:43:56.040 --> 00:43:59.559
Mark Noll: but they they really were in general

00:43:59.680 --> 00:44:19.269
Mark Noll: very, very pleased. And and there there were, in fact, 2 or 3, 2 Catholic authors in particular, who wrote more extensively and more thoroughly about all of Cs. Lewis works than anyone in this period, but by 1947 there is a there is a Protestant, Chad Walsh.

00:44:19.350 --> 00:44:40.999
Mark Noll: He's Episcopal priest who teaches English at Bloate College, Wisconsin. He's writing really serious critiques about Lewis, but even Chad Walls, who eventually will publish an article, I think, 46 or 47 Cs. Lewis, Apostle to the Skeptics, eventually has a book with that title, a really solid book on on Lewis

00:44:41.110 --> 00:44:43.600
Mark Noll: touches only briefly

00:44:43.930 --> 00:44:55.299
Mark Noll: Lewis criticism about Milton's Paradise loss. Milton's landmark work as a scholar about the medieval love tradition, whereas the Catholic authors

00:44:55.450 --> 00:45:03.930
Mark Noll: Charles Brady of of college in Buffalo, and a man named Victor Ham, who taught at Marquette University in

00:45:04.090 --> 00:45:09.130
Mark Noll: Milwaukee. Both wrote extensive articles

00:45:09.260 --> 00:45:14.980
Mark Noll: about Lewis. The scholar related to Lewis, the popular figure.

00:45:15.080 --> 00:45:25.549
Mark Noll: So we we were able to have permission from America Magazine, where these articles, by Charles to 2 articles, and in May and June 44 by Charles Brady, had appeared

00:45:25.560 --> 00:45:34.100
Mark Noll: grateful to have America Magazine. Let us reprint these in in this particular book. Well, let me jump in there because I think that was one of the real

00:45:34.440 --> 00:45:40.669
treasures of this book. Forgive me for saying this, but it wasn't what you wrote. But this is like a really

00:45:40.730 --> 00:45:53.449
Andy Miller III: interesting thing is that as you're as I'm working through this and seeing the way that people are responding to Lewis and thinking about him. And and it's interesting as you've highlighted for the Catholics.

00:45:53.450 --> 00:46:13.749
Andy Miller III: His ecclesiology was a problem right? And and then, honestly, for the same side as you've highlighted on the Protestant evangelical side. What was the problem? His ecclesiology is like? He's too much of of of a Romanist, so to speak, or to to High Church. Well, this is what's fascinating me when you get to Brady.

00:46:13.750 --> 00:46:25.339
Andy Miller III: Okay, so I'm this is somebody I had never heard of until I read your book. Charles Brady, I'm gonna call him we here named Brady, the goat and Football. This is the goat

00:46:25.340 --> 00:46:48.299
Andy Miller III: in thinking about Cs. Lewis, because, II, honestly, I was blown away by the way he synthesized traditions. In in these articles that thankfully American magazine let you reprint what he does is, he helps Catholic see how they can trust him. And I thought it was interesting that he does that by making him into the next Chesterton

00:46:48.710 --> 00:47:07.540
Andy Miller III: like that's the connect and all of these illusion, and he highlights he brings together. I've never seen anybody do it now. I'm sure you have. But his scholarship into Milton and the like. It's just in connecting that to the Pilgrims Regress and and Chesterton. This is a masterpiece. These are 2 masterpiece studies

00:47:07.540 --> 00:47:32.070
Mark Noll: of Lewis. It helped me so much. Understand him better. So tell us about about Brady. Was this somebody that you had known about? Is this a public intellectual? I just missed, I mean curious. Oh, I before before Maggie found these essay reviews in in 1945. I did not know about Charles Brady, but then I have done some research on him and and read a couple of his other books. He was a very creative

00:47:32.610 --> 00:47:35.990
Mark Noll: English professor. Okay? Who? Who?

