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Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  354 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Protestant Christianity began with one stubborn monk in 1517. Now it covers the globe and includes almost a billion people. On the 500th anniversary of Luthers theses, a global history of the revolutionary faith that shaped the modern world

Five hundred years ago an obscure monk challenged the authority of the pope with a radical vision of what Christianity could be. The
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published April 14th 2017 by Viking
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John Boyne
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This was probably the best book on the history of the Protestant Church that I have ever read. The author writes very clearly and is easy to read. The book also served as a nice reference on some of the distinctions between the different Protestant denominations. Highly recommend!
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well written. Encyclopedic coverage. Honest and fair. He doesn't make truth judgments but covers as a historian. Every insular Protestant should read it to truly come to terms with what the "Reformers" really birthed - not a Church, but movements - splinters which one could not honestly or reasonably claim to be the "pillar and bulwark of the truth" as St Paul writes. To be that would mean being in agreement with what the truth is before the watching world. But in fact the reformers were arguing ...more
Jason Weeber
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was excited to find this book, finally able to merge my love of history with my faith. This is a comprehensive volume, and certain sections will appeal to different people depending what points of history fascinate you the most. For myself, I loved reading about Luthor, Calvin and the other early Protestants. I found each of their personalities fascinating and how they all tackled a new intellectual view of the Bible differently. Luthor was especially fascinating to me as you can see a lot of ...more
This was a book that I was led to by op-eds on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 93 Theses. Although I am not myself religious, I do find the history and social study of religion to be absolutely fascinating, and heightened by taking a graduate seminar on religion and American politics that was taught by a past president for the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, who happens also to be on my dissertation committee. Further, although as said before, I was not religious or raised ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was published in the timely year that is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation which began when Martin Luther started raising concern with the corruption of the Catholic Church that eventually led to Luthers recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, among other things. Here the author Alec Ryrie examines Protestantism historically as a movement. Ryrie also evaluated the impact that Protestantism has had for good or for bad in history. Given how much ...more
Justin Evans
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-etc
This is a very solid, broad overview. Ryrie writes very clearly, and somehow manages to be reasonably objective, but also sympathetic, but also takes his stands when he wishes to. As others have pointed out, this book is very light on theology and doctrine, which is fine--this is a history of people, not of doctrines. The book is also very light on anything about the Baptist churches, which is very strange, given how much space Ryrie gives to sects that even he doesn't believe to be Protestant. ...more
David Dunlap
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Splendid book -- exceptionally well-written, with clarity, wit, and an admirable mastery of the source materials. The book traces the beginnings and development of Protestant thought, with prominent explorations of the major threads and figures in the movement. Very informative! (One fact I learned: Ulrich Zwingli is more properly the founder of what has been called 'Calvinism,' although Calvin gave Reformed ideas greater and fuller expression than Zwingli was able to do. The chapters on the ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly well-researched and thoughtful overview of the historical interaction of the Protestant Christianity with the surrounding society on many levels - politics, other religions, ethical dilemmas, poverty, slavery, Nazism and Communism, etc. Special chapters are dedicated to Protestant Christianity in South Africa, Korea, and China, which have a fascinating and controversial history. Reading the book helps one think deeper about the importance of various doctrines in the life of the ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I also, states the author in the introduction to his book, have my own corner to defend, and it is only fair to be plain about it. I am myself a believing Protestant Christian and a licensed lay preacher in the Church of England.

