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The further point of great significance, however, is that it was not religion in general but the Hebrew Bible in particular that gave rise to science. That is because of the revolutionary nature of its propositions about creation. The Hungarian Benedictine priest Stanley Jaki has shown that in seven great cultures — the Chinese, Hindu, Mayan, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek and Arabic — the development of science was truncated. All made discoveries which carried human understanding forward — India produced decimal notation, ancient Greece astronomy and geometry, for example — but none was able to keep its scientific discoveries going. Jaki attributes this to two critical features that these cultures had in common: a belief in pantheism and in the cyclical concept of time. Science could only proceed on the basis that the universe was rational and coherent and thus nature behaved in accordance with unchanging laws. It was therefore impossible under pantheism, which ascribed natural events to the whims and caprices of the spirit world.

The other vital factor was the Bible’s linear concept of time. This meant history was progressive; every event was significant; experience could be built upon. Progress was thus made possible by learning more about the laws of the universe and how it worked. As for the Eastern religions, these don’t posit a creation at all. The universe is eternal and thus without purpose; it is a supreme mystery and therefore not to be understood, and so the path to wisdom is not through reason but through meditation and insights. These religions are therefore inimical to knowledge and to reason.

Islam is a different matter again. Although it is the third great monotheistic and Abrahamic faith, its concept of reason departs radically from that of the Hebrew Bible and Christianity. It presents Allah not as the creator of a universe that runs according to its own natural laws, but as an active God who intrudes on the world as he deems appropriate. Natural laws are thus deemed blasphemous as they deny Allah’s freedom to act.

So Islam does not teach that the universe runs along lines laid down by God at creation but assumes that the world is sustained by his will on a continuing basis. And insofar as they subscribed to ancient Greek thought, Muslims historically accepted the Greek belief in a complete universe rather than investigating it. As a result of progressing no further than Aristotle, medieval Islamic scholars advanced only in certain areas such as astronomy and medicine which did not require any general theoretical basis.

Christianity embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth because it taught that reason was a supreme gift from God and the means progressively to increase understanding of God and Scripture. Augustine held that reason was indispensable to faith: it both preceded reason “to purify the heart and make it fit to receive and endure the great light of reason”; and that because reason itself persuaded us of this, it followed that reason must also precede faith.
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Gavin Stoffberg
March 14th, 2018
3:03 PM
Thanks for a great article. Loved it!

Madge Hirsch
March 14th, 2018
10:03 AM
It is obvious that Melanie Phillips has never bothered to aquaint herself on any but the sketchiest level with Hinduism. One could argue that the order of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu were an example of evolution just as much as anything to be found in Genesis.I would suggest that the arrested development of science in Hindu India has a lot more to do with the devastation caused by neverending Islamic invasions and the reduction of the Hindu population to dhimmi status rather than cyclical notions of time. As for the tyranny of atheism there was plenty of tyranny around before the 20th century.And just look what that wonderfully vibrant Bible Belt has produced- a great deal of hypocrisy, lots of people who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and Trump for POTUS. As for asserting that the stuff in the OT is more factual than the so called miracles of Christianity because "it happened to us"- pathetic.

Naomi King
March 12th, 2018
7:03 AM
The comments above simply prove that atheism is irrational and stupid.

Elisabeth Holland
March 12th, 2018
2:03 AM
The Hebrew Bible reveals that God is holy/pure/ righteous/just and as such is the true judge of sin. It is very hard for us to comprehend the holiness of God and just how bad sin is. Sin always perverts truth. There are so called Christians who deny the resurrection of Jesus but this is to fail to recognize the nature of God as holy, the creator and redeemer who indeed makes rational the resurrection. The Hebrew Bible points to redemption of our sin-sick sorry world through the unexpected means of the death of Jesus and its story is brought to fruition in the New Testament, but we need to read both books carefully as ask God to reveal himself to us as we do.

Claire Khaw
March 10th, 2018
10:03 PM
Judaism - Thesis Christianity - Antithesis Islam - Synthesis It is disappointing that Melanie Phillips does not mention at all the absurdity of the doctrine of the Trinity which requires all who wish to identify as Christian to say they believe that Christ is the co-equal of God. From this requirement flows cowardice, irrationality and hypocrisy leading to Westerners throwing out the morality of Christianity with the bathwater of the Trinity. explains the irrationality of Christianity rather well, I think. Tertullian’s views are those of a fanatic. But they have not been without influence. A certain strand within Christianity has always applauded this posture, and its echoes continue to be heard down to our own day. We find a similar position, in which Christian faith is taken to be “an absurdity to the understanding,” being advanced in the writings of Kierkegaard, for example: What, then, is the absurd? The absurd is that the eternal truth has come into existence in time, that God has come into existence, has been born, has grown up, etc., has come into existence… as an individual human being…. [in other words,] the absurd is precisely the object of faith, and only that can be believed…. Christianity… has required the inwardness of faith with regard to what is… an absurdity to the understanding. In the same vein, C.S. Lewis speaks of the things that Jesus asks mankind to believe, if judged by human standards, as “asinine fatuity” and “lunacy”: [Y]ou will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips…. asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give…. in the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history…. a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said… would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of Hell. Christian faith requires belief in things that are repugnant to human reason, which permits contemporary commentators to speak of biblical faith as though it purposely stands in opposition to the dictates of human reason.

David MacKenzie
March 10th, 2018
8:03 PM
A fascinating article, and well worth the read. As an evangelical Pastor, I appreciate the Jewish and Torah apologetic. It's interesting to hear arguments from your perspective.

March 10th, 2018
4:03 PM
The more corrupt the character, the more they hate the idea that they will face God for judgement.

David Anon
March 9th, 2018
10:03 PM
I wonder, Laurence, what future generations will make of our enlightened society's attempts to eliminate the likes of ISIS?

Rev., DAvid Morgan
March 9th, 2018
7:03 PM
Excellent and brilliant argument for the fundamental belief in the Holy Scriptures (OT and NT) the source of our 'weltanschauung' and shalom! Thank you Melanie.

March 6th, 2018
6:03 AM
Regarding the Richard Dawkins quote: how exactly is this a "wildly untrue, ignorant and perverse reading of the Hebrew Bible"? Every one of those adjectives can be justified by stories and quotes directly from the Bible. You can't get away with lying about your holy books these days Melanie- we know whats in them!

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