Forum at The Immanent Frame on Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation
Over at the blog The Immanent Frame, editor Danny Jenkins, also a Ph.D. Candidate in Modern European History at Columbia University and a Lilly Graduate Fellow, announces a forum on Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation. Read further for Jenkins’ description of the forum and invitation to read the first installation by James Chappel. Future installations will come from Victoria Kahn, Peter Gordon, John Milbank, Adrain Pabst, James Kameron Carter, Ian Hunter, Peter Malysz, and Paul Peterson.
The last decade or so has seen a steady stream of publications seeking to cast light on the religious and theological origins of modernity. Motivated by a conviction that established accounts of enlightenment, secularization, and modernization can only partially explain the contemporary state of affairs and seeking to compensate for what they perceive as a narrowly biased historical perspective, their authors call attention to the roles that theology and religion have played in shaping modern societies, politics, and human self-understanding.
Much of this literature is driven by an evident dissatisfaction with the present and with the failure of modernity to live up to its promise of an emancipated and happy humanity. The Unintended Reformation is in keeping with this spirit. The occlusion of any substantive common good, the triumph of capitalism, consumerism, and individualism—all of these oft-cited ills however, Gregory interprets as long-term effects of the Protestant Reformation in particular. In sundering the order that once bound societies in the West together, the Reformation gave way to a complex web of rejections, reconfigurations, and transformations of medieval Christianity, he argues, in which one can still glimpse the fragmentary traces of a more coherent and less alienated past.
Can the social and political ills of modern societies indeed be understood as more or less direct, if unforeseeable, consequences of the Protestant Reformation? What is the contemporary import of thinking of modernity as the degradation of an earlier, more wholesome age? What sort of philosophical or theological premises underlie Gregory’s understanding of how history happens? How are political and socioeconomic factors to be incorporated into his account of modernization? Finally, to what degree is Gregory’s thesis in fact a novel one? How might his work fit into broader historical patterns of interpreting the relationship between modernity and its past?
Intrigued by these questions, over the next few weeks the Immanent Frame will be hosting a forum dedicated to Gregory’s Unintended Reformation.
Posted by Joe Creech