Alister McGrath is one of my favorite theologians and his book Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, is a fantastic feast for any who dive into reading it. The first part is a history of the Protestant Reformation up to about 1900 which reads more or less like a straightforward history book. In the second part he analyzes a number of issues in Protestantism from worship and church government to more surprising topics such as sports and the arts. Finally, in the third section he picks up the historical story from part one, focusing in on Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism began in the early 1900s and by the early 2000s was the most vibrant and largest branch of Protestantism.
I think this would be a great book to read prior to tackling A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. That book blew my mind and was incredibly challenging. McGrath’s book is not easy, but it is much easier than Taylor’s. The two books cover similar periods and complement each other well. McGrath’s is more straight up history with some theology. His final emphasis, in part three, is the rise of Pentecostalism. Taylor’s emphasis is to examine how unbelief, nearly unheard of in 1500, became alive option. Though with different emphases, I think reading McGrath’s first could be helpful.
The “dangerous idea” McGrath speaks of is the idea that the Bible can be interpreted by the common person. So anyone can read and interpret the Bible, not just the church leaders. Along with this was the Protestant idea of “priesthood of all believers” which, again, emphasizes that all Christians are equal and those in authority are not automatically deferred to. This idea led to the splintering of denominations in Protestantism, ultimately leading to the Pentecostal churches.
Overall, a fantastic read. If you are a fan of history or theology, check it out.