This year’s five hundredth anniversary of the origin of the Protestant Reformation—the issuing by Martin Luther of ninety-five theses objecting to the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences—provides a convenient opportunity for a comprehensive exploration of Protestantism’s extraordinarily diverse past. Alec Ryrie, a historian at Durham University in England, has taken on that daunting project, and while some readers may take issue with his theological perspective, all will owe him a debt of gratitude for his impressive historical reconstruction.1

Date-marking considerations aside, this would not seem a propitious time for Ryrie’s project. Western Protestantism has fallen on lean days....


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