Thursday, January 31, 2013

Being Protestant in Reformation Britain by Alec Ryrie

That's an intriguing title because one's first thought might be: what else were people (if they weren't Catholic) in England during the Reformation? I think we might (or at least I might) be too quick to assume that there was one way of being part of the Church of England.

According to the book description from OUP:

~Offers the first comprehensive survey of the early Protestant religious experience
~Provides a distinctive perspective on the dynamism, intensity, and breadth of early British Protestant culture
~Focuses on the material reality of religious experience
~Integrates religious history with currently lively fields such as history of emotion, of childhood, and of Puritan reading and writing
~[Is] Clearly and accessibly written

The Reformation was about ideas and power, but it was also about real human lives. Alec Ryrie provides the first comprehensive account of what it actually meant to live a Protestant life in England and Scotland between c. 1530-1640, drawing on a rich mixture of contemporary devotional works, sermons, diaries, biographies, and autobiographies to uncover the lived experience of early modern Protestantism.

Beginning from the surprisingly urgent, multifaceted emotions of Protestantism, Ryrie explores practices of prayer, of family and public worship, and of reading and writing, tracking them through the life course from childhood through conversion and vocation to the deathbed. He examines what Protestant piety drew from its Catholic predecessors and contemporaries, and grounds that piety in material realities such as posture, food and tears.

This perspective shows us what it meant to be Protestant in the British Reformations: a meeting of intensity (a religion which sought authentic feeling above all, and which dreaded hypocrisy and hard-heartedness) with dynamism (a progressive religion, relentlessly pursuing sanctification and dreading idleness). That combination, for good or ill, gave the Protestant experience its particular quality of restless, creative zeal.

The Protestant devotional experience also shows us that this was a broad-based religion: for all the differences across time, between two countries, between men and women, and between puritans and conformists, this was recognisably a unified culture, in which common experiences and practices cut across supposed divides. Alec Ryrie shows us Protestantism, not as the preachers on all sides imagined it, but as it was really lived.

Table of Contents:


Part I: The Protestant Emotions
1: Cultivating the Affections
2: Despair and Salvation
3: The Meaning of Mourning
4: Desire
5: Joy

Part II: The Protestant at Prayer
6: The Meaning of Prayer
7: Answering Prayer
8: The Practice of Prayer
9: Speaking to God
10: Prayer as Struggle

Part III: The Protestant and the Word
11: Reading
12: Writing

Part IV: The Protestant in Company
13: The Experience of Worship
14: Prayer in the Household

Part V: The Protestant Life
15: The Meaning of Life
16: The Stages of Life

Select Bibliography

The author is Alec Ryrie, Professor of the History of Christianity, Durham University:

Alec Ryrie studied History and Theology at the universities of Cambridge, St Andrews, and Oxford. He is now Head of Theology and Religion and Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University. His previous books include The Age of Reformation (2009), The Sorcerer's Tale (2008), The Origins of the Scottish Reformation (2006) and The Gospel and Henry VIII (2003).

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