00:47:36.600 --> 00:47:41.850
Mark Noll: Published a book not too long after these reviews at Cs. Lewis

00:47:42.100 --> 00:47:59.270
Mark Noll: in Le, just exerting Catholic authors to the centuries in order to make the point that Catholics, too, could be creative in a literary sense. Catholics, too, could engage the great intellectual traditions of the West, and he he wanted to convey the impression

00:48:00.260 --> 00:48:08.349
Mark Noll: that that the Catholic faith could nurture literary creativity as well as doctrinal and ecclesiastical

00:48:08.400 --> 00:48:09.890
Mark Noll: appropriate.

00:48:09.950 --> 00:48:28.050
Mark Noll: He himself wrote a a a couple of fantasies, I think 1 one of them was from the point of view of one of the mutton, the mice who might have been there when the Christmas. Him silent night was was written, and he did. He did a couple of other

00:48:28.620 --> 00:48:44.020
Mark Noll: whimsical books like that while in Buffalo, being a constant reviewer for one of the Buffalo papers. Brady lived a long life. He was the chairman of the of the

00:48:44.170 --> 00:49:00.410
Mark Noll: Kinesi's English department. For quite a few years he retired. II think, somewhere around maybe 1960. But then for another 20 years rope revis, he, he ended up. He actually reviewed quite a few of Lewis major works in the 19 fifties, also works by Jr. Tolkien.

00:49:00.700 --> 00:49:13.709
Mark Noll: He at one time proposed a a complete book on the Oxford Christians, as he, as he called them. and I'm not quite sure why it didn't get published. He did quite a bit of work on it, but he he was

00:49:13.870 --> 00:49:20.520
Mark Noll: a a Catholic literary historian and a Catholic writer of

00:49:20.880 --> 00:49:22.880
Mark Noll: fanciful literature.

00:49:22.980 --> 00:49:41.200
Mark Noll: and someone who in his his reviews just just doesn't care at all about what other Catholics are nervous, which is really, in fact, I think it. It's it's in one of his things, he said. The only disappointing thing about reception of Lewis by Catholics is. A few Catholics are not on board.

00:49:41.310 --> 00:50:00.530
Mark Noll: He's actually that kind of enthusiasm is what actually makes a couple of the serious, conservative Catholics nervous. If there's too much Catholic enthusiasm. But Brady actually sent these 2 articles to see us, Lewis, and said, I really appreciate your idea, Lewis wrote back and said, you're the first person.

00:50:00.670 --> 00:50:12.850
Mark Noll: but I think he used the phrase to work up the entire body of of what I had written. So he. Lewis, appreciated that. Brady, because Brady's own background

00:50:13.050 --> 00:50:24.770
Mark Noll: in understanding English literature. But then also the classical tradition, medieval literature. Brady understood that he was doing that. What Lewis was doing, trying to bring

00:50:25.330 --> 00:50:32.780
Mark Noll: sophisticated scholarship to the service of popular media.

00:50:32.930 --> 00:50:43.200
Mark Noll: and that, I think, is is one of the things that he grasped but a few. A few of the others grasped a few of the other reviewers. WH. Auden, for example, I want to talk about yeah, too.

00:50:43.430 --> 00:50:48.960
that what we had with Lewis was an effective Christian spokesperson.

00:50:49.090 --> 00:50:57.760
Mark Noll: in part because he was created. I mean, there was just no no doubt about that. A a a great writer, but also because he had this tremendous foundation

00:50:58.080 --> 00:50:59.559
Mark Noll: of learning

00:50:59.770 --> 00:51:24.039
Mark Noll: from the great tradition of Western learning that that went back to the early church and extended right up right to the present. Well, if we think about him, his interest in Milton and he had the Paradise Lost. There's not a then you jump to. Here's a guy who writes a book about demons. Okay, like, let's just see this connection here. And but it's it's much, much deeper than that.

