Sunday, October 8, 2017

More and More Reformation Books: Another Stark Choice

Rodney Stark, whose books I've enjoyed and learned from, has written a book about the Reformation (his most recent book before this is Bearing False Witness). His contribution to the library of Reformation books coming out this fall is Reformation Myths: Five Centuries Of Misconceptions And (Some) Misfortunes. As the publisher, SPCK (the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) describes the book:

What has the Reformation Ever done for us? That's the question asked by church historian and sociologist Rodney Stark, whose latest book (one of SPCK's August 2017 Releases) Reformation Myths . . . offers an alternative consideration of the way culture and church remembers the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation of the Church in the West.

Stark takes and skewers eight myths that, from his uniquely informed perspective, have tainted the way our culture has been shaped. Unafraid to engage with some of the 'sacred cows' of Reformed and other streams of thought, this little book challenges common views and wonders if there might be another way to think.

Bracketed by chapters on mythical Protestants (Who were they anyway?) and a conclusion of prejudice and persistence, Stark has penned a wide ranging and entertaining tone, that Martin Luther would no doubt have spluttered into his Weissbier were he alive today and regularly reviewing books. Some of those myths include:

The myths of full pews, pious kings, and limited monarchies
The misfortune of state churches, with forced piety and bigotry
The ongoing misfortune of nationalistic states
The enduring myth of the Protestant Ethic
The myth of the way that Protestantism and Reformed thought led to the scientific revolution

Written in an informed, authoritative, and iconoclastically engaging style, and published to provide a mirror to the celebrations around the world of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, this book asks the question, inviting us to consider a range of answers, and rethink what we thought we knew about Luther, Calvin, the Diet of Worms, and all that.

Remember that part of Stark's iconoclastic charm is that he is NOT a Catholic, so when you read the sample from the book that's available for free from Amazon, you may be amazed when he notes that the only way to define Protestantism is in the negative: it's Christian but not Catholic or Orthodox! And the fact that the SPCK, a publisher founded to defend the Anglican church and support Church of England missions in 1698, is just another twist in the story.

Illustration credit: a weissbier in Munich!

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