We’re going through the questions from the radio program “Unbelievable” in the U.K. which is again, an excellent program, and a link to it can be found on this blog. Today, we’re going to be answering the question of if Christianity is against progress? Hasn’t Christianity hindered the work of science and of philosophy and is just a backwater religion for ignorant people?
Somehow, I suspect my readers want something more substantial.
So let’s go at it!
First off, the opposite is the case and I highly recommend the reader get a copy of Rodney Stark’s “The Victory of Reason” for this information. Aristotle was a believer in the idea that he was in the Golden Age and things wouldn’t get better. There was a cyclical view of the universe so that most people saw no need of progress as history just kept repeating itself.
Christianity came with something different that it got from Judaism. (See Thomas Cahill’s work “The Gifts of the Jews.”) This was the idea that history was going somewhere. It was the idea that what you did made a difference into the future. In fact, the book of Hebrews could be seen as the first reading of the Christian ideal in history.
It is from this idea that we reach the conclusion that there is a God who created the material world, that is good, for man to live in. That meant that a rational God was behind it and our rational minds could grasp it then as it reflects a rational mind. Christianity then became a boon to science and phiosophy as these were both allowed to progress under Christianity.
This also led to the advancement of technology and with that, the abolition of slavery. Based on biblical passages like Galatians 3:28. The rise of capitalism followed and that of education. Early universities were established by Christians. This also led to the rise of science as Christianity was the system that made sense of science.
Now some might ask about Galileo. It’s a fair question to ask, but the Galileo trial is highly misrepresented. I do agree a lot went wrong here, but this was not theological so much as it was political. Galileo and the Pope at the time both had huge egos and Galileo made a mockery of the Pope and was demanding that his ideas have immediate acceptance and publication instead of waiting things out. Keep in mind also that geocentricism came from Aristotle as well.
I recommend the reader check works like John Lennox’s “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” and Alister McGrath’s “The Twilight of Atheism.”
What about evolution? I am not an evolutionist, but there were Christians on both sides of the debate. Some accepted and some didn’t. I think both sides at the time probably had excellent reasons. Today, with so much coming out about the fine-tuning of created beings, it seems harder and harder for me to believe evolution played a major role. I do believe in microevolution, but not macro.
Looking at science though, most of the major branches of science have been founded by Christians. In fact, this is the way we should hope it to be. Christians ought to be on the forefront in science and going out and trying to understand this wonderful world that God created. It is a shame if we hide our intellectual gifts for thinking that the emotional is better, yet that seems to be what is going on in Christian circles today.
Is Christianity against progress? No. Sadly, some Christians are and this is their own theological progress. Many Christians today receive the new birth and seem to stay there. If Christianity is going to help the world progress, then Christians themselves need to progress. We cannot do any good in a world of adults if we remain babies.