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.
This is McGrath's third book title borrowed from his atheist bête 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