00:51:24.040 --> 00:51:44.260
Mark Noll: Even just thinking about the various levels of hell. I mean again, I had never connected some of these dots dots until I read Brady's articles that you shared. Well, the Victor Ham Essay review of Parallel is really interesting, this Marquette professor said. Well, we could look on parallel as

00:51:44.490 --> 00:51:53.010
Mark Noll: and I'm I'm not gonna get the phrase exactly right. We said Paradise not lost. And his appreciation of Paralandra

00:51:53.060 --> 00:52:05.220
Mark Noll: was deeply rooted in this particular instance in what he knew as a Milton scholar, and and and his appreciation for the book that Milton that Lewis had published on Milton preface to Paradise loss

00:52:05.270 --> 00:52:19.510
Mark Noll: that had been available for academics. But really, really was it actually, when was reviewed in one or 2 newspapers and popular, but was not really paid attention to. But Victor Ham could see the Carolandra

00:52:20.010 --> 00:52:24.839
Mark Noll: benefited from what Lewis had studied in depth about Paradise Lost.

00:52:24.970 --> 00:52:52.480
Andy Miller III: Right? That's fascinating. I'm interested to. I'm gonna I highlight just 2 2 of the more well known voices that were commenting in this period that you that you studied on Css. I wanted to get to them, but the first is Wh. Auden. And do you tell an interesting story about Auden and his pastor? I didn't know that. So tell us about that. This is so Auden reviewed the great divorce

00:52:52.500 --> 00:52:55.630
Mark Noll: Lewis's fantasy about

00:52:56.050 --> 00:53:00.950
Mark Noll: an omnibus coming to heaven and people getting off, and maybe not wanting to stay.

00:53:00.960 --> 00:53:06.299
He and he liked it. He did have a just a couple of minor criticism, but he said, This is really good stuff.

00:53:06.510 --> 00:53:21.229
Mark Noll: And then he also said that Americans should pay attention to Charles Williams, Lewis's friend and influence. And then, a little bit later, there's an article in the Christian Century, and the Christian century was the one

00:53:21.250 --> 00:53:27.539
Mark Noll: mainline Protestant publication, not not unfavorable to Lewis, but kind of tepid.

00:53:27.680 --> 00:53:42.069
Mark Noll: The other. The other mainline things, I found, were share the general enthusiasm for Lewis. But this article from the Christian sentry was done by an Episcopace Episcopal Minister Priest from Philadelphia

00:53:42.200 --> 00:53:52.840
Mark Noll: area, who went to interview Lewis, and he wrote an article. It was really kind of dismissive, Lewis that didn't read Soren Kierkegaard. He didn't know what existentialism was.

00:53:52.910 --> 00:54:08.310
Mark Noll: He was a kind of shabby and kind of boisterous, and and this this author just kind of pull food, Lewis. But he said, Lewis became a a a live and alert when the pastor said that he was whording priest.

00:54:08.440 --> 00:54:19.240
Mark Noll: and Lewis said, Well, isn't that interesting? Because Lewis had heard that Arden had taken a more serious interest in traditional Christianity, which, in fact, is the case.

00:54:19.440 --> 00:54:25.180
Mark Noll: Lewis III actually went back and looked at what Lewis had written about items, poetry.

00:54:25.270 --> 00:54:33.250
Mark Noll: modern poetry. Lewis is a traditionalist, and early on Lewis, was quite dismissive of Auden's poetry, but after he heard.

00:54:33.540 --> 00:54:51.639
Mark Noll: like in his work, then Lewis's comments about Auden's poetry, become a little bit more measured. So on Auden, who, who, I think, a year after he he wrote his review of the great divorce, received the Pulitzer prize for for literature.

00:54:51.810 --> 00:54:59.699
Mark Noll: and a major voice in British and American Poetics was was one of the people who was who was

00:55:00.430 --> 00:55:15.550
Mark Noll: Hi. I lose actually a on on a a little bit later in in the fifties, he writes a glowing review of the Lord of the Rings, by JR. Tolkien, which is also against people who were who were poo pooing, that is is not not a really important work.

