As we look at or study the thinking or conclusions of some of the greatest philosophical and scientific minds we can credit the resources they provide to the fundamentals of Christianity. This is a bold statement, I realize. Reasoning, rational thought, are attributes such persons are apt to apply to their progression of ideas and knowledge. To this end, within the corral of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) it is only Christian theology that stresses progress. The term “progress” means simply a desire and willingness to grow and develop by encouraging creative thinking and the resultant beneficial outcomes embraced from such objective thinking. Christianity is a faith-based religion which looks to the future. The past is for historical reference. However, Judaism and Islam look to the past, to a fixed set of laws. Such laws are to be obeyed, complied with, and adhered to without compromise or modification.
Taken from The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark (2005, Random House, New York, New York — page 8) “Jews and Muslims incline towards strict constructionism and approach Scripture as a law to be understood and applied, not as the basis for inquiry about questions of ultimate meaning…. (they are) ‘orthoprax’ religions, concerned with correct practice…(with) ‘emphasis on law and regulation of community life..’ “ [The term ‘constructionism’ used prior means – interpreting laws or the like in a specific manner, leaving little room for discussion] Christianity, in contrast, as noted by Stark, is “an ‘orthodox’ religion because it stresses correct opinion…(with) emphasis on belief in its intellectual structuring of creeds, catechisms, and theologies.’” So correct practice vs. correct opinion, orthoprax vs. orthodox, and the opportunity for newness and growth of ideas and opportunities is thus presented only in the arena of the orthodox.
For the Jewish and Muslim, structured laws of the past are the foundations for today and tomorrow, acting as the legalistic precedent for the decisions of their rabbis or Imams. Christians are free of such laws and subscribe to collective consideration of the nature of God as revealed in the Bible and allowing for growth and “progress.” (Stark-page 9) They are not trapped in the past, but look each day to the future. It is their faith that allows for innovation, development, new ideas, creativity and freedom of thought. To this point all man must be thoughtful and thankful for what the Triune God has provided.
In America, often having been referred to in history as the West, progress, capitalism, enabled a new nation (the past 300 — 400 years) to excel and become wealthy and powerful. A progressive and free environment enabled the explosive growth and position of prominence in the world. It was the predominantly Christian ethic which allows for reason and progress that made America possible. Christians are guided by Scripture to know the truth and where doubt exists strive to further understand and grow so the truth may be revealed. The Koran (second verse) “proclaims itself to be ‘the Scripture whereof there is no doubt,’” according to Stark (page 9). This allows no room for reason; it is absolute and restrictive. It is impossible also to meet standards established in the Torah or the Koran. It is only the Bible, the New Covenant provided in the New Testament, that allows for objectivity, creativity, industriousness and progress.
Science and Religion
Christianity, it’s theology, in an effort to know God and his handiwork exemplified in creation, encourages scientific pursuits. Christianity wants the mind of man engaged in postulating and then research providing proofs on the perfection of our universe. Empirical knowledge is valuable to knowing God. When a religion’s posture is not simply rooted in the past but also is consumed by meditating on the mystery of the universe (as with Tao, Hindu or Buddhism) without seeking answers, knowledge will not, and cannot, follow. “Centuries of meditation will produce no empirical knowledge.” (Stark — page 15). Theorizing without proof suggests only thoughts, but no evidence providing confirmation. “… To the extent that religion inspires efforts to comprehend God’s handiwork, knowledge will be forthcoming, and because to comprehend fully it is necessary to explain it, science arises as the ‘handmaiden’ of theology.” (Stark – 15) Science and Christianity are thus compatible. The New Covenant provides for objective thinking and allows for roads to be built to lead us to new places, new discoveries, new insights, additional mechanisms by which our health and our lives are improved here on earth.
Denial of the presence of Christ, his Father and the Spirit within provided, suggests man’s own talents are the repository of tomorrow’s inventions, creations, and solutions to needs arising from population growth. But it is the spark that lights the flame that must be considered, and for that freedom on the illumination on new ideas we must credit the Risen Lord and the text left for men to study, the New Testament (and the Old as a precursor to what was to be), that satisfies and opens the doors to an eternal growth opportunity. It is an encouraging document that enables all mankind to not only fully study our beginnings, our past and our history, knowing its contents are inspired and inspiring, but it allows for us to understand our creator, know him, and work with him to better his and our world. We have been allowed by his promises the freedom to mold deserts into cities, to turn sand into glass, to consider the universe and explore, to fulfill the needs of man as they arise and by his grace we will continue to do so. Capitalism unconstrained shows the strength of freedom. We may be equal spiritually, as in Galatians 3:28, equal as to protections under the laws (of man and God), but differences can and do arise and exist in a secular world. Christianity calls for the separation of Church and State (not the ACLU). It was intended more a factor keeping Government out of the church and the pulpit – that was how Thomas Jefferson saw it. Christ was not a factor in governmental actions as were the Jewish leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) or Mohammad. He remained humble, caring, and desired freedom for all. It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Islam never intended their peoples to be free, but to live under the constraints imposed by the Koran, never allowing for objective thought. Indeed freedom is stopped and only adherence to the laws of the dictates of a revered leader, a military leader, are permitted. Living in the past, the time of Mohammad himself is more suitable to their lifestyle than finding a New York, or London or Paris a suitable place. They would destroy such places, return them to surfaces upon which their Bedouin tents could be erected and live as the people relegated to the practices and dictates of Mohammad in the 7th Century. This is not an example or effort in humility; it is total control and denial of the Christian ethic.
The Christian Ethic
The Christian ethic when understood engages the mind of man, the consciousness God provided, to be part of the world, the cosmos, and develop a relationship with the God (the Triune God) who made everything possible.
May Christianity never be suppressed as it is the religion that encourages mankind to make the world a better place. It is the faith that allows humans to find the means to improve the world in every aspect. Christians want a safe, tolerant, loving, caring, and peaceful world for all people. Christians want the hungry fed, the poor cared for, the infirmed aided and the successful challenged, willing and ready to share their gifts, via charity, with those of lesser means. Christians want and desire freedom for everyone, everywhere, seeing the blessings of the Risen Lord having a positive impact on exploration, increased knowledge, invention, creativity and capitalism. They want authority to access conditions as needed to provide for the safety and protection of those living under their control, but not constrained or over taxed to satisfy the whims, the desire, the power, and the sinful nature of a legislative body. It is not the little things the authorities need consider but major issues, issues that the people collectively agree on can be administered more efficiently by those chosen to govern. Christians desire and promote freedom, condemn despots, theocracies, and monarchies’, favoring republics and democracies and local politics where the private sector is given the lead in all possible, without regulation, unless avarice rises to quell the opportunity for others. Christians also want to be free to worship their Trinity without constraint, to speak freely of the God that loves them unconditionally, and to rally as many as possible to seek to get to know and have a relationship with God without threat of violence. Christ condemns violence and conversion by the sword.
Know better the Christian ethic and respect more readily the foundations that made American the Nation it is today. We must all be thankful to our Christian Founding Fathers, the overwhelming majority of which were Christian, and herald the achievements born of the focus on the future for which Christians set the tone. Let us never forget or casually dismiss the importance Christianity has had on the freedoms all American’s enjoy. The bell of freedom was first rung by Christians and pray the day never comes when the chapel bells are quieted.