16 December 2005

What Rodney Stark says about Christianity

I found this over at Amy Welborn last night. There was another post about him yesterday but it has disappeared from her site with a bunch of other posts:

Rodney Stark in the Chronicle of Higher Education - How Christianity (and Captialism) led to Science
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 series of developments, in which reason won the day, gave unique shape to Western culture and institutions. And the most important of those victories occurred within Christianity. While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guides to religious truth. Christian faith in reason was influenced by Greek philosophy. But the more important fact is that Greek philosophy had little impact on Greek religions. Those remained typical mystery cults, in which ambiguity and logical contradictions were taken as hallmarks of sacred origins. Similar assumptions concerning the fundamental inexplicability of the gods and the intellectual superiority of introspection dominated all of the other major world religions.
I Googled Stark because I had never heard of him. He is a sociologist at Baylor University. He has several books in the works which are apparently revisions of academic approach to early Church history. To me his views don't sound particularly new. GK Chesterson was saying this kind of thing a hundred years ago (has it been that long?), but it is unusual that Stark is a full-fledged academic and can say these things--which to avoid confusion, I think is great. Anyway, I can think of a few friends who might want to add Prof. Stark to their reading lists.

Thanks Amy.


father wb said...

Encouraging. I definitely think Capitalism came from the Reformation. I wonder whether that makes it bad....

Smokey said...

is everything from the reformation bad?
are luther, calvin, zwingli, ignatius, teresa of avila, and the council of trent all bad...what about the radical reformers...how can they ALL be bad?


Garland said...

Perhaps it was in that other post that was lost to me when something funny happened to Amy Welborn's blog, but apaprently Stark makes the argument that the orgins of capitalism are in the Middle Ages, before the Reformation and the Renaissance. The little that I know of both would seem to bear that claim out. Well, I'd be curious to see the argument made.

Smokey, Smokey, Smokey--if that IS your real name, which I am beginning to doubt--the significance of your comment escapes me entirely. Of course the Reformation was bad in all of its forms, and as for Sts Teresa and Ignatius and the Council of Trent are not really associated with the Reformation except as countermeasures.

On another note, you will not be allowed to post on this blog again without some disclosure of your identity. Perhaps you have a blog of your own you would like to share....

metafiz said...

well, Greek philosophy certainly was introduced into classic Christian thought. While I am not necessarily opposed to Greek philosophy, and it is certainly admirable (and even necessary?) that those before us sought to explain Christian theology in the terms of the day, I think we suffer in some ways from that legacy. Classic Greek thought has, in some regards, become standary Christian thought. While it may be that classical Greek thought is true, Scripture does not, at least on the surface, demand it. Our loyalty to the Christian/Greek synthesis can sometimes, I think, take away from a greater understanding of God.