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Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First [Hardcover]

By Alister E. McGrath (Author)
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Item description for Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Alister E. McGrath...

A new interpretation of the Protestant Reformation provides an alternate perspective on the faith's core idea about individuals having direct access to God without the need for priest and institutional mediation, in an account that traces five centuries of Protestant influence. 30,000 first printing.

Publishers Description

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.

From Publishers Weekly
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.

Awards and Recognitions
Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Alister E. McGrath has received the following awards and recognitions -

  • Book of the Year - 2008 Winner - Top 10 category

Citations And Professional Reviews
Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Alister E. McGrath has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 116
  • Publishers Weekly - 06/11/2007 page 53
  • Library Journal - 08/01/2007 page 93
  • Booklist - 10/01/2007 page 22
  • Christian Century - 04/21/2009 page 38

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   552
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.75" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 25, 2007
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  0060822139  
ISBN13  9780060822132  

Availability  0 units.

More About Alister E. McGrath

Alister E. McGrath Alister E. McGrath is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. One of the world's leading theologians, he has written numerous critically acclaimed books, including The Intellectual World of C. S. Lewis (Wiley, 2013), Why God Won't Go Away: Engaging the New Atheism (2011), and Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology (Wiley, 2011). He is also the author of some of the most widely used theology textbooks, including the bestselling Christian Theology: An Introduction now in its fifth edition (Wiley, 2010).

Alister E. McGrath currently resides in Oxford. Alister E. McGrath was born in 1953 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Oxford, King's College, London, UK King's College London.

Alister E. McGrath has published or released items in the following series...
  1. 2009 Gifford Lectures
  2. Aedyn Chronicles
  3. Blackwell Brief Histories of Religion
  4. Blackwell Manifestos (Paperback)
  5. Heart of Christian Faith
  6. Scientific Theology
  7. Study in the Foundation of Doctrinal Criticism

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Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First?

Over-Ambitious and Shoddy Analysis  Apr 15, 2010
When I first started "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" by Alister McGrath, a former Oxford professor who now holds the Chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London, I thought the book would be about Martin Luther's struggle with the Catholic Church, and how the Protestant affirmation of individuality changed Western culture. If only. Instead the book is an over-ambitious, sprawling, erratic account of the entire six centuries worth of history of the Protestant religion in 478 pages.

The story begins when the Catholic Church faces a crisis of legitimacy. Its upper management (the bishops) are dominated by Europe's powerful nobility (one powerful noble even managed to institute his eight-year old son as a bishop) who use the Church as an extension of their power, and the priests are uneducated, incompetent, and corrupt. The supremacy of the Pope makes the Catholic susceptible and prone to power struggles. And while the Catholic must deal with internal management problems, the face of Europe is changing rapidly: nation-states are rising, capitalism is developing, and an educated middle-class is forming. For Christianity to survive, it must adapt itself to these powerful socio-economic forces, and all around Christiandom (especially in the German principalities and Swiss cantons) voices of protest are being raised.

In Mr. McGrath's account, Martin Luther, a brilliant young man who had a history of mental instability and who found himself fortunate to be under the protection of Frederick the Wise, would launch the Protestant Revolution. But it was Calvin, working from Geneva and using the power of the printing press and writing in the vernacular instead of Latin, who would be the engineer, architect, and theoretician of the Reformation. In this Luther would be the Jesus and spiritual godfather of Protestantism, and Calivin would be the Paul and founder of modern Protestantism.

From this beginning, the author takes it upon himself to trace the entire development of Protestanism, examining the rise of Anglicanism in England, the import of Puritanism to America, the divergence of Protestanism into hundreds of stands, and the spreading of Protestanism into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The book would have been much more interesting and manageable if he had just stuck with Luther and Calvin.

It's interesting how Mr. McGrath discusses constantly that Protestanism's identity was in opposition to Catholicism, but doesn't really include Catholicism in the story (no mention of the Inquisition and the schism that would create the Orthodox Church). For centuries, the Catholic Church was the European hegemon, controlling thought and action. Against this monolith, Protestanism asserted individuality and diversity, and broke the Pope's monopoly. But I think the more stunning accomplishment is how the Pope managed to create and maintain this monopoly in the first place. Despite its problems, the Catholic did manage to create a bureaucracy, a culture, and doctrines that held together in a frightening conformity diverse, chaotic, and restless Europe (without the power of the media and public education).

Also, McGrath fails to explore in detail the social, economic, and cultural circumstances that led to the Protestant Reformation. The German princes must have been jealous and suspicious of Rome's power, and when an individual like Martin Luther came along to offer the rhetorical justification to dispel the influence of Rome they seized upon it. Indeed, Luther championed his political patrons, and here is McGrath's explanation for this symbiosis: "The price paid to scure [Protestanism's] reforming measures was to give religious legitimacy to existing authorities." (page 327) In McGrath's perspective, Luther was the agent of reform who sought political alliances to cement his reforms. A more likely explanation is that social, economic, political, cultural, and historical forces conspired to weaken the unnatural monolithic grip of the Catholic Church, and Martin Luther found himself riding these forces, and when Luther no longer served the interests of these forces they turned to John Calvin.

