Oct 16

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, by Alister McGrath ?????

I had varied throughout the reading of the book, at rating the book between 3-5. I finally settled on a 5 in spite of a few serious misgivings. Alister McGrath is known as a conservative Protestant scholar working out of Oxford. McGrath takes a fairly event stance in spite of his supposed academic and conservative stance. Sometimes, he goes a little too far in trying to be moderate, such as when he seems to side with Fosdick in the Fosdick/Machen controversy, Machen accusing liberal Christianity of having abandoned Christian roots and thus not being Christian at all. I think Machen was correct. Yet, McGrath also is very even keeled in his presentation of Pentecostalism as being the dominant force now driving the massive spread of Protestantism throughout much of the rest of the world, including South America, Africa, Asia and Korea, as well as possibly the Philippines. Thematically, McGrath holds tight to his thesis of displaying how the Christian “dangerous” idea that put the Bible into the hands of the layman, allowing them to read and interpret scripture outside of the forced interpretation of the church, has allowed the Protestant movement to adapt to other cultures and societies well beyond the expectations of the west. The book is divided into three parts, the first being a standard historical outline from Luther and Zwingli and Calvin to the present day. It is a focused history, examining the fundamental thesis of what happens when you put the Bible into the hands of a layman. True, you get diversity, heresy, secularization, etc., but you also get adaptability to various cultures. The second part outlined Protestant influence on Western culture, including music, art, science, etc. I’m not sure all of his analyses were entirely accurate, especially with issues of evolution and science, but again, McGrath is possibly attempting to not takes sides in the issue. He still leans toward the evolutionists, sadly. The third part speaks of the rapid growth of Christianity through the rest of the world, and his hypothesis as to why that is happening, which is, as mentioned above, Pentecostalism and other forms of spirituality that are more directed to the culture, thinking  of the lifestyle of people outside of the Western world and adapting Christianity to those cultures, rather than forcing a pure Western cultural interpretation on Christianity. Missing in the book is discussions as to how a large part of Christianity has trashed the Scripture. This is especially true of liberal Christianity. Since the basic thesis of this book is the freedom to interpret Scripture, when you deconstruct Scripture rather than interpret it, does that produce a Christian? I don’t think so. Also not included is the concept of the “heretic”. Essentially, Islam, as well as Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism are heresies, that I would fail to define as essentially Christian, yet he doesn’t address this issue of deviants of interpretation and belief that delegitimize being a Christian. This is a book worth reading, though a bit dense and sometimes controversial, it reads easily and is very thought provoking.

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