Jesus Creed

Imagine.jpgDavid Bentley Hart, a historian of ideas, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies
, examines how “faith and reason” were related in the Medieval Age in order to provide historical context for what has happened with New Atheists.

Hart’s approach is to quote yet one more example of the myth-making tendency to think history can be understood through the grid of some enlightenment from the dark age, and then to use that quotation to explore the theme. So, in chp 6 he examines Charles Freeman’s The Closing of the Western Mind with its claim that Christianity shut down the empirical and scientific approaches of the classical world. Hart’s knowledge of the history of ancient science is deep, and he simply deconstructs the myth-making approach.

The preeminent figures are Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo and the Church. Aristotle’s cosmology ruled; Ptolemy’s was less influntial; Copernicus’ approach was as much through ideas as it was through observable, testable science; Galileo got caught in a battle of egos, and the Church was not only wrong but acted out of its own character in how it had been responding to science.

Hart gives full credit to the Muslim preeminence of science, though he observes that progress in science was not their forte. Hart contends that science flourished because of medieval Christian universities and the scientists were Christians. The breakthrough was getting out of and beyond Aristotelian cosmology.

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