Lesson 2: Early Religions and the Rise of Christianity

1. The importance for the development of science of beliefs about the material world. Is it good or evil? Does it behave regularly and rationally, or is it governed by capricious demons or gods who have to be propitiated? Is time linear or cyclic? Animism and the personification of natural forces. Buddhism and the eastern religions.

2. Israel. Belief in one supreme personal and transcendent God. The belief in creation by God out of nothing of a universe totally dependent on Him, ordered in measure, number and weight.

3. Christianity. The Incarnation shows the goodness of matter and destroys the cyclic view of time. The early Councils of the Church and their importance for the development of science. Pantheism and dualism excluded because God is distinguished from creation and all creation takes place through Christ. Lactantius, St. Augustine and John Philoponus.

Reading List

S.L. Jaki, The Saviour of Science. Regnerey Gateway, 1988.

S.L. Jaki, Genesis 1 Through the Ages. Thomas More Press, 1992.

R. Sorabji, (Ed). Philoponus and the Rejection of Aristotelian Science. Duckworth, 1987.

S. Sambursky, The Physical World of Late Antiquity. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962.


1. Is matter good or evil?

2. Why should we believe that matter is rational and orderly?

3. Why was monotheism important for the development of science?

4. What was the importance of the Incarnation for the development of science?

5. What is the connection between the Nicene Creed and the development of science?

6. Why were pantheism and dualism harmful to the development of science?


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