July 17, 2003

Also from Nat'l Review

David Klinghoffer reviewed a book by Rodney Stark examining the role of monotheism on culture titled "For the Glory of God". Stark "writes as a sociologist and historian, not a theologian, and is careful to say nothing about his own faith except that he is not a Catholic." That last remark is presumably to fend off those who think him biased, given the credit he gives to the Church.

Some excerpts from the review:

."...[Isaac Newton] regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the Almighty."

A 'cryptogram set by the Almighty.' That is a beautiful thought, rightly depicting science and religion as twinned disciplines, both seeking to find out God's secrets.

As a final instance of what religion has wrought in the West, Stark gives us an economically rendered history of anti-slavery activism....As an advocate of total abolitionism, the Catholic Church was far ahead of everyone. 'In the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas deduced that slavery was a sin, and a series of popes upheld his position, beginining in 1435 and culminating in three major pronouncements against slavery by Pope Paul III in 1537'.

The very last sentence in his book is intriguing: 'In these ways, at least, Western civilization really was God-given.'...the point is that Scripture gives its readers the key to understanding how the world works. In this sense it's a blueprint. If you understand the bible, you understand the world. A corollary is that the civilization that possesses such a key is bound to flourish beyond the advancements of rival cultures. It's no coincidence that Biblical civilization developed as it did. Happily for those other cultures, the key can be duplicated. The fortune enjoyed by Christians and Jews is fully transferable. If Rodney Stark is right, it would follow that introducing the Bible to other peoples is indeed to impart a gift. Whether others are ready to accept the gift is another question.

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