Praxis Circle interviews cover a wide variety of worldview topics, ranging from politics, philosophy, religion, and beyond. In under a few minutes, our Contributors will provide a balanced overview of Christianity’s impact on the West using featured clips and corresponding transcripts below. As a disclaimer, these clips express the momentary thoughts of our Contributors only. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Praxis Circle, and they are intended merely to offer food for thought.


Christianity: Modern Science



Rodney Stark:


Well, I suppose the obvious one is to pretend that science arose despite all the efforts of the Church to suppress it. When the truth is science arose only once, only in the West, and only because of Christianity. It was the notion of a Creator God, who, a rational Creator God who gave us reason and who consequently permitted the assumption that perhaps the universe could be understood on the basis of reason.


That made the whole scientific quest sensible in places elsewhere when you thought that the world was in decline, when you thought the universe had never been created, that it was eternal and that it was utterly mysterious, you can’t have science. I mean, people aren’t fools. If they think something is impossible, they don’t try it. Simple as that.

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Christianity: Human Freedom and the End of Slavery



Rodney Stark:


No. Capitalism doesn’t describe the key Christian-Judeo philosophy. What’s important, what’s basic there in addition to a rational Creator God, of course, is the notion of freedom and responsibility and morality. You can’t really say, “Go and sin no more,” if people aren’t free. It’s idiotic. And the church people very soon recognized that. They got rid of slavery. It’s interesting, in the 9th and 10th century, when the Christians basically ended slavery in Europe, it was the first time it had ever happened in any civilization. Except instances when people from outside, namely Westerners, forced them to give up slavery. Only people ever voluntarily did give it up were the Europeans. And that’s because they were Christians and because freedom mattered because you have to hold people responsible for their acts or the notion of sin doesn’t make any sense. Consequently, it all fits together and that’s much more basic than capitalism.

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Christianity: Modernity and Reason



Rodney Stark:


Well I certainly don’t mean to discount any of the things that you mentioned, of course these were… People make history. What I think I would like to emphasize, or have been trying to emphasize, is that certain things, fundamentals, based on the Judeo-Christian concept of God was the linchpin that got the West thinking certain ways and acting certain ways that were different from the rest of the world. Everybody had armies, everybody had leaders, everybody had great thinkers, but only the West won, only the West got modernity, and they got modernity because they believed in reason. I wrote a book called The Victory Of Reason simply because I think that’s the key to the whole Western enterprise.

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Christianity: Marriage, Equality, and Consent 



Mary Eberstadt:


Yeah, one of the most revolutionary things that Christianity did was to insist on a radical notion. And that notion was that marriage required the consent of both parties, that both parties were equal moral actors. Now, when the church was saying this, in many places women couldn’t own property, they were not treated as equals under the law or in any other aspect of life. But the church said, “No, these souls have equal weight in the sense that their consent is mutually required for a valid marriage.”


I think that’s a revolutionary idea. I think it’s one of many examples in which the teachings of Christianity don’t get the moral credit they deserve because everyone who likes the idea of women’s equality ought to like the church’s early insistence on both parties having free will and joining in marriage that way.


So that’s just one example of how monogamous marriage, the idea that the church had of marriage, contributed to Western civilization in unseen ways because there’s a profound idea of freedom that underlies that notion of consent, and it’s percolated into our society in all kinds of ways that we aren’t even aware of anymore.

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Christianity: Virtuous Freedom



Os Guinness:


I try and use the word secular and secularist carefully because the original meaning of the word secular just meant this age. And it was Christians who used it. And Christian view of creation, you put a premium on the importance of this age and things like the arts and good food and sex and so on. These are secular things. There’s nothing wrong with the secular. What’s wrong to me is what I disagree with is a secularist worldview, which says there are no gods or the supernatural at all. And that I think is what’s dangerous. So, if you go back to the framers, they said, yes, freedom requires virtue. Virtue requires faith of some sort. Now they’re absolutely clear atheists have freedom of conscience. There’s no question about that. They guaranteed protected freedom of conscience for everybody, including atheists. But, some of the framers, people like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, are very leery about having a society of atheists.


