Christianity as Knowledge Creator

Here is what looks like a fascinating new book on how societies come to generate knowledge. The argument appears to be that a Christian theological framework in the late Roman Empire influenced many other domains of knowledge production and acquisition, including literature, law, politics, science, and others. It is a book about the relationship of Christianity and the creation of knowledge and meaning in other areas of human life.

The book is The Christianization of Knowledge in Late Antiquity: Intellectual and Material Transformations (Cambridge University Press), by Mark Letteney.

The Christianization of Knowledge in Late Antiquity: Intellectual and Material Transformations traces the beginning of Late Antiquity from a new angle. Shifting the focus away from the Christianization of people or the transformation of institutions, Mark Letteney interrogates the creation of novel and durable structures of knowledge across the Roman scholarly landscape, and the embedding of those changes in manuscript witnesses. Letteney explores scholarly productions ranging from juristic writings and legal compendia to theological tractates, military handbooks, historical accounts, miscellanies, grammatical treatises, and the Palestinian Talmud. He demonstrates how imperial Christianity inflected the production of truth far beyond the domain of theology — and how intellectual tools forged in the fires of doctrinal controversy shed their theological baggage and came to undergird the great intellectual productions of the Theodosian Age, and their material expressions. Letteney’s volume offers new insights and a new approach to answering the perennial question: What does it mean for Rome to become Christian?

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • In St. Augustine School v. Underly, the 7th Circuit addressed a long-standing dispute over transportation benefits for private religious schools in Wisconsin. While a state statute allows these benefits for only one school from a single organizational entity in each district, the court had previously ruled that the state Superintendent wrongfully denied St. Augustine School these benefits. However, in the latest decision, the 7th Circuit declined to address federal constitutional issues the plaintiffs raised, emphasizing that the court would not provide an advisory opinion on an unnecessary theory, and upheld the district court’s declaratory judgment without an injunction or damages.
  • In Spirit of Aloha Temple v. County of Maui, a Hawaii federal district court ruled in favor of the Spirit of Aloha Temple regarding their special use permit on agriculturally-zoned land for religious purposes. The court decided the state did not meet the strict scrutiny standard, but other issues, including whether the denial imposed a significant religious burden, remained unresolved. The case emphasizes that under RLUIPA, there must be evidence of intent to discriminate when regulations are neutral.
  • The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and two Catholic schools filed a lawsuit in Colorado federal district court against restrictions in Colorado’s universal preschool funding program. The suit, St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton v. Roy, argues that the program’s conditions infringe on their free exercise and free speech rights by not allowing preference for Catholic families and imposing non-discrimination requirements that conflict with Catholic teachings. The program’s rules also challenge the schools’ stances on matters of marriage, gender, sexuality, and biological sex-based regulations.
  • In Chesley v. City of Mesquite, a Nevada federal district court dismissed former police chief Joseph Chesley’s lawsuit against the city and its former city manager for circulating damaging rumors about him, including to his church members. Chesley claimed that the rumors and the city’s failure to stop them violated his free exercise rights by tarnishing his reputation within his church and hindering his worship experience. The court rejected this claim, noting that the subjective harm to his reputation didn’t amount to a “substantial burden” on his religious rights.
  • In Cristello v. St. Theresa School, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Catholic school that terminated an unmarried art teacher who became pregnant, due to her violation of an employment agreement to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church, which agreement prohibited premarital sex. The teacher had claimed pregnancy and marital status discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The court determined that the school was protected by the LAD’s exception for religious organizations, asserting that such decisions can be made using neutral principles of law without entangling courts in religious matters.
  • Following accusations of blasphemy against a young Christian man, a mob in Faisalabad, Pakistan, attacked multiple Christian homes and churches, setting them ablaze. The outburst of violence was triggered when torn pages from the Quran with alleged blasphemous content were found near the Christian community, leading local religious leaders to call for protests.
  • The Nicaraguan government has seized the University of Central America, a prominent Jesuit-run institution, alleging it to be a “center of terrorism.” This move is the latest in a series of crackdowns on the Catholic Church, opposition figures, and academic institutions by President Ortega’s regime, with over 26 Nicaraguan universities confiscated since December 2021. The widespread confiscations and expulsions, targeting churches, civic groups, and opposition members, reflect a broader erosion of democratic norms and a suppression of civil society in Nicaragua.