A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

The Victory of Reason

Posted by ssbg on February 23, 2006


0gonzales3.jpg By Charles Colson
Christianity and the West 

February 22, 2006

At the heart of the furor over Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad are the different values and ideals of two civilizations: one shaped by Christianity, the other by Islam.

Of course, it’s seldom put that way, especially in the elite media. Instead, the values being defended are called “Western,” as if a compass point produced the freedoms we today enjoy in the Western world.

Fortunately, there’s a new book that sets the record straight.

The book is called The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark, who is not a Christian believer. In fact, Stark set out to refute German sociologist Max Weber’s famous thesis that attributed the rise of capitalism to the Reformation.

Instead of refuting it, however, he wound up doing just the opposite, writing about how Christianity’s emphasis on reason led to the rise of Europe. By “reason,” Stark means “logical thought” that doesn’t “jump to conclusions.” According to Stark, the “the early church fathers were very clear” about following in the “tradition” of Plato and Aristotle. And this emphasis on reason reached its zenith in Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The belief that reason “was the supreme gift from God” encouraged inquiry not only into matters of faith but the natural world, as well. Whereas other religions viewed creation as a “mystery” beyond explanation, Christianity expected to find “immutable laws at work.”

St. Augustine , who is often caricatured as the enemy of science and progress, wrote about the “wonderful . . . advances human industry has made.” These “advances” were the products of the ‘”unspeakable boon’ that God has conferred upon his creation, a ‘rational nature.'”

That’s why, you see, “it was during the so-called Dark Ages,” and not the Renaissance, “that European technology and science overtook and surpassed the rest of the world.” Contrary to what you were taught, the worst “conflicts” between Christianity and science took place after the “Age of Faith.”

Equally misunderstood is the relationship between Christianity and Western freedom. It was Christianity, Stark writes, that taught the West that “the state must respect private property and not intrude on the freedom of its citizens to pursue virtue.”

Our ideas about democracy and equality stem as well from the central teaching of Christianity. The link between the belief that we are all equal “in the eyes of God and in the world to come” and “all men are created equal” should be obvious.

It should be, but it isn’t, at least not to many commentators and academics. In their minds, the West succeeded despite its Christian past. Myths about the “Dark Ages” and other religious dystopias attempt to put as much distance between us and our Christian past as possible.

But, as Stark notes, many non-Westerners know better: For them, Western civilization and Christianity are “inseparably linked.” He notes that Christianity “is becoming globalized far more rapidly than is democracy, capitalism, or modernity,” which leads him to a breathtaking conclusion: “It is quite plausible that Christianity remains an essential element in the globalization of modernity.”

This book will you give you some very good ammunition to answer those critics who come up with the same tired, old arguments about the fact that Christianity held back the progress of civilization. Nonsense. The evidence is exactly the opposite.


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