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Review: Mark Noll’s "America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln"

Updated on December 28, 2016
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in agricultural/occupational medicine in rural upstate NY and has a Masters degree in history.

America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

Throughout Mark Noll’s America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, Noll examines the roles of Christianity and Republicanism in the construction of American theological identity. Through an analysis of primary sources spanning the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Noll explores the historical context of American Christianity through the lens of the national political ideology of the forming nation. Noll argues that the United States’ unique blend of Protestant Evangelism and political circumstances was the product of a political environment in which values of liberty and freedom were held as the paradigm of ideal Christian society. Concurrently, Noll recognizes the role of religious schisms, texts, and activists in the political and social movements of the period of Noll’s study.

Noll uses a thematic organization in which historical contexts and political ramifications of religious movements and actors are analyzed, relying on the reader to keep the events and ideologies of his analysis in a chronological organization within their own understanding of the material. While oftentimes heavily worded with the vocabulary of religious studies, the contents of Noll’s analysis contribute to the historical study of American theology, as well as to the study of the role of religious ideology on eighteenth and nineteenth century American politics.

Throughout Noll’s investigation of the links between Evangelical Protestantism, Christian Republicanism, theistic common sense, disestablishmentarianism, and denominational polarities, Noll traces the evolution of Christianity in America using an analysis of the different branches of Christianity that emerged throughout the United States in the era between the settlement of the American Colonies and the Civil War. Using such primary sources as the second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln,[1] The King James Bible,[2] the writings of the founding fathers,[3] and abolitionists,[4] sermons of various ministers of the studied period of American history,[5] and statistical data from early demographic studies of religion in America,[6] Noll argues the importance of the role of American politics in the development of religious movements in the early nineteenth century. Using the same sources, Noll examines the role of American religious movements in the politics of the Civil War, arguing that the Christian Republicanism which developed in response to a combination of religious awakening and political movements in the decades preceding the Civil War, varied by region and religious denomination; thus altering the ways the north and south perceived the causes of the war and the possible religious based justifications or condemnations of slavery.

Throughout Mark Noll’s America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, Noll traces the roles of Christianity and Republicanism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ changes in American religious identity. Through an examination of primary sources to validate his thesis, Noll explores the historical context of uniquely American Christianity through the lens of the national political ideology of the young nation. Noll’s thesis attests his assertions that the United States of America’s Christian Republicanism was the product of the political emphasis on liberty. In tandem, Noll argues the importance of the role played by religious awakenings, texts, and activists in the political movements of the period of Noll’s study.


[1] Mark A. Noll. America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). 425-435.

[2] Ibid. 18.

[3] Ibid. 55-56.

[4] Ibid. 404-406.

[5] Ibid. 26, 250.

[6] Ibid. 200.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Hartwick College, Oneonta NY for the use of their beautiful library!
Special thanks to Hartwick College, Oneonta NY for the use of their beautiful library!

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