Americans today might learn valuable lessons in political principles by reflecting on Abraham Lincoln's presidency, a University of Notre Dame history professor and award-winning scholar of religious and cultural history said this week.
Dr. Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at Notre Dame and speaker for this year's President's Distinguished Scholar Lecture at Palm Beach Atlantic University, spoke Monday on the topic Abraham Lincoln's Moral Development and Lessons for Dangerous Times. The speech, held at the DeSantis Family Chapel, was open to the public and commemorated the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
During the Civil War, many of the traits that Lincoln brought with him to Washington became deeper: his attachment to the Bible, his moral consciousness, his focus on the ideals of the United States and especially his sense of divine providence, Dr. Noll said.
The resulting depth of his moral and spiritual maturity enabled him to combine his deep commitment to his principles with extraordinary charity toward his foes, he said.
This is evident in Lincoln's famed second inaugural address, in which he expressed a desire to bind up the nation's wounds without passing judgment on either side. That was an uncommon approach amid the fiery oratory of that time, he said.
What Americans today can learn from Lincoln points the way for how political principles can be expressed justly and with charity at the same time, Dr. Noll said.
Lincoln showed how it's possible to have reasons for reaching out to others, even to opponents, because we know that they too are responsible in the end not to us, but to God.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Noll spoke during morning chapel service on themes from his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. He said that he sees encouraging signs that an increasing number of the world's brilliant minds are turning their intellectual pursuits toward matters of Christianity.
In many places around the world, Christian believers actively pursuing the life of the mind for Christ are now present, Dr. Noll said.
He noted that for many years, serious Christian thought languished. However, that is changing, he said.
The reversal won't take place overnight, he said. But with the understanding that the work that's done in the classroom and the laboratory and the internship is work done because of Christ, in Christ and for Christ, the future is a bright future indeed, Dr. Noll said.
Also during his visit to PBA, Dr. Noll met with faculty members and spoke to students in Christian Values and Biblical Faith classes about the new shape of world Christianity.
One of the nation's foremost scholars of religious and cultural history, Dr. Noll is a prominent participant in dialogues between evangelical and Catholic scholars. Selected in 2005 by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America, he is the author of numerous books, including God and Race in American Politics, which traces the explosive political effects when religion and race intermingle.
His book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind is about anti-intellectual tendencies within the American evangelical movement and was widely covered in both religious and secular publications.
In 2006, Dr. Noll was awarded a National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office by President George W. Bush. Prior to joining the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Noll was as a professor of religion and history at Wheaton College for 27 years, where he co-founded the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals. He also served as a visiting teacher at Harvard Divinity School, University of Chicago Divinity School, Westminster Theological Seminary and Regent College of Vancouver, B.C.
Some of his many publications include America's God: from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln; The Civil War as a Theological Crisis; Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism; The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys; The Old Religion in a New World; and, most recently, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith.