Jim Harrison from ‘inanis et vacua’ posted the following comment on my post Two Quote for Christians,
Since Christianity permeated the culture of Europe during the emergence of modern science, the question isn’t whether it played a role in the advent of science but what that role was. If you look at everything polemically, of course, you may cavil at this rather obvious observation, which is offered in defense of objective historical understanding and not in praise (or criticism) of religion.
As far as it goes the first sentence of his comment is very sensible and would seem to justify an answer but unfortunately it suffers from a subtle flaw that is reflected in the title of this post, in the context of the emergence of science in the Early Modern Period the term Christian is virtually meaningless. When one talks about Christians and Christianity it implies that there is something that is common to and binds together all of those individuals who are indicated by the terms used, however in the context of academic intellectual activity, and science in particular, this is far from being the case. Even before the Reformation in Europe when all Christians were at least nominally members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church the unity implied by the use of the concept Christian did not exist in the pursuit of, what we would now term, scientific knowledge.
As I wrote in my very first internet blog post on the ideas of Rodney Stark when every single member of society in supposedly a Christian to talk in terms of a Christian role in the advent of science is meaningless, one must instead examine the proponents of natural philosophy according to the various schools of philosophy that they adhered to. Here, we don’t have a unified Christian thought propelling advances in science but various groups, Thomists, Ockhamists, Realists, Nominalists, Averroeists and a whole artist’s pallete of all shades to all sides and in-between, as well individualist loose cannons some of whom despite being outside of all cliques and group exercised a lot of influence. The very fact that there were so many shades of opinion and open conflicts produced an atmosphere of intense discussion that almost certainly played a significant role in the furtherance of scientific inquiry.
To understand the evolution of science in the early modern period the concept ‘Christian’ is useless; the historian has to dig deeper and examine the philosophical concepts of each group and each individual in order to see how those concepts contributed to or hindered the advance of science.