by Rodney Stark
Whether we like it or not, people acting for the glory of God have formed our modern culture.” That quote from the dust jacket barely gives a hint of what Stark delivers in this ground-breaking book.
Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540-5237, 2003, 496 pages, $35.00.
—Reviewed by Greg H. Parsons, general director, U.S. Center for World Mission, Pasadena, California.
Whether we like it or not, people acting for the glory of God have formed our modern culture.” That quote from the dust jacket barely gives a hint of what Stark delivers in this ground-breaking book. For the Glory of God builds a case for reinterpreting much of the negative approach toward Christianity fed to the world by sociologists (which Stark is), historians and others. Religion, he notes, “has played a leading role in directing the course of history.”
But Stark is not just telling what we know to be true if we believe in a God of history. Throughout the book he uses phrases like, “historians have accepted the claim” or “Many scholars …have asserted” only to counter the point with solid evidence and statistical data.
The opening line in his chapter on the religious origins of science, “God’s Handiwork,” states, “Even children know that in 1492 Christopher Columbus proved that the world is round.” When in reality, Stark continues with his corrective bent, “Every educated person of the time [of Columbus], including Roman Catholic prelates, knew the earth was round.”
That chapter in particular is a fascinating history of politics and intrigue inside the world of the sciences and those who seek to influence intellectual thought. In particular, Stark does a masterful job of recounting and rebutting the “spin” that has been put on evolution. He doesn’t argue with scientific details, but instead lays out a case—only quoting from evolutionists—for understanding how
the battle over evolution is not an example of how “heroic” scientists have withstood the relentless persecution of religious “fanatics.” Rather, from the very start it has primarily been an attack on religion by militant atheists who wrap themselves in the mantle of science in an effort to refute all religious claims concerning a Creator—an effort that has also often attempted to suppress all scientific criticism of Darwin’s work.
Throughout the book, Stark’s approach is refreshing in that he allows us to see into things we can’t easily research with radically different interpretations than most secular scholars—yet he relies on them. This gives us fuel for more effective understanding of our Christian heritage.
This is, as Ralph D. Winter put it, a must read for any evangelical, “one of the most valuable books I have ever owned.” Why? Not so we will be smug in our view of Christianity’s impact on the world, but so we might better understand how God has worked through his people throughout history, and how he might be calling people today.
Check these titles:
Stark, Rodney. 2003. One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Stark, Rodney. 1997. The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal, Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.
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