In fact, as we learn from the acknowledgements (which have been placed after the text, very near the end of the book), Alec Ryrie is Professor of Theology & Religion at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps it was simple modesty that discouraged Prof. Ryrie
Tosin Adeoti
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This afternoon, I finished Alec Ryries Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World. I told a friend I just finished it and he exclaimed, Finally. I have the uncheerful pleasure of saying 73% of those who started the book with me abandoned me along the way. :-D

Yet its not because its not a great book its packed but because it is a book of considerable length. The book has thoroughly schooled me on Protestantism, its origin and influences. It is a book I would encourage anyone interested
Daniel Kukwa
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating, dense, slightly eccentric in structure, incredibly informative, occasionally's certainly not what I was expecting from an historical examination of Protestantism. But it certainly held my attention, and as someone brought up Catholic...and a teacher of history who knows the influence of Catholicism on the history of the last 2000 years...this felt like a breath of fresh air, and an interesting alternative history narrative.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very well done. This is sort of a world history book of the last 500 years (starting with the reformation) that is told through the perspective of Protestant religion. It starts by going in detail through the reformation (major events and people) and hits on major and difficult topics like slavery, WWI, Nazis, and apartheid, showing how the Protestant religion was used and abused to justify actions. He does an excellent job showing how people reasoned their way into atrocities we often write off ...more
Peter Kyhn
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent non-technical historical study of the birth and spread of the Protestant Christian faith, with a global perspective. The only reason I gave it 4 out of 5 stars is that Ryrie did not address a protestant offspring - the so-called prosperity gospel. I purchased a digital copy of the volume to use as the basis of a church history class I'm considering putting together.
David Breeden
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wide-ranging and fascinating.
Russell Threet
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is my belief that in the very near future this book is going to be the go to text for the topic of Protestantism at the collegiate and even seminary level. All I can say is thank goodness. This book is great because even though it has the breadth of a textbook it reads very well. I might even describe it as compelling. Ryrie does a good job of delving into the many different streams of Protestantism while acknowledging and expounding upon their common roots. This book will not only be a vital ...more
Callie Stockman
3.5 stars, rounded up.
It's a sweeping narrative, from Martin Luther to the rise of Pentecostalism. It helped me overcome my sometimes spotty knowledge of my own religion and Ryrie came across as unobjective.

My only issue, which is a big one, is that Ryrie is NOT great at defining his terms. I could read a whole chapter on a movement and by the end of that chapter still not have a basic definition of the movement he was talking about it.
Sam Eccleston
Somehow I feel this book ought to have been more fascinating than it was. Protestantism, as the fore-runner of Liberalism, in many ways created, often inadvertently, many of the cultural tropes of modernity. Ryrie does explore this, but in nowhere near the detail that the sub-title of the book suggests. Worth reading, but feels like a missed opportunity.
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, 5-stars
Great overview of Protestantism. Great focus on the major role players. Also very funny in places. This is a textbook I will keep on my shelf and refer back to often. I loved the fact that Protestantism is seen as a love affair with God and His power as a lived experience, a memory or a hope. That it is also a family of squabbling identities that people fight for and identify with is indeed true
Kevin Summers
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult
I found Chapter 13 ("Redeeming South Africa") about the Afrikaners, the Dutch Reformed Church, and apartheid to be the most interesting chapter in this book.
Mbogo J
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
They don't come better than this, or may be I go on a limb and say this is as good as it gets.

If you've ever read these kind of books you know they tend to be dry tracts and your pursuit of knowledge has to push you through abstract chapters defining this term or that theologian. This book is not numbered among those. The prose is alive, interesting and urges you to read on. It had interesting tidbits such as the roots of the Pentecostalism practice of speaking in tongues where one journalist
Andy Oram
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ryrie has accomplished a tour de force here, creating a long but eminently readable book about a subject that many would think is too big for any single book. He does this by focusing not on dry points of doctrine but on colorful personalities and the relationship of religion to social and political trends. Treating Protestantism as a form of religious experience, he lays out themes that come up obsessively throughout the movement's history: rejection of authority, reliance on the wisdom of lay ...more
Jason Wilson
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written the Reformation 500 this is a god survey that is encyclopaedic and balanced. The initial stories of Luther and Calvin et al are now well trodden but this book gives them some freshness, as well as telling the fascinating stories of Protestantism in places like Korean and China. Its very balanced , showing that the great achievement of the Protestant church, renewed in modern movements like Pentecostalism, was the personal love affair with God, which in turn has fed back into established ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-history
A very clear and readable (at times jaunty) history of the Protestantism from the 1500s to the present. Inevitably given the scope it is something of a race through with uneven detail but that doesn't really detract from the quality. I found the chapters on the Jehovahs Witnesses and other members of the Protestant family tree particularly enlightening along with the chapters on Korea and China.

