History = His Story
The God That Did Not Fail
How Religion Built and Sustains the West
by Robert Royal
Encounter Books, 2006
To order: (800) 786-3839
Christianity gets little credit for its positive impact on Western civilization. Our secularized, postmodern culture often declares Christian influence embarrassing at best, disastrous at worst. The powerful and unique Judeo-Christian heritage of the Western world is sadly forgotten in favor of a tale marked by popular misconceptions.
As Christians, we are called to correct these misunderstandings and defend the faith by promoting an accurate understanding of history. This is a big task. Most of us have neither the time nor the talent to do the research and articulate such a defense. Thankfully, Robert Royal, president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington D.C., has both.
In his new book, Royal provides an accessible survey of Western history, philosophy, religion and politics. Better still, he provides applicable ammunition for the battle against anti-Christian ideologies in our midst.
While the text aims to trace the influence of religion in general on Western history, it also identifies the role of Christianity in shaping the noblest elements of our past and our present. The first two chapters focus on various religious currents present in pre-Christian Greece and Rome. The next seven take us through history illuminated by Judeo-Christian and Catholic thought.
Along the way we pick up valuable, repeatable insights on the positive impact our religion has had on culture — and on its power to show history not as arbitrary but purposeful.
“One of the reasons that notions of progress and science and technology may have emerged in the West is precisely because this unique religious underpinning allowed for a different view of the significance of time and did not see the unfolding of new things as a threat to some pre-established order,” Royal writes. “It is much easier to accept novelty and change, indeed to pursue them consciously, if you also believe that the Creator goes with you on every path, as readers of the Bible in all ages believed. Indeed, such unprecedented developments are called for by the biblical idea of sacred history.”
The text is packed with many rich ruminations like this one, although there are some dry spells where Royal attempts to weave together so many historical highlights that the overarching theme seems shrouded. Here and there, digressions from the hypothesis that religion “built and sustains” the West interrupt the flow of the book. Still, even in these moments, the reader benefits from the review of important historical events and personages.
Royal persuasively shows how the past was a prologue to our present — and how our present is prologue to what is to come, whatever that may be. The last chapter offers an analysis of the modern-day interplay between religion and culture, particularly in Europe and the United States.
“God has not failed, and will not fail for any of the reasons usually given over the past century,” writes Royal. However: “He can fall into relative neglect if individuals, many individuals, fail to appreciate the true source of their own dignity and freedom.”
Our duty as Christians is not only to remember the source of our dignity and freedom but to tell others about it as well. The God that Did Not Fail should prove a valuable resource for this essential task.
Gina Giambrone writes from
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
- March 4-10, 2007