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Publisher's Summary

It still takes a major effort of historical imagination to enter the minds of those who lived during the Reformation Era, who were willing to suffer martyrdom or martyr others for what we would regard as minor doctrinal differences. These 36 lectures are designed to take you inside the minds of those who supported the Reformation and those who resisted it. They cover the three broad religious traditions that endured or arose during these years: Roman Catholicism, both as it existed on the cusp of the Reformation and as it changed to meet the Protestant challenge; Protestantism, meaning the forms approved by political authorities, such as Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism; and "radical" Protestantism, meaning the forms often at odds with political authorities, such as Anabaptism. The goal: to understand historically the theological and devotional aspects of each of these three broad traditions on its own terms and to grasp the overall ramifications of religious conflict for the subsequent course of modern Western history.

Along the way you'll encounter the era's many influential figures, including: Erasmus, Martin Luther, Charles V, Henry VIII, Ignatius Loyola, John Calvin, and Menno Simons. Professor Gregory also raises questions that any student of the period must ponder. Was the late medieval Church vigorous or, as Martin Luther and others came to insist, horribly corrupt? How do the events of the Reformation reveal the shifting balance between religious and secular authorities? Did the Reformation succeed or fail? Ultimately, the long-term payoff of these lecture series is a better understanding of the relationship between the world of early modern Europe - and the modern world to which it gave rise.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

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  • Philip
  • 15-05-2015

Very balanced and informative.

This was a very good performance and subject that not only approached the Reformation as such, but also looked to fit it in the wider world of both its time and ours. It set a good pace and didn't leave the areas of Western Europe alone for long before cycling back.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • zsuzsanna
  • 03-07-2016

Brilliant, Brilliant!

Would you consider the audio edition of The History of Christianity in the Reformation Era to be better than the print version?

Professor Gregory is an amazing lecturer, no contest, the audio edition wins hands down! That said, the print/pdf version is incredibly useful to recap, to revise!

What did you like best about this story?

The structure Professor Gregory set this lectures in. Should my attention flag for a bit -- which it sometimes did, albeit only when something unrelated to the book distracted me - his repeated recaps at the beginning & end of each lecture were very helpful reminders, and I'd then go back to a missed bit for a proper re-listen! This "story" is in and of itself incredibly "exciting," the stuff of human "high drama" often only known to the public via television series (aka art imitating life). As well, at least for me personally, It's pivotal to understand the past in order to better comprehend the present, how these events & trends have come to shape our own world as well.

Which scene was your favorite?

What I most like about lecture structure is comparative presentation & analysis. Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Evangelism, i.e. the evolution of a united Christianity towards pluralism of faiths in the early-Modern Era has a deep contemporary socio-political-historical context. It's all quite fascinating, looking back on it all from our times. Professor Gregory follows each trend individually in multiple consecutive lectures, then catches up on the same vis-a-vis all the others. Then, towards the end, he brings all these diverse threads together in a brilliant analytical summary focusing on their impact more broadly speaking.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

What I find most intellectually stimulating is multiple times Professor Gregory presents changes as they were likely to have been felt, experienced by the contemporary public, vs how we might see & reflect upon them with historical hindsight, through the lens of our contemporary "values" perspective. Wish I had Dr Gregory as one of my history professors in college!

Any additional comments?

I stumbled into this lecture series quite by accident & and have so enjoyed it, not to mentioned learned so much from it that I'm immediately following it up with another in this lecture series, "American Religious History"! Well done Audible!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • JakeTheSnake
  • 18-07-2018

A bit biased in favor of catholicism, But Good

I am neither protestant nor catholic, so I dont have as much of a dog in the fight as they might. But I was interested in learning more about the Reformation in general.

I appreciated that Gregory here tries to correct the impulse to mythologize all of the reformers as Heroes standing up against the tyranny of medieval Catholicism. much of that history has been mythologized well beyind the actual corruption that did happen. While Gregory admirably does try to portray the different Protestants in their own words, I felt like his objectivity didn't go much beyond that. Overall I felt like a lot of these lectures focused on showing how Catholics have been misportrayed during the Reformation, and I agree that they have to a point, but I feel like here he sugarcoats and downplays the both the corruption and the atrocities committed by the medieval Catholic Church. for example, when he speaks about the Saint Bartholomew's Massacre, he mentioned how it was an action by the king against a few that was later blown out of proportion by the mob. In this and many other cases of execution of heretics, he seems to be following the current catholic trend to try to shift the blame for religious violence off of Catholic Church and its leadership to the secular authorities of the time.