What's remarkable about Calvinism is how, in its praise of hard work and savings, legitimizing of usury and trade, it so conformed to the needs of Europe's new monolithic power: capitalism. Or perhaps it wasn't a coincidence. Perhaps capitalism (which was already apparent in Geneva) needed a theoretician to help co-opt Christianity. An exciting book would examine the relationship between the rise of capitalism and the Protestant revolution.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with this book is that the author chooses to believe that there is in fact a coherent body of thought called Protestanism. There is in fact too much diversity and variety in Protestanism (would anyone write a book on the history of "white people"?), and certain strands such as Lutheranism have more in common with "the other" (Catholicism, in the case of Lutheranism) than with other more Protestant strands. There is an entire universe, a whole spectrum of ideas and practices in Protestantism. What exactly is the difference between Episcopalism and Presbyterianism, and the difference between the Church of England and the Vatican? Congregationalism is revolutionary by any standards, and Pentecostalism is dangerous by any analysis.

This book is exhausting in its ambition, and clumsy in its analysis.
Christianity's Dangerous Idea  Dec 24, 2009
Christianity's Dangerous Idea:The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty First.

Alister McGrath does a good job of putting together A History of Protestants, although the Author is a An Anglican, and Not Catholic, (In my opinion as A Catholic Myself.)He does a great service by putting together this book,Although the title fooled me as I expected A Stinging Critique of Luther and the mess he made with his so-called Reformation and the many spin-off/pick and choose varieties ever since(fanatics) and how Christianity has been split since.I feel the book could have been better. I recommend Reading this but also Luther By Fr.Patrick F. O'Hare and Triumph by Hw Crocker III as well as How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization By Woods.
Excellent Unbiased Historical Account Of Protestantism  Nov 11, 2009
Mr. McGrath clearly has a broad knowledge of, and understands the many facets of the Protestent Reformation. Without passing judgement on either Roman Catholicism, nor the "Dangerous Ideas" introduced by the Reformers, the author brings to light, in clear terms the issues relating to the developement of the Protestant movement. Without a "post-modern" bias of many christian intellectuals in todays academia, Mr. McGrath holds an unspoken yet deep reverence for the Church Christ established... in all of its many forms.

Protestants of all persuasions, and Roman Catholics alike will gain a meaningful historical understanding of the influences, circumstances and threats that shaped todays Protestantism, begining with the birth of the Reformation in the early 1500's.

Dennis K.
McGrath's Thought-Provoking Book  Mar 5, 2009
Alister McGrath has written a very informative and thought-provoking history of Protestantism from its beginnings in the 16th Century to the present. Although McGrath is considered to be an evangelical anglican, he writes from a scholarly and objective view, showing Protestantism "warts and all." Although not a trained theologian, I found the book to be readable, accessible and interesting. A major theme of the book is the historical development resulting from the Protestant ideas of Sola Scriptura, and the priesthood of all believers. Without an official or authoritative body to mediate disputes over the interpretation of Scripture, McGrath shows how these basic Protestant ideals have led to a diversity of doctrinal outcomes in areas such as the nature of the sacraments, baptism, church government, spiritual gifts, the role of missions, and the role of women in ministry. On a critical note, he seems to analyze some of the current disputes in the mainline denominations over sexual orientation in the same terms, whereas, most evangelicals would see the clear weight of scripture as condemning the recent developments in the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church and other denominations. On a similar note, McGrath seems to downplay the viability of detailed church confessions such as the Westminster Confession, and he seems to feel that once we go beyond the very basic ideas in the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds, we are in the Never-Neverland of chaotic Protestant disputes that can not be resolved without a magesterial body to mediate these issues. McGrath does not really offer any meaningful solutions to the problems of Protestantism that he identifies. The final portion of the book focuses on the often overlooked statistics about the current demographics of Protestantism, most notably the explosive global growth of Pentecostelism and the shift of its center of gravity to the southern hemisphere. The data suggests that Protestantism in its modern form is not dying but alive and well, and most of all unpredictable. Overall, I enjoyed the book. It challenged my thinking and opened my eyes to a number of issues I had not considered.
Protestant History  Dec 13, 2008
McGrath has written a few books that I considered as contenders for my favorite theological books including 'Christian Theology' . This particular work stands out because it is for me his most engaging, and it gave me a much deeper understanding of the history and structure of my own Protestant tradition.

The book has three sections. By far the longest is its first which is a history of the Protestant movement from its inception until modern times. McGrath shines here as his years of writing about justification and Reformation history come through combined with a gripping writing style. Then McGrath details the current state of Protestantism, from Evangelicalism, to the shift of the church to the 3rd World, to the Pentecostal revival. Finally he puts forth some issues and potential solutions Protestantism will be facing in the near future.

It seems to me that the Protestant movement stands at something of an important crossroads at the moment, and it is by understanding who and what we are through resources like this that we will have the proper awareness to proceed forward in the best way.

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