The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
$38.48
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
$26.66
(Save 33%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $24.95
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 37%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (22) from $24.95   
  • New (13) from $34.99   
  • Used (9) from $24.95   

Overview

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, consumerism—all 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 science—as the source of all truth—necessarily 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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Protestant Reformation is considered by many to be one of the pivotal events in the history of the Western world. No one can doubt the central role that Luther, Calvin, and other reformers have played in the lives of Christians through the years. The author, who is Dorothy G. Griffin associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, approaches the continuing impact of the Reformation in what he terms a “genealogical” approach—one that sees the Reformation as the root of a tree whose branches reach into every aspect of modern life. Rejecting the “supersessionist” view, that contemporary Christendom constitutes a radically new understanding of God and of the world itself, Gregory insists that our views, even our presuppositions, must be reimagined and re-evaluated in ways that demonstrate how the Reformation continues to reach into our theologies, our laws, our lives. Written by an academic for academics, this is a dense but rewarding look at the long reach of history, and how we are the poorer for ignoring it. (Jan.)
Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Religion and Ethics blog

[An] extraordinary new book...But however brilliant is Gregory's historical presentation (and it is brilliant), what ultimately distinguishes The Unintended Reformation is the sheer forcefulness of the narrative, which he pursues by examining the shift in perspectives on six distinct but interrelated themes since the sixteenth century: God, truth, institution, ethics, consumption and knowledge. The effect of this approach is to give the book an uncommon clarity: by going over what is essentially the single narrative in six different ways, each slight turn of the story illuminates the whole, and each new element comes across as both surprising and yet strangely familiar. The Unintended Reformation is unquestionably the most important contribution to the way we understand our present condition since Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. But it is also as a stinging rebuke to all those well-nigh fictitious accounts of the emergence of the enlightened West out of the intellectual darkness and decrepitude of the Middle Ages that now distort our collective self-perception. Let's hope Gregory's book wreaks havoc on some of these myths that we persist in telling ourselves.
— Scott Stephens

Financial Times

There could not be a more propitious moment for a book on greed and the historical roots of capitalism. Brad Gregory shows that historians have as much to contribute to contemporary debates about business and social ethics as most philosophers or economists...What is bold and unusual about The Unintended Reformation is that it comes from an explicitly Christian perspective and ends by arguing that only religion—properly understood as a doctrine of solidarity—can allow humanity to escape from the predicament of the modern, the material curse of poverty and the mental afflictions of prosperity. Gregory not only offers what is today a highly original combination of history and morality but also cogently explains why that combination is needed today.
— Harold James

Times Higher Education

This book is truly breathtaking in its scope, erudition and sheer nerve. There is no faulting Gregory's grasp of Reformation history, but to his analysis of what has happened since there could be many objections raised. This is relatively unimportant, however. Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was not completely right either, but it was brilliant nevertheless. Gregory's is a work not just of genuine scholarship but also of sincere moral purpose, which, even if it annoys, frustrates or fails to convince, has opened up an immensely important debate. There may yet be time to fix some of what went wrong in the Reformation.
— Lucy Wooding

Financial World

Restrained and erudite...Apart from furnishing an interesting and well written account of the Reformation, the book is perhaps most interesting when [Gregory] grapples with his opponents...[A] thought-provoking book.
— Nick Carn

Choice

A lucidly written and far-reaching analysis that shows how the contemporary Western world continues to be influenced by the complex transformations that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries.
— J. Werner

