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Mark Noll Lecture on The Bible and the Civil War

The Department of History and Department of Religious Studies will host University of Notre Dame Professor Mark Noll for a lecture titled “The Bible and the Civil War: Before, During, and After.”

Photo credit: William Koechling

Photo credit: William Koechling

The distinguished historian and Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History will explore arguments that claim the Bible contributed to sectional controversies that eventually led to the Civil War. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be in the Alumni Memorial Building, Room 210, at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21.

Noll also will talk about how the Bible’s role in American life changed after the Civil War, noting that events in public life affected—and continue to affect— private use of scripture, and vice versa. He will address his new project about the history of the Bible in American public life.

He has written several books including The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. His research suggests that mid-19th century America found itself in a theological crisis because people on both side of the slavery debate were using the Bible to justify their stance.

“Ministers disagreed about how to read the Bible—and as much as it was a result of fierce disagreements about slavery or Union … the Civil War was a crisis over biblical interpretation,” Publishers Weekly said in explaining Noll’s work. “The Bible’s apparent acceptance of slavery led Christians into bitter debates, with Southern proslavery theologians detailing an elaborate defense of the ‘peculiar institution’ and Northern antislavery clerics arguing that the slavery found in the Old Testament bore no resemblance to the chattel slavery of Southern plantations.”

In addition to being considered one of the foremost interpreters of Christianity in America, he is also the author of numerous books including America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, and In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783, which was published this year.

Noll has been awarded the National Humanities Medal and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Charles O. Jackson Memorial Lecture Series honors the career of the late Charles O. Jackson, a scholar of American culture and society whose wide-ranging works explored American ideas about death and sexual deviance, food and drug legislation, and the social and military history of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Jackson was an esteemed member of UT’s history department from 1969 to 1997.

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