Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Books & Culture Podcast on Historically Speaking

Randall Stephens

Last week over at the Books & Culture site John Wilson and Stan Guthrie did a podcast on Historically Speaking.  They discuss the new issue and highlight some of the contents.  Wilson praises our forum on Brad Gregory's new book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012). (Alexandra Walsham, Bruce Gordon, Carlos Eire, and Euan Cameron offered comments.) Wilson sees the book as "one of the most interesting, provocative, learned works of history that I've read in the last several years and it's good to see that Historically Speaking is devoting attention to it." 

Gregory introduces his lead piece to the forum as follows:

The Unintended Reformation is a work of historical analysis that takes the present as its point of departure. . . . While disclaiming comprehensiveness, the book aims to be as explanatorily powerful as possible while making as few theoretical and methodological assumptions as necessary. Secondarily, the book addresses some major contemporary concerns based on its historical analysis. These remarks will speak mostly to the first ambition and briefly to the second.

I endeavor in The Unintended Reformation to answer a basic but very big question: How did contemporary ideological and institutional realities in North America and Europe come to be as they are? The book intends to characterize these realities matter-of-factly. Ideologically, they include an open-ended range of secular and religious truth claims made by individuals about matters pertaining to human meaning, morality, purpose, and priorities, including some religious truth claims articulated with great intellectual sophistication by theologians and philosophers of religion. Insofar as the present is the product of the past, any adequate history must be able to account for all these claims. The modern liberal institutions variously characteristic of all contemporary Western states permit this ideological heterogeneity through the legal and political protection of individual citizens to believe and live as they please so long as they obey established laws.   

Read more of the forum and the rest of the issue at Project Muse, or subscribe to the print version today.

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