Neither theocentric traditions, generally, nor Christianity, particularly, birthed any –isms of human economic & political orders, despite contrary claims. Their robustly & pervasively telic conceptions in every sphere of human concern have nurtured the growth of human reason, both speculative & practical, that has gifted the undeniable advance of human flourishing, both spiritual & material, as well as more refined conceptions of human dignity, itself.
The late Jesuit, Stanley Jaki, chronicled the growth of science, itself, from theocentric & Christian roots. Thomism, when properly & wholly appropriated, gives an anthropological account of the natural law as operative in all human virtues ordered to both temporal & ultimate teloi, even when its implicit theoretic principles are only inchoately explicated in various theocentric sociocultural milieu.
- Jaki argued persuasively and profoundly that Enlightenment philosophes, thinkers and writers (on down to the present) have been mistaken about Christianity and science. For them, Christianity supposedly inhibited, and even oppressed, science. But Jaki, along with his great mentor Pierre Duhem, knew that the opposite had occurred. In The Savior of Science (2000), Jaki revealed the Christian foundations of modern science. He examined the failed attempts at a sustained science on the part of the ancient cultures of Greece, China, India, and the early Muslim empire. Christian monotheism alone provided epistemological underpinnings for scientific endeavour. In another booklet, Christ and Science, Jaki provided four reasons for the unique birth of modern science in Christian Western Europe. First, the Christian belief in the Creator provided a foundation-stone for thinking about nature. Only a truly transcendental Creator could be powerful enough to create a nature that incorporated autonomous laws without the Creator’s power over nature being diminished. Second, it put all material beings on the same level. There could be no divine bodies in the Christian cosmos (unlike the Greek cosmos). Third, humankind was created in the image of God, with a rationality that somehow shared in God’s own rationality. Fourth, humankind, created by God, cannot dictate to nature what it should be. Indeed, the rise of the experimental method owes much to this Christian matrix. The noted conservative thinker Russell Kirk stated, “Modern science, Father Jaki points humanity, generally, has progressed materially – not in spite of, but – precisely because of its overall moral & spiritual trajectories.out, rose from the natural theology of medieval Christian learning—a fact that philosophes and positivists sedulously ignore.” Father Jaki worked hard to refute those who asserted that Catholicism has been an enemy of science—has thwarted science. The opposite is the case, and Father Jaki worked boldly and strongly in order that the truth about this should come out and be known, as it must.
Various prudential approaches to human dignity, as proper to times & places, but not otherwise universally prescriptive, have allowed some sociological & ideological weeds to crop up among the spiritual wheat of the world’s otherwise pervasively theocentric societies & anthropologies.
Among those weeds are an Enlightenment fundamentalism, ideological liberalisms, practical nihilisms (even among so-called believers), militant secularisms & misconceptions of freedom. But to focus on the weeds when so much wheat has been harvested is wrong.
Neither various secularisms nor liberalisms, for example, logically follow as required ideologies for human flourishing. Rather, the essential philosophical takeaways are the principles of human dignity & conceptions of human freedom & its aretaically liberative dynamics. Secularity remains one of our tools, while secularism is for fools.
Over-against the apocalyptic doomsaying that we’re now living “after virtue,” advanced primarily by culture warriors, who are preoccupied with sex & gender issues, and by institutionalistic mindsets, who overidealize ecclesiocentric realities with an empirically unjustified nostalgia, the world has grown, materially & morally.
Christianity will be fine, especially if we don’t too narrowly construe it in institutional, hierarchical terms, just as the USA will be fine, especially if we don’t too narrowly conceive of it as a merely political reality.
Like the myth of the Post-Christian West, the decline of the Church and fall of the USA are as fanciful as the notion that God is Dead.
While I deemphasize institutional metrics, more broadly conceiving the Church in mystical, sacramental, herald & servant conceptions, still, even mere institutional metrics don’t reveal Christianity to be in decline per Gallup, Pew and other researchers.
US polling switches from denominations to unaffiliated reflect decreased stigmatization per Gallup:
“Now, it is normatively much easier for a person who doesn’t attend religious services to simply tell interviewer ‘none’ when asked his or her religion. In other words, no change underneath, but a big change in reporting.”
None of this is to deny the threat of asymmetric warfare, but the fact – that there could some day be a technological unleashing of unprecedented destructive potentials by crazed, demented groups – is not dispositive of the question regarding whether or not humanity, generally, has grown & advanced materially – not in spite of, but – precisely because of its overall moral & spiritual trajectories.
Steven Pinker (TED2018) describes this undeniable trajectory: Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers
Pinker (TED2007) earlier described the surprising decline in world violence.
As with others, Pinker goes on to make incredibly facile interpretations of his otherwise indisputable facts. It’s not secularism or an abstracted Enlightenment that accounts for such material & moral advances. After all, the world’s peoples remain decisively theocentric in their concrete practices of daily living & dying, working & playing, loving & learning & leaving of legacies. Furthermore, there’s nothing inevitable about these advances.
Growth is no myth. Decline has been greatly exaggerated. And few have properly come to grips with the real reasons for either, offering, instead, facile tautological apologetics to proselytize their exclusivistic ecclesiocentrisms & arrogant naturalisms.