QED

It’s in The Book

Supposed you were asked to name the most important and abiding characteristic of Western civilisation. You might say the triumph of reason over superstition or, more prosaically, the rule of law or, still more prosaically, property rights. But I doubt any of these is singular. All were present, albeit imperfectly, within Greek and Roman civilisations. What is singular, I suggest, is equality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

Now, as we know, the United States did not put that noble sentiment into practice until a very long time after 1776. Nonetheless, the sentiment eventually held sway and won out. And that is truly amazing. Where on earth did it come from in a world bred on millennia of slavery and, quite apart from that and after that, a world in which people were ranked by birthright and wealth. It is not a naturally occurring sentiment. If it were it would not have been so little regarded during most of the history of mankind.

It came from one religious movement and from one book. There are many passages but, in my estimation, none is as pointed and persuasive as two similar verses from St Paul’s letters to the Colossians and the Galatians. This is from Galatians (3:28): “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” What possibly can be more profound than that? And it turned the world upside down.

I recently heard a lecture online by John Woodhouse, former principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney. Among many telling observations, one particularly struck me. It went something like this. If, indisputably, peerless Western civilisation was built on Christianity and yet Christianity is untrue, then it must be concluded that Western civilisation is built on a lie.

Stand back. How likely is it that the best mankind has been able to produce has stemmed from a lie? Not at all likely, I would say. In fact, I doubt its remote possibility. Yet, many who value our civilisation, and I am obviously excluding the current vile iteration of the Left, have no belief in God and in Jesus Christ. I can’t explain their ability to embrace what are, in my view, two contradictory ideas at the one time. And will leave it at that.

What can’t be left is the damage a growing lack of belief is having on the fabric of our civilisation. It is leaving us with a lack of ammunition when leftist barbarians are within the gates. Exactly how do you respond when rights become purely transactional, driven by a political agenda; when you have no authoritative, immutable, anchor to fall back on? With difficulty is the answer; and it is showing.

Here is a partial list of relatively recently invented transactional rights:

# People with prescribed racial backgrounds have a right to preferential treatment in securing positions, which they couldn’t otherwise obtain by merit.

# The woke mob and their toadies in corporations have a right to censor erstwhile commonplace views which they find disagreeable and to persecute those who express them.

# Women who become pregnant have an absolute right in all circumstances and at any time to end the lives of their unborn babies.

# Those aggrieved by isolated acts of police behaviour have a right in their upsetedness, to riot, to inflict harm on those in their way, and to destroy property. (A peculiarly USA right at the moment.)

# Those who can spot any stain on great men of the past have a right to besmirch their reputations and tear down their statues.

# Those with sexual preferences outside the norm have a right to insist that everybody lauds, not just tolerates, their preferences.

# Those with gender dysphoria and their sympathisers have a right to impose bizarre gender theory on schoolchildren.

# Men in frocks have a right to compete in women’s sports provided they take some hormones.

How can these ‘rights’ be defended? Easy if you’re ‘woke’. Each represents one or more of making up for past oppression, of expressing righteous anger, of rejecting restrictions which impinge on personal freedom or, apparently, of producing a more enlightened society. How can they be steadfastly and consistently opposed?

We can flounder around in relativism; appeal to common-sense; say our immediate forbears would have been appalled. If that’s all we bring to the fight, then there will be no stopping the onslaught on our civilisation. Whence comes certainty and strength to say all of these invented transactional rights are bunkum and a plague on the future of our grandchildren? Only a moral code unhinged from human desires, fashions and fads can do the job.

Biblical precepts are that moral code. Perhaps that is too categorical. It is better said in another way, I think. Which is that a society living within a Christian culture would have no truck with any of these so-called rights. None would have ever got to first base. And there is the clue.

They have got to first base and beyond because our Christian culture is crumbling and collapsing. Lies are supplanting truth. It is then not surprising that the fightback is feeble.

Only a resurgence in Christianity offers concrete hope. Nothing of a non-transcendental character will have the power to compete with rising wokeness. Non-believers who value our civilisation have a decision to make. Do they take a leap of faith and consider getting back to filling pews or are they content to see Christianity and the civilisation it spawned wither away? Finally, a sad caveat for our times: getting back to filling pews, means to those churches still preaching the Bible as written, not some watered-down woke version.

20 comments
  • Andrew Campbell

    Amen! Preach it brother!

  • Davidovich

    I cannot accept a divine being but I do uphold and believe in the Judeo-Christian ethics which have set up and are the basis of our civilisation. The comment “Only a resurgence in Christianity offers concrete hope.” is worthy but the people now occupying the clergy are of such low calibre that few with any intellect are going to occupy the church pews.

