What’s So Great About Christianity

Whats So Great About Christianity
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This book offers an intellectual and spiritual feast to defenders of the Christian faith as well as non-Christian champions of Western Civilization. It is not a collection of snappy one-liners, designed to silence discussion, but a complete set of Christian apologetics, combined with a deeply informed defense of the Western tradition and the vital role that Christianity plays in it.

Published in 2007, What’s So Great About Christianity is a direct response to the spate of anti-religious books that appeared early in the last decade, including Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion; Sam Harris’ The End of Faith; God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens; and Michael Onfray’s Atheist Manifesto.

In a clear and lucid writing style that makes religious, philosophic, and scientific issues understandable and memorable, D’Souza tackles many of the myths and attacks on Christianity thrown up by skeptics and atheists over the centuries. Among the topics and thinkers he covers are: the global triumph of Christianity; the theological roots of science; God and the astronomers; man’s special place in creation; Darwin; Nietzsche; the limits of reason; why miracles are possible; the exaggerated crimes of religion; and the problem of evil.

In his introduction D’Souza says: “This is not a time for Christians to turn the other cheek. Rather it is a time to drive the moneychangers out of the temple. The atheists no longer want to be tolerated. They want to monopolize the public square and to expel Christians from it...They want to convince the rest of society that Christianity is not only mistaken but also evil. They blame religion for the crimes of history and for the ongoing conflicts in the world today. In short, they want to make religion—and especially the Christian religion—disappear from the face of the earth.”

He then provides the ammunition to prevent that from happening.

The Unique Role of Reason in Christianity and Then Science

D’Souza explains the key role that reason plays in Christianity, and the positive impact that has made in the lives of believers and in the success of the societies they build.

“Only Christianity was from the beginning based on reason. Judaism and Islam are primarily religions of law; there is a divine lawgiver who issues edicts that are authoritative both for nature and human beings. In the case of Judaism these edicts apply mainly to God’s chosen people, the Jews. In the case of Islam they apply to everyone. In both cases, however, the laws are divinely revealed and humans must follow them...

“Christianity by contrast, is not a religion of law but a religion of creed. Christianity has always been obsessed with doctrine, which is thought to be a set of true beliefs about man’s relationship with God...The Christian theologian is charged with employing reason to understand the ways of God. There are no theologians in Hinduism and Buddhism because human beings are not called to investigate God’s purposes in this manner.”

Christianity’s embrace of reason led directly to the rise of organized science in Western civilization. For example, D’Souza explains how the reasoning of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) laid the foundation for our modern understanding of the origin of the universe.

“Augustine thought about what existed before the universe came into being. He came to an astounding answer that doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone before him: God created time along with the universe. In other words, “before” the universe there was no time...Eternal does not mean ‘goes on forever;’ it means ‘stands outside of time.’...Augustine’s reflections on the nature of time, which were generated entirely through theological reasoning, are some of the most penetrating insights in the history of thought...

“In a stunning confirmation of the book of Genesis, modern scientists have [recently] discovered that the universe was created in a primordial explosion of energy and light. Not only did the universe have a beginning in space and time, but the origin of the universe was also a beginning for space and time. Space and time did not exist prior to the universe. If you accept that everything that has a beginning has a cause, then the material universe had a nonmaterial or spiritual cause...The creation of the universe was, in the quite literal meaning of the term, a miracle...

“Extrapolating backward in time, all the galaxies seem to have had a common point of origin approx 15 billion years ago...The entire universe was smaller than a single atom... It is important to recognize that before the Big Bang, there were no laws of physics. In fact the laws of physics cannot be used to explain the Big Bang because the Big Bang itself produced the laws of physics.

“If the universe was produced outside the laws of physics, then its origin satisfies the basic definition of the term miracle. This term gives scientists the heebie-jeebies.”

D’Souza quotes Astronomer Robert Jastrow’s vivid description of the unwelcome implications of these discoveries: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

D’Souza then draws the obvious conclusion: “Now it is time to supply the ‘missing link’ and show that the universe did have a creator. The proof is extremely simple. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause. That cause we call God.”

The Theological Understanding of the American Founders

At a time when America’s founding principles are under attack as never before, Dinesh D’Souza explains that Jesus’ separation of what is owed to Caesar from that owed to God is the embryo of the idea of limited government. “This idea derives from the Christian notion that the ruler’s realm is circumscribed and there are limits beyond which he simply must not go. But “If the domain of government is to be limited in this manner, so is the domain of the church. As Christ put it, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’...In the new framework of Christian universalism, the same God rules over the whole universe, but each country retains its own laws and its own culture.”

