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April 14th 2017 print

Simon P. Kennedy

Liberalism’s Problem with Christianity

One doesn’t need to believe in order to understand the principles of early Protestant political ideas on liberty, the role of the civil magistrate and civil society. Yet, without the Christian faith as a foundation, liberalism will not help us live well together

cross in fieldHere in the West, we like to think of ourselves as liberals. Freedom for all, we say. Individual rights! is the cry heard from Poland to Perth. As liberals we understand society to be made up of individuals, and believe those individuals to be equal, with each possessing inherent moral agency. This equality and moral agency, we believe, mean that each individual possesses a set of basic rights enforceable by law. Our society and our political structures and practices are built upon this liberal ideal. Everybody is free, and everybody is equal. This, it seems, is our most basic political and social assumption.

Liberalism defines the political structures and philosophies of Western Europe, parts of Eastern Europe, North America, and Australia and New Zealand. Its ideals are being enacted in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. In other words, liberalism holds sway over much of the world. In the West, liberal democracy is the only conceivable option among the many alternative political and societal arrangements on offer. This is partly because, in a highly pluralistic society, liberalism accommodates difference. For example, it allows people of contrary religious views to worship according to the tenets of their faiths. The space allowed by liberal society for competing and contradictory views is generous. But there seems to be a limit to this generosity. There is a growing sense that the liberalism of today has a deep-seated problem with Christianity.

To illustrate the point, one need only look at the response to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appointment, back in January, to speak at an Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) event in the United States. Much of the media expressed astonishment that Abbott would do such a thing. Sydney Morning Herald journalist Mark Kenny reported that the ADF is “one of the religious right’s most reactionary bodies” which “opposes abortion, wants to end gay marriage and is pushing to roll back some feminist advances”. Fellow Fairfax reporter Nick O’Malley’s article on the ADF quoted the Southern Poverty Law Center in the US as saying that the group were “fanning the flames of anti-gay hatred”. According to a news.com.au report, the ADF “plans to take society back to before the Dark Ages”. It’s all scary stuff, clearly meant to discredit Abbott and his decision to speak to the group. The Guardian’s Jason Wilson wrote that such decisions deserve our scrutiny, as they may indicate Abbott’s public policy positions on certain issues. Some of the views espoused by the ADF go “far beyond what Australians would view as mainstream conservatism”, according to Wilson. For Abbott to have attended and spoken at an event held by a group espousing socially conservative views on marriage, the family and abortion, seems to be not only astonishing but also sinister.

Similar responses to people holding their religious and ideological ground on these issues are expressed with some regularity by prominent media and political figures. These expressions of opinion, generally hostile to core Christian social views, are not necessarily representative of the whole of society. However, they are becoming more and more the norm. It seems that liberalism has a Christianity problem. This Christianity problem might ultimately bring about liberalism’s demise.

This essay appeared in the October, 2016, of Quadrant.
As it it Easter, it is worth reprising
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One part of the problem is historical. The liberalism of the past did not have a problem with Christianity. Larry Siedentop has recently argued, in his book Inventing the Individual, that the foundations of liberalism were largely laid by the early Christians during the misnamed “Dark Ages”. In response to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Apostle Paul wrote about people, not as members of a household cult or an earthly polis as the ancient Greeks did, but as moral agents who stand before God. People, in themselves, were important because they were made in God’s image and had to answer to Him. Paul, writes Siedentop, laid the “ontological foundation for the individual”. For Paul, the “human will is pre-social”, laying the social foundations for a voluntaristic view of social relations and hierarchies. Augustine’s conception of the human will, the rise of monasticism, the social changes wrought in a Christianised Roman empire, and the medieval distinctions between temporal and spiritual authority, are all important early factors in the story of the emergence of the Western idea of the individual.

During the period of the Carolingian empire, Christian magistrates developed a consciousness of their people as a “Christian people”. This was important because they were not merely people, but “souls” for whom rulers had a responsibility before God to rule with integrity. These more philosophical changes were accompanied by changes in jurisprudence, which in turn impacted on law codes themselves. Canon lawyers began to reason along the lines of the importance of the individual in legal matters. On the level of intellectual culture, the aristocratic shape to “reason” itself was gradually democratised. Not only did individual people have moral agency, but the elites no longer had a monopoly on reason; the common people could access it also. These, among other important historical events, shaped the establishment of the nation-state, democratic governance in both church and state, and the importance of the individual as a social unit.

