Those who want to see in Christianity a triumph of obscure blindedness over reason should notice that in the arguments between Christians and ‘pagans’, no mention is made of “reason.” After Christ, the reasonable mind, which had hereto been given to the philosophical search, was simply redirected toward a more profound understanding of the revealed God–this is the nature of the Patristic texts.
The same holds true with the Renaissance. The Renaissance did not spring up suddenly from the ashes of the old monuments of Rome to usher a return to “reason.” Dante and Aquinas in their writings, Giotto in his paintings, were already in the 13th century–the century “par excellance” of the medieval era–developing certain features that would mark Western art and literature until our own days. Conversely, some of the greatest artworks of the Renaissance have biblical and other religious themes–unless we deny that the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the Annunciation of Da Vinci are work of the Renaissance. In the 16th century, some were considering a crusade against the menacing Turks.
The division of history based upon such concepts as the dominance of faith or reason betrays rather our own concerns and understanding of it than an “objective” or “scientific” inquiry.
The second problem comes with the fact that by doing so, we see must see Antiquity as a somehow uniform entity, the Middle Ages as the same throughout, and so with the modern world. But when does Antiquity start then? In the chaos that followed the Trojan war and ushered in the Iron Age? When the first states arose in Sumer? Can 4000 years be the same throughout?
To come back to the question asked above: where do periods and cultures like the Byzantine stand? Can there be such a sharp break between Antiquity, Middle Ages and Renaissance? The Byzantine Empire underwent a development very different from that of the West. If the Middle Ages started in the West through the loss of much of ancient literature and concepts, then the Byzantine era does not belong in the Middle Ages. If the Middle Ages are defined by Christianity, then it is medieval. But rather than trying to fit it in some category or other, we should rather consider it for what it was, not for what we should want it to be in comparison with something else.
Similarly, the Renaissance was a product of certain developments in the western lands, a product that itself was transformed in later centuries. But it developped within the Western cultural context, a Christian one, and the loss of its faith certainly did not come about overnight, but was itself the result of a centuries-long development. Cultures, which belong to history, are a continuum, and rarely, if ever, break completely. And they–save perhaps our own–are certainly not built by an opposition between ‘faith’ and ‘reason.’ They are made up of a mosaic of elements, society, politics, religion, economy, all existing separately but interdependent. It is those elements that we must study, and not subjective concepts such as ‘faith’ and ‘reason.’