  • Stephen Due

    If the fate of Western civilisation depends on people becoming Christians in large numbers, and then only if they attend the right churches, we are definitely in trouble!
    There is no doubt that a traditional biblical moral standard has shaped the cultures of the West and their legal systems. There are some interesting publications by John Witte Jr on this subject, including closely-argued books and lectures available as videos on YouTube.
    There is also no doubt, in my view, that the West has produced no secular moral system to replace the biblical moral standard. The reason for this is that the biblical moral standard is based on the authority of the Bible. What gives the Bible authority can be debated. But the key point is that alternative moral systems, which were developed in the West by atheist philosophers from the Enlightenment onwards, are inevitably the subject of debate. Moral philosophies like utlitarianism are interesting but not compelling on rational grounds, and are in principle lacking in moral authority.
    Opponents of Christianity, of whom Phillip Adams is a typical Australian example, often make moral statements, expressing views in which they are emotionally invested, but which have no basis in any credible moral system. That is why Phillip Adams and his ilk are incompetent, literally, to provide any viable alternative to the Christian foundations of the West. They want to remake society in their own image, but what they see in the mirror is not necessarily a picture of loveliness to others. They want to tear down the West and replace it with a socialist paradise for which they have no workable design.
    The solution to the problem of saving Western civilisation will remain elusive in my view. Its existence is not under threat from a better alternative, but from destructive forces within, over which it has no control. The only promising avenue at the moment is in secular Bills of Rights. The models we have, such as the UN’s Universal Declaration, were based historically on Christian principles. But the problem remains that they carry no moral weight with secularists. Witness the evidence recently tendered to the Victorian PAEC by the EO&HRC that human rights need not be adhered to if, on balance, the government thinks there is a greater good i.e. if it is not convenient.

  • Ian MacDougall

    Stand back. How likely is it that the best mankind has been able to produce has stemmed from a lie? Not at all likely, I would say. In fact, I doubt its remote possibility. Yet, many who value our civilisation, and I am obviously excluding the current vile iteration of the Left, have no belief in God and in Jesus Christ. I can’t explain their ability to embrace what are, in my view, two contradictory ideas at the one time. And will leave it at that.

    AND (drum roll please Mr Conductor!)

    If, indisputably, peerless Western civilisation was built on Christianity and yet Christianity is untrue, then it must be concluded that Western civilisation is built on a lie.

    That is a classic, Peter; an absolute classic. Western civilisation, including the soaring gothic cathedrals, the music of JS Bach, and so much of the arts and the sciences (except of course, that imported from China and elsewhere) patently exists. Therefore the Bible is true! Every last word of it!
    I have seen a fair bit of sophistry presented as arguments for the existence of God, Christianity and even other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Catholicism, but never anything in this class.
    Did western civilisation need one or more mythologies to sustain it in its infancy? Yes, definitely. But there is a subtle but important difference between a myth and a lie.

  • Peter Smith

    Ah! Ian, missed you. You might think my argument is sophistry but I find it persuasive. I find in life that nothing much good ever comes from a lie. Western civilisation is a definite good and it was built on Christianity. QED. But if you don’t accept that argument you always have the revealed truth of the Gospels to fall back on. Or, at least, I do.

  • Ian MacDougall

    Whatever floats your boat, Peter; and I say that as a former Christian who gave it away by the age of 18. (I can still quote the Bible with the best of them.)
    An important point I picked up on the way through was ‘the family that prays together, stays together.’ Extend that and it becomes ‘the village that prays together, stays together;’ then the town, nation, and so on. As the French sociologist Emile Durkheim argued: in any religious ritual, the group is worshipping itself. Religion’s main role is that of a social glue. This I think is an aid to understanding of what wars of religion have been all about: (and they have not just been confined to Europe.)
    It also sheds light on doctrinal disputes. For example, one minor schism in Protestantism was between those who insisted on full immersion at baptism as against those who believed that a splash of holy water was all that was needed. And so the Baptists nailed their particular credo to the cathedral door, and made not only their stand, but their exit from the mainstream, and a nice lot of career paths for ambitious clerics in their ranks.
    Catholicism accommodated internal differences well, and contained separate schools of thought (Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans etc) within itself, where Protestants divided and retained no connection to a mother church. Even Islam has a similar arrangement: sunnis, shias, sufis etc.
    But whatever your Christian denomination, you have to believe in Original Sin, which came about thanks to gift of the gab possessed by that talking snake, back in the Garden of Eden. And no way round it, if God made everything, He made that talking snake.
    As a bushman, I have encountered a lot of snakes; even trodden on one or two in long grass or the dark. But I have never heard one talk, or had one try to persuade me to eat of the fruit from any ‘tree of knowledge’. And any proprietor of a travelling circus who could teach one to talk (or say, count to 3) would make a fortune.
    Yet the whole rather important Christian doctrine of sin and redemption rests on the credibility of that talking snake.
    Call in the nearest theologian, if you think that will make any difference.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    I agree that one of Christianity’s great ideas was that of equality. And equality in justice.
    Another was that of forgiveness, and for believers, redemption.

