In a work that is as much about the present as the past, Brad Gregory identifies the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation and traces the way it shaped the modern condition over the course of the following five centuries. A hyperpluralism of religious and secular beliefs, an absence of any substantive common good, the triumph of capitalism and its driver, consumerismall these, Gregory argues, were long-term effects of a movement that marked the end of more than a millennium during which Christianity provided a framework for shared intellectual, social, and moral life in the West.
Before the Protestant Reformation, Western Christianity was an institutionalized worldview laden with expectations of security for earthly societies and hopes of eternal salvation for individuals. The Reformation’s protagonists sought to advance the realization of this vision, not disrupt it. But a complex web of rejections, retentions, and transformations of medieval Christianity gradually replaced the religious fabric that bound societies together in the West. Today, what we are left with are fragments: intellectual disagreements that splinter into ever finer fractals of specialized discourse; a notion that modern scienceas the source of all truthnecessarily undermines religious belief; a pervasive resort to a therapeutic vision of religion; a set of smuggled moral values with which we try to fertilize a sterile liberalism; and the institutionalized assumption that only secular universities can pursue knowledge.
The Unintended Reformation asks what propelled the West into this trajectory of pluralism and polarization, and finds answers deep in our medieval Christian past.
Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Notre Dame.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The World We Have Lost? 1
1 Excluding God 25
2 Relativizing Doctrines 74
3 Controlling the Churches 129
4 Subjectivizing Morality 180
5 Manufacturing the Goods Life 235
6 Secularizing Knowledge 298
Conclusion: Against Nostalgia 365
What People are Saying About This
Thomas A. Brady
A work of deep moral seriousness. Gregory's greatest contribution is his portrayal of the Reformation of Christianity as a central moment of disturbance and creativity in the modern Western world. In this endeavor, he has no equal among living authors. The Unintended Reformation is simply the most intelligent treatment of the subject by a contemporary author. It is also the most unconventional and most stirring engagement I know with the problem of how the West has dealt with its heritage of plural religions and concepts of values and happiness. Thomas A. Brady, Jr., author of German Histories in the Age of Reformations, 1400-1650
A strikingly brave and wide-ranging work. This is, in the largest sense, an effort to interpret the contemporary world. An astonishing achievement.
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
Gregory's insightful and compelling narrative invites us to recognize the surprising extent to which we are still what the Protestant Reformation and its heirs made us, a society of conflicting and contested truth claims. As he spells out the consequences--and the interest is in the detail--we become more sharply aware of sometimes unrecognized aspects of our present condition. Alasdair MacIntyre, author of God, Philosophy, Universities
A revisionist manifesto, sharp-edged and provocative, The Unintended Reformation analyzes the legacy of the Protestant Reformation with an eye firmly fixed on the present. Gregory challenges many revered assumptions and does so with verve and brilliance. Bound to stir debate for years to come, this magisterial history of the early modern era belongs on the shelf right next to Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. Carlos Eire, author of A Very Brief History of Eternity
The question of how Islam arrived in India remains markedly contentious in South Asian politics.
Standard accounts center on the Umayyad Caliphate's incursions into Sind and littoral western India in the eighth century CE. In this telling, Muslims were a ...
John Hirsch chronicles the research, scientists, and ephemera of the Harvard Foresta 3,750-acre research forest
in Petersham, Massachusetts. Essays by David Foster, Clarisse Hart, and Margot Anne Kelley expand the scope of this photographic exploration at the nexus of science ...
Winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in Concert Music BooksProposing that Arnold Schoenberg has
been more discussed than heard, more tolerated than loved, Allen Shawn puts aside ultimate judgments about Schoenberg’s place in music history to explore the composer’s ...
As part of its 375th celebrations, the University has created a new photo book, Explore
Harvard: The Yard and Beyond. This collection of photographs brings to life the myriad intellectual exchanges that make Harvard one of the world’s leading institutions ...
With some 280,000 objects, the Harvard Art Museum is the largest university art museum in
the United States. Its Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums feature world-renowned collections of archaic Chinese jades and bronzes, Italian Renaissance paintings, and nineteenth-century ...
Once upon a time, there lived in France a humble juggler, Barnaby by name, who
was skillful but suffered every winter from poverty. A devotee of the Virgin, he had few failings apart from enjoying drink a little too much. ...
Humanitarian, philanthropist, and campaigner for Jewish emancipation on a grand scale, Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885)
was the preeminent Jewish figure of the nineteenth century--and one of the first truly global celebrities. His story, told here in full for the first ...
Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), one of the greatest of Italian poets, was also the leading spirit
in the Renaissance movement to revive literary Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, and Greco-Roman culture in general. My Secret Book (Secretum) records “the ...