Brad Gregory visits Consortium with “Unintended Reformation”
Brad Gregory of Notre Dame is a very smart guy. With one book, he has upended the paradigm of understanding the Reformation by analyzing it as the seedbed of the Enlightenment and contemporary secularization.
Dr. Gregory gave a preview of his new book at Virginia Seminary with Consortium history colleagues earlier this month. He argues that the Reformers tried to continue the medieval ideal of a society united by religion, but because of doctrinal differences, shifting ecclesiologies, the growing independence of science, the philosophical mediation of religious difference, and the gains of “the goods life” of production and consumption (nice pun!), the Reformers actually laid the groundwork for modern/postmodern secular society.
The problem is, this is largely a bad thing in Gregory’s view, and when asked about his downward view of history (as opposed to the upward narrative of progress) he admits that he has developed a critical eye. He especially targeted modern consumerism and its feeding of egoism at the expense of the social good. The Protestant Spirit and Capitalism are no longer such a happy couple for the globe today! The presentation was insightful and passionate, however, and Gregory does find hope in the renewal of civic-minded, intellectually substantive religion in some quarters.
The book is so well documented and argued, and with such eloquence, that I highly recommend everyone read it! The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Harvard Press). Kudos to Jonathan Gray and VTS for bringing Gregory to us!