By Alister E. McGrath
In July 1998, the bishops of the Anglican Communion met within the ancient English cathedral urban of Canterbury for his or her conventional Lambeth convention, held each ten years. The purpose used to be to deal with the various demanding situations and possibilities that Anglicanism confronted worldwide— equivalent to the burgeoning development of the church in Africa and Asia, its sluggish decline within the West, and the recent debates on sexuality.
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Extra resources for Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution: A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First
Yet what if criticism was directed at a more fundamental level—that of the ideas on which the institutions of the church were ultimately based? In the case of Christianity, the ideas in question derive from the Bible. As with any classic religious text, three fundamental questions The Gathering Storm arise concerning its application: How is the most authentic form of that text to be determined? How is it to be translated? 28 The question of the “canon” of the Bible had been sorted out seven centuries earlier and was not seen as particularly problematic.
Second, Luther argued that the pope had no authority over purgatory and therefore was in no position to influence how long anyone spent there. In the highly unlikely event that he did have any such authority, surely he ought to empty the place free of charge? These were unquestionably dangerous, subversive ideas that posed a challenge to the finances of the church as much as to its theology. Yet the reader of these theses is more likely to notice their fundamental continuity with traditional Catholicism than their explosive potential.
The writings of medieval theologians could be set to one side with the greatest of ease to allow a direct engagement with the ideas of the New Testament. The ecclesiastically safe and familiar interpretations of the Bible found in scholastic theology would be marginalized in favor of reading the text directly. 30 The humanist demand to return to the Bible turned out to be far more radical a call than many senior churchmen could stomach. The humanists were primarily scholars—men of letters who insisted that this systematic return to the Bible should be done on the basis of the best possible scholarship.