Siedentop’s story of liberalism’s Christian roots is compelling. Yet, the political and social arrangements within which the intellectual, legal and political leg-work was done to formulate liberal tenets are hardly reflected in twenty-first-century Belgium or Canada. And maybe this is part of liberalism’s problem with Christianity. Pre-liberal Europe was, well, not very liberal at all. Depending on who you ask, medieval Europe was a giant pile of theocratic states, a mash-up of benevolent and malevolent autocratic monarchies, or a thinly veiled papal superstate. The Pope not only had spiritual authority, but also wielded an unhealthy amount of temporal power. Some monarchs, notably Charlemagne, might have understood their subjects to be actual people, but only if they were converted and baptised Christians. Otherwise they were ripe for the slaughter. Women were definitely not seen as equal with men, let alone as intelligent as them. As I already noted: not especially liberal.

However, if Siedentop is right in his thesis, liberalism was not a creation of the Enlightenment period but was formed within a confessionally Christian European society. Its parts were assembled on the fertile soil of Christian soteriology, social ontology and political theology. This idea is likely jarring to many liberal thinkers and doers today. The Christian society described above does not fit the contemporary liberal vision of equal individuals, with differences between cultures, sexes and classes flattened by an overpowering egalitarian philosophy. Even ontological differences are being done away with, with men and women regarded, for all intents and purposes, as the same. The inbuilt aristocracy and monarchy of much of medieval Europe is anathema to today’s liberal democrats. So Christianity’s social history is considered problematic by many liberals, even if it is linked to the history of liberalism itself.

And yet the historical problem is not the biggest one. The tendency in contemporary liberalism to problematise Christianity points to some fundamental shifts within liberalism itself. Why would an idea that was an outgrowth of Christian ideals proceed to turn on Christianity? Liberalism requires adherents and non-adherents alike to live in such a way that will allow liberal ideals to flourish. Liberalism requires something of people living in liberal societies. Liberalism makes demands upon the individuals it upholds.

Perhaps liberalism is turning on Christianity because liberalism has changed its form. Perhaps liberalism has begun reacting against some of the totalising claims of Christianity because it has claims of hegemony for itself. It has begun asserting its independence from its Christian parent, and in doing so is becoming illiberal.

Liberalism, unhinged from the Christian framework it was formed in, has become a totalising political philosophy. And because it has become unhinged from Christianity, it has become hostile to it. Contrary to its own propaganda, liberalism is beginning to act in an illiberal fashion. It is beginning to claim total allegiance. The claims of Christianity are, ultimately, total upon the person. Christ demands complete allegiance to his kingdom. That allegiance is not contrary to being under earthly authority but, in the end, Christ trumps Trump, Obama and Merkel. Christianity asks a lot of people. If Jesus Christ is Lord (the most basic Christian confession) then Caesar isn’t. There is always a higher allegiance for Christians, beyond that of the liberal political order.

That is why Christians won’t necessarily bow to demands for them to arrange flowers for homosexual wedding ceremonies. This kind of response to Christian sexual ethics is a point of resistance to the liberal order, and one which is causing much tension. Christianity cannot be a private, Sunday-only faith, and as liberalism has changed and moved away from its Christian roots, it has begun clashing with Christianity. Jesus Christ does not just ask Christians to attend church on Sundays; he requires his followers to make much of him on every day of the week. As the Australian children’s singer Colin Buchanan sings, for Christians, “Jesus is the boss”. No matter how many evangelicals might vote for a particular presidential candidate, that candidate will never be the boss of those evangelicals because they have a higher authority to bow to.

Education could become a key flashpoint for liberalism and Christians. If, hypothetically, public schools in Victoria are required to teach the goodness and rightness of gay sex and gay marriage, there are a significant number of Christians who will find it a genuine challenge to keep their children in the Victorian public school system while retaining a clear conscience. But this article is not about Christianity’s problem with homosexuality. It is about liberalism’s problem with Christianity. And yet, Christianity’s problem with gay marriage and associated sexual choices illustrates the point very nicely. Here, Christianity could cause a serious problem for the liberal political order because Christians may not feel free to educate their children as they wish. This hypothetical shows that liberalism cannot simply create a value-neutral order where everyone is actually and equally free. Someone’s freedom will always be compromised, and liberalism increasingly chooses to compromise the freedom of the Christian.

Why do liberals now care when Christians disagree with them? Why, for example, would anti-abortion activist Troy Newman, whose pro-life views are similar to those of many Christians, not be allowed into Australia for a speaking engagement? Part of the answer is that liberalism is now acting in a hegemonic fashion. It protects individual rights, to be sure. In doing so it silences particular opinions and prevents particular actions, all in the name of liberalism. A woman’s “right to choose” is protected to the extent that Newman wasn’t even allowed in the country to speak about abortion. In the Newman case freedom from offence trumped freedom of speech. This was masked by claims about Newman’s supposed potential to incite violence, which was a dubious, implausible outcome of allowing him to speak at a conference.

