Brad Gregory's The Unintended Reformation is an extraordinary book. Brad Gregory's The Unintended Reformation is a shockingly bad book. This essay explicates the force of these contradictory statements. On the one hand, the potential of Gregory's understanding of periodization may be applauded; his reading may likewise be applauded: there are exceptionally useful tracks through entire libraries of books compacted in his notes. On the other hand, the book's ethical purpose (to denigrate the liberal West) profoundly damages the entire project. Gregory's account of the “whatever” culture is lazy, inaccurate, and arrogant; but his determination to attack the “whatever” culture determines his entire strategy—he wants nothing more than to get into attack position, at the expense of understanding how liberalism might have been hammered out less by lazy whateverists than by those straining to avoid the violence unleashed by early modern religion. The book's weakness, then, is ethical.
James Simpson; Brad Gregory's Unintended Revelations. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2016; 46 (3): 545–554. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3644026
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