Why a Protestant Is Quoted the Most in My Book

You would think a Catholic apologetics book would include quotations from, well, Catholics more than Protestants, but If Protestantism is True does the opposite. As a matter of fact, the single most quoted Christian is Protestant scholar Alister McGrath!

I quote him the most for two reasons:

  1. He gets Protestantism, and
  2. His book, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, is a like a readable encyclopedia

Regarding #1, McGrath demonstrates Protestantism’s lack of interpretive authority and indeed, the impossibility of one being accepted, given the bedrock principle of sola Scriptura. More on how he deals with the repercussions of this momentarily.

For #2, though I own multiple books by McGrath, including a textbook on the Reformation, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea–a popular work–is quoted almost exclusively. He takes a broad sweep through the Reformation but hits on the most important people and events, narrating a meta-history that analyzes the currents and trends that have shaped Protestantism. The bibliography for this book is enormous, drawing from his decades of research on the Reformation.

So why, we might ask, isn’t McGrath a Catholic or Orthodox? He sees the problems inherent in Protestantism, so why hasn’t he swum the Tiber (or the Bosporus)?

Based on what I have read of him, McGrath, who is also a scientist, is enamored of the idea that Protestantism is like an adaptable Christian organism that can evolve to fit any culture or circumstance or era. And this quicksilver adaptability is paradoxically enabled by Protestantism’s lack of authority!

With no Catholic Magisterium or dogmas providing boundaries, groups of Protestants have the license to come up with their own ideas–both good and bad, true and false–and make the Gospel “fit” their time and place. McGrath points to the explosive rise of Pentecostalism in the Global South–including Catholic countries in Latin America–as evidence of Protestantism’s evolutionary capabilities.

Now you can see why I quote him so much. Protestants like Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and the Anabaptists provide the grist, and McGrath’s analysis drives the mill. Ironically, then, the book is of Protestants and by Protestants to show Protestants that Protestantism is unworkable, with the Catholic Church then presented as the compelling alternative.

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10 thoughts on “Why a Protestant Is Quoted the Most in My Book”

  1. Just started reading your book Devin. I love the way you conclude each section with very thoughtful questions. I pray that God will use those questions to help our Protestant brothers who may be seeking “more Christianity.”

    1. Yes he understands it well, but…like N.T. Wright, as an Anglican I think he feels that he _is_ in an “Apostolic” Church–the “catholic” Church in England–that stands as a sibling to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

  2. Hello Devon,
    I just purchased your book on Kindle. I’ve started it yet, but I’m looking forward to reading it soon (it’s second on my list-after I finished what I’m reading now).

  3. We just downloaded your book to Kindle–after hearing you on the Son Rise Morning Show. I agree with you about Alister McGrath; he mirrors my argument (in my book SUPREMACY AND SURVIVAL: HOW CATHOLICS SURVIVED THE ENGLISH REFORMATION) almost precisely: Henry VIII staged a coup d’eglise for the sake of power and control, not reform and renewal! I look forward to reading your book.

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