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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

For the Glory of God

For the Glory of God
I’m a huge fan of Charles Colson.  I believe he is one of the most articulate and insightful Christian spokesmen of our time.  He has spread the Gospel of Jesus around the globe, in prisons no less, via an organization he founded, Prison Fellowship (  But, in my opinion, even more important than that, he has been the clearest advocate for Christians not only attending church on Sundays, but even more important, living a life in the shadow of Jesus all week long.  He wants believers to see themselves as co-laborers in a common cause.  He advocates a Christian world view through his books and speeches that encourage readers to live their faith.
That’s a long-winded way of explaining how I came to read For the Glory of God by Rodney Stark (Copyright 2003 Princeton University Press).  Colson has written many books worth reading, digesting, and studying and in the course of reading How Then Shall We Live? (Copyright 1999, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.), Colson’s excellent book on Christian Living, I found For the Glory of God as one of his reference works.
After reading For the Glory of God, I can see why Colson used this as background source.  Rodney Stark is not only a very good writer, he is also a scholar whose presentation captivates the reader.  His subtitle is, “How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery.” 
For the Glory of God is the second volume of a two volume work on the history and legacy of the Christian church.  The first volume is titled, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism.  It is on my future reading list.
Although I have been a life-long Christian, a sometimes student of the Bible, and an avid reader, I confess that prior to reading this book I was an illiterate when it came to the history of Christianity.  I really didn’t know how the church developed after Biblical times.  A disciplined sociologist, Rodney Stark, presents a great picture of the post apostolic Christian church (post apostolic in terms of there being any Apostles still alive). 
Stark explains from a sociological perspective why polytheism was destined to die out and why Christian monotheism was so attractive to the Romans.  In the introduction he argues that…
“…theological assumptions unique to Christianity explain why science was born only in Christian Europe.  Contrary to the received wisdom, religion and science not only were compatible; they were inseparable.” 
Further along in the introduction, he points out the irony that a number of those who were active in the witch-hunts also…
“…played leading roles in declaring that slavery was an abomination in the eyes of God.  It was that conclusion, and only that conclusion, that enabled the West to abolish slavery.  In fact, slavery was abolished in much of the non-Western world only because of Western pressure and interference—and slavery continues in some non-Christian areas.”
Stark also explains…
“…why Christians reached this profoundly important conclusion and Muslims did not.”
You’ll find out in the book why the terms you learned in Junior High and High School, “Enlightenment” and “Dark Ages,” are no longer found in most modern history text books.  The terms were constructions of individuals who had an agenda to convey in writing history, but are now known to be so utterly false that scholars have removed them from use in current works.
He writes of the battles of the “pious” Catholic Church versus the “power” Church and where they succeeded and where they failed.  He tells the story of the “reformations” that were continually taking place within the Catholic Church and why the more dramatic reformation of Huss, Luther and Calvin actually resulted in a break with the church.
I am actually reading two other books by Mr. Stark right now and I must tell you that he writes so evenly that I could not tell you today if he is a Baptist, a Catholic, or something else.  I can tell you that his books are well-researched, thoroughly documented, and well reasoned. 
I learned much from this book and I intend to explore all the other books he has written in this area.  If you want to know about the history of Christianity after Biblical times and to appreciate the legacy of the Christian faith in terms of culture, science, and even economics, then I heartedly recommend that you get a copy of this book or any other book by Mr. Stark.

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