00:55:15.600 --> 00:55:45.599
Andy Miller III: Interesting, these these major voices. We're thinking about this. It's interesting. If you go back, and you know part of my work on William Booth is just to look at the public intellectuals of his time, who are speaking about him from Cardinal Manny to JB. Lightfoot to other kind of like well-known people. That gives us an insight into what was ha cause. These were contemporary with what they were saying. So like. So Auden's comments are helpful to us, I think, in part because it helps us see.

00:55:45.600 --> 00:55:49.660
I mean, even you said there's already interaction between the 2

00:55:49.660 --> 00:56:09.450
Andy Miller III: in that period. And and II did appreciate the way you didn't give a lot of attention to it, but enough to see that the Christian century did kind of, I don't know. Like their little side comments. We're looking down at. At Csl, okay, the other one. I wanna ha highlight back in the Catholic side, Thomas Merton.

00:56:09.450 --> 00:56:28.620
Mark Noll: and it's a New York Times Review. So tell us a little bit about that, and what we can learn from the Catholic perspective on Lewis via Merton. Right? Right well, Merton actually had one of the early reviews of Lewis before this food tape letter isn't before he was re really famous.

00:56:29.260 --> 00:56:41.840
Mark Noll: The review appeared between the time when Martin Merton came back to the Catholic Church in just a few months, maybe a year or so before he entered the Yosemite monastery in Kentucky, where he lived lived for the rest of his life.

00:56:41.880 --> 00:56:48.940
Mark Noll: He he reviewed the work called The The Personal Heresy. which was a

00:56:49.780 --> 00:56:57.330
Mark Noll: an argument that Lewis and another scholar on on how you should approach it a literary work, and

00:56:57.380 --> 00:57:03.979
Mark Noll: Lewis's argument was, well, the authors may be sort of important, but the really important thing is the work itself.

00:57:04.260 --> 00:57:16.359
Mark Noll: and Merton reviewed this positively, and I think he he got some of the for the New York Times. He got some of the theological sense. About understanding what Lewis was trying to say

00:57:16.880 --> 00:57:24.720
Mark Noll: about how important it is that truth comes to us from the outside and and whatever we do. And however we.

00:57:25.240 --> 00:57:46.639
Mark Noll: however, humans construct things is important. But what's really important is the the objectivity of of the work. So it's not an extensive review. It's it's it's well, it well, let's just put it differently. It's extensive for the New York Times. It's not like the Brady or the but it's indicative that that Lewis.

00:57:47.190 --> 00:57:50.730
Mark Noll: thinking about broader conceptual matters

00:57:50.900 --> 00:58:04.430
Mark Noll: was attracting readers who could see the Christian import. And and what so? Yes, that was, that was quite a actually just kind of blew me away to see Thomas Merton before it became famous.

00:58:05.260 --> 00:58:18.149
Andy Miller III: being asked to review this work in that for the New York Times. Yeah, it's so. It's very helpful to think about the the way that Lewis connected many streams of thought, and of course, the one of the things that

00:58:18.150 --> 00:58:38.359
Andy Miller III: from his schola work to his Christian work to it like you indicated people just like him, people just would. They read his? He has a way of writing that connects people that they? They want to generally keep reading. But I'm I'm curious like there, what do you? What are some of the the kind of big trends

00:58:38.600 --> 00:59:05.759
Andy Miller III: that made it so that Catholics broad kind of just American intellectuals. And then eventually, you know, Protestants, and then Evangelicals all look to Lewis. What are some of those things, and we've maybe talked about a few of them. But there any any other things that we haven't talked about that make him such a an integrated voice, or like a person for us to look at from this period.

00:59:07.080 --> 00:59:17.059
Mark Noll: It's certainly to me, when I was reading these different reviews, and especially the Catholic reviewers emphasize it, but some of the others did, too.

