It is a bright note of hope, set against the present daunting darkness, that shines throughout Samuel Gregg’s “Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization,” both illuminating the past and shedding much-needed light on the present situation, says Carl Olson, in his recent review for The Imaginative Conservative.
Dr. Gregg, who has written widely on politics and culture while working as director of research at the Acton Institute, is careful to point out that not all of the West’s many problems “revolve around the question raised at Regensburg,” as “mono-causal explanations are usually wrong.” But in having Pope Benedict’s Address set the tone and inform his core arguments, Dr. Gregg takes on several interrelated tasks, all with a crisp, accessible style: showing the importance and genius of Pope Benedict’s penetrating analysis of modernity, highlighting the core issue of faith-and-reason, arguing for the necessity of a robust and orthodox Christianity, diagnosing the main pathologies and ideologies at work in the West today, and insisting that Christians must be careful to not dismiss everything that has come down from the Enlightenment era.
That’s a lot to handle in less than 200 pages, but Dr. Gregg does so adeptly, providing the sort of introductory, “101” book that serves as a firm foundation for further and more detailed study. This is not to say that Dr. Gregg is light on details or depth (there are some 350 footnotes, after all); rather, he purposefully focuses on the forest while judiciously zooming in to focus on various trees. This is a Big Picture book in the best sense of the term, the sort of popular but learned tour of the West needed today, especially when most Western Civilization courses are little more than angry, unbalanced leftist litanies of outrage that find little or nothing good in the Greco-Judeo-Christian heritage.