Archives For Gerald Schlabach

 

“Back-Stories and St. Benedict

A Review of
Unlearning Protestantism:
Sustaining Christian Community in An Unstable Age.
By Gerald W. Schlabach.

Reviewed by
Gregory A. Clark.

Unlearning Protestantism:
Sustaining Christian Community in An Unstable Age.
Gerald W. Schlabach.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

UNLEARNING  PROTESTANTISM - Gerald SchlabachThe back-story is everything.

Alasdair MacIntyre’s  After Virtue laid down a broad and devastating critique of modernity, and his call for another, “very different” St. Benedict makes sense only against that critique.  Gerald Schlabach’s Unlearning Protestantism follows MacIntyre’s narrative with two differences:  first, the critique of modernity is tied to an analysis and critique of Protestantism, and second, the St. Benedict we need isn’t so different from the first.

The first two chapters of Unlearning Protestantism show that Protestantism has been one important force in the development of modernity.  Protestantism came to be through narration of the context called for deep and thorough reform, and we properly consider as virtues the qualities of character that enabled the reformers to act as they did.  But soon that drive for reform detached itself from the context and set itself up as a principle valid on its own merits.  Schlabach articulates “the protestant principle” in the language of Paul Tillich: “because all human institutions fall short of God’s standard, they are always subject to ‘prophetic’ critique and reform” (24).  Making the principle the basis for community life leads to “the Protestant dilemma”: all institutions, including Protestant churches, are always subject to critique, to being rejected, overthrown, or dismissed as superfluous.  Protestantism is the principle of instability.  The Enlightenment has seen itself as completing the Protestant Reformation ever since.  Schlabach’s second chapter, “The Matter of Continuity,” shows how the drive for perpetual reform played itself out in Mennonite “tradition of dissent” in the 20th century.

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