00:59:17.530 --> 00:59:24.510
Mark Noll: They didn't call it mere Christianity. Then they did in different ways. Talk about Lewis's

00:59:24.600 --> 00:59:35.740
Mark Noll: intentional focus on the main central teachings of the Christian faith. and leaving aside the teachings and the practices that were controversial. So

00:59:35.860 --> 00:59:38.180
Mark Noll: I think that what

00:59:38.570 --> 00:59:49.800
Mark Noll: the reviewing public was recognizing something that I mean historian and other questions certainly certainly is unders underscored. that when

00:59:50.240 --> 00:59:53.600
Mark Noll: the intra Christian disputes

00:59:53.830 --> 00:59:55.250
Mark Noll: become public

00:59:55.380 --> 01:00:04.080
Mark Noll: they're really not interested to the broader public. If you're a Wesleyan or a Calvinist, you want to have good discussions amongst them.

01:00:04.320 --> 01:00:19.830
Mark Noll: But the broader public is not gonna be too much interested in, and and whether infants should be baptized or people should be baptized upon their profession of faith. But they might be interested, and in this period of time, in response to Lewis they were interested in.

01:00:20.150 --> 01:00:26.699
Mark Noll: Is there a moral order in the universe? Yes, that moral order connect to the Christian teaching about the unique

01:00:26.890 --> 01:00:28.059
Mark Noll: Son of God.

01:00:28.090 --> 01:00:37.600
Mark Noll: about the Incarnation, about the resurrection of Christ, about the the reconciliation brought between humans and God by Christ.

01:00:38.360 --> 01:00:45.100
Mark Noll: So those teachings which which eventually be called mere Christianity were what a lot of the reviewers

01:00:46.370 --> 01:00:57.570
Mark Noll: responded to in Lewis. It was refreshing to have a very clear Christian voice that was not a denominational Christian voice. And and if

01:00:57.940 --> 01:01:07.709
Mark Noll: you know, if there's a if there's a lesson from this kind of history for for today. It seems to me that would be one of them. But hearing in the

01:01:08.920 --> 01:01:14.490
Mark Noll: in the modern world, you you probably don't want to talk too much about what aid do Ukraine, or

01:01:15.140 --> 01:01:23.609
Mark Noll: aid to aid to the Palestinians as important as those things are, and as important as they should be for Christian people.

01:01:23.930 --> 01:01:27.980
But a Christian message and and public life is going to be focused on the main

01:01:28.270 --> 01:01:29.870
Mark Noll: center of of

01:01:30.630 --> 01:01:32.820
Mark Noll: Christian orthodox teaching

01:01:32.900 --> 01:01:36.289
Andy Miller III: which takes us back in part to where we started a conversation

01:01:36.310 --> 01:01:57.750
Andy Miller III: to Francis Asbury. You know to what you said about what your insights are about Methodism, in that it wasn't that there weren't other Bible believing so teriologically focus groups. But same time it was this nonpolitical message that connected with people, particularly on the frontiers of America.

01:01:57.840 --> 01:02:03.490
Mark Noll: Yes, I mean, I think just you can't compare the

01:02:03.800 --> 01:02:16.790
Mark Noll: the kind of technical learning of an Asbury and Luther. But you you can compare. I'm actually as part of the early earlier work on the early Methodist. I tried to track. What? What are the texts

01:02:17.360 --> 01:02:23.469
Mark Noll: that people like Asbury repair? There's this really good scholarship on, on, not just Asbury, but other ministers. And

01:02:23.550 --> 01:02:28.350
Mark Noll: you know there's a range of text, but they they tend to focus in on the the

01:02:28.550 --> 01:02:32.749
Mark Noll: promises of Christ, that Christian See and Isaiah.