He uncovers the theological and philosophical roots of the fundamental debate over the nature of man that continues to divide American politics and the modern world. The Enlightenment’s assertion that human nature is inherently good, and whatever flaws an individual may carry can be educated-away by government, comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1754), who got it in turn from Plato (428-347 BC). “For Plato, the problem of evil was a problem of knowledge. People do wrong because they do not know what is right. If they knew what was right, obviously, they would do it.”

But D’Souza explains that the American founders turned instead to the Apostle Paul for their understanding of human nature. In Romans 7:19 Paul famously says “For the good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.” D’Souza says “Here Paul in a single phrase repudiates an entire tradition of classical philosophy founded in Plato... Why? Because the human will is corrupt. The problem of evil is not a problem of knowledge, but a problem of will.”

This Christian understanding of human nature as both mixed and immutable led the American founders to blend the commercial and cultural institutions of free enterprise into their system of government. They did so for two reasons: first, because capitalism is the economic system that arises naturally where there is freedom; and second, because capitalism is the economic system that satisfies the Christian demand for an institution that channels selfish human desire toward the betterment of society.

D’Souza then offers a wonderful comparison that perfectly captures the beneficial role of the free enterprise system: “Some critics accuse capitalism of being a selfish system, but the selfishness is not in capitalism—it is in human nature... One may say that capitalism civilizes greed in much the same way that marriage civilizes lust. Both institutions seek to domesticate wayward or fallen human impulses in socially beneficial ways.”

Kant, and the World Beyond our Senses

Among the many claims and poses of atheists that D’Souza refutes, none is more completely and satisfyingly dispatched than the smug claim of scientists that their system of knowledge is the only valid path to truth because it’s based on empirical observation of nature, rather than divine revelation.
He lays the foundation by explaining “By narrowly focusing on a certain type of explanation, modern science is cutting itself off from truths not amenable to that type of explanation...Now these philosophical doctrines—naturalism and materialism—have never been proven. In fact, they cannot be proven because it is impossible to demonstrate that immaterial reality does not exist. Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather they are scientific premises. They are not discoverable in nature but imposed upon nature. In short they are articles of faith.”

“The adversaries of religion, like Crick, Weinberg, Dawkins, and Dennett, frequently conflate procedural atheism with philosophical atheism. They pretend that because God cannot be discovered through science, God cannot be discovered at all...Science is incapable of answering questions about the nature or purpose of reality. Science merely tries to answer the question, ‘How does it behave?’ So Science does not even claim to be a full description of reality, only of one aspect of reality. Scientific truth is not the whole truth.”

It was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), considered the greatest of modern philosophers, who showed what D’Souza describes as “the Enlightenment fallacy.” ”The Enlightenment fallacy holds that human reason and science can, in principle, gain access to and eventually comprehend the whole of reality.

“Kant asks a startling question: how do we know that our human perception of reality corresponds to reality itself?...“Primary properties are in the thing itself, whereas secondary properties are in us. So when we look at apple, for example, its mass and shape are part of the apple itself. But John Locke (1632-1704) ingeniously pointed out that the redness of the apple, its aroma, and its taste are not in the apple. They are in the person who sees and smells and bites into the apple. What this means is that our knowledge of external reality comes to us from two sources: the external object and our internal apparatus of perception. Reality does not come directly to us but is ‘filtered’ through a lens we ourselves provide.”

Kant came to the astounding realization that “human knowledge is limited not merely by how much reality there is out there, but also by the limited sensory apparatus of perception we bring to that reality...We can apprehend reality only through our five senses...Our senses place an absolute limit on what reality is available to us. Kant’s argument is that we have no basis to assume that our perception of reality ever resembles reality itself. Our experience of things can never penetrate to things as they really are...

“It is Kant, the transcendental idealist, who starts with experience and then proceeds from it by steps that reason can justify. By contrast, the empiricist begins with a presumption that is impossible to validate, and his whole philosophy is constructed on that dubious premise...

“So the ‘brights,’ [as the contemporary atheists like to call themselves] can do their strutting, but Kant has shown them as intellectually naked. And so, thanks to Kant, the tables have been turned. The Atheist is now revealed as dogmatic and arrogant, and the religious believer emerges as modest and reasonable.”

Dinesh D’Souza has performed a notable service by creating an enjoyable and rewarding book that will inform and encourage Christians and students of Western Civilization for generations to come.