With an estimated 40,000 Protestant denominations worldwide, how is it possible to compress such a subject in a single book, even in 500 pages on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation? Alec Ryrie offers Protestants: The Faith that Made the Modern World, whose title itself suggests the difficulty. It is a history of Protestantism but he insists it is merely about Protestants because he would otherwise be overpromising a definitive history. Ryrie, a professor in the Department of Theology and Religion of Durham University, delivers the impossible nonetheless. His solution could not be more comprehensive, more meticulous in its attempted objectivity, or…
The year 1517 is considered one of those historical watersheds—like 1789, 1914, or 1968—at which Western societies took a radical turn away from hitherto prevailing political, economic, cultural, or religious settings. Such shifts, however, never come from nowhere. History’s time-bombs are invariably years in the making. The Reformation certainly didn’t simply spring from the mind of Martin Luther. But as a historical development, it has been the subject of polemics for 500 years: not just between Catholics and Protestants, but also, over the past century, between historians and sociologists with disparate views on how the modern world emerged. Any serious study…
Books reviewed in this essay:
The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, by Corey Robin. Oxford University Press.
The Common Mind: Politics, Society and Christian Humanism from Thomas More to Russell Kirk, by André Gushurst-Moore. Angelico Press.
The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future—and Why They Should Give It Back, by David Willetts. Atlantic Books.
Amidst the recurring question of whether Edmund Burke is relevant to contemporary politics, we are presented with three volumes that approach this vital issue in different ways, and with varying levels of scholarly and popular perceptiveness. All the books under review attempt to connect the witness and insights of the great statesman to ongoing conflicts in society and politics. Perhaps the disparate assessments of Burke alone could suggest the resiliency of his legacy; however, the importance of Burke the political theorist dictates a closer examination of these critical works.