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Reformation Thought: An Introduction Paperback – February 16, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0631215219 ISBN-10: 0631215212 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 3 edition (February 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631215212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631215219
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Alister McGrath... is one of the best scholars and teachers of the Reformation.... [this book] is more than one dared ask for.... How teachers will rejoice in this wonderfully useful book." Teaching History (of a previous edition).

"Vigorous, brisk and highly stimulating. The reader will be thoroughly engaged from the outset, and considerably enlightened at the end." John Platt, Pembroke College, University of Oxford (of a previous edition).

"Highly recommended." Choice (of a previous edition).

"A remarkably fine introduction to the study of the Reformation and its theological ideas; it is exceptionally well thought out, fully up to date in its scholarship, fair in its presentation, and simply pellucid in its explanations. Highly recommended." ADRIS (of a previous edition).

"....this second edition of Reformation Tought is very useful, especially in providing a guide to reformation writings and writers (both primary and secondary) for the upper-division or beginning student of Reformation ideas." Elwood E. Mather III, Montana State University.

"McGrath does a good job of summarizing the Reformation's principal ideas. Reformation Thought is a helpful primer and a genuine counterbalance to polemical Catholic treatments, excessively irenical ecumenical assessments, and secular renditions that minimize or ignore the power of theological ideas to revolutionize a culture." Catholic Dossier

From the Back Cover

Reformation Thought is an acclaimed and popular introductory guide for theology and history students seeking to understand the central ideas of the European reformations. Based on McGrath's considerable experience of teaching Reformation studies, this text requires no prior knowledge of Christian theology.

The revised third edition:


  • Includes a new chapter on the thought of the English Reformation.
  • Responds to new insights in Renaissance and Reformation scholarship.
  • Includes increased biographical coverage of major Reformation thinkers.
  • Contains a new section on Reformation sources and updated bibliographies.
  • Retains all the features which made earlier editions so attractive to students.

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Luttrell on April 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
'Reformation Thought' is a comprehensive discussion of the issues at stake in the Protestant and Catholic Reformations.

Alister McGrath has an amazing grasp of the issues and honestly portrays in a fair way the differing viewpoints from an unbiased, historical perspective.

My favorite sections dealth with justification by faith and the return to scripture, which I summarize here...

Prior to the Reformation, Scholasticism had dominated. Scholasticism was a movement that began in the Middle Ages which sought to find a systematic and rational justification to the Christian faith. Most of it was a systematic replay of Augustinian teachings organized by Aristotle's philosophies.

There are two main subdivisions of scholasticism, which can be associated with two time periods. The first part of the scholastic period was dominated by realism, while the later part by nominalism. Realism said that universals were entities of themselves, while nominalism said that universal concepts are not real. Proponents of Realism included Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.

There were two forms of Nominalism: the via moderna and the schola Augustiniana moderna. The common feature was only that they were both anti-realism. The two schools reflect the debate between Pelagianism and Augustianism, over the ability of humans to merit salvation. The via moderna tended toward the positions of Pelagius and the schola Augustiniana towards that of Augustine.

The theology of the via moderna was dominated by a covenant between God and humans in which humans, when people followed their conscience and "did their best" they could somehow obligate God to accepting them based on the terms of the covenant. Human works were of little inherent value.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely enjoyable book to read. The author knows his Reformation and was able to transmit this knowledge to his readers with a clear and easy to read prose. The Reformation is first placed within the socio-religious- intellectual context of the Late Middle Ages and Humanism, and then developed through its key doctrines. We learn about the reformed doctrines of justification by faith, predestination, the sacraments and the church. Special attention is paid to Luther's, Calvin's and Zwingli's own respective thoughts on each doctrine. The books closes with a lucid analysis of the impact of the Reformation upon History, with a special focus on the Protestant work ethic and the origins of capitalism - so dear to American readers. In summary: great book, highly recommended. I highlighted in yellow some key passages on my own copy and intend to revisit it periodically - it is worth it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo VINE VOICE on July 27, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alister McGrath's combination of thorough details, superb historical perspectives, and rare clarity of expression achieve a feat unusual in the theological realm - the ideas, however deep, are easily understood. McGrath sets forth not only the convictions of the great players in the Reformation, but the social and philosophical ideas which preceded the era, the outcome being a remarkably expert tapestry of thought. This era is one I have studied extensively in the past, yet the connections McGrath presents, and the insights of new scholarship which he incorporates, left me totally engrossed.
As one example, McGrath's development of Martin Luther's progress in theological ideas makes such areas as justification by faith all the more fascinating in their historical context.
McGrath has a rather elegant fashion of presenting the thoughts of the fathers of the Reformation, for example, in avoiding much discussion of Luther's personal conflicts and very salty language! This is wise in an introductory text, avoiding tangents for the reader.
This work is suited to anyone with a serious interest in the period or theology, and as a text for the university or later years of secondary education. I must add that those wishing a "lighter read" will find many of the major issues and historical points treated in McGrath's latest work, "In the Beginning."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Terrell on June 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Dr. McGrath does his normal excellent job in "Reformation Thought: An Introduction", he always takes difficult concepts and explains them in a manner that is easy to understand. Dr. McGrath takes this ability to his revivew of the Magisterial Reformation (there is very little discussion within this book of the Radical Reformation). Both the thought and events that led up to the Reformation and the aftermath of the Reformation is discussed in detail. Dr. McGrath then helps the reader to consider the implications of Reformation thought. This work is an eceptional look into one of the most important times of Christian history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Feenstra on November 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
McGrath presents a book that aims to introduce; explain; and contextualize the period of history known as the Reformation. In his introduction McGrath lays out a clear and concise understanding of the need for Reformation in the sixteenth century and just what the concept of the Reformation was. He creates a picture of what impact the printing press would have on the Reformation and then puts the ideas behind the Reformation in social context; that is, the social role of religious ideas

The backdrop of the Reformation takes place well before the sixteenth century. McGrath covers the important aspects of the rise of anti-clericalism and anti-papalism that was taking place in the fifteenth century. This rebellion, in part, had to do with taxes, in which the clergy was exempt.

McGrath's chapter on Humanism and the Reformation is helpful in understanding the word `humanism' as used by a twenty-first century writer vs. the sixteenth century writer or theologian. In the modern sense, humanism is an anti-religious philosophy, which affirms the human without any reference to God. According to McGrath, "humanists of the fourteenth, fifteenth or sixteenth centuries were remarkably religious..."

The book goes to great length to describe the intellectual movement of Scholasticism. He defines it "not as a specific system of beliefs, but to a particular way of organizing theology." McGrath says that to some, Scholasticism was just a form of theological nitpicking. Unfortunately, McGrath bogs down in this area. In fact, he says "I have found it impossible to simplify any further the material which follows...many readers will probably be gripped with a sense of utter tedium as I try to explain some of the leading ideas of scholasticism.
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