The Impact of Christianity

At the tail end of the book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success, by Rodney Stark, there is a very interesting quote that I wanted to share. Mr. Stark attributes the quote to a book by David Aikman entitled Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming the Global Balance of Power.

Introducing the quote, Mr. Stark reiterates the major thesis of his book, i.e., that a significant factor in the acknowledged pre-eminence of Western Civilization over any other civilization in history--a rise that found its foundation in the many advances in technology, science, culture, economics and government in the period of time incorrectly called the "Dark Ages"--is "inseparably linked" to Christianity. Mr. Stark then uses the quote from Mr. Aikman's book which initially comes from one of China's leading scholars, who says:

One of the things we wre asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.

Now, one might say that Mr. Stark holds to the thesis of his book because he is a Christian. (I don't know that to be the case, but I suspect that it's true.) But what about this Chinese scholar? What was his motivation to make such a claim?

I think that this quote ought to cause any thinking person to reconsider the bombastic statements by such non-luminaries as Christopher Hitchens who make the audacious claim that religion (usually focusing on Christianity) ruins everything. The simple fact is this: but for Christianity, there is a significant likelihood that many of the advances we take for granted--and which atheists assume would be in place if the Greek and Roman cultures had never fallen--would not ever have occurred.

Christianity has not retarded progress--it is the foundation of much of the progress in culture, economics, science, technology and politics that allows people like Hitchens to make his ridiculous claims and have them actually heard outside of the hovel he might otherwise be living in.


Peter said…
If you have an opportunity to watch/read "Guns, Germs & Steel" by Jared Diamond, that will give even a better insight why Europeans ended up winning in globalisation. Interestingly after reading that I think the Christians will say "see, it was the Christianity that helped" and the secularists will say "see, the Christianity had nothing to do with it".
BK said…
Yes, I agree with you that there is a point of view involved. That is why I found the fact that a Chinese scientist is the one who is making the claim to be so interesting. But I have read "Guns, Germs and Steel" and didn't find it particularly persuasive. I certainly don't discourage others from reading it, but follow it with "The Victory of Reason" and I think that it will give a more balanced view of what is important.
Anonymous said…
If Christianity is the critical element in western society is is also responsible for two world wars, the holocaust, nuclear weapons and pollution?

I think the whole thesis here is on the shallow side...
BK said…
Have you read the book?
If his name is any indication, probably not.
Anonymous said…
I was commenting on your post...
Puritan Lad said…
Good Article. James Kennedy wrote some excellent and easy to read books about the impact of Christianity on Western Civilation.

Keep up the good work.
Peter said…
Ok, I read Stark's book. Great book about capitalism and politics, and it will compliment Diamond's book nicely. If the subject comes up again I can write more detailed comments.

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