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The Victory of Reason

Rodney Stark
The Victory of Reason
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The Victory of Reason

Rodney Stark

$36.99

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Many books have been written about the success of the West, analyzing why Europe was able to pull ahead of the rest of the world by the end of the Middle Ages. The most common explanations cite the West's superior geography, commerce, and technology. Completely overlooked is the fact that faith in reason, rooted in Christianity's commitment to rational theology, made all these developments possible. Simply put, the conventional wisdom that Western success depended upon overcoming religious barriers to progress is utter nonsense.

In THE VICTORY OF REASON, Rodney Stark advances a revolutionary, controversial, and long overdue idea: that Christianity and its related institutions are, in fact, directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium.

In Stark's view, what has propelled the West is not the tension between secular and nonsecular society, nor the pitting of science and the humanities against religious belief. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason: While the world's other great belief systems emphasized mystery, obedience, or introspection, Christianity alone embraced logic and reason as the path toward enlightenment, freedom, and progress. That is what made all the difference.

In explaining the West's dominance, Stark convincingly debunks long-accepted "truths." For instance, by contending that capitalism thrived centuries before there was a Protestant work ethic-or even Protestants-he counters the notion that the Protestant work ethic was responsible for kicking capitalism into overdrive. In the fifth century, Stark notes, Saint Augustine celebrated theological and material progress and the institution of "exuberant invention." By contrast, long before Augustine, Aristotle had condemned commercial trade as "inconsistent with human virtue"-which helps further underscore that Augustine's times were not the Dark Ages but the incubator for the West's future glories.

This is a sweeping, multifaceted survey that takes readers from the Old World to the New, from the past to the present, overturning along the way not only centuries of prejudiced scholarship but the antireligious bias of our own time. THE VICTORY OF REASON proves that what we most admire about our world-scientific progress, democratic rule, free commerce-is largely due to Christianity, through which we are all inheritors of this grand tradition. 304 pages, from Random House.
- Publisher.

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About "The Victory of Reason"

Many books have been written about the success of the West, analyzing why Europe was able to pull ahead of the rest of the world by the end of the Middle Ages. The most common explanations cite the West's superior geography, commerce, and technology. Completely overlooked is the fact that faith in reason, rooted in Christianity's commitment to rational theology, made all these developments possible. Simply put, the conventional wisdom that Western success depended upon overcoming religious barriers to progress is utter nonsense.

In THE VICTORY OF REASON, Rodney Stark advances a revolutionary, controversial, and long overdue idea: that Christianity and its related institutions are, in fact, directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium.

In Stark's view, what has propelled the West is not the tension between secular and nonsecular society, nor the pitting of science and the humanities against religious belief. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason: While the world's other great belief systems emphasized mystery, obedience, or introspection, Christianity alone embraced logic and reason as the path toward enlightenment, freedom, and progress. That is what made all the difference.

In explaining the West's dominance, Stark convincingly debunks long-accepted "truths." For instance, by contending that capitalism thrived centuries before there was a Protestant work ethic-or even Protestants-he counters the notion that the Protestant work ethic was responsible for kicking capitalism into overdrive. In the fifth century, Stark notes, Saint Augustine celebrated theological and material progress and the institution of "exuberant invention." By contrast, long before Augustine, Aristotle had condemned commercial trade as "inconsistent with human virtue"-which helps further underscore that Augustine's times were not the Dark Ages but the incubator for the West's future glories.

This is a sweeping, multifaceted survey that takes readers from the Old World to the New, from the past to the present, overturning along the way not only centuries of prejudiced scholarship but the antireligious bias of our own time. THE VICTORY OF REASON proves that what we most admire about our world-scientific progress, democratic rule, free commerce-is largely due to Christianity, through which we are all inheritors of this grand tradition. 304 pages, from Random House.
- Publisher.
- Koorong

chapter one Blessings of Rational Theology christian faith in progress theology and science China Greece Islam moral innovations the rise of individualism the abolition of medieval slavery Theology is in disrepute among most Western intellectuals. The word is taken to mean a passe form of religious thinking that embraces irrationality and dogmatism. So too, Scholasticism. According to any edition of Webster's, "scholastic" means "pedantic and dogmatic," denoting the sterility of medieval church scholarship. John Locke, the eighteenth-century British philosopher, dismissed the Scholastics as "the great mintmasters" of useless terms meant "to cover their ignorance."1 Not so! The Scholastics were fine scholars who founded Europe's great universities and launched the rise of Western science. As for theology, it has little in common with most religious thinking, being a sophisticated, highly rational discipline that is fully developed only in Christianity. Sometimes described as "the science of faith,"2 theology consists of formal reasoning about God. The emphasis is on discovering God's nature, intentions, and demands, and on understanding how these define the relationship between human beings and God. The gods of polytheism cannot sustain theology because they are far too inconsequential. Theology necessitates an image of God as a conscious, rational, supernatural being of unlimited power and scope who cares about humans and imposes moral codes and responsibilities upon them, thereby generating serious intellectual questions such as: Why does God allow us to sin? Does the Sixth Commandment prohibit war? When does an infant acquire a soul? To fully appreciate the nature of theology, it is useful to explore why there are no theologians in the East. Consider Taoism. The Tao is conceived of as a supernatural essence, an underlying mystical force or principle governing life, but one that is impersonal, remote, lacking consciousness, and definitely not a being. It is the "eternal way," the cosmic force that produces harmony and balance. According to Lao-tzu, the Tao is "always nonexistent" yet "always existent," "unnamable" and the "name that can be named." Both "soundless and formless," it is "always without desires." One might meditate forever on such an essence, but it offers little to reason about. The same applies to Buddhism and Confucianism. Although it is true that the popular versions of these faiths are polytheistic and involve an immense array of small gods (as is true of popular Taoism as well), the "pure" forms of these faiths, as pursued by the intellectual elite, are godless and postulate only a vague divine essenceBuddha specifically denied the existence of a conscious God.3 The East lacks theologians because those who might otherwise take up such an intellectual pursuit reject its first premise: the existence of a conscious, all-powerful God. In contrast, Christian theologians have devoted centuries to reasoning about what God may have really meant by various passages in scripture, and over time the interpretations often have evolved in quite dramatic and extensive ways. For example, not only does the Bible not condemn astrology but the story of the Wise Men following the star might seem to suggest that it is valid. However, in the fifth century Saint Augustine reasoned that astrology is false because to believe that one's fate is predestined in the stars stands in opposition to God's gift of free will.4 In similar fashion, although many early Christians, including
- Publisher

:Rodney Stark is University Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University.
- Publisher

Meet the Author

Rodney Stark

Rodney Stark (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. His twenty-seven books on the history and sociology of religion include The Rise of Christianity; Cities of God; One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism; For the Glory of God, which won the 2004 Award of Merit for History/Biography from Christianity Today; and The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success and most recently Discovering God Winner of the 2008 Christianity Today Award of Merit in Theology/Ethics.
Koorong - Editorial Review.

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Essential reading
5 stars By Rodney, Jun 08 2007
This is a great book which all Australians should read. It gives a view of history our children are not likely to get from our secular humanistic state school system. It shows that we can be proud of our Christian heritage and expounds how Christianity has shaped the development of the West. The society and advantages we enjoy today are very much due to our Christian religion.
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Product Details

Product Details
  • Catalogue Code 244496
  • Product Code 1400062284
  • EAN 9781400062287
  • Pages 304
  • Department Academic
  • Category History
  • Sub-Category General
  • Publisher Penguin Random House
  • Publication Date Dec 2005
  • Dimensions 241 x 165 x 27 mm
  • Weight 0.519kg

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