The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society
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The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  92 ratings  ·  22 reviews
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,...more
Hardcover, 539 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Belknap Press
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Ralph Orr
Brad Gregory is an outstanding scholar. The premise of his book is that our modern secular Western world is not so much the result of the Enlightenment but of the Reformation. It is the unintended result of the Reformation, born on the faulty foundation of sola scriptura as the sole determinant of Christian faith and practice. He discusses his thesis from six different aspects of modern life, including his own realm of academia. His analysis is certain to be discussed for decades, at least among...more
Alison Kudlowski
Heavy inspirational theses on the unintended consequences of the Reformation in England. William Faulkner once said 'The past is never dead..its not even past' The reformation is between middle ages and modernity and therefore Gregory argues, is accountable for much of where we find ourselves today. It argues that culturally the enlightenment, the Industrial revolution shaped and inspired 19th century philosophical ideology..the French revolution and European sensibilities were an aftermath or e...more
Jul 29, 2012 Paul is currently reading it
I'm almost done with this book, only having the twenty-page conclusion to read. Gregory pretty much blames all the ills that plague modernity, from moral relativism to consumerist excess to global warming, on the Protestant Reformation. I love it!
This makes me wish I had my old access to scholarly journals to see how the academy is reacting.

I am pro-anything that makes historians of the "modern era" have to pay attention to the Middle Ages/Reformations. When I studied that time period, I had to know about how the history/philosophy since the 16th century affected the books and articles I was reading, so I think it is proper that those who deal with times closer to the present see how the Middle Ages and Reformation still inform the pres...more
Chris Stratton
Gregory is an astounding scholar. The scope of what he handles here is enormous. I don't agree with his main emphasis about the Reformation, because there were plenty of antecedent factors in play that the Reformation merely exacerbated (cf. Mark Noll's lengthy response to Gregory online), but on the whole, this a book every serious scholar of the history of European/American ideology should read. Highly recommended.
Dr. Donnelly at Baylor invited me to a reading group that is going through this book. Three starts sometimes means that parts were great, and other parts were terrible. Great parts included Gregory's insistence that theism does not preclude scientific endeavors; in fact, atheism precludes authoritative interpretation/application of scientific data. The really bad parts are where Gregory decides that the Reformation's "sola Scriptura" necessarily led to hyper-pluralism—once the adherence to Roman...more
Patrik Hagman
It is a bit difficult to know what to do with this book. Its central idea can be summed up in one sentence: By breaking up the unity of truth claims, the reformation spawned secular society. It is not a new or original claim, yet Gregory develops it over some 500 pages. It leans heavily of the work of people such as John Milbank and Alisdair MacIntyre, and does not in any way alter their accounts in any significant way. On the other hand it is not a introductory text either, its argument is quie...more
Kind of like Foucault, in a way -- the same changes everyone else has observed along the way to modernity, but it's bad not good. In Foucault's case, everything was getting staider, we were too self-controlled, we needed to get out more. In Gregory's view, since the Reformation, we've become morally unmoored, and "Judged on their own terms and with respect to the objectives of their own leading protagonists, medieval Christendom failed, the Reformation failed, confessionalized Europe failed, and...more
Luke Harrington
Sprawling and copiously researched, The Unintended Reformation seeks to describe everything that has changed in Western intellectual life since the Protestant Reformation. It's an ambitious work, to say the least. It's also not easy to get through, and I'll freely admit to taking more than a year to complete it. (In his notes, Gregory says that it really took him upwards of 20 years to get the thing written, so I guess that should be no surprise.) It is, however, well worth the work (for the rea...more
"The unintended problem created by the Reformation was . . . not simply a perpetuation of the inherited and still-present challenge of how to make human life more genuinely Christian, but also the new and compounding problem of how to know what true Christianity was" (p. 368).

Gregory has written an ambitious critique of Reformation-inspired rationality that has helped shaped the modern imaginary to be less and less able to address Questions of Life with anything resembling the thought, care and...more
Vic Froese
Won't ever think of the Reformation or about evangelical Christianity the same way again, even if I'm not wholly sold on the main argument Gregory makes, namely, that the secularization of the West is largely due to the splintering of Christendom in the fifteen century. He offers many intriguing smaller arguments along the way, among them the idea that Reformation and post-Reformation theology was so preoccupied with polemics that it disregarded the growing scientific movement and so marginalize...more
The seeming sort of "argument" of this book, that the world in which we live is one for which xians must take responsibility, is, from a "theological" perspective, quite interesting and probably helpful. The book is less interesting as a history book though and I found it a less engaging read than Salvation at Stake. The chapter about universities is probably the chapter I would be most likely to recommend.
This deserves a MUCH more complicated review. Basically all that is wrong (in Gregory's view) with the modern world (continually fragmenting of knowledge, lack of consensus about the good life or what truth is) can be traced to the Reformation. Reformers didn't mean to do this, but by moving away from tradition and authority regarding what scripture/truth means, and by allowing theological debate to center on people's opinion, they undermined the idea that truth could be determined and decided....more
I found this book tedious and repetitious, but his arguments are very important. Particularly interesting is that he points out things I knew but didn't realize. For example if you apply the principle of non-contradiction to the multiple disciplines in academia, there are many conflicts among their basic assumptions.
Although this doesn't necessarily say anything new, Gregory's synthesis is absolutely brilliant. This may be one of the best books written on Reformation history in the past five years.
Remarkable cross-cultural work on the complexity of shifts in society. Luther was Christian after all but the unintended consequences of what he did belied his purposes.
The book for faculty book club this semester. I enjoyed our discussions, but the book was very difficult for me to read without background knowledge on the topic.
Dan Yingst
Well said, well argued, but has been said elsewhere a number of times. I struggled to see what new Gregory was bringing to the table besides depth, hence 4 stars.
Todd Hains
Great description and critique of modernity, however, the reformers are greatly misrepresented. Still this is a powerful book that early modernists must interact with!
It took me a while to get on the train, but he asks some pretty provocative questions about what the Reformation has done to modern times.

A must read to better understand society and our life today. Excellent.
My summary: Curse you, Luther!
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Dorothy G. Griffin Professor of Early Modern European History

Graduate Program Field
European History

Early Modern Europe; Intellectual; Religious

Ph.D., history, Princeton University (1996)
M.A., history, University of Arizona (1989)
Lic., philosophy, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium (1987)
B.S., history, Utah State University (1985)
B.A., philosophy, Catholic University...more
More about Brad S. Gregory...
Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Harvard Historical Studies) The History Of Christianity In The Reformation Era Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism Seeing Things Their Way: Intellectual History and the Return of Religion Theological-Political Treatise

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