The Book: Christianity and Western Thought, Volume One: From the Ancient World to the Age of Enlightenmen t by Colin Brown
:10 — The Gist: Outlines the changes in preconceptions, worldviews, and paradigms that have affected the ways in which people have thought about religion in general and Christianity in particular in the Western world.
:20 — The Quote: “The history of science reveals a progress of knowledge which later thought supersedes earlier thought. But theology and philosophy—in common with other liberal arts—is not like science. It is not a case that the discoveries of the present make obsolete the views of the previous generation. The latest play on Broadway or the West End of London does not make the plays of Shakespeare obsolete. Modern verse does not supplant the poetry of Wordsworth or Milton. The music of Bach, Mozart and Brahms is not surpassed by twentieth century compositions. We cannot successfully imitate the past. The present should have its own integrity. But that integrity requires us to listen to what the past has to offer.” (p, 333-334.)
:30 — The Good: Covers topics that are rarely included in single volume surveys of the history of philosophy.
:40 — The Meh: Brown occasionally elides over controversial opinions (e.g., Jonathan Edwards scheme of thought makes God the author of evil) that deserve more clarification.
:50 — The Verdict: Brown provides a readable—though not exactly gripping—account of the interaction of philosophy and Christian thought up to the Enlightenment. While the sections on the ancient world (from the pre-Socratics to the time of Christ) are standard textbook fare, Brown includes some valuable insights on how Christian thought built upon the intellectual history that came before. The book’s coverage of Deism, Pyrrhonism, and Common Sense realism will be of interest even to those who are generally familiar with the subject matter.
(Note: Anyone who was underwhelmed by Brown’s Philosophy and the Christian Faith (1968) will find this volume to be a refreshing improvement over that text. As Brown admits in the introduction, he was, at that time, a “child of the age of linguistic analysis” and his previous effort on this topic was a “product of the 1960s.” )
:60 — The Recommendation: A worthy primer for students and other Christians who want to better understand how the “handmaiden of faith” has historically related to Christian thought.