Reformations: A Radical Reinterpretation of Christianity and the World, 1500-2000
, 1996 - History
- 324 pages
Almost from the moment Martin Luther tacked his theses to the door, Protestants and Catholics have disagreed violently on the question of the Reformation's merits - some Catholics have traced a direct line from the Reformation to Nietzsche and the death of God, while Protestants have given it credit for everything from the rise of capitalism to the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions - but they have been as one in agreeing that the Reformation was an unprecedented event, a seismic shift in consciousness that divides the history of Christianity into before and after. Or does it? Eight years ago, world-renowned historians Felipe Fernandez-Armesto and Derek Wilson were brought together by the BBC to debate this very point. The more heatedly they argued, the more their once-rigid positions melted and merged, and they resolved to link hands in an extraordinary journey of exploration into the nature of Christianity over the past five hundred years. Forged from the fire of their joint work is a book breathtaking in its sweep and radical in its implications. Reformations explains how and why the Reformation was not a unique watershed at all, but rather a typical episode in a long history, shared by all the main Christian traditions, of evangelical commitment and confrontation with the world. The authors create a loom vast in time and space on which they weave a many-colored cloth, one whose unfurling brings our time closer to Luther's, and our churches closer to each other. On that cloth, they map the evolving relationships between the Bible (the Word), the Church (tradition), and individual experience (the spirit), revealing an ongoing cycle of stagnation and renewal that began not longafter Christ's death and flows onward to this day. The authors lay out their argument with grace, virtuosity, and penetrating intelligence, without once losing sight of the human scale, the individual and social experience of being a Christian in modern history. Their insights are as a salve to the wounds of five hundred years of sectarian bitterness and bloodshed.