Norris, Frederick W(alter) 1941-

views updated

NORRIS, Frederick W(alter) 1941-


Born March 13, 1941, in Chillicothe, OH; son of William O. and Julia H. (Dowdy) Norris; married Carol Jean Brooks, August 30, 1963; children: Lisa Carol, Mark Frederick. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Milligan College, B.A., 1963; Phillips University, Th.M., B.D., 1967; Yale University, Ph.D., M. Phil., 1970. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Christian Church. Hobbies and other interests: Playing with grandchildren.


Office—Emmanuel School of Religion, One Walker Dr., Johnson City, TN 37601. E-mail—[email protected].


Emmanuel School of Religion, Johnson City, TN, assistant professor, 1970-72, later associate professor, professor, 1977—; Milligan College, Johnson City, assistant professor, 1970-72; Institute zur Erforschung des Urchristentums, Tuebingen, Germany, began as associate director, became director, 1972-77. European Evangelistic Society, Atlanta, GA, director, 1982-91; John Carroll University, Cleveland, OH, visiting professor, 1988; Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT, visiting professor, 2003.


North American Patristic Society (president, 1993-94), American Society of Church History, American Society of Missiology.


Andrew W. Mellon fellow, 1981-82, 1986; Dumbarton Oaks summer fellow, 1987; research fellow, Pew Evangelical Scholars Program, 1996; Visiting University fellow, University of Edinburgh, 1996; research fellow, Center for Advanced Study, Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Lettres, 2003.


(Editor, with Everett Ferguson and Michael P. McHugh) Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1990, 2nd edition, 1997.

(Author of introduction and commentary; translator, with Lionel Wickham) Faith Gives Fullness to Reasoning: The Five Orations of Gregory Nazianzen, E. J. Brill Press (New York, NY), 1991.

The Apostolic Faith: Protestants and Roman Catholics, Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN), 1992.

(Editor, with Abraham J. Malherbe and James W. Thompson) The Early Church in Its Context: Essays in Honor of Everett Ferguson, E. J. Brill Press (Boston, MA), 1998.

Christianity: A Short Global History, One World Publications (Oxford, England), 2002.

(Editor, with Winrich Löhr) Constantine to c. 600, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.


The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 2, edited with Winrich Löhr.


A professor at Emmanuel School of Religion, Frederick W. Norris has written widely on the subject of Christianity. In addition to the works listed here, he served on the planning group for Orbis Books' History of the World Christian Movement, Volume 1, which was published in 2001, and is editing Volume 2 of The Cambridge History of Christianity with Winrich Löhr.

With Everett Ferguson and Michael P. McHugh, Norris edited the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, a work that covers aspects of New Testament and church history from Christ's time to the year 600. The text includes entries from 135 writers who represent Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant traditions. Critics expressed significant admiration for the book. In the Journal of Church and State, Howard Clark Kee called it "a valuable and distinctive reference tool." Edgar Krentz in the Biblical Archaeologist appreciated the book's scope and reliability; although he expressed disappointment with some of the book's omissions and noted that it "does not use physical remains as well as it could to illuminate early Christian thought," the critic found the text a "valuable addition to our reference literature." Reviewing the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity for Church History, Eugene TeSelle observed that some controversial topics are handled particularly well, although others, including "Homosexuality" and "Persecution," are more biased. TeSelle considered several entries to be "comprehensive and judicious."

In Christianity: A Short Global History, Norris presents a global perspective that critics particularly welcomed. Though Library Journal contributor James A. Overbeck noted that the book suffers from over-generalizations and is not adequate as a single-volume reference, he felt that its major achievement is to go "beyond the Western world to place Christian traditions in their Asian, African, and Latin American contexts." International Bulletin of Missionary Research reviewer Jehu J. Hanciles also valued this perspective. Hanciles felt that some subjects in the book receive inadequate treatment, but praised the text highly for its meticulous research, rich detail, and global scope. The book, Hanciles wrote, "highlights the immensely variegated nature of Christian practice and beliefs worldwide, and illustrates how persecution and suffering (rather than privilege and comfort) have been the more defining characteristics of the daily lives of Christians throughout its history."

The Apostolic Faith: Protestants and Roman Catholics allowed Norris to examine his faith from a more personal perspective. In this book, the author draws on memories of his father and grandfather, both of whom were Protestant preachers who distrusted Catholics, to explore the differences and similarities between the two religious traditions. The book began as a series of popular lectures that Norris gave at John Carroll University, a Catholic institution where he had been invited as a visiting professor. Among the stories he includes in the book is one about how his father, ministering to a Protestant congregation in West Virginia in the 1960s, was asked by a delegation from the neighboring Catholic church to consider becoming their priest as well. According to John T. Ford in the Religious Studies Review, the book reveals surprising bonds between conservative Protestants and their Catholic counterparts, which Norris articulates with insight, wit, and "graceful humor."

Norris has written a commentary on Faith Gives Fullness to Reasoning: The Five Orations of Gregory Nazianzen, an academic work that Religious Studies Review contributor Joseph T. Lienhard deemed a "splendid volume." He also coedited The Early Church in Its Context: Essays in Honor of Everett Ferguson. In the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, W. H. C. Frend hailed the book as "a worthy tribute to a fine scholar."

Norris told CA: "Many of my publications have been scholarly and technical for other specialists. But I have greatly enjoyed writing for a larger audience in encyclopedias, including The Apostolic Faith and particularly the short, unfootnoted Christianity. Such theology and history should be available for a general readership.

"My paternal grandfather graduated from Purdue University and farmed all his life. My maternal grandfather left school in the sixth grade, but passed the Kentucky State Teacher's Exam and served as a minister. My father graduated from a theological seminary; my mother never finished college yet has published a number of popular religious books. My writing life is in my genes."



Biblical Archaeologist, March, 1992, Edgar Krentz, review of Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, pp. 46-47.

Church History, June, 1998, Eugene TeSelle, review of Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, pp. 350-351.

International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January, 2003, Jehu J. Hanciles, review of Christianity: A Short Global History, pp. 43-44.

Journal of Church and State, spring, 1993, Howard Clark Kee, review of Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, pp. 425-426.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October, 1999, W. H. C. Frend, review of The Early Church in Its Context: Essays in Honor of Everett Ferguson, p. 768.

Library Journal, October 15, 2002, James A. Over-beck, review of Christianity, p. 78.

Religious Studies Review, July, 1993, Joseph T. Lienhard, review of Faith Gives Fullness to Reasoning: The Five Theological Orations of Gregory Nazianzen, p. 267; October, 1994, John T. Ford, review of The Apostolic Faith: Protestants and Roman Catholics, p. 310.

Scottish Journal of Theology, December, 1993, Andrew Louth, review of Faith Gives Fullness to Reasoning, pp. 568-569.


Emmanuel School of Religion, (April 8, 2003), Norris faculty biography.

First Things, (February, 1994), review of The Apostolic Faith.

About this article

Norris, Frederick W(alter) 1941-

Updated About content Print Article