The Reformation was the single most important event of the early modern period of Western civilization. What started out as a pastoral conflict about the sale of grace for money ultimately became a catalyst for the transformation of Western culture. In Reformation in the Western World, Paul Silas Peterson shows how the retrieval of the ancient Christian teachings about God’s grace and the authority of Scripture influenced culture, society, and the political order. The emphasis on an egalitarian church—the "priesthood of all believers"—led to a more egalitarian society. In the long run, the Reformation encouraged the emergence of modern freedoms, religious tolerance, capitalism, democracy, the natural sciences, and the disenchantment of the papacy and worldly means of grace. Yet the egalitarian fruit of the Reformation was not uniform, as is seen in the persecution of detractors and Jews, and in the marginalization of women. In all its triumphs and innovations, evils and errors, the Reformation left a lasting double legacy—a divided church in need of unity and the possibilities of a liberated world.
Introduction: The Good and the Bad of the Reformation Chapter 1. The Western World and the Reformation Chapter 2. The Evils and Errors of the Reformers Chapter 3. Prehistory, Division, and Authority Chapter 4. Political Power and Tolerance Chapter 5. Modernity, Democracy, Capitalism, and Secularism Chapter 6. The Western World Today Chapter 7. The Reformation and Ecumenism Conclusion: The Future of Reformation
Paul Silas Peterson, Privatdozent Dr. Theol. (Tübingen), teaches theology and church history at the University of Tübingen and at the University of Heidelberg.
This is a remarkably balanced overview of Reformation thought and of the context in which it emerged and developed. The discussed issues are so evenhandedly presented that the serious reader is moved to rethink his or her own position and the reasons for it. No less impressive is the author’s contribution to the interconfessional and interreligious dialogue that involves critical judgment about where and on what matters the respective traditions need corrections. The result is a very readable book, appealing not only to students and scholars but also to general readers.
~Emidio Campi, Professor Emeritus of Church History and former Director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History, University of Zurich
Dr. Peterson has pursued an ambitious and challenging goal in this relatively compact volume. He seeks to clarify the legacy of the Reformation, specifically its impact on the Western world. Because of its introductory and summary nature and its significant engagement with current scholarship, particularly in German and English, this volume invites further exploration, evaluation, reinterpretation, and nuancing, even as it offers keen insights, draws important conclusions, and provides helpful perspectives. It can, therefore, serve as a useful scholarly resource, both in survey courses and in more advanced seminar settings.
~Kurt K. Hendel, Bernard, Fischer, Westberg Distinguished Ministry Professor Emeritus of Reformation History, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Paul Peterson’s Reformation in the Western World is an ambitious and wide-ranging attempt to rethink the place of the Reformation in the grand narratives of the Western world. It takes on big themes, from tolerance and intolerance to capitalism, secularism, and the rise of modernism, and yet it never loses touch with the history or the spirit of the age, equally at home in the Reformation discussions of repentance and justification as in the theories of the modern day. Thoughtful, provocative, and based on broad scholarship, this book will encourage readers to think about the Reformation in new ways.
~C. Scott Dixon, Senior Lecturer, The Queen’s University of Belfast
This book is a useful introduction not only to current Reformation research but also to debates among contemporary theologians and cultural critics about the impact of Protestantism on western culture and Christianity’s role in contemporary society more generally.
~Amy Nelson Burnett, Lutheran Quarterly
Peterson’s work is invaluable for those in the fields of Reformation studies or church history and is highly recommended for those interested in the interaction between theology, politics, and society in the Western world.
~Brian L. Hanson, Reading Religion
Reformation in the Western World is a learned and laudably ambitious attempt to weigh up the impact of the Reformation, for good and ill, on western culture and modernity.