Rethinking the Enlightenment

Faith in the Age of Reason


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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


Jared Zimmerer photo

"Stuart tussles with the metaphysical and theological pugilism of the age and provides a practical, evangelical blueprint of how the Church has successfully or unsuccessfully engaged the world. A much-needed book in academia, yet just as necessary for the layman."

Jared Zimmerer
Director of the Word on Fire Institute
Mike Aquilina photo

"Joseph Stuart is a brilliant and confident voice in the new generation of Catholic historians. In these pages he presents a daring revaluation of an important moment in history — the best and worst of times. Prepare to be surprised, entertained, and edified."

Mike Aquilina
Executive Vice President, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology
William Fahey, Ph.D. photo

" Anyone interested in the apparent war between faith and reason, order and freedom, tradition and innovation, religion and humanism... will be guided well by Joseph Stuart's 'Rethinking the Enlightenment.'"

William Fahey, Ph.D.
Fellow & President, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
Fr. George W. Rutler photo

"The intelligence of Dr. Stuart's analysis lies in its balanced perspective which understands religion and the so-called Enlightenment not as 'either or' contenders for truth, but rather as complimentary interpreters of the fact that Christ the Living Word is the Light of the Nations."

Fr. George W. Rutler
  • Pages: 400
  • Format(s): Paperback, eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-622828-227
  • Product Code: 8227
  • Availability: In Stock
A Compelling Narrative of the Parallel Movement of Faith and Reason
Dr. Stuart provides an engaging narrative and a most compelling argument that the Enlightenment was not simply rational or simply religious, but was in fact both. Generously supported by primary source material and historical anecdotes, Dr. Stuart demonstrates the parallel movement of faith and reason in the 17th and 18th centuries. Specifically, he examines the ways in which secular minds encountered faith and the religious minds encountered secularism. Brilliantly researched but accessible to all, this book provides perhaps a new glimpse at Enlightenment thought, but one that is sure to convince the reader that the Enlightenment was both sacred and secular.
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