Newman might have some unusual views about capital punishment for murderers, but that is hardly the reason why he wasn’t allowed in the country. Contemporary liberal ideals were threatened by his presence. Silencing Newman was the only option. The politicians and immigration officials who barred Newman’s entry, along with the High Court, acted in a liberal fashion in the sense that they saw Newman’s ideas to be contrary to the liberal order. Newman’s pro-life stance, a stance held by a free individual, clashed with the stance of other free individuals who disagreed with him. The state and courts favoured the wishes of one set of free individuals over another. This trade-off between individuals is inevitable, and Christians are increasingly finding themselves on the losing end of the trade.

And here is where liberalism is becoming illiberal. It is protecting certain rights over and against certain others, admittedly an unavoidable aspect of governance. However, the rights which are being protected are not coherent with one another. In its original form, liberalism protected freedom of speech, which is a fundamental freedom. Freedom from offence is a relatively new invention of the human rights industry, and is now, in certain cases, a trump card over more fundamental rights like freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. This is a sign of creeping illiberalism. Without the larger framework of Christian theology and morality, liberalism simply means that whoever is in power selects the rights it will protect, and labels them liberal. At one time, freedom of speech might be protected vigorously, and yet a couple of years later it might be against statute law to offend people. The ground shifts because morality is now without the bounds of Christianity. At a public level the preferences of the ruling elites and their allies form the new boundaries.

Liberalism has begun to impose itself upon the individuals it claims to help thrive. It now upholds certain liberal tenets at the expense of more fundamental, traditional liberal tenets. These more fundamental tenets were formed and grown in the soil of Christianity, and in the intellectual milieu of a Christian society. Subsequently, contemporary liberal ideals are beginning to clash regularly with the demands and claims Christianity makes on its followers. Liberalism is not as liberal as it thinks it is. As it has moved away from its Christian roots it has begun to find Christianity’s claims an inconvenience. Christianity gets in the way of the formation of the perfect liberal order because it makes claims which contradict the claims of liberalism. Even though liberalism allows for different religions to share the public square, and worship as they wish side-by-side, in the end that worship has to fit into liberalism’s rules. As liberalism changes, Christianity’s tenets are gradually becoming uncomfortable for the liberal order. The two no longer fit together as they once did.

The solution to this problem is not straightforward. Some offer a return to Christendom as a possibility. The most notable exponents of this idea are the Radical Orthodox thinkers, such as John Milbank. However, the Radical Orthodox solution seems untenable as it would seem to require society to be re-evangelised and re-Christianised. In the absence of an unforeseen Christian revival, the Radical Orthodox solution is a long-term one only. Another group, the Christian Reconstructionists, recently offered a religiously-driven solution to the tensions within liberalism. This movement died some decades ago and was always quite small. The leaders of this movement, people like Rousas Rushdoony, Gary North and David Chilton, proposed a return to the founding liberal ideals of the American polity combined with the enforcement of the biblical Mosaic law code. This solution is hardly conceivable or even plausible.

One solution which is both plausible and has potential to succeed in the short term is that liberalism give up its claims to hegemony and reharmonise itself with its own first principles and ideas about freedom, which are in essence an outgrowth of the Christian view of the good life. A Christian political liberalism is the solution. Christianity’s claims do not contradict the basic tenets of liberalism as they stood in their original form. This is historically the case, as liberalism was partly formed under the tutelage of the Christian faith and developed by the Protestant Reformers, and jurists of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Returning liberalism to its Christian roots would reinvigorate the liberal project and pre-emptively end the impending stand-off between Christians and the liberal order. Liberal ideas were never designed to be total and hegemonic; they originally existed within the clear bounds of Christian morality and theology.

A Christian liberalism would be stronger than the current arrangement because it would recognise that every individual, that very important liberal social unit, is created imago Dei. This Christian anthropology is the foundation of all good liberal thought. Each individual is God’s creation and is, in some ways, a reflection of Him. Flowing out from this theological foundation is the belief that each individual is valuable and has inherent dignity. Therefore, within the bounds of Christian moral theology, individuals have sets of privileges and rights. These rights and privileges include freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of association. These classical liberal concepts are, at bottom, Christian concepts and require a Christian society to sustain them. This is in stark contrast to the current liberal framework, which is, in reality, merely a reflection of the preferences of those who hold the keys to the corridors of power. Christian political liberalism would be based on something higher, and more foundational, than the preferences of Canberra political staffers and their MP bosses.

