500 years ago, a German monk and professor named Martin Luther started a well-intentioned movement to reform “the Church” (Jesus founded only one, after...

500 years ago, a German monk and professor named Martin Luther started a well-intentioned movement to reform “the Church” (Jesus founded only one, after all). Luther’s object was not to split the Church, but to bring it into conformity with what he thought was the “true Christianity,” the one he discovered(and, he claimed, any believer could discover) in the Scriptures.

Things didn’t work out the way he wanted it to, for the Church did split. And split, and split, and split. There are a lot of different kinds of Protestants. In alphabetical order (and not an exhaustive list by any means): Adventists, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Baptists, Calvinists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostalists, Pietists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, and Quakers. Each of these confessions can be further subdivided. For example, I was raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), not the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

What happened? Why can’t the Protestants get along? Why do they keep founding new churches?Does anything unite them? And what role did they play in creating modern religious (and political) culture? In his wonderful and witty book Protestants: The Faith that Made the Modern World (Viking, 2017), Alec Ryrie offers answers. Listen in.

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