Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“We shall first try to manifest the truth that faith professes and reason investigates, setting forth demonstrative and probable arguments, so that the truth may be confirmed and the adversary convinced.” —Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles
WE HAVE SEEN IN THE previous chapters how Christianity forms the heart of Western civilization, shaping ideas and institutions that have persisted for two millennia. In the next few chapters I will examine the relationship between Christianity and science. Specifically, I will consider whether there is an inherent antagonism between the two; atheist writers often portray an ongoing war between them. The conflict, Sam Harris writes, is “zero sum.”‘ E. 0. Wilson proclaims it an “insoluble” enmity, and the popular media breathlessly publicizes this theme of combat, as when Time magazine titled its cover story on November 13, 2006, “God vs. Science.”
Yet science as an organized, sustained enterprise arose only once in human history. And where did it arise? In Europe, in the civilization then called Christendom. Why did modern science develop here and nowhere else? In his September 12, 2006, speech in Regensburg, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI argued that it was due to Christianity’s emphasis on the importance of reason. The pope argued that reason is a central distinguishing feature of Christianity. While the Regensburg address became controversial because of the pope’s remarks about Islam, on his point about Christianity and reason he was right. An unbiased look at the history of science shows that modernscience is an invention of medieval Christianity, and that the greatest breakthroughs in scientific reason have largely been the work of Christians. Even atheist scientists work with Christian assumptions that, due to their ignorance of theology and history, are invisible to them.
Before religion as we understand the term, there was animism, which was based on the idea of an enchanted universe. Every river, every tree, and every stone was thought to be populated by spirits. The world was mysterious, capricious, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. Then came the various polytheistic religions, like those of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks. Each of these religions posited divine beings—sometimes immortal, sometimes not—who involved themselves in the daily workings of nature, creating storms and earthquakes, turning humans into stags, and so on. Then appeared the great religions of the East, Hinduism and Buddhism, followed by the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Of these, only one—Christianity—was from the beginning based on reason. Judaism and Islam are primarily religions of law; there is a divine lawgiver who issues edicts that are authoritative both for nature and for human beings. In the case of Judaism these edicts apply mainly to God’s chosen people, the Jews. In the case of Islam they apply to everyone. In both cases, however, the laws are divinely revealed and humans must follow them. Both Jews and Muslims may engage in extensive debates, but these are confined to the best way to interpret and apply the written codes. Christianity, by contrast, is not a religion of law but a religion of creed. Christianity has always been obsessed with doctrine, which is thought to be a set of true beliefs about man’s relationship to God.
Philosopher Ernest Fortin writes that while the highest discipline in Judaism and Islam is jurisprudence, the highest discipline in Christianity is theology. The Christian theologian is charged with employing reason to understand the ways of God. There are no theologians in Hinduism and Buddhism because human beings are not called to investigate God’s purposes in this manner.