I'd like to have some references for books to get a grasp of Protestantism: history, development, theology, philosophy, dogmas, rituals etc, among its diverse branches. Preferably from authors not affiliated with a particular religious community, but also not purely academicals and aiming at a general but cultured and knowledgeable public, with the plus of good prose. Authors with such virtues are, for me, for instance Bertrand Russell, George Steiner or Hannah Arendt.

  • Wikipedia is usually a good place to start.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 22:54
  • 1
    CS Lewis's "Mere Christianity"
    – nickalh
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 10:20
  • Why do you seek the views of Bertrand Russell who, with regard to the Christian God, considered himself to be an atheist? According to Wikipedia "Russell maintained religion to be little more than superstition and, despite any positive effects, largely harmful to people. He believed that religion and the religious outlook serve to impede knowledge and foster fear and dependency, and to be responsible for much of our world's wars, oppression, and misery." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell#Religion
    – Lesley
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 13:20
  • @Lesley I just have in mind his influential and excellently written book on the history of Philosophy. His views are irrelevant for me. Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 13:30
  • Ah, you are not seeking the views of Bertrand Russell on Protestantism, just sources written by people who exhibit the same mental and linguistic disciplines. My misunderstanding. Back to the drawing board.....
    – Lesley
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 13:36

3 Answers 3


The Encyclopedia Britannica article for Protestantism is very well written, updated from the latest of their printed Macropaedia volumes. It's not too short, not too long, and contain an introduction to all aspects that you mention. I highly recommend it before venturing in depth elsewhere.

The article's Additional Reading section has an introductory bibliography for major topics related to Protestantism.

Britannica articles are well known for their good prose, literary style, and balanced coverage while Wikipedia articles tend to proliferate into distracting technicalities and sometimes tend to miss coverage in background of important concepts. For introductory articles in humanities I prefer Britannica, then I go to Wikipedia for more details.

I also highly recommend the Great Courses History of Christianity in the Reformation Era (which you may find in a college / public library) by a well regarded Reformation-era historian Brad Gregory who has written a 2012 book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.


This is from a Christian organization, but they are neither Catholic nor Protestant.

The Plain Truth about the Protestant Reformation is a link to the first of an 8 part series on the history of the Protestant movement, by Roderick C. Meredith, published in 2017.

It was also published as a 150 page text book (ISBN 978-1-62479-997-6).

It begins:

The Protestant movement today is on trial. The Protestant Reformation has spawned a veritable Babylon of hundreds of differing denominations. They vary in faith and practice all the way from fundamentalist Quakers to modern Congregationalists, from primitive Methodists to Christian Scientists, from conservative Lutherans to Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses—with hundreds of shadings in between.

What is the real basis of the Protestant Churches throughout the world today? Why did their early leaders revolt against the authority of the Roman Catholic Church? To what extent are they responsible for today’s “divided Christendom”?

Did the Protestant reformers succeed in attaining their stated goals? More importantly, did they succeed in recapturing the faith and belief of Jesus and the inspired New Testament Church? For the real question is whether the Protestant reformers and their successors have succeeded in returning to the “faith which was once for all delivered” (Jude 3).

These questions are vital. Many of us have been reared from childhood in one of the many denominations or sects stemming from the Protestant Reformation. We assumed—as every child does—that what we were taught was altogether true.

Of course, we were, however, all taught different things!

We are told in Scripture to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 KJV). The purpose of this series, then, is an objective examination of the real factors underlying the Protestant Reformation. We will seek to find out why the early reformers rebelled against the Roman Catholic system, and why the various Protestant bodies took shape as they did. Using the impartial facts of history, we will compare, in principle, the teachings, methods and actions of the Protestant reformers with the Bible, which they professed to follow.

  • FTR, Meredith splintered out of the Worldwide Church of God under Jos Tkach after Herbert Armstrong died in 1986. WCG still had many Protestant practices mixed with Old Testament/Covenant legalism, e.g. Sabbath and Lev 23 Holy Days were essential-for-salvation and identifying the true church. They practiced three tithes per Leviticus. But, WCG also had a clergy-laity system after Protestantism (generally accepting only their own college in East, TX ordinations), a strong liturgy centered on a single person sermon & more. WCG fell apart in the early 90s debating New Covenant adoption.
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 20:30
  • @Ben, under Tkach and son, the WCG dropped most of the church's signature doctrines and changed the organization to be part of mainstream Christianity. Meredith (and several other high ranking ministers) baled out at various stages of this process, each forming their own organization to continue with the church's original doctrines. The vast majority of the church's congregation and ministry left too, leaving a very much smaller organization, which now owned, and promptly sold, the vast physical assets of the larger church. … Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 20:50
  • … The book, Raising the Ruins (ISBN 978-0-9745507-1-8), is Stephen Flurry's history of this process from the view of the Philadelphia Church of God, founded by breakaway minister Gerald Flurry. Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 20:52
  • that is correct, Ray Butterworth. The falling apart started circa 1991 with Joseph Tkach introducing the New Covenant. By 1995, most of WCG was in splinter groups. e.g. United Church of God (ucg.org), Philadelphia Church of God (Flurry), Bob Thiel came out of it (cogwriter.com) & numerous others. Side point, Herbert Armstrong wasn't the originator of many of his claims e.g. British-Israelism, Sabbath identifies the true church & more.
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 20:55

Here's an introduction from two outside of the mainstream religious branches of Catholicism and Protestantism:

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices — Frank Viola & George Barna

It is the general introduction you're asking for backed by an outstanding, exhaustive bibliography you can follow up on all the assertions made in the book.

It is not academic and discusses its assertions in everyday language.

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