In his magisterial Law and Revolution, II, Harold Berman articulates an argument in direct opposition to the thesis that would later be advanced by Brad Gregory in the latter’s The Unintended Reformation.
In a section, “Early Protestant Belief Systems and the ‘Rise’ of the West,” Berman writes,
A study of the impact of early Protestant Christianity on German and English law, respectively, and, more generally, on the Western legal tradition, can help to correct the fallacy implicit in attributing to its founders and early adherents the consequences of later modifications of their beliefs. Such a study will show that it is not the –isms–not nationalism, individualism, capitalism, secularism–that were fostered by the Protestant vision of justice and order but rather national interests, individual responsibilities and opportunities, a market economy, and public spirit. It was not the rise of Protestant Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but rather the decline of Protestant (as well as Roman Catholic) Christianity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that led to the substitution of new –isms, new overriding faiths in the nation, the individual, the private accumulation of wealth, and the supremacy of rational calculation (23-24).
One of the reasons that Berman’s argument here can be so prescient with respect to a thesis that would be articulated in a work written nearly a decade later is because Gregory’s effort, while certainly demonstrating certain novelties and innovations, is in large part reminiscent of an earlier kind of historiographical polemic.
My review of Gregory’s book, which appeared in Calvin Theological Journal, is available here.
The Calvinist International is a forum for research, resourcement, and renewal of Christian wisdom.