In one sense I am suggesting that we re-imagine our society as a part of “Christendom”. This solution on the surface seems similar to the Christendom of the Radical Orthodox. But it is a different Christendom, in that it doesn’t prescribe what is effectively a “clericocratic” political order. That is not the Christendom that can save our hard-won liberal political freedoms. Nor will the Christendom of the Reconstructionists be of much use. A Christian liberal order need not entail a re-enforcement of the Mosaic polity. Indeed, it should not. The Decalogue would likely be a feature of a Christian liberal order, but this is unsurprising as it is pivotal to our current legal arrangements already. Indeed, the Christendom that will save liberalism wouldn’t even require uniformity of belief. Both Christian and non-Christian can find protection within the walls of this Christendom. Both can participate in governance. Faith is not a prerequisite for political wisdom. One doesn’t need to believe, for example, what the Reformers taught about Christian theology in order to understand the principles of early Protestant political ideas on liberty, the role of the civil magistrate, and civil society. Agreeing with and applying Christian political principles does not entail agreeing on Christology or soteriology. The principles of Christian political liberalism are accessible to believer and non-believer alike because both believer and non-believer are capable of political prudence.

Politics is the art of human beings living well together. Without Christianity, liberalism does not seem up to the task of being a good political framework because it lacks a large part of the foundation which made it functional in the first place. Christian principles, such as the imago Dei, form the basis for human dignity and respect for the individual. These principles are not optional for liberalism. Without the Christian faith as a foundation, liberalism will not help us live well together. However, the political order of Christendom can be both liberal and Christian. In fact, the true liberal order is a Christian one and will only function adequately within a Christian philosophical and political framework. That is the Christendom that could save liberalism. Without it, liberalism’s problem with Christianity might become the primary cause of liberalism’s demise.

To retain our liberal political order, it must return to being a fundamentally Christian political order; only then will it be truly liberal. Ironically, it seems that only Christianity can save liberalism.

Simon P. Kennedy lives in Geelong and is a PhD candidate in the history of political thought at the University of Queensland. He writes regularly for the online journal the Calvinist International. He contributed the article “The Destruction of the Family” to the October 2015 issue.

 

Comments [36]

  1. [email protected] says:

    Women have the right to choose, when they decide whether or not to conjugate with a male.

    • psstevo says:

      Simon Kennedy’s presentation has a lot to commend itself to an increasingly selfish world, especially in politics. (The present American political landscape as one very relevant example). I’m not sure of the actual relevance of DRTBLYNCH’s statement in this context. As I understand the article the ‘liberalism’ espoused takes care of the uncertainty.

  2. Warty says:

    I find it hard to get my head round the notion that the concept of liberalism can be traced back to St Paul, who built upon the Old Testament tenant that the individual was made in the image of God. I fall back on the current understanding that liberalism is very much a post Enlightenment concept, in that it is more political than religious.
    It is very difficult for the illiterate worker to get his head around the concept that ‘everyone is free and equal’ when the factory owner can sack him, should he not perform according to expectations, that he lacks the education his boss has, and he lacks any form of political franchise (I am going back to the mid 1800s, before the Reform Act of 1885, which finally extended the vote to labourers, and certainly before the 1918 act that extended it to women over the age of 21 (in the UK). A man who cannot read or write, is beholden to someone for his income and cannot vote in order to have a say in the running of his country, does not have the liberty of one who has all these abilities . . . and I’m not being Marxist here: it simply stands to reason.
    It also seems to me that the same illiterate man (even more so the woman) though unquestionably Christian, in 1840 (for instance) develops his understanding of Christianity by means of the parish parson/priest, who is educated, can read the bible, can deliver a sermon and conduct a service with all its mysteries. The illiterate man falls back on his devotion, rather than the discipline that leads to knowledge allied with devotion (sometimes seen as a poor cousin to knowledge).
    I do agree though that so called liberalism is at odds with the conservatism of religion, today, in that liberalism has morphed into something we call being ‘progressive’, which is quite a different beast, including, as it does, the full repertoire of political correctness, identity politics, sexual permissiveness and acknowledgement of grievances; although there are some church communities that self identify as being as ‘progressive’ as the rest, but I would place these in the wacko basket along with all the other progressives.

    • whitelaughter says:

      Illiterate? The literacy rate in Great Britain had exceeded 50% by 1650 (https://ourworldindata.org/literacy/). If your illiterate worker turned to the church, his local pastor would teach him to read. The clergy, I might add, was the first career path that allowed a ordinary man to break out of the social position he was born into: and that was always the case, even slaves could become bishops. It was a source of great disgust to medieval knights that they could be outranked by the bishop who had been born a peasant.
      Finally, you might want to think about why rights have been constantly been increasing in the Christian world, and diminishing nearly everywhere else (commendable exception being Israel of course).