01:02:32.970 --> 01:02:49.320
Mark Noll: and the Gospels, in in the proclamation of of the urgency of repentance and and faith in the Pauline epistles, and they're not about the the the kind of text that have led on to intra Christian debate. And and clearly, Lewis

01:02:49.390 --> 01:03:00.430
Mark Noll: Now, when he's challenged during this period, and he said, Well, these radio broadcast, I have, I pass them by Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican.

01:03:00.510 --> 01:03:12.650
Mark Noll: and I've tried to adjust things. If they if they object. But he's he's deliberate and and trying to present to the public a basic. universal

01:03:12.900 --> 01:03:16.010
Mark Noll: Christian message. Yeah, that that was very important.

01:03:16.150 --> 01:03:27.969
Andy Miller III: So what you're so suggesting is that in this period, 1935 to 1947, which was pre mere Christianity, it was nevertheless his mere Christianity

01:03:27.990 --> 01:03:33.159
Mark Noll: that connected him. I think so. Right? Yeah, I mean a. And then, of course.

01:03:33.450 --> 01:03:37.939
Mark Noll: they're individual things. And and it took a real

01:03:38.730 --> 01:03:43.510
Mark Noll: creative intellect to come up with the idea behind the screwtape letters.

01:03:43.680 --> 01:03:46.430
Mark Noll: the the

01:03:46.470 --> 01:03:54.970
Mark Noll: the pros, and the broadcast talks that would eventually be pulled together as mere Christianity is scintillating prose, and

01:03:55.050 --> 01:04:05.760
Mark Noll: I'm struck by what Lewis himself said about the preparation of his broadcast talks that led to these, he said they they came out of his experience

01:04:06.210 --> 01:04:07.920
Mark Noll: being enlisted by

01:04:08.550 --> 01:04:11.890
Mark Noll: chaplains of the British military

01:04:11.900 --> 01:04:23.360
Mark Noll: talking to troops, Raf troops, other troops. they would enlist, lay people to come and give brief Christian messages at Lewis Re. Reports.

01:04:23.450 --> 01:04:39.879
Mark Noll: His first ones were terrible. Nobody paid any attention, because he I think he felt he had the responsibility to present a message that his fellow Oxford dons would appreciate. And that was just the wrong idea. You you wanted a message

01:04:40.030 --> 01:04:41.770
Mark Noll: that people had no

01:04:41.880 --> 01:04:50.219
Mark Noll: theological training and in many ways no interest in formal Christian matters to attract them, and so that in that process.

01:04:50.240 --> 01:04:57.340
Mark Noll: before he gave the broadcast talk, Lewis had already been undergoing a a transition between

01:04:57.680 --> 01:05:02.439
Mark Noll: Christian thinking and writing aimed at people like himself.

01:05:02.480 --> 01:05:12.220
Mark Noll: which, in thinking and writing, aimed at the public as a whole, so that that and that part was point was was was singled out by some of the reviewers as well.

01:05:12.510 --> 01:05:18.270
Mark Noll: You had appetite, material of considerable depth and complexity.

01:05:18.450 --> 01:05:28.939
Mark Noll: but presented with it with just crystalline pros. That was not. That was not a mistake. It was a deliberate choice for Lewis to to work in that way

01:05:29.390 --> 01:05:42.059
Andy Miller III: is, one of my favorite short essays comes in. Got the doc which is, you know, just a tie. I don't even know if he came up with that title, but it was a interview that he has with that

01:05:42.360 --> 01:06:00.959
Andy Miller III: just dictated A conversation had with businessmen. It was like as as if he was going in our time to a rotary club and taking questions. And I love just to see the way he interacted in in that environment, he was able to take his learning this this foundation to them.

01:06:00.990 --> 01:06:11.160
Andy Miller III: I'm curious, Mark, with your with the study you've done and is mainly been the. It's obviously thinking about what others thought of Lewis. But

01:06:11.230 --> 01:06:22.450
Andy Miller III: if you had, if I if you only had a 5 h and you had to read one Lewis book. Which one would you? Which one would you read? What would you do? What's your kind of a go to Lewis text?

