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Matthew Lundin

Just Another Reformation

The past several decades have seen significant changes in the relations between Catholics and Protestants. Theologians on both sides of the confessional divide have grown increasingly willing to engage in dialogue with one another. If even 50 years ago Catholics and Protestants defined themselves in mutually exclusive terms, today they are more inclined to regard each other as members of the same universal church.

Derek Wilson and Felipe Fernandez-Armesto applaud these recent ecumenical trends in their provocative and informative account of the past five centuries of Christian history, yet they also insist that false appraisals of the Reformation's legacy continue to impair relations between Protestants and Catholics. Whereas Catholics have often blamed the Reformation for shattering a unified church and paving the way for secular individualism, Protestants have lauded the movement for liberating consciences and sowing the seeds of scientific, economic, and political progress. According to Reformations, as long as Catholics and Protestants continue to view the Reformation as a cataclysmic event that split the church and altered the course of Western history, they will be predisposed to emphasize what divides rather than what unites them.

Reformations seeks to correct such common misperceptions about the Protestant Reformation and its aftermath. The idea for the book originated when the BBC enlisted Fernandez-Armesto, "a Roman Catholic of Tridentine temptations wistfully resisted," and Wilson, "an evangelical Protestant of charismatic sympathies sparingly indulged," to discuss the historical significance of the Reformation. After several years of research and debate, the two historians claim to have discovered not only that their own beliefs were much closer than they had supposed, but also that the gulf separating Protestants and Catholics for five centuries is more apparent than real.

At the root of exaggerated assessments of the Reformation's revolutionary nature, contend ...

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