Why? Because there’d be no solid grounding for virtue. And if you think the highest inspiration for being virtuous comes from faith, the strongest content saying what virtue is, think of the seven deadly sins comes from faith, and also the toughest sanctions for what happens to people who are non-virtuous, take say the notion of hell, that comes from faith. So the framers were very leery about a secularist-based worldview being adequate. And if you read John Adams,  say his letters to Davila, he almost predicts without predicting our modern understanding of postmodernism, a world as he puts it without any father, where human beings are no different from the savages. And in that world, he wonders if the secularism can really provide the virtue which will sustain American freedom. And of course we’re seeing the outplaying of that in our own generation.

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Christianity: The Source of America’s Free Conscience and Limited State



Michael Novak:


One of the great things about the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty, Jefferson’s version, is he saw how crucial it was to found the nation on conscience. And men of his generation, Christians of all times, believe that in us, there is a spark of light, a spark of intelligence, spark of insight, which shows us what to do and what not to do, faultily and prone to suffering from our human weaknesses, but still always there. And Jefferson very much wanted to establish the pluralism of the United States on that perception, so as not to coerce the consciousness of free men and free women. That’s the most powerful restriction on government there is. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. And it’s the first anti-totalitarian principle. Not everything belongs to the state. The state is limited. And it’s limited in this very delicate way by the human conscience and allowing access to that conscience free.


He even makes the point that … He was asked, Jefferson, in the assembly when he mentions the holy author of our religion, “Does that mean Jesus? Should we state that in the…” And he was against it. He said, “No, because we want even Hindus, Muslims, anyone who is here to be able to say these words.” And it’s clear enough what we mean, just because that’s the history. I’m improvising now, but just because that’s the history out of which these concepts come. It is a Christian history. It doesn’t mean you have to be a Christian to see their power and believe them. So distinguish the genesis, the Christian genesis of this from the universal power of it. And therefore, that’s how we argue, we don’t need the name Jesus here. I think that’s just tremendously touching, to restrain oneself from going a step too far and pushing other people’s conscience.

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Christianity: Ordered Liberty and Individual Rights in America



Michael Novak:


And the American contribution, JP II said, John Paul II said, is to bring into the world the concept of ordered liberty. It’s the Statue of Liberty. Liberty is under the mind, under the intellect, under the light, and under the law. Not against the law, not against the light, but with them. That’s a sharpened version of what we mean by liberty than the Greeks or the Romans had, than any previous people had. And ordering a society, finding institutions to realize that out and then to find a way to be a planetary people, discover institutions which allow the real pluralism of every people to flourish and to find a much richer society because of it.


Where would we be without hamburgers and pizza and sushi and so on? We have that all. We walk down the street in America and, in an American city, and you’ll find those remarkably plural people living in remarkable peace. And this I think is another impact of Christianity. Even the emphasis on individual rights, I would prefer the word ‘personal rights.’ But in any case, even that emphasis comes out of Christianity, because it distinguishes the person from the tribe, from the group. I just don’t think you can have our civilization without Christianity. I don’t like to say it that way, because I’m not trying to force anybody to be a Christian, but I just want to make a kind of prediction that the further away we get from Christian impulse, and it’s more than Christian ideas, but a Christian impulse, the less likely it is that our kind of society will survive.

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Christianity: The Fundamentals of “Love Thy Neighbor”



Victoria Cobb:


So with regard to does worldview matter in society, all you have to do is look at the death toll that is the result of some worldviews. Marxism has just decimated people over the course of history and it is sort of the logical outflow of the beliefs that are contained in that worldview, whereby the opposite is also true. Christianity, I believe, has brought the greatest good to the entire Western hemisphere. And that is in when you have beliefs like love your neighbor, when you have protect the most vulnerable within the core fundamental beliefs, it has people starting hospitals and adopting orphans. And those are things that are directly an outpouring of a worldview. And boy, the difference in a society that embraces a Judeo-Christian worldview versus a society that embraces something like Marxism, it matters in a literal life and death way for many, many people.

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For more Praxis Circle content on Christianity and the West:

“The War Against the West”

The Secularization of the West: What’s Causing It?

“To Sanctify the World” – An Exceptional Resource for Protestants, Orthodox Christians, and Jews, as Well as Catholics

Total Truth

Green Shoots