It may have been true that many of the atrocities were committed by a secular leaders, but they were in many cases openly sanctioned by popes. the king of France was given a golden Rose by the pump for perpetuating the Saint Bartholomew's Massacre. Other Popes openly sanctions the actions of secular governments in their burning of Heretics. I understand we can't completely condemn these based on our modern moral views, as they took place in the time when views were very different on moral issues. Notwithstanding, neither the Protestants nor the Catholics can be fully exculpated in the atrocities committed on both sides in this time. The best course of action in my opinion would be for both sides to simply admit that they both did a lot of terrible things, not attempt to make flawed defenses of them, and move on from them.

On top of that, he seems to spend a disproportionate number of the lectures focusing on the Catholic views and responses, and doesn't seem to devote the time that is deserved to the various Protestant movement. Most of the bias that I saw in these lectures takes that form: not explicit criticism, simply a lot of focus on the good Catholics, with a lot of focus on the bad Protestants and explaining the facts about what each of them did. What he says isn't wrong, it's just not the complete picture.

I do appreciate how he really does into the different motivations behind government acceptance and rejections of these and how they played into the evolution of these different religious beliefs. I would still recommend this lecture series for one who wants to learn about the reformation. but I would recommend that along with it you study other resources that give more information from various perspectives the balance out what I saw as a clear Catholic bias in this one. I suppose it is only to be expected, Gregory is Catholic himself.

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  • Christopher
  • 25-02-2018

Doesn't shed much light on the topic

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Brad S. Gregory?

I love The Great Courses, I will definitely listen to more. Professor Brad S. Gregory, not so much.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Focus more on why these people were willing to die for semantics. The author takes it as a given that anyone in his right mind would believe this tripe, which seems to me to be an erroneous assumption.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Personally, I found his voice pitch and delivery to be quite distracting.

Did The History of Christianity in the Reformation Era inspire you to do anything?

I'm still looking for a cogent explanation of this fascinating period in history. The closest I've come to this point is two works of historical fiction: The Wolf Hall series and the Shardlake series.

Any additional comments?

Professor Brad S. Gregory does a good job of telling what he's going to tell you, telling you and then summarizing what he told you. Damning with faint praise I'm afraid.

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  • Christopher
  • 20-01-2018

Just shy of perfection.

This course is loaded with expertly presented material. The professor is gifted, very careful, and passionate. I thought the final chapters which sought to reflect back on the material were somewhat less tightly focused.

Overall, however, this course is brilliantly crafted and delivered.

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  • PreachersWife
  • 19-09-2017

Sound information, but not engaging.

I struggled to get through, even though this is a subject I typically really enjoy.

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  • Joseph T. Richardson
  • 14-06-2017

A balanced account of the Reformation Era

Dr. Gregory gives an excellent and well-balanced account of the Reformation Era. Rather than a one-sided account favoring a particular side or view, he gives fair and fairly equal treatment to each of three major sects and their movements: the Magisterial Reformers, the followers of Luther and later Calvin; the Anabaptists and the Radical Reformation, and the Catholic Church. Though having a Catholic background himself, Dr. Gregory shows little partisan bias. He acknowledges problems in the Catholic Church which led to the need for reform. All around, he gives an engaging, fascinating, and enjoyable overview, and helps a listener to understand the events of the Reformation Era as well as the major currents and themes that flow through all the various threads.

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  • Ben
  • 02-05-2017

Scholarly and Balanced

This lecture series delivers everything it promises. The best summary of the Reformation I've ever heard. It allows you to see each tradition from within.

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  • Karleen Davis
  • 03-01-2017

Even-handed and thought provoking

This may be the best of the ten-or-so Great Courses I have listened to. From the beginning, he commits to handling Catholic and Protestant perspectives so that their adherents would recognize themselves, and I think he did admirably. There are no heroes or villains in this story, but many fascinating participants and leaders.
The final lesson may be the very best, as he helps us consider how the Reformation can be seen in our lives today.

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  • Dustin W. Ellington
  • 15-12-2016

Amazing

These are some of the most insightful and interesting history lectures I've ever heard. I had only heard Protestant perspectives before, but these lectures help us to see the Reformation from multiple angles, including the enduring influences which none of the Reformers desired.

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  • Mr. An Te
  • 14-05-2017

Fantastic series

It has been very enriching to listen to this set of lectures. Many dates and details are discussed in a coherent framework. It helps me to make more sense of the world we live in today. Context around historical events at the time is superb. It isnt merely about religion alone but how the political, social and social dovetail with religion. An strong lecture series. I shall be sure to listen to more in his series.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-02-2017

A thorough learning journey

Excellent series of lectures, by a tutor who obviously knows and loves this subject, and in sharing that knowledge and enthusiasm, brought clarity to this most bewildering subject.