I have some questions over his analysis of secularisation. Perhaps the liberal side of the church did
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Historian Alec Ryries 2017 book, Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World is a history of the Protestantism from Martin Luther to what Ryrie calls The Global Age of Protestantism (The Global Age part of the book is mainly focused on the spread of Pentecostalism around the world, Protestantism in South Africa, Korea, and China). Ryrie, who teaches at Christian history at Durham University (U.K.), specializes in the English and Scottish Reformation and is a licensed Anglican minister. For ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a little bit to get into it, but I ended up really enjoying this book. Particularly, I enjoyed the historical parts and all the discussion of how religion and politics intertwine. I know quite a bit about Papal history, but this is the first time I read and thought about how much Protestantism has shaped world affairs (other than Henry VIII). It also really made me think about what should be expected from any church regarding politics, if anything. Definitely a new perspective.

Michael DeBusk
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ryrie broadly traces the genetic history of Protestantism, explaining the connections between its various offshoots; how a contemporary Presbyterian church in Seoul or a Pentecostal church in Rio, for example, relates to what began in 16c Germany. As a sympathetic insider, Ryrie speaks the language of Protestantism and understands the detailed contours if its terrain. Yet his finely crafted narrative maintains its credibility and Ryries commitment to an ideal of historical objectivity can be ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is successful in giving the reader an overview of the Protestant Reformation. The writer used many generalities, which I would imagine is purposeful. If you are looking for a detailed account of the Reformation, you may need to look elsewhere. I do suppose Southern Baptist are not technically Protestant, but they were glaringly absent from the text. On another note, the writer has determined the Old Testament is filled with "God ordained polygamy". However, I see the Old Testament full ...more
Joe McMahon
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I agree with the praise heaped upon this book by other reviewers on Goodreads. It is an excellent, helpful book, but I won't read it again from cover to cover. A Catholic Christian, I am fascinated by the histories of the Protestant congregations in our town. The author has given us an insightful chronology of the spread of Protestantism. It helped me understand most of the trends and changes of emphasis. I praise Alec Ryrie for his explanation that Luther and Protestant history must be seen in ...more
William Schram
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, history
Protestants is a book about how the Protestant movement revolutionized the world. It is hard to overestimate Martin Luther's contribution to our society. The book chronicles the development of Protestantism and how it was an overall change in thought.

Before Martin Luther, people didn't think of rebelling against the Catholic Church. Once Luther put up his 95 Theses, the gates burst open and made a precedent. Luther nailing the Theses to the Wittenburg Church might be apocryphal, but that doesn't
San Diego Book Review
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed by Kevin Winter for San Diego Book Review

With this being the 500th anniversary of the Reformation you are seeing a lot of books coming out that cover some part of that topic. This new book by Alex Ryrie covers more than just Luther and the beginning of Protestantism; it covers the entire history of Protestantism from Luther to today.

You can read this entire review and others like it at San Diego Book Review.
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Alec Ryrie is a prize-winning historian of the Reformation and Protestantism. He is the author of Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt and Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World. Ryrie is Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University and Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London.

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48 likes · 19 comments
“What made Luther’s stance so outrageous was not that he valorized the Bible. That is hardly unusual for Christians. What was shocking was that he set it above everything else. He treated the views of the early church fathers, of more recent scholars, even of church councils, with great respect, but he would not be constrained by them. In the end, anything outside the Bible, including anyone else’s interpretation of the Bible, was a mere opinion. This was the true and enduring radicalism of Protestantism: its readiness to question every human authority and tradition.” 5 likes
“We cannot understand the modern age without understanding the dynamic history of Protestant Christianity.” 2 likes
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