Wednesday, November 14, 2007

McGrath's Dangerous Idea?

Alister McGrath's new book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" on the Reformation has been getting some positive buzz lately (here and here). After listening to a recent interview with McGrath (mp3) McGrath repeats something I first heard him say on a documentary on Luther. McGrath summarizes the "Dangerous Idea" as this: The Reformation was about the right of every individual to interpret the Bible for themselves. Now McGrath is 1000 times smarter than me and has been a Luther scholar for longer than I have been alive, but that summary bothers me. Wouldn't that make Luther the father of Liberalism that says "it is all about what it means to you, rather than an objective meaning."

Paul Althaus, a Lutheran scholar, said: “Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the sense of the Christian's freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather he constantly emphasizes the Christian's evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.”

Has anyone read the book yet? Am I getting the wrong conclusion from McGrath? Or is he right about Luther's individualism?

[I've loved McGrath's contributions to a theology of science and spirituality, where evangelicals are intellectually lacking, which is why he is distressing me here!]

Originally posted on Dead Theologians


Nator said...

what is the priesthood of believers about if it isn't about individuals reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves?

Jared Nelson said...

The acting of Christians as agents of grace with direct access to the High Priest.