01:06:24.360 --> 01:06:34.869
Mark Noll: Well, I did as you said you did we? We, my wife and I read that 3 children, and probably went through it in Honey Tail 6 or 7 times.

01:06:34.970 --> 01:06:41.880
Mark Noll: and I found them, you know, really really attract. But but as I mentioned

01:06:43.300 --> 01:06:56.219
Mark Noll: IIII really have enjoyed many, many times dipping into rather than just reading straight through the the Oxford history of English for the sixteenth century, because.

01:06:57.380 --> 01:07:01.909
Mark Noll: the judgments on individual authors are just

01:07:03.560 --> 01:07:11.219
Mark Noll: carefully made, and and many of the authors I knew nothing about, but I had actually done a little work and and but benefit of student work on

01:07:11.250 --> 01:07:26.809
Mark Noll: really serious exchange between Thomas More and William Tyndale in the early days of the English Reformation, Lewis says, just brilliant insights. He actually appreciates both authors, although they hated each other, and they wrote thousands of pages against each other.

01:07:27.310 --> 01:07:28.760
Mark Noll: But then, also

01:07:29.040 --> 01:07:34.449
Mark Noll: he does. What historians just almost never do is he'll he'll give us opinions

01:07:34.490 --> 01:07:39.340
about how some things in the sixteenth century relate to to the President.

01:07:39.410 --> 01:07:45.929
Mark Noll: I wouldn't say th. The this work is is Christian edification as such.

01:07:46.030 --> 01:07:50.899
Mark Noll: Such marvelous combination of historical diligence.

01:07:51.140 --> 01:07:52.870
Mark Noll: historical insight.

01:07:53.580 --> 01:08:09.879
Mark Noll: and historical clarity of a kind that, traditional historians just don't don't do so. I guess maybe that betrays my interest as a professional historian, how somebody, not really a professional historian, did what I tried to do. So so very well.

01:08:09.990 --> 01:08:37.680
Andy Miller III: interesting. Well, my the title of my podcast. Is more to the story, and part of it is, I like to just go deeper to get the story behind what people are thinking about you know. Personally, I also have a theological slant to it, thinking about the emphasis on sanctification. There's more than just getting our sins forgiven. But I love to ask a question. Is there more to the story of Mark Noel? Is there something that you've done? Hundreds of interviews, I'm sure.

01:08:37.680 --> 01:08:48.120
Is there something you don't get to talk about? Do you like to? Is there certain sport you like? Or is there some a hobby that you have that you don't talk about. So what's more to the story of Mark Noel.

01:08:50.840 --> 01:08:58.189
Mark Noll: Well, from a very early age II thought maybe I would be a writer, I'd write novels and poems, and and actually

01:08:58.720 --> 01:09:03.759
Mark Noll: turned out, I think I am a writer, but it's much more mundane and much, much more

01:09:04.090 --> 01:09:08.190
Mark Noll: kind of ordinary historical work. But

01:09:08.580 --> 01:09:11.839
Mark Noll: for for a long, long time

01:09:12.120 --> 01:09:15.249
Mark Noll: I have been intrigued by the fact that

01:09:15.569 --> 01:09:20.099
Mark Noll: shortly after John Wesley returned from England to

01:09:20.600 --> 01:09:21.450
Mark Noll: Britain.

01:09:21.590 --> 01:09:23.229
Mark Noll: Yeah. 7 and 38.

