Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Christianity's Dangerous Idea

I just finished Alister McGrath's Christianity's Dangerous Idea. (Side note: I totally judged this book by its cover. Loved the cover, bought the book. Whatever that says about me, I'm comfortable with) Overall impression: different than what I thought, great survey of Protestantism.

I had expected this book to focus on the history of the reformation. I had thought the 478 pages would be a timeline of reformation thought, surges and struggles. I was not disappointed in the beginning. McGrath does an excellent job chronicling the Reformation, focusing on the key leaders (like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.) and how different they were. He is very careful not to lump them in together, rather parsing them and their theological & geographical differences, noting the effect this will have on later Protestantism.

From there, he changes gears, going into the theology of Protestantism. This was a surprise, but I enjoyed reading his survey of the different branches of the Protestant churches and the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between them. He indicates the history of different types of thought, going through the leaders of key movements and illustrating how positions were adopted and discarded through the last few centuries.

McGrath engages what could be a dry subject very well. He keeps things interesting and covers a lot of ground. I learned a lot (much of which was forgotten by the end!) about the history and differences in the Protestant church. He closes with a discussion of Pentecostalism and the future of the Protestant church, doing so very well, not leaving me in the dust trying to pick up the pieces!

I love reading books that make me feel smarter at the end, and if I were to ever attend cocktail parties, this book is chock full of interesting conflicts and decisions that played out in major and minor ways throughout the history of the church. I'll just have to bore my wife with all these facts instead!

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