Anthony Grafton
A strikingly brave and wide-ranging work, in which a distinguished historian of early modern Europe interprets the contemporary world. The precision and clarity with which Gregory lays out his evidence and the accuracy with which he handles materials in many different languages and of many different kinds give this original book extraordinary credibility. It's rare for a book to attain this level of scholarship nowadays. An astonishing achievement.
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.
Alasdair Macintyre
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.
Carlos Eire
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.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Religion and Ethics blog - Scott Stephens
[An] extraordinary new book...But however brilliant is Gregory's historical presentation (and it is brilliant), what ultimately distinguishes The Unintended Reformation is the sheer forcefulness of the narrative, which he pursues by examining the shift in perspectives on six distinct but interrelated themes since the sixteenth century: God, truth, institution, ethics, consumption and knowledge. The effect of this approach is to give the book an uncommon clarity: by going over what is essentially the single narrative in six different ways, each slight turn of the story illuminates the whole, and each new element comes across as both surprising and yet strangely familiar. The Unintended Reformation is unquestionably the most important contribution to the way we understand our present condition since Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. But it is also as a stinging rebuke to all those well-nigh fictitious accounts of the emergence of the enlightened West out of the intellectual darkness and decrepitude of the Middle Ages that now distort our collective self-perception. Let's hope Gregory's book wreaks havoc on some of these myths that we persist in telling ourselves.
Financial Times - Harold James
There could not be a more propitious moment for a book on greed and the historical roots of capitalism. Brad Gregory shows that historians have as much to contribute to contemporary debates about business and social ethics as most philosophers or economists...What is bold and unusual about The Unintended Reformation is that it comes from an explicitly Christian perspective and ends by arguing that only religion--properly understood as a doctrine of solidarity--can allow humanity to escape from the predicament of the modern, the material curse of poverty and the mental afflictions of prosperity. Gregory not only offers what is today a highly original combination of history and morality but also cogently explains why that combination is needed today.
Times Higher Education - Lucy Wooding
This book is truly breathtaking in its scope, erudition and sheer nerve. There is no faulting Gregory's grasp of Reformation history, but to his analysis of what has happened since there could be many objections raised. This is relatively unimportant, however. Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was not completely right either, but it was brilliant nevertheless. Gregory's is a work not just of genuine scholarship but also of sincere moral purpose, which, even if it annoys, frustrates or fails to convince, has opened up an immensely important debate. There may yet be time to fix some of what went wrong in the Reformation.
Financial World - Nick Carn
Restrained and erudite...Apart from furnishing an interesting and well written account of the Reformation, the book is perhaps most interesting when [Gregory] grapples with his opponents...[A] thought-provoking book.
Choice - J. Werner
A lucidly written and far-reaching analysis that shows how the contemporary Western world continues to be influenced by the complex transformations that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Financial Times
There could not be a more propitious moment for a book on greed and the historical roots of capitalism. Brad Gregory shows that historians have as much to contribute to contemporary debates about business and social ethics as most philosophers or economists...What is bold and unusual about The Unintended Reformation is that it comes from an explicitly Christian perspective and ends by arguing that only religion--properly understood as a doctrine of solidarity--can allow humanity to escape from the predicament of the modern, the material curse of poverty and the mental afflictions of prosperity. Gregory not only offers what is today a highly original combination of history and morality but also cogently explains why that combination is needed today.
— Harold James
Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Religion and Ethics blog
[An] extraordinary new book...But however brilliant is Gregory's historical presentation (and it is brilliant), what ultimately distinguishes The Unintended Reformation is the sheer forcefulness of the narrative, which he pursues by examining the shift in perspectives on six distinct but interrelated themes since the sixteenth century: God, truth, institution, ethics, consumption and knowledge. The effect of this approach is to give the book an uncommon clarity: by going over what is essentially the single narrative in six different ways, each slight turn of the story illuminates the whole, and each new element comes across as both surprising and yet strangely familiar. The Unintended Reformation is unquestionably the most important contribution to the way we understand our present condition since Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. But it is also as a stinging rebuke to all those well-nigh fictitious accounts of the emergence of the enlightened West out of the intellectual darkness and decrepitude of the Middle Ages that now distort our collective self-perception. Let's hope Gregory's book wreaks havoc on some of these myths that we persist in telling ourselves.
— Scott Stephens
Library Journal
Gregory (history, Univ. of Notre Dame; Salvation at Stake: Christian Martydom in Early Modern Europe) here offers both history and polemic. The history traces the tangled connections between a time when religious beliefs still underpinned politics and morality in the West and today's secular world in which religion is treated as personal preference rather than a revealed, commonly held truth, leading to a world in which rampant "hyperpluralism" rules. The polemic laments the weakening of the glue of faith-based values that held society together for centuries and argues that the natural sciences wrongly dismiss revealed truth from today's discourse. Gregory's historical analysis is generally satisfying, though overly schematic at times. He casts his net over disparate areas of study and deploys evidence tellingly to make connections that narrower studies commonly miss. The argumentative portion is less convincing. For the skeptic, the reasoning used to argue revelation's truth value could be used equally convincingly to make the case for voodoo, even conceivably the existence of unicorns. VERDICT Given the importance of the topic, it's unfortunate that Gregory hasn't used everyday language for many key concepts. Terms like metaphysical univocity or hyperpluralism won't entice readers to delve further into a book whose prose is already dense.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674045637
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 183,842
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.
Read More Show Less

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

Abbreviations 389

Notes 391

Acknowledgments 537

Index 541

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)