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THE VICTORY OF REASON: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success
Rodney Stark
Random House, 304 pages, $25.95

Rodney Stark is at it again. After two recent volumes extolling the benefits of monotheism and the rise of Christianity via its caring networks of interpersonal relations, the brash sociologist now turns to Christianity's support for reason.

Stark's argument is relentless: Christian theology, culminating in the great thinkers of the Middle Ages, such as Thomas Aquinas, inculcated trust in reason as a gift of God. On that basis, Christianity sustained a faith in progress that could easily morph into scientific and social innovations. The same trust in reason fueled a politics of human freedom and an economics of capitalist creativity.

Against the claim that Western progress occurred only as religion was overcome, Stark is unequivocal: "Nonsense. The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians."

The Victory of Reason is another bold, sharply argued defense of the Christian faith's social benefits. It is also an in-your-face challenge to antireligious assumptions of the modern academy. Disconcertingly, Stark argues without qualification, nuance, and the balancing of perspectives that academics love so much. Nonetheless, he may be right.

EXPLORING REALITY: The Intertwining of Science and Religion
John Polkinghorne
Yale, 208 pages, $24.00

Theologian-scientist John Polkinghorne (Science and the Trinity) looks at Jesus in history, the nature of time, various world religions, and the problem of evil ("Science can offer some help to theology here in support of the necessary cost of a ...

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