  3. Warty says:

    I was thinking: as Simon was saying, viz liberalism (in fact, anything but liberalism) is in the process of turning on Christianity, though not simply because large sections of it are opposed to SSM, indeed the act of homosexuality per se (as indeed I am), but also because all bastions of conservatism are currently under attack. But, I was thinking that history is beginning to repeat itself, and the unimaginable is re-emerging: Christians are on the verge of being persecuted again. As Christians may be prepared to go to gaol rather than submit to anti discrimination laws, the specter of martyrdom may in fact resuscitate a religion decidedly on the way out (well, in the West at least). But even if it doesn’t, chucking people in gaol, because of their views on homosexuality or SSM, will increase levels of divisiveness to the point there could well be serious civil unrest.
    It takes a lot to shift the ‘silent majority’ out of its traditional torpor, but such a scenario could well do it.

    • Don A. Veitch says:

      Yes, can’t argue against most of the Warty thesis. People wanted the church of Mr.Jesus and got, for example,paedophile priests preying on the flock.
      KISS. Degenerate ruling class=degenerate churches.

  4. Ian MacDougall says:

    Without the Christian faith as a foundation, liberalism will not help us live well together. [?] However, the political order of Christendom can be both liberal and Christian. In fact, the true liberal order is a Christian one and will only function adequately within a Christian philosophical and political framework. That is the Christendom that could save liberalism. Without it, liberalism’s problem with Christianity might become the primary cause of liberalism’s demise.
    To retain our liberal political order, it must return to being a fundamentally Christian political order; only then will it be truly liberal. Ironically, it seems that only Christianity can save liberalism.

    For most of the history of Christendom, the (dual) human hierarchy has been imagined and portrayed as two huge pyramids side by side and both extending ‘upwards’ from the most lowly people through various levels of power and esteem to kings and emperors on the one side, and prelates and popes on the other. Thus the rivalry of Church and State. Both had their claims to special privilege and prerogative: bestowed by none less than God. But if a monarch was to rule by divine right, then he and/or she had to be crowned by God’s anointed here below, in a Christian ceremony: in a Christian cathedral: and above all by a Christian high cleric.
    Those who, like Christians, claim to have the Revealed Truth, tend to be none too indulgent towards those who dispute that claim. In the right circumstances they can get rather nasty about it.
    The most liberal and democratic Christians IMHO are the Quakers, who have no priesthood, and a “meeting house” architecture that eschews having any Sanctuary to which the laity are not admitted.

    • Warty says:

      As with most organisations, the ‘human factor’ tends to let the side down. One can point to corrupt, powerful, murderous popes. Monks, even Bishops that sold often false indulgences and pursuit of power for power’s sake. But there was sufficient, overwhelming good to foster and bolster the very finest aspects that nurtured a civilization and by that one means the particular minutia that go towards the development of such a civilization: its thinkers and philosophers, its laws, its architecture, and fine art, the development and expansion of the science of the day, the great explorers and the extraordinary intelligence that sustained all of this. It was not until the French Revolution people would start to question their belief in God, let alone forbid worship, as occurred during ‘the terror’, during this French Revolution. Until then people didn’t question their faith. All that came later, and given impetus by the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment.
      There were no neat diagrams showing ‘two huge pyramids side by side extending upwards’. With, as I understand what you are saying (though the pyramids seem to overlap a little in your description) lowly people at the base of one of them, kings and emperors ‘on the side’ and prelates and popes ‘on the other’ (and here the two pyramids seemed to have morphed into one).
      From my understanding, England, the country that was to have developed the finest democracy of the last two millennia, did not have a separation of church and state until 1688, and most certainly not in Europe until very much later. Both King and pauper considered themselves as being part of the church, though in England, the king considered himself as head of the church, and until James II as a divine representative on earth. Such a notion, viz the king being the divine representative, extended back into medieval times, only to be seriously questioned when Charles I was beheaded, otherwise he would not have been tried for treason.
      To then conflate the practice of Christianity, of many centuries ago, with the more recent ideas and practices ‘those who, like Christians, claim to have the Revealed Truth, tend to be none too indulgent towards those who dispute that claim. In the right circumstances they can get rather nasty about it’ is misleading to say the least. In fact this quote puts more in mind of the Middle Ages, when serious questions would indeed lead to charges of heresy. I don’t think there is even a hint of such attitudes today.

      • Don A. Veitch says:

        4 cheers for the Glorious Revolution of 1688!

