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The Enlightenment was a complex cultural movement that radically transformed both religion and society — a movement Christians fended off when, in the name of “reason,” the Church in France was dethroned in a most bloody and utterly unreasonable way. The Enlightenment also ushered in a wave of genuine Christian inspiration and reform, however, and it opened vast new avenues for the faith to flourish.
In this compelling and edifying book, scholar Joseph Stuart investigates this paradox, masterfully exploring the tense interaction of the Enlightenment and Christianity as two cultures, two lived realities, and two overlapping ways of life.
On page after page, you’ll see that the “Age of Reason” was more than just merciless confrontation between reason and religion. Indeed, it brought forth many Christians — including “the Enlightenment Pope,” Benedict XIV, and groups of coffee-drinking monks — who embraced both faith and reason as powerful tools for strengthening Church and society.
In other cases, culture-changing Christians such as John Wesley and St. Louis de Montfort opted simply to sidestep the Enlightenment by building up Christian culture from within — a strategy that led to the explosion of powerful evangelical movements across the world.
In Rethinking the Enlightenment, Dr. Stuart demonstrates that the three primary strategies Christians employed during the Enlightenment — conflict, engagement, and retreat — are time-tested methods that should be employed in our own anti-Christian age. Conflict without engagement is senseless; engagement without conflict is weak; and without retreat, both strategies lack wisdom. If we pursue all three today with the help of the Holy Spirit, then a tough, intellectually sophisticated, and evangelically oriented Christianity can emerge — just as it did in the tumultuous Age of the Enlightenment