Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Opening the Book

Dear Don,

I picked up the book we are reading together (see previous post), The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I took it with me to the aforementioned Java Dave's to read with the aforementioned decaf Snickerdoodle.

Were you, like me, amazed at the amount of information this man can pack into a sentence? And how much one could learn in the pages of the Introduction?

Even that slippery term "Anglican" appears to have been first spoken with disapproval by King James VI of Scotland, when in 1598 he was trying to convince the Church of Scotland how unenthusiastic he was for the Church of England p. xx
(comment withheld)

MacCulloch narrows his project (hah!)to include only that portion of Christianity we think of as including the Latin West. (It's still a book of 708 pages in paperback, not including notes, appendices, etc.)

Here's another apropos quote:

. . .this western society, previously unified by the Pope's symbolic leadership and by possession of that common Latin culture, was torn apart by deep disagreements about how human beings should exercise the power fo God in the world, arguments even about what it was to be human. p. xxi

If it keeps going like this, I expect it to give us some insight into the controversies of our own day.

The most important moment of the Introduction for me, was this: The Reformation conflicts stifled diversity. Rome closed down options. . .Protestants too were anxious to weed our rival versions of Protestantism. . . p. xxi

Is our heritage from the Reformation a narrowing of Christianity? Perhaps that above all is what we are fighting about now. If we, as Americans, are the inheritors of the great utopian Protestant experiment, we should ask some questions about how narrowly we want to define our faith practices, and where that instinct to narrow comes from. It may not be of the Gospel.

Not all of MacCulloch's themes are surprising; he is synthesizing material we were starting to read when I was in seminary. But I think he points to ideas we Reformation children hold without examining too closely, and I expect to have some presumptions overturned before we're through.

Hope you're enjoying your reading.



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