      • Kit says:

        There has always been a separation of Church and state. That comes from Christ. That really has been the practice for most of the last 2000 years.

        • Warty says:

          Not so, Kit. The first hints of the separation came in the time of Henry VIII, who objected to the Pope getting involved in the politics of the day; who objected to the Pope not allowing him to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Until then ultimate authority in England was the church and therefore the Pope. One only has to look at the enormous power of the ecclesiastic courts to get a fetch of how little separation there actually was.

    • whitelaughter says:

      ‘divine right of kings’ dates from the 17thC, so is probably an import from China. The immediate result of Christianity was that rulers could no longer claim to be gods; while the church positions were open to all: much to the disgust of the nobility, who thought it absurd that a serf could rise to be a bishop, and so outrank them.

      You have the right and power to accuse Christians of being none too indulgent towards others simply because Christians *have* been too indulgent to others! Try condemning Islam within a Muslim country, or the Trendy Left while at a university. While allowing legitimate criticism is commendable, it is foolish to allow the free spread of propaganda by those who suppress freedom of speech where ever they rule: whether Marxist, Muslim or trendy leftie, we suffer because their lies operate freely while honest rebuttals are ruthlessly suppressed. Rights should be conditional on respecting those rights in others.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        “Rights should be conditional on respecting those rights in others.”

        That sounds to me like a setup for a race to the bottom. We will only be as liberal as our opponents are, and we’ll let them set the standard. Well, I will say this for it: it has plenty of historic precedent.
        And as this thread centres on politics and Christianity, it is worth remembering that Christ urged his followers to be better than their opponents. If someone seeks to start a brawl by striking you on the face, turn the other side of your face to him, that he may strike that also. (Actually a prescription honoured over time far more in the breach than in the observance.)
        The great liberalist thinkers have considered that issue in depth, JS Mill in particular. Mill argued that people of all opinions should be free to argue their case in the open arena, even anti-liberals. (He had no fear that they would gain popular support.) The political power of anti-liberals like the German Nazis came not from the force of their arguments, but from their readiness to deal violently with any opposition.
        Ironically, western colonialism in East Asia relied on the tolerance of Confucian-influenced Chinese and Vietnamese regimes to gain a foothold for Christian missions, and from these bases, colonialist power grew; with colonial wars ultimately resulting.
        Islam is the world’s most intolerant religion, teaching intolerance, and calling for death for apostates and heretics. But the Christians have taken more than one leaf from its book over the years.

      • Warty says:

        Not quite. The concept, as understood in the West, came out of 1 Samuel, chapters 9 & 10 viz the Lord’s identification of Saul to Samuel, and the letters anointing of him in the name of Elohim. The Israelites no longer had the sort of connection with Yahweh the once did and felt they needed a tangible representative to both guide and rule them. Yahweh acknowledged this ‘drop in consciousness’ and identified Saul as a suitable leader. What some of our kings overlooked, was that once a king stops actually performing his function as representative, he is removed (David replaced Saul, when the former began to follow his own will not that of the Absolute). The divine right of kings was always meant to be conditional.

  5. Ian MacDougall says:

    People tend to project their own social structures onto Heaven, and find vindication and justification thereby. As well, the whole transition from polytheism to monotheism enhanced the power of the monotheist priesthood cf the competing priests of the various polytheistic gods. The writing of the books of the Bible was part of this process, particularly the composition of the Ten Commandments. A One God in charge of everything: rain, seasons, famine, flood, war, peace etc had to be much more powerful than any individual god or for that matter, than the whole pantheon put together.
    The Jews were servile to polytheists: Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans and their monotheism was a great source of strength to them. Religion is based in human politics and power structures.

    • Jody says:

      You can see why the Romans were upset. Along comes this son of a carpenter who says, “forget all that stuff you believe about many gods; there’s just me and my dad”!!

      • Warty says:

        Yours must be the translation of the New New Authorised Bible, Jodi. My very old fashioned King James version doesn’t have that bit, but it also talked about ‘abominations’ which was code for abhorrence towards homosexuality, so there you go.

        • Jody says:

          Sorry, Warty, that was a joke from one of my erstwhile female colleagues in teaching who used to regale us at lunch time. She was a real character and terribly funny, with a laconic sense of humour.

          Did you read Gary Johns today in ‘The Australian’? He asked why is the responsibility of Australia to liberalise Islam!!

  6. LBLoveday says:

    Quote: “Women were definitely not seen as equal with men, let alone as intelligent as them.”

