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Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution- A History From the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First
HarperOne / 2008 / Paperback
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"McGrath has the expertise to tell a story stretching from the Reformation's origins in the 16th century to today. The dangerous idea was Luther's: that individual believers could and should read the Bible themselves. The most readable introduction to the history, theology and present-day practices of Protestantism,"---Publishers Weekly. 552 pages, softcover.
The radical idea that individuals could interpret the Bible for themselves spawned a revolution that is still being played out on the world stage today. This innovation lies at the heart of Protestantism's remarkable instability and adaptability. World-renowned scholar Alister McGrath sheds new light on the fascinating figures and movements that continue to inspire debate and division across the full spectrum of Protestant churches and communities worldwide.
Alister E. McGrath is a historian, biochemist, and Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A longtime professor at Oxford University, he now holds the chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London. He is the author of several books on theology and history, including Christianity's Dangerous Idea, In the Beginning, and The Twilight of Atheism. He lives in Oxford, England, and lectures regularly in the United States.
Alister McGrath is a professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford. He is the author of several highly acclaimed studies of Protestantism, including The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation and In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture. He lives in Oxford, England and lectures regularly in the United States.
The "dangerous idea" lying at the heart of Protestantism is that the interpretation of the Bible is each individual's right and responsibility. The spread of this principle has resulted in five hundred years of remarkable innovation and adaptability, but it has also created cultural incoherence and social instability. Without any overarching authority to rein in "wayward" thought, opposing sides on controversial issues can only appeal to the Bible---yet the Bible is open to many diverse interpretations. Christianity's Dangerous Idea is the first book that attempts to define this core element of Protestantism and the religious and cultural dynamic that this dangerous idea unleashed, culminating in the remarkable new developments of the twentieth century.
At a time when Protestants will soon cease to be the predominant faith tradition in the United States, McGrath's landmark reassessment of the movement and its future is well-timed. Replete with helpful modern-day examples that explain the past, McGrath brings to life the Protestant movements and personalities that shaped history and the central Christian idea that continues to dramatically influence world events today.
(Review of the hardcover edition) This is McGrath's third book title borrowed from his atheist bete noir Richard Dawkins. But don't let the titular borrowings fool you: this is an original and important book. Someone had to imitate the long, popular works of history being written on secular subjects from Lewis & Clark to FDR, and McGrath has the theological and historical expertise necessary to tell a story stretching from the Reformation's origins in the 16th century to today. The "dangerous idea" was Martin Luther's: that individual believers could and should read the Bible for themselves. The result was occasionally violent (as in the peasants' revolt and the English Civil War), occasionally brilliant (musicians like Bach, theologians like Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, poets like Milton) and certainly world altering (the Calvinist Reformation clearing space for the rise of secular science and capitalism). McGrath concludes not with the faith practices of present-day England or America, but with the increasingly Pentecostal global south. The book occasionally falls into the dry tone of a textbook and assumes points that historians would want to debate, but is still the most readable introduction to the history, theology and present-day practices of Protestantism. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
“An original and important book... the most readable introduction to the history, theology and present-day practices of Protestantism.”
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