The Victory of Reason, Stark

Theology distinguishes Christianity from other religions, says Stark. It is ‘a sophisticated, highly rational discipline that is fully developed only in Christianity.
“…theology consists of formal reasoning about God. The emphasis is on discovering God’s nature, intentions, and demands, and on understanding how these define the relationship between human beings and God. The gods of polytheism cannot sustain theology because are far too inconsequential. Theology necessitates an image of God as a conscious, rational, supernatural being of unlimited power and scope who cares about humans and imposes moral codes and responsibilities upon them, thereby generating serious intellectual questions such as Why does God allow us to sin? does the sixth commandment prohibit war? When does an infant acquire a soul?”
“To fully appreciate the nature of theology, it is useful to explore why there are no theologians in the East, Consider Taoism, the Tao is conceived of as a supernatural essence, an underlying mystical force or principle governing life, but over that is impersonal, remote, lacking consciousness, and definitely not a being. It is the “Eternal way,” the cosmic force that produces harmony and balance. According to Lao-tau, the Tao is ‘Always nonexistent,’ yet “always existent,” “unnameable,” and the “name that can be named,” both “soundless and formless, ” it is always without desires,” one might meditate forever on such an essence, but it offers little to reason about. The same applies to Buddhism and Confucianism. Althought it is true that the popular versions of these faiths are polytheistic and involve an immense array of small gods (as is true of popular Taoism as well) the ‘pure’ forms of theise aiths as pursuded by the intellectual elite, are godless, and postulate only a vage divine essence- buddha specifically denied the existence of a conscious God. The East lacks theologians because those who might otherwise take up sich an intellectual ursuit reject its first premise: the existence of a conscioius, all-powerful God.”
“In contrast, Christian theologians have devoted centuries to reasoning about what God may have really meant by various passages in scripture and over time the interpretations often have evolved in quite dramatic and extensivie ways. For example, not only does the Bible not condemn astrology but the story of the Wise Men following the star might seem to suggest that it is valid. However, in the fith century Saint Augustine reasoned that astrology is false becauseto believe that one’s fate is predestined in the stars stands in opposition to God’s gift of free will. In similar fashion, although many early Christians, including the apostle Paul, accepted that Jesus had brothers, born of Mary and fathered by Joseph, this view came increasingly into conflict with developing theological views about Mary. The matter was finally resolved in the thirteenth century when Saint Thoams aquinas analyzed the doctrine of Christ’s virgin birth to deduce that Mary did nto bear other children. “So we assert without qualification that the mother of God conceinved as a virgin gave birth as a virgin and remained a virgin after the birth. The brothers of the Lord were not natural brothers, born of the same mother, but blood-relations.”

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