Luther and His Progeny:
500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society
edited by john c. rao
angelico, 290 pages, $19.95
This collection of twelve essays tracks the long shadow cast by Martin Luther on modern society over the past five centuries. Addressing a range of topics including economics, political philosophy, science, technology, and social theory, the contributors show that although the seeds of modernity (nominalism, voluntarism, rationalism) predated Luther, Lutheran theology served as their justification and vehicle. The modernity we have inherited retains even today a distinctively Lutheran flavor.
Reading Luther and His Progeny, I couldn’t help thinking of the old saying, “the victors write history.” When even the pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, is celebrating Luther’s contributions to society, it is clear that the Peace of Westphalia was ultimately a Lutheran victory. The essayists freely admit this victory, but they do not celebrate it. They represent the losing side, the classical Christian metaphysics and theology that were rejected by modern man. Luther and His Progeny gives us the chance to see what the consequences of that rejection were and so come to a better understanding of our civilization.
—Nathaniel Gotcher writes from West New York, New Jersey.
The End of Europe:
Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age
by james kirchick
yale, 288 pages, $27.50
The lamps are going out all over Europe, argues James Kirchick. But the coming catastrophe will not be wrought by apocalyptic powers like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The End of Europe attempts to show how Putinism, Islamism, and the apologists for both have divided Europe against its best traditions: cultural particularism without chauvinism, and liberalism without rootlessness.
Kirchick’s book does not attend much to Christianity and decent nationalism as therapies for Europe’s distress. The continental left’s aimless cosmopolitanism and the continental right’s bigotry are both adulterated species of older and more redemptive principles. Europe rechristened and repatriated would have more children, and live with greater hope, because it had more to defend. But Kirchick’s book is intended to be more diagnostic than prescriptive.
—Cole Aronson is a senior studying philosophy at Yale College.