Minding the Modern is unusual in several respects. It is organized historically but anti-historicist, methodologically self-aware yet critical of “method,” and reliant on close literary readings while focused on categories of moral philosophy and philosophical anthropology. Because of its density, length, range, erudition, analytical probity, and resistance to genre categorization, no brief review can do it justice. The book merits studied reflection of a sort that specialized humanistic scholars in their harried lives find difficult to accommodate. However inadequately, I can here only describe the book’s argument and method, offer a few remarks about its achievement, and note some of its limitations.Read the rest of Minding hermeneutics and history.
Brad S. Gregory
Brad S. Gregory is Professor of History and Dorothy G. Griffin Collegiate Chair at the University of Notre Dame, where he is also the Director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. He specializes in the history of Christianity in Europe during the Reformation era and on the long-term influences of the Reformation era on the modern Western world. His first book, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press, 1999) received six book awards. In 2005, he was named the winner of the first annual Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, a $50,000 award given to the outstanding mid-career humanities scholar in the United States. The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Belknap Press of Harvard Press, 2012) is his most recent book. It has been named the winner of the Henry & Anne Paolucci Award and the inaugural Aldersgate Prize from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Posts by Brad S. Gregory:
The Unintended Reformation is an unusual work of history in deliberately focusing as much on the present as on the past, and in emphasizing the ongoing importance of the Reformation era for understanding the Western world today. Having considered issues related to the book’s genre, method, and assumptions in the first part of my response and others related to its historical arguments and omissions in the second part, the principal focus here will be the reactions of the forum participants to my description and assessment of the present. I will also take up speculation about my supposed agenda, and the book’s lack of ideas for solving contemporary problems.Read the rest of Contents and discontents of (post)modernity.
A number of the forum reviewers raise objections to various aspects of the historical arguments in The Unintended Reformation. Others criticize me for having neglected what they regard as important omissions that adversely affect the book’s arguments. I will consider each of these sorts of criticisms in turn. Many of these critiques derive from the difficulty of keeping in mind that the book’s structure—a function of its method, which follows from its explanatory purpose as discussed in the first part of my response—distributes phenomena from the same historical era across six chapters rather than keeping them together. In combination with the necessarily compressed exposition, which also derives from the method, this sometimes results in readers not heeding or forgetting what is incorporated elsewhere in the book.Read the rest of Historical arguments and omissions.
More than 60 reviews of The Unintended Reformation have appeared since January 2012, including forums in four journals (Historically Speaking, Church History, Catholic Historical Review, Pro Ecclesia), in addition to the multiple sessions that have been devoted to the book at professional conferences. The responses here at The Immanent Frame add another ten. I am grateful to my colleagues for their responses, to Jonathan VanAntwerpen and The Immanent Frame for hosting them, and for the opportunity to reply. I am gratified the work has provoked discussion and debate that shows little sign of abating. I am also pleased that most reviewers have acknowledged the book’s ambition and erudition, and that some regard it as an important analysis of modern Western history comparable to Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Less satisfying (although not unpredictable) has been the ways in which the book has been misread, misunderstood, and misrepresented by some reviewers, including some respondents here.Read the rest of Genre, method, and assumptions.