    It has long bemused me that so many of the Left denounce Creationism as a loony Christian belief, Intelligent Design as not much better, and claim that Evolutionism was “proven” by Darwin, yet they chose to ignore, or likely have not even read, others of Darwin’s conclusions from his research, such as:

    males are “more evolutionarily advanced than females”, and

    “the average of mental power in man must be above that of women”.

  7. Macspee says:

    Sorry, I cannot identify this concept if “liberalism” with any I know outside the American concept which is really a Marxist derivation that is very narrow minded at best. I think anyone interested in the relationship of Christian religion and capitalism should have a look at writings emanating from the Centre for Independen Studies.

  8. Warty says:

    Obviously everyone has gone on holiday, because we are into the recycle material here, but so be it, I’d forgotten all about the article.Nevertheless, Mac’s pee has added his voice to our collective cacophony, and I must say I rather agree with him. We have all sorts of stuff enacted in the constitution, which sound all fine and dandy, but are they actually operative. For instance, the notion that we are all equal, but in practice it seems some of us are more equal than others. Consider s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Now, Mark Kenny, one of those neo Marxist hand flappers writing for Fairfax launched a race-based attack on Senator Leyonhjelm a few months ago. Surprisingly his complaint to the AHRC was initially accepted, but seems to have gone the way of all good things (it has returned to its essential elements and dissipated into the aether. Cindy Prior was able to string us all along for a couple of years; fleece the tax payer to goodness knows what tune; and came close to ruining the lives of five white male students.
    The point is that we are not all equal in the eyes of the law (on paper yes).
    Then there was the interesting case of Adam Goodes (an even more interesting one than Eddie Betts) in that his ‘chip on the shoulder’ was there for all to see, but the ‘liberals’ amongst us transmogrified this into a virtue. He too was called an ‘ape’ I think it was, and the 15 year old girl was crucified in the media, publicly vilified by both Goodes and the ‘liberal’ press, having been thrown out of the ground (caught on national television). The outrage, the power and ironically, the extraordinary fragility were all demonstrated by the Aboriginal footy star, Adam Goodes. And the bloke became the Australian of the Year, simply for being an Aboriginal activist star footy player: a tribute to his bloody people. We are all equal? I think not, this was a grotesque exercise of raw power and the ‘liberal’ press had a field day.
    Incidentally, we tend to think of liberal in positive terms over here, but in America it relates to all those Hillary lovers, and pussy protestors, and the ‘deplorables’ don’t think much of them.

    • Salome says:

      And people didn’t subsequently boo Goodes because he was an Aborigine (people just LOVE Cyril Rioli, for example)–the booed him because he is a knob. (And it’s about time footy fans started calling white players apes, because there is nothing about ‘ape’ that suggests that it shouldn’t be universal.)

      • Warty says:

        ‘They booed him because he is a knob’??? Just a tad imprecise, Salome. It wouldn’t because of his aggressive ‘identification’ with being an Aboriginal victim, by any chance? It wouldn’t be because of his simulated spear attacks on a mob that found him a little more than offensive? Or his aggressive chest thumping? All thoroughly stupid actions, loved by the left, but bound to further infuriate, St Kilda fans, or South Melbourne supporters. The loser felt so victimised by his negative reception he had to take time off to sulk in his bedroom. As a number of commentators said at the time: ‘he can certainly give it out, but he can’t take it’. Isn’t it always the case with these victims?

      • Jody says:

        And I never saw anybody ever ‘booo’ the Ella brothers in rugby union either. They were well-regarded, excellent players.

  9. exuberan says:

    Simon must live on a remote Island somewhere, No mention of the pervasive Islamic threat now bearing down on Christianity, like the 2500 mosques now open in France.

    • Salome says:

      The attack on Christianity in France began with French secularism. The mosques are secondary. But read Houellebecq’s Submission to see the end result.

      • Warty says:

        You could never say that the mosques are secondary: they are symptomatic of the ‘left’s’ inability to see what is going in under their nossies. French secularism and the attack on Christianity, as you quite rightly point out, began with the Enlightenment and was supercharged by the French Revolution where religion was banned. But the whole egalite, fraternite business, noble in sentiment, has produced a level of myopia that is going to tear France apart. If Marine Le Pen gets in you’ll have a level of civil war; but if she doesn’t get in the entire stadium roof will be blown off, perhaps not tomorrow or the day after, but it will happen and you’ll have a level of blood letting that will rival that of the French Revolution. The French don’t mess around, regardless of their politics.

  10. Matt says:

    Great article Simon.
    What we need is an effective sociopolitical campaign plan and leadership to turn the thinking into real positive outcomes for our society.

