Friday, March 03, 2006

The Christian Commitment to Reason...

(hat tip JCR)

"How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and the Success of the West" by Rodney Stark

Click here to read.
"When Europeans first began to explore the globe, their greatest surprise was not the existence of the Western Hemisphere, but the extent of their own technological superiority over the rest of the world. Not only were the proud Maya, Aztec, and Inca nations helpless in the face of European intruders, so were the fabled civilizations of the East: China, India, and Islamic nations were "backward" by comparison with 15th-century Europe. How had that happened? Why was it that, although many civilizations had pursued alchemy, the study led to chemistry only in Europe? Why was it that, for centuries, Europeans were the only ones possessed of eyeglasses, chimneys, reliable clocks, heavy cavalry, or a system of music notation? How had the nations that had arisen from the rubble of Rome so greatly surpassed the rest of the world?

The most convincing answer to those questions attributes Western dominance to the rise of capitalism, which took place only in Europe. Even the most militant enemies of capitalism credit it with creating previously undreamed of productivity and progress. In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels proposed that before the rise of capitalism, humans engaged "in the most slothful indolence"; the capitalist system was "the first to show what man's activity can bring about." Capitalism achieved that miracle through regular reinvestment to increase productivity, either to create greater capacity or improve technology, and by motivating both management and labor through ever-rising payoffs.

Supposing that capitalism did produce Europe's own "great leap forward," it remains to be explained why capitalism developed only in Europe. Some writers have found the roots of capitalism in the Protestant Reformation; others have traced it back to various political circumstances. But, if one digs deeper, it becomes clear that the truly fundamental basis not only for capitalism, but for the rise of the West, was an extraordinary faith in reason."

A review by Chuck Colson:
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...

...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.


Subscribe to CBT

Enter an e-mail address for daily updates: