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December 07, 2005



Seems clear that Western civilization wouldn't have made it without Christianity.

Jury's still out on whether Western Civilization can make it without Christianity in the future.

Christopher Sarsfield

"Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guides to religious truth"

Can you say overstatement? Christianity is a religion of revelation. Our primary guide is not logic and reason, but faith in God's revelation, which reached its fullness with the incarnation of Christ. This of course does not mean that we reject reason and logic, but they are not the primary guides. The Romans had a maxim "If death were good, the gods would die." That is reason and logic. "For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son..." This could never have been figured out by "reason and logic."

Also, why did the Capitalism become the dominant economic theory only after Christianity was on the decline, and why were the proponents of the system so enamored by Enlightenment reasoning. Was it the principles of Christianity that put the “goddess of reason” on the altar of Notre Dame? Or rather was it the rejection of Christianity and the embracing of the Enlightenment?

Joe Magarac

My impression is that our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox churches would claim that true Christianity, contra Stark, "emphasize[s] mystery and intution" and does not "embrace[] reason and logic." Indeed, our brethren might well claim that Catholicism's scholastic overemphasis on reason and logic in the Middle Ages led to the eventual rise of Protestantism, the so-called Enlightenment, and other problems, including the loss of any strong "sense of the sacred" from many modern-day Catholic liturgies.

I'm not Orthodox, and I don't want to speak for those who are. But the little I've read in the area suggests that what I've written here is accurate so far as it goes.


Have a look at the link below. It cites contemporary mention of a "bloomsmithy" at the Cistercian Abbey in Rievaulx, England. The bloomsmithy was apparently an early type of blast furnace. If Henry VIII had been able to keep his trousers on, the Industrial Revolution could have started 200 years earlier than it actually did. This very practical development and application of industrial technology came to an abrupt halt with the dissolution of the monasteries. Far from being hostile to reason, science, and technology, there was a very active involvement of the religious orders in their development.


Also, the most widely used calendar in the world ( the Gregorian ) owes its existence to Pope Gregory XIII and his German Jesuit mathematician, Clavius. How could this have been achieved if the Church had a brutish hostility to science ? Why did the "advanced" nations, mainly Protestant, resist the introduction of this calendrical reform, some for 150+ years ?

Al DelG

So many of the essential beliefs of Christianity are more consistent with a "mystery cult" as opposed to a system based on "reason" and "logic". These would include the virgin birth, the resurrection, miracles and vicarious atonement just to mention a few. Taken at face value in our fact and logic based society Christianity is an absurdity. It takes quite a act of faith in God's revelation to accept and defend our beliefs.

Charles R. Williams

The case for Catholicism and science is much stronger than the case for Catholicism and the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism. Certainly the monasteries were - for obvious reasons - innovators in technology and agricultural practices. Applying technology to mass production is another matter. The early industrialists were non-Conformist Protestants, excluded from the upper reaches of society but otherwise free to do business. Where did the capital come from for their enterprises, where did the workers come from, what were the markets they produced for? The corporate form - essential for mobilizing capital - seems to be rooted in medieval society and can perhaps be connected to Catholicism. The markets and especially the funds for investment came from the colonization of the western hemisphere. The source of labor may have been the profound disruptions of the English country-side in the 17th and 18th centuries.


His argument is actually too eurocentric,

China in 1400 was equal, if not ahead of Europe in terms of technological progress (Ed, the chinese had something like a blast furnace since about 200 B.C....., Henry VIII didn't kill the Industrial revolution)

What Stark doesn't explain is why China suddenly slows and even shuts down. If your competition doesn't race, well you are the winner by default...



My knowledge of Chinese history, ancient, medieval, or modern, is shaky at best. However, I do seem to recall that the Black Death struck in China and other parts of Asia before it reached Europe in the 1340's. As devastating as it was in Europe, it may have been even more so in China. This may have lead to a stop in development and a static situation in China. The European result I know better - breakdown of the feudal system, plague-decimated ranks of clergy unwisely repopulated with unworthy candidates, etc. The English Statute of Labourers ( late 1300's ? ) sought to bar workers from leaving the employ of their feudal lords, but the crying need to fill the ranks of the plague-depleted workforce elsewhere helped to bid up wages. This contributed greatly to the demise of the feudal system.

"Henry VIII didn't kill the Industrial revolution". We could argue terms like "kill", but it is objectively true that the dissolution of the monasteries greatly impaired the development and dissemination of industrial technology or the precursors to industrial technology.


What Stark doesn't explain is why China suddenly slows and even shuts down.

Bureaucratic overhead. When The System is Perfect, Ordained by Heaven, and the Prime Virtue is Perfect Calligraphy (in triplicate) on all official forms, any change only rocks the boat.

Old Zhou

This sort of article by Professor Stark demonstrates why academia deserves the appelation of "Ivory Tower."

It is a beautiful connecting of carefully selected, favorite dots from history to support a pre-existing opinion, which ignores everything else that has happened, and is currently happening, in the world.

I hope his historical flower arrangement makes him happy.


I'm so glad I checked out a book recommended recently by Michael Novak: "Aristotle's Children" by Richard Rubenstein (professor at George Mason University). It is about the medieval recovery of Aristotle by Catholic/Jewish/Islamic scholars. The author says: "Rather than choose between the new learning and the old religion, the popes and scholars...tried to modernize the Church by reconciling faith and reason." William of Ockham, egged on centuries later by thinkers such as Luther and Hobbes, drove a wedge between philosophy and theology. Professor Rubenstein says the modern task is to reconcile faith and reason -- and permanently scuttle "value-free" science and "reason-free" religion!



I think William of Ockham lived a few centuries BEFORE Luther and Hobbes, so it would be a violation of causality if he were egged on by them.

Sandra Miesel

The Sung dynasty closed down its incipient industrial revolution lest the established model of society and the dominance of the Mandarin class be threatened.
The same dynasty saw the invention of a mechanical clock which was built for the emperor and a very fine clock it was. Only when the clockmaker died, there was no one to keep it repair and no further clocks were built. When contemporary Westerners developed a mechanical clock, it was widely copied and soon appeared in every large town.
Christianity gives pride of place to faith and mystery but also staunchy defends the power of reason to discover truth. This gave a unique impetus to development in the West.

c matt

Jury's still out on whether Western Civilization can make it without Christianity in the future

Maybe the jury is still out, but it looks like the mock trial focus group says "no."

Communism was essentially a pure reason based system not tempered by Christian faith. It did not fare too well.

c matt

Transubstantiation (that relates to the Source and Summit of our faith) is hardly something to which one can arrive by reason. While reason has its place in the RC faith, reason is employed in the service of faith, not as an independent basis for knowledge. That seems to be where a lot of problems with faith and reason pop up - not recognizing the proper ordering of faith and reason.

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