  11. Keith Kennelly says:

    The polytheists of Egypt had a relatively war free period for nearly 60000 years. Their empire and civilisation was based, not on a personified deity but the Balance of the laws of the universe. Which never change. They predicated their behaviours on the values of Truth, Order and Justice.

    Now compare that to the violent nature of the Jewish religion, the second monotheists thought to have arisen out of the worship of the one God Ra by the heretical pharaoh, Akhenaten and his Queen Nefriti. The wars, violence and unforgiving brutality of the Old Testament and the Hebrew book. This society has existed for roughly 3000 years in a very small society.

    Now compare it to the monothesist church of Constantine and the corruption of Christ’s messages of ‘Love one another, forgive one another and do unto others…’. The wars, murder, inquesitions, repressions and disorder during the reign of this monothesist religion. This religion and society has lasted 2000 years and is being abandoned.

    Finally compare the Islamist mayhem, were it has become self evident this monotheist religion is an excuse for unmitigated violence.
    This madness has lasted 1500 years and is a disintergrating medieval movement of 1.6 billion potential martyrs.

    Really monothesist has lead to the belief in one. This One everything has lead to the impossibility of tolerance, the loss of order, a loss of truth and justice.

    This is the age of the end of monothesism.

    We should encourage the abandonment of monothesism and adopt as the Higher Authority logic, reason and the fundamental tenets of Truth, Justice and Order coupled with the basic rules expressed by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.

    But then again I’d be called a heretic..

  12. Kit says:

    No Australian public university teaches philosophy. All they teach is the moderns, and that is not philosophy. Hence the confusion in this article. Economics, law, the Arts are all taught through the lens of modern philosophy. Sadly without any context, without any background, without any acknowledgement of the great thinkers that came before, it is indoctrination.

    So called modern liberalism can only be anti-God because it fails or dispute’s man’s higher reason, which is a universal desire in all mankind to go for the good. There can be no “Christian Liberalism”. That is an impossibility. It does not allow for that.

    Liberalism is sold to us on the promise of “freedom”. But freedom to do what? Without ethics, without morality, which comes from our higher reason, we are a ship without a rudder. This is where we are now. The frightening thing about it is we’ve been here before – two World Wars, Stalinism, Hitler.

    Once you deny morality you are heading for the rocks. Thirty years ago we were a much more educated bunch and we recognised this truth. Not any more. A liberalist is now being passed off as a conservative. But a modern liberalist is really a radical. There’s no practical difference between a liberalist and Marxist – they come from the same tree. They both deny man’s higher reason.

    As for the separation of Church and state that’s been the case from the beginning. Christ made it so. But prior to the moderns that didn’t prevent laws being made on the basis of morality. That is the foundation of our Western civilsation. There’s a confusion there. That reason and faith align doesn’t mean that Church and state are one and the same. It’s an acknowledgement of man’s higher reason.

    Once upon a time men of intelligence would ask “why wouldn’t you make laws based on morality/reason”. Now they argue we need to be “free”. But free to do what? Free to commit abortion – which based on science is a person (it’s not a faith question) – which is murder. The Catholic Church’s position on abortion is based on science. It’s science which has determined its position on this issue. Not faith.

    Here we have the state and church out of alignment because the former no longer acknowledges morality. Rather it acknowledges the modern stance and in this case idealism.

    This madness has also extended into marriage, where we should now be “free” to interpret marriage to be whatever we want it to be. Well again this is idealism/subjectivism. It is not reality. The state and church are out of kilter. Not because the Church is no longer imposing its will on the state but because the state no longer recognizes morality, man’s higher reason.

  13. Keith Kennelly says:

    We in the west started dismantling the influence of the Church from the Enlightenment. We adopted into our philosophy at that time, ‘forgiveness, and ‘doing unto others’ into our non secular society and philosophy. We rejected the Church then.

    Yes the problem is we have lost our higher authority of logic and reason and the morality based in Truth Justice and Order.

    There is much chaos and loss of hope. It is indeed being replaced by the stupidity of freedom without responsibility and a vague mishmash and contradictory regime of human rights.

  14. Salome says:

    Regarding Troy Newman, to be fair to the High Court, Justice Nettle explicitly said that Mr Newman might have had a case to challenge the cancellation of his visa, but blew it when he boarded a plane knowing his visa had been cancelled. What at the administrative level began as an unjustified attempt to keep un-PC ideas out of the country masquerading as ‘security concerns’ became a classic example of protection of the integrity of our borders. So, whether people deserve a visa or not, no visa = no entry.

  15. Jody says:

    I just feel sorry for the poor saps who don’t have a clue about the Christian story and who don’t have access to this – they’re living only half a life, IMO:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY1w3EhXqwo