01:09:23.569 --> 01:09:24.980
Mark Noll: Because of his

01:09:25.060 --> 01:09:29.850
Mark Noll: positive contact with Moravians in Georgia and in London he took a trip

01:09:30.109 --> 01:09:35.359
Mark Noll: to the center of the Moravian work in Germany at Herin, who in which is now

01:09:35.630 --> 01:09:44.779
Mark Noll: kind of Eastern Germany. On the way, in his trip, 1738, the summer of 1730, he passed twice

01:09:45.180 --> 01:09:59.320
Mark Noll: through the city of Leipzig. where at the time the chief musician of the city was JS. Bach. Now I read everything I could find on

01:09:59.390 --> 01:10:05.430
Mark Noll: Wesley and his trip and everything I could find on Bach in the summer of 1738, and there's absolutely no

01:10:05.670 --> 01:10:16.240
Mark Noll: evidence that they they knew of each other or saw each other. But I was privileged a few years ago, when when the Box Society met at Notre Dame.

01:10:16.470 --> 01:10:19.080
Mark Noll: to actually write up a kind of

01:10:19.330 --> 01:10:22.380
Mark Noll: what if I mean, there's these 2

01:10:23.280 --> 01:10:28.899
Mark Noll: key Christian people so very different also with a lot in common.

01:10:29.020 --> 01:10:36.690
Mark Noll: And it was, it was fun to do that, and actually find out that some of the Charles Wesley's sons

01:10:36.730 --> 01:10:41.130
Mark Noll: we've introduced Jspa to to England.

01:10:41.440 --> 01:10:45.690
Andy Miller III: No interesting. So II thought, well.

01:10:46.370 --> 01:10:59.150
Mark Noll: could I do a a fantasy if they met? This may never happen. But you ask about more of the story. This is probably part of the story that will never happen.

01:10:59.230 --> 01:11:06.120
Mark Noll: But it it is a thought one of these 2 very different people

01:11:06.910 --> 01:11:10.490
Mark Noll: had met. And it's it's possible to know.

01:11:11.260 --> 01:11:16.480
Mark Noll: because of the the really detailed box scholarship which cantatas would have been

01:11:16.490 --> 01:11:24.089
Mark Noll: performed in the churches when Wesley was near Leipzig. And there's a just a lot of other information you can find about

01:11:25.630 --> 01:11:27.570
Mark Noll: the 2 of them at that time.

01:11:27.600 --> 01:11:31.220
Mark Noll: But whether or not whether or not it an old

01:11:31.270 --> 01:11:36.480
Mark Noll: working historian can is is is a is a real good question.

01:11:36.480 --> 01:11:59.440
Andy Miller III: Oh, I love the idea. I was a a music major undergrad, and I composer and my music. The musicologist that I work with is a man named Dr. Ronald Holt, and he made sure that we just understood certain things about Bach as a feel as a he. He contrasted Handle and Bach with this. He that handle was Old Testament dramatists.

01:11:59.440 --> 01:12:10.280
But but Bach was a New Testament theologian in the way he approached things, and then he also made sure, like we understood things that, like B. The B minor mass

01:12:10.660 --> 01:12:21.459
Andy Miller III: was almost like a high point in Western civilization like it's bringing together all of these various disciplines. And and to think about, I've never even had the thought

01:12:21.730 --> 01:12:43.190
Mark Noll: that they were around together at the same time in the world at the same time. Oh, please do it! That would be fun. Well, I might might take a set of abilities that I don't have. But yes, I I've certainly benefit over the years from from all sorts of wonderful Wesley Scott. The Henrik rack biography, I think, is one of their truly great books ever written

01:12:43.330 --> 01:13:08.850
Mark Noll: scholarship

01:13:08.870 --> 01:13:32.349
Andy Miller III: Samuel Wesley as a composer, and II think I think there's a lot of interesting ties between these things. Well, Mark, thank you so much for your time. It's an honor for me to talk with you somebody who's been a key voice within, not just evangelicalism, but in the discipline of history. And thank you for this book. Ii hope it will help people understand

01:13:32.420 --> 01:13:46.100
Andy Miller III: American culture better. But also this key voice, who can be an example to us for how we can move forward. So we really appreciate your time today. Thank you. The book was fun to write, and this is the fun fun conversation today. As well. Thank you very much.

Copyright ©2024 Andrew S. Miller III