Secondly, if it has too many neutrons or too many protons, it will become unstable. L When it becomes unstable, the nuclei, then becomes dangerous and possibly destructive and explosive if not contained. Much in the same way, In this paper, it is my assertion that Alistair McGrath depicts that Protestantism has essentially become essentially uncontainable and explosive in it’s own right that has undermined and weakened both the religious institutions and governments of its day and has lasting effects in both areas even into the 21st century.
Protestantism has swept aside the traditions and theology from whence it came (Primarily Catholicism ND the Anglican church) and has even turned on its own institutions and theology in its long evolution. Protestantism has not only thrived in a rather harsh environment but has also mutated and expanded from as evidenced by the various views of notable reformers such as Luther, Bucker, Melancholy, Zinging, Colatitudes and Calvin. 2 BACKGROUND Alistair McGrath, Professor of historical theology at the University of Oxford, who has an advanced degree in science deals with the subject of the Protestant Reformation in a firm but fair manner.
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There is the overall tone in his work that he, at he very least admires the way in which it has adapted and overcome much more efficiently than Catholicism and Orthodoxy, the ever changing religious and political changes that have taken place over the last five hundred years. McGrath takes the view that Protestantism is dangerous because it is, in fact, a dangerous idea. So, the question then, is “What are the elements of Protestantism that makes it so dangerous? “. As far as McGrath is concerned, there are several ideas that make is so dangerous.
The first ideas, (not in any particular order of importance) is the idea that he Bible is the main source of authority for the Christian faith. McGrath quotes from William Sociolinguists to drive this point home, “the Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of the Protestants! “3 Secondly, Christians have the right to interpret the Bible. This idea is the heart of the movement and the source of its strength, longevity cohesive movement resulting in its being split into several factors before the end of the 16th century.
As McGrath stated, “the dangerous new idea, firmly embodied at the heart of the Protestant revolution, was that all Christians have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves. However, it ultimately proved uncontrollable… “4 THE PURPOSE McGrath points out that he is not attempting to chronicle the development of Protestantism but rather giving an interpretive history of the movement. It seems that there were several factors involved with his desire to write this book.
The first was to provide a more fair-minded treatment of key Protestant personalities and social aspects in the emergence of the Reformation. Secondly, McGrath points out that viewing the state of affairs within the pre-Reformation European church through he eyes of its chief critics (namely Luther and Calvin) is not tenable and therefore there is a growing need to reevaluate the evidences of outside support such as archives and other correspondents to get an acceptable perspective of this period. Lastly, the author felt there is a need to account for the seismic shifts that have taken place in more recent years of Protestantism with, and more specifically, a focus of the tremendous growth in Pentecostal within the last century. 6 THE SHAPE: ORIGINATION McGrath divides the book into three distinct parts titled “Origination,” “Consolidation,” ND “Transformation”. The first part explains the birth of Protestantism. It describes when the dangerous idea “Christians can interpret the Bible for themselves” by Martin Luther and others were first conceived.
Interestingly, he emphasizes that this is done using a “broad brush approach that aims to identify and interpret what turns out to have been significant rather than to chronicle everything that happened. “7 He highlights the idea that Luther believed in the right of individual interpretation of the Bible and that it was not required to have ecclesiastical intervention and even more addict, that there is no longer any need for intermediaries (I. E. Intercessions of Mary or the saints). 8 Along with this idea was the concept of “the priesthood of all believers”.
Not only could individuals interpret the Bible on their own, but they were no theological grounds for the concept that the clergy were more superior than the laity. It can be argued easily that Luther had grounds for support because he built this theology around 1 Peter 2:9. He viewed the clergy as the same as political office holders in regards to their being recognized as being gifted and elected into a reticular position, they are not, in any way, more elite than any of the laity. Furthermore, and probably the most recognized position Luther took was that of “Justification by faith”.
McGrath rightly points out that this was “central to Lather’s reforming agenda”. 9 There is no serious scholar today that would disagree with this assertion. What McGrath calls a “dangerous idea”, Just Gonzalez calls, the “great discovery’10 when recounting the story behind Lather’s epiphany, but both agree that this was one of the fundamentals of Lather’s reform. Finally, McGrath attempts o drive home the assertion that Protestantism was not unified or cohesive as a movement, as mentioned earlier.
He makes it appear as though it was characterized by conflict and inner struggles which is historically accurate, thus the reason for breaking into different sub-groups under the Protestant umbrella. This can be matters pertaining to the Lord’s supper and the finer points of predestination. 11 Then you have Calvin, who agreed with neither Luther nor Zinging on the Sacraments and tended to align a middle of the road approach to them like Bucker. 12 Furthermore, there were dividing lines being drawn in regards to their theology as evidenced by Lather’s catechisms and Calving Institutes.
