LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
November 12, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
Phony History Corrected
Rodney Stark’s latest book was published in May with the title, “Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History.” Stark has written over thirty books since 1966. His contribution in correcting many distortions in our understanding of the development of Christian civilization has been enormous. The problem originated during the so called Enlightenment when writers like Edward Gibbon (1737 – 1794) claimed that the period between the fall of Rome and the fourteenth century was a period of ignorance and persecution led by Christianity and the Church. These scholars gave the designation of the “Dark Ages” to the period which they claimed was enlightened by the rediscovery of classic knowledge and understanding. However, there were no “Dark Ages.” This period was a time of remarkable learning and moral advance over Roman civilization. Stark outlines the scholarship which demonstrates the fallacy and bias of such anti-Christian pseudo history.
If Stark’s latest book has any defect it is that he covers material he has already covered in previous works. However, he is particularly concerned in this work with the attempt of anti-Christian scholarship to twist historical study to disparage the Church and its influence on society and culture. This is not new information. Stark clearly admits that much of what he has to say has been learned from others who have probed deeply into the subjects he covers. The problem is that much of the literature is very academic and not readily available to the ordinary reader. Stark tries to bring the information to the reader in straight forward and clear language. He gives short biographies of the researchers to which he is indebted so that there is no question about the accuracy of his data.
Subjects covered in the book include the accusation of Christianity’s endemic anti-Semitism, a chapter on the so called suppressed Gospels, a new look at the emperor Constantine, the invention of the “Dark Ages,” The Crusades, the so called horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, the reputed suppression of science by the Church and the Christian response to the institution of slavery.
Stark is essentially a sociologist. He knows how to crunch numbers. The book is replete with charts and actual population data.
One illustration follows to whet your appetite. When Constantine became emperor of Rome in 312 AD there were about nine million Christians which made up approximately 15 percent of the empires population. When he died in 337, more than a third of the empire were Christians. Soon after his death the empire had a Christian majority. Stark then asks the question, “How was this extraordinary growth possible?” It was not because Constantine persecuted pagans, because he didn’t. It was not because he made Christianity the official religion of the empire, because he didn’t. Stark gives the answer, but I’ll let those who read the book discover it for themselves.
This book is another contribution to understanding the real history of our Western Civilization. I heartily recommend it.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at email@example.com). END-whs