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Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First Hardcover – September 25, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060822139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060822132
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
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Review

“An original and important book... the most readable introduction to the history, theology and present-day practices of Protestantism.” (Publishers Weekly)

More About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

That adds even more luster to the tail.
Thomas M. Magee
Alister McGrath not only presents an excellent survey of Protestantism from the Reformation up to now; the book was also a good, enjoyable read.
H. A. Strecker
I found this book very informative and easy to read.
Eric Stillman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By H. A. Strecker on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Alister McGrath not only presents an excellent survey of Protestantism from the Reformation up to now; the book was also a good, enjoyable read. Like an exciting novel, it was hard to put down. That is the good side. The other side is that I found Alister McGrath's estimate for the future of Protestantism regretable, even if accurate. As A practising Roman Catholic, I frequently pray for the reunification of our fractured Christianity. If Alister McGrath's estimate is right, That just ain't going to happen. One more thing. Alister McGrath seems to find Protestantism as a root cause of western secularism. If one views the Reformatrion as a consequence of a historical Catholic and Protestant disfunction, then one has to understand that secularism is rooted in that disfunction, and Protestantism shouldn't shoulder the blame alone.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on January 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alister McGrath's latest book has been a long time in the making, and the end result certainly shows the care and meticulous attention he spent on the project. Christianity's Dangerous Idea is not only valuable as a history and examination of Protestantism, it is an especially good book on what it means to be a Protestant and how that meaning has shifted significantly since the movement's beginning.

McGrath divides his book into three large sections. The first deals with the history of Protestantism from the Reformation to 19th century, the end of which marked a major watershed. Because of the complexity of the era and the broad goals which McGrath has set out for his book, his treatment is not exhaustive but is very good nonetheless. The second section deals in some greater detail with the major issues within Protestantism, both historically and today, such as the theories of the sacrament, the organization of Protestant churches, the distinctive traits of Protestantism, and--most interestingly for me--Protestantism's impact on culture, the arts, and science.

The final third of the book is perhaps the most important, and examines Protestantism from about 1900 onward. The beginning of the 20th century marks the beginning of the Pentacostal movement, which has grown from a meeting of students and faculty in Kansas to a worldwide movement of perhaps half a billion people. McGrath devotes a great deal of time to examining what has made Pentacostalism so successful--research which I imagine was difficult but rewarding. This section also discusses Protestantism in the "global south" and Asia, as well as the movement's future, which is far from certain.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Keel on February 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What is the most basic, fundamental, revolutionary idea to come out of the Protestant Reformation? Alistair McGrath contends that it is the idea that individuals can read and decide on their own, without a centralized authority, what the bible means. Tracing this foundational and revolutionary idea from the Renaissance to the present McGrath shows how this idea is both an amazing blessing and a Pandora's box not only for the development of most of Christianity, but also for the Western world as a whole. Written in an understandable style, but documented and researched with superb scholarship this is a must read for everyone who takes the label "Christian." That being said this is a book of history, not theology, so take what Dr. McGrath writes as a broad picture of the development of Christianity rather than a blueprint for theological thinking. Whether you are a Fundamentalist, a Liberal, an Evangelical, a Pentecostal, Eastern Orthodox, or a Catholic you will be challenged to reexamine your presuppositions of your own traditions and methods for reading the bible.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on February 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
After 500 years, the Protestant movement is still the world's most vital and unpredictable branch of Christianity, Oxford scholar Alister McGrath argues persuasively in a book that's essential reading for anyone trying to track the rapidly changing course of faith and culture.

The basic idea behind this book is daring: trying to analyze for general readers five centuries of a diverse global movement that now boasts thousands of variations. But, McGrath already has demonstrated his intellectual courage, if not his inerrancy. In his earlier book, "The Twilight of Atheism," he argued basically that disbelief seems to be vanishing from the world stage - just in time for a vigorous rebirth of atheism and skepticism over the past year or two.

That doesn't mean McGrath was wrong - or even that he is prone to misjudgment. On the contrary, it means that he's daring to grapple with the hottest issues in contemporary religious life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nigel Tomes on January 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
Christianity's Dangerous Idea
Alister McGrath, Prof. of Historical Theology at Oxford University, is a prolific writer. His recent book is entitled Christianity's Dangerous Idea: the Protestant Revolution from the sixteenth Century to the twenty-first.

What's this "dangerous idea"?
So what was this "dangerous idea"? Some might say-- "justification by faith alone." McGrath argues there's a more basic and radical idea. "The idea that lay at the heart of the sixteenth century Reformation... was that the Bible is capable of being understood by all Christian believers--that they all have the right to interpret it and to insist upon their perspectives being taken seriously ...The dangerous new idea... was that all Christians have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves." [p. 2]

What was this idea's impact?
What was the impact of this "dangerous idea"? McGrath contends that Martin "Luther's radical doctrine of the `priesthood of all believers' empowered individual believers. It was a radical, dangerous idea that bypassed the idea that a centralized authority had the right to interpret the Bible. There was no centralized authority, no clerical monopoly on biblical interpretation." [p. 3] Even today the Roman Catholic Church claims this monopoly. In Catholicism, the individual Christian has neither the right nor the responsibility to interpret the Bible and declare its meaning. The Protestant Reformation restored that right to every believer. This (McGrath says) was its core concept which generated 500 years of growth and adaption in (non-Catholic) Christianity-- the missionary movement, the church's rapid rise in the global South, the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, etc.

Why is it "dangerous"?
But why does McGrath call this idea "dangerous"?
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