Sunday, June 17, 2018 |
Department: Blip —
Topic: Civilization —
A Review of How the West Won by Rodney Stark
by Terrell Clemmons
Americans are becoming increasingly ignorant of how the modern world came to be what it is, says Rodney Stark. A generation ago, most college curricula included a course in Western Civilization that covered Western achievements in art, music, literature, philosophy, and science. Today those courses have all but disappeared, on the spurious grounds that the West is but one of many civilizations and that it is ethnocentric and arrogant for Westerners to study it. So Stark is out to educate us, its beneficiaries, in the "remarkably unfashionable" story of our own heritage.
The most important thing to know on this subject is that "modernity is entirely the product of Western Civilization." By modernity, he means "that fundamental store of scientific knowledge and procedures, powerful technologies, artistic achievements, political freedoms, economic arrangements, moral sensibilities, and improved standards of living."
In How the West Won, the Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University goes beyond the old "Western Civ" courses, which usually merely described the rise of the West. Stark tells the neglected story of why these monumental contributions to human good grew out of the West, and not out of Asia or the Islamic world. To explore this pan-historic phenomenon—as a set of explicable effects produced by discernible causes—is not ethnocentric, but is rather "the only way to develop an informed understanding of how and why the modern world emerged as it did."
In the process, Stark refutes much of the "received wisdom" about Western history. Here are a few examples:
Throughout the book, Stark gives primacy to ideas. He does so because it was certain specific ideas that gave rise to all those desirable societal traits—democracy, science, free enterprise, and so forth—that have characterized Western nations and that are now revolutionizing life in the rest of the world.
Ultimately, Stark says, those potent—and truly revolutionary—ideas are the products of Christianity. "The most fundamental key to the rise of Western Civilization has been the dedication of so many of its most brilliant minds to the pursuit of knowledge. Not to illumination. Not to enlightenment. Not to wisdom. But to knowledge. And the basis for this commitment to knowledge was the Christian commitment to theology"—the highly rational discipline of formal reasoning about God, with an emphasis on discovering his nature.
With lively, in-depth narratives, Stark demonstrates how Christian ideas drove everything that is good and desirable about Western modernity. Yes, Western Civilization has seen its failures, limitations, and discontents. Nevertheless, it far surpasses every known alternative, and is, in a very real sense, God's gift to the world. •
Terrell Clemmons is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith.
More on Civilization from the Salvo online archives.
Department: Collateral Damage — Salvo 40
Morality as Story
The False Charity of Modern Journalism by Rebekah Curtis
Department: Camouflage — Salvo 43
How the 'New Civics' Is Fomenting Civil Unrest by Terrell Clemmons
Department: Opening Salvo — Salvo 38
Winning the War Against Falsehood by James M. Kushiner
YOU SHOULD SUBSCRIBE!
Salvo subscribers have full access to the online archives!
Salvo magazine unblushingly offers an honest, rational, and respectful perspective to hard questions about SCIENCE, SEX, and SOCIETY.
Full access to the Salvo online archives. Only $15.99.
Get 4 issues + full access to the online archives. Only $25.99.
Consider ordering a bulk subscription for a reading group or a small group!
The Current Issue—Summer 2018
A Salvo Fake Ad
Visit the blog of Salvo author Robin Phillips
Salvo 44—Spring 2018
Grounded Faith: Sinking Roots for Youth Ministry in an Age of Advanced Skepticism by Terrell Clemmons
Spit Marks: The Afterlife of Those Popular DNA Tests May Surprise You by Paige Comstock Cunningham
The Unthinkable Universe: It Strangely Points Where Materialists Dare Not Boldly Go by Regis Nicoll
Silicon Debauchery: More Evidence the Hookup Culture Is Human Malware by Nancy R. Pearcey
Salvo 43—Winter 2017
A Boy's Life: 5 Recommendations for Shielding Our Sons from the Anti-Culture—And Setting Them Towards Manhood by Anthony Esolen
Optimal Optics: Evolutionists Don't Know a Good Eye When They See One by Jonathan Wells
Up for Grabs: In Science, When 'Anything Goes,' Everything Goes by Denyse O'Leary
Revolution 101: How the 'New Civics' Is Fomenting Civil Unrest by Terrell Clemmons
Salvo 42—Fall 2017
Engendered Confusion: The Chaos of Postmodern Sexuality by Laurie Higgins
Zombie Killer: The "Icons of Evolution" Have Joined the Ranks of the Undead by Denyse O'Leary
Mutant Destruction: Does Cancer Really Innovate? by Jonathan Wells
The Darwin Tales: It's Time to Remit Darwinian Storytelling to the Annals of History by Terrell Clemmons
Eye Openers: Eight Common Factors for Atheists Changing Their Minds About God by Matt Nelson
Tuning Out the Universe: How Naturalism & Post-Fact Science Ignore the Evidence We See by Denyse O'Leary
Improbably So: Fine-Tuning Is Unlikely, but Unlikely Things Happen All the Time by Tim Barnett
Deep-Seated Rights: What They Are & Why You Have Them by Steve Jones
4 issues of Salvo PLUS full access to the online archives!
• Give a Gift Sub
• Manage Sub Account
• About Salvo
• The Fake Ads
• Login for Full Access
• Touchstone Magazine
• The Fellowship of St. James
All material Ⓒ 2017. Salvo is published by The Fellowship of St. James.