What did scientific cognition look like? It was a seamless fusion of the classical deification of reason with the belief in the omniscience of a Christian God.
Although each natural philosopher developed their own unique understanding of the cosmos, there were underlying, interrelated themes that framed the cognitive structure of what might be called “Christian rationalism.”
These themes wove together Platonic notions of natural law, reason, logic, and truth into a Christian narrative that, although never stated explicitly as such, went something like this:
God created the universe according to a fixed set of Natural Laws.
God gave Man Reason in His image, therefore it is incumbent on Man to use it well.
God’s Natural Laws are based on Logic, therefore Reason can be used to understand them.
By using Reason to understand God’s Natural Laws, Man can perceive the Truth.
By perceiving the Truth through Reason, Man can arrive at a glimpse of God’s Mind.
This implicit cosmological narrative formed the basis of what would become scientific cognition.
Even though they were derived in the Middle Ages from ancient sources, these interrelated presumptions formed the context – and served as inspiration – for the great intellectual breakthroughs of the Scientific Revolution. Astonishingly, they continue to provide the cognitive structure (sometimes unstated and unacknowledged) of much thinking about science that qualifies today as mainstream.
It is a testament to the power of this framework that it generated the scientific worldview underlying much of our global civilization; but it is equally important to recognize that this narrative is based on unverifiable assumptions about the nature of the universe that encourage patterns of thinking to evolve in certain directions. By consciously recognizing them as such, we can open our minds to other patterns of conceptualizing our cosmos that might lead to different cognitive outcomes.
However, for the generations of Christian rationalists who would collectively construct the modern view of reality, the concept of alternative worldviews with different foundational structures was unthinkable. The implicit narrative of Christian rationalism enabled them to build, brick by brick, idea by idea, the edifice that forms scientific cognition, and was responsible for constructing our modern world.