Eventually these differences led to a desired recognition on each party to be identified respectively as Lutheran, Reformed, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, and so forth. Probably, the major thing that aligned Protestants together was their mutual distrust of Catholics. MANIFESTATION The second part deals with Protestantism and its impact on its surrounding culture. It also attempts to discover the identity of Protestants and how they arrived t its distinctive ideas (their theology and spirituality) to begin with.
He lays forth the assertion that Protestants emphasize the centrality of the Bible solo Scripture in defining their theology and the “clarity of Scripture”13 that supports the idea that the Bible can be ascertained by ordinary Christians. His point is well founded as evidenced by the Westminster Confessional the Diet of Worms 1521 (Lather’s reply to Eek)1 5 McGrath points out rather forcefully that there are serious problems to the “clarity of Scripture” principle because it is evident that Protestants have hanged their position on at least four main biblical interpretations on certain Biblical passages in the last 500 years.
While there may be truth to this claim, the real question is, “how much of these interpretations in the 16th century were carry over interpretations from the Catholic church and how many were distinctly new Protestant scriptural interpretations? TRANSFORMATION McGrath, in the third and final part of his book, takes note of the theological shift from Germany and their very notable theological scholars such as Karl Berth, Emil Brenner and Doll von Hardback Just to name a few. This shift, McGrath believes, is due to economic, military and cultural power that the United States has developed since the beginning of the twentieth century. 6 This point is valid, but only partially. With the globalization of the world happening around the middle of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century, the sharing of ideas and economies and governments has affected the way Protestantism has moved across the world as well. With such notable Evangelical scholars such as Dirk Jogging (Dutch), Peter Williams (Cambridge), Radar Louis (Netherlands), Gerhard Snakes (Switzerland) and so forth, it an be argued that McGrath mistakenly assumes that the United States has taken the “intellectual lead” inn terms of systematic theology.
The vast majority of the third part of his book deals extensively with the changes of Protestantism within the twentieth century, due largely to the explosive growth of the Pentecostal movement. Within the last decade and half, many scholars are taking notice of this turn in events and focusing specific volumes on the birth of Pentecostal starting around 1901. 18 In its most basic sense, Pentecostal is a revisit of the reformation because, like the
Protestants who rejected the long-standing traditions and theology and began the idea of individuals interpreting the Bible, so Pentecostal has done the very same thing within its own Protestant ranks, defining Spirit baptism and in some cases rejecting the Trinity (although, in that case, it could be argued that we would not makes it clear that Protestantism, in its nature, is one to be innovative and flexible enough to adapt within the ever changing climate of ecumenical and the surge of “non-denominational that is prevalent in this generation. 19 PERSPECTIVES
This radical idea that believers can interpret the bible for themselves that McGrath sets forth in his book is Just as pertinent today as it was in the days of Luther and Calvin. Currently, we live in a generation that rejects authority of any kind unlike any previous generation. Out of twelve Chaplains in my region, there are two that hold to the bible as their final authority. The other ten Chaplains take “interpreting the bible individually’ to a new and disturbing level of violating theological principles and textual freedoms beyond what is to be considered biblical hermeneutics and exegesis.
This doesn’t even take into account the fact that they accept Apocryphal and Stereographic works as equal with the bible. The idea of individuals interpreting the bible is only truly dangerous when this is done in a way that violates correct Biblical interpretation. Everyone can interpret in a biblical manner, but will everyone do this? The answer, based on the rise of Jehovah Witnesses and Mornings gives us the answer to that question. When taking into consideration that, in the US, 51. 3% of all religious persons consider themselves Protestant. There are more Evangelical Protestants (26. ) than there are of the entirety of Catholics combined in the US at 23. 9%. 20 These numbers seem to substantiate McGrath assertion that “from the outset, Protestantism was a religion designed for global adaptation and transplantation”. 21 This adaptation is seen well into the twenty – first century with the rise of non-denomination churches that are “bible-believing” churches (code word for: we take the Bible as our final authority), small group home churches, churches in movie theaters, schools, public buildings, etc. CONCLUSION Finally, the question may be asked, “Why is Protestantism so dangerous?
McGrath adequately conveys the reason within his book: Because it is based on a dangerous idea that the bible is the main source of authority for Christians, Contrary to the Counsel of Treat’s (Session ‘v, 1546) findings. 22 Furthermore, Protestantism is dangerous because it teaches all Christians have the right to interpret Scripture themselves in direct opposition to the Catholic ruling referred to as the Magisterial. McGrath laid out the evidences as he saw them and achieved his goal in presenting the reader with the main principles of the Reformations dangerous ideas. Something