    In the discourses between nations, as in those between members of families, forgiveness makes continuation possible. Christianity stresses that after all of the human follies and hurts we as a species are prone to give each other, and all of the mistakes we make, we can forgive and often forget too.

    Civilisation depends on it. Shakespeare knew it. ‘The quality of mercy is not strained …’

    Christianity and its relationship with civilisation is far more subtle than a dichotomy of ‘truth or lie’ can encompass.

  • Stephen Due

    Ian MacD. I see where you’re coming from.
    However I remain somewhat confused by arguments against religion. Richard Dawkins is on record as blaming all wars on religion, which seems extreme. Surely religion is natural to humans? If so, then presumably Dawkins should find religion no more offensive, and no less wonderful, than the blind, pitiless, totally meaningless universe with no beginning and no end that he prefers to contemplate.
    Surprisingly, Dawkins seems found a little niche for his own soul somewhere in the limitless, heartless, amoral universe he describes. For he still regards religion as evil, and science as noble and good.
    I have never been able to understand where those who reject Christianity get their moral certainty from. I used to read New Scientist every week, but never found a scientific justification for any of the myriad moral positions that festooned its pages. Instead what I found there was the standard progressive morality – racism bad, homophobia bad, religion bad, etc – rather arrogantly paraded as if there were no alternative. It was a bit like religion according to Durkheim.
    I agree with your first comment about the lie. There are a few variations on that theme that are all equally unconvincing. But I don’t see how anyone, as a matter of historical fact, can reject Christianity as the consistent driving force in Western civilisation.
    The talking snake is an interesting idea. Original sin is useful too, for it helps to explain the apparent paradox that ordinary people like him, whom Dawkins needs to believe are naturally good, or at least not naturally bad, actually do bad things all the time.
    Of course, the Bible itself teaches that people were naturally good, as made. But it avoids the Dawkins paradox by introducing that sly little intellectual snake, and the fatal temptation. Thus Milton:
    “Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the world, and all our woe
    With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
    Restore us….”

  • Pittacus66

    Rodney Stark, in his book “The Victory of Reason” (2006), concludes with a statement by some Chinese scholars:
    “One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective…But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”

  • pgang

    Peter you are spot on of course. I think the majority of comments above simply prove your point and tell us everything we need to know about our current trajectory into self destruction. Note the standard referencing of ‘Christian ideas’ or ‘Christian ethics’, as though these things were the inventions of the human mind. That is the humanist axiom – that the human mind rules supreme and any concept of God us subsidiary – and the tragedy is that most people today are enslaved within this isolation of the self.
    As for rationalistic arguments against Biblical inerrancy, they rely entirely on an obtuse de-contextualisation of Scripture, whether intentional or not. It’s a bit like taking the colour orange and using it to argue that no other colour exists.

  • DG

    Davidovich has hit the nail on the head. I see very few vigorous intellects coming out of theology schools and almost zero insightful or useful social critique. In many aspects the church has descended into cult-like practices with a lock-step adherence to rigid formulations.

  • T B LYNCH

    Here is what I taught my students:-
    Your life began as an egg, an enormous cell a thousand times larger than other cells, pumped up by thousands of support cells, in your mothers ovary, while she was still a 24 week foetus, inside your grandmother. Your mother made 2 million eggs, but many of them made mistakes, recognized their dangerous error and committed suicide, so only 400 made it to ovulation.
    Your life continued when you made an irreversible electrochemical decision to select an X or a Y sperm.
    Next you enacted the program laid out in your genes; if you had been supplied a mutated program, or you made an error in implementation, you would have paid the penalty and become a miscarriage, or been born somewhat later as a monster.
    You may say you cant remember making these decisions and that is true, but you are stuck with the result. I say that in the womb you built your body for the world, and few would disagree.
    Now here is the new bit. I say that in the World you are building your soul for Eternity. You may not know what you are doing, but you will certainly be stuck with the result.
    To help you, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Then Christ Himself, the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity, came on Earth to finish the job as the Light of the World.

  • lloveday

    In The God Delusion, Dawkins cites a 1-7 scale where 1 represents a probability of 1.0 (100%) that God exists and 7 represents a probability of 0.0 (0%) that God exists and classified himself as a 6, viz he thinks there is a significant possibility (17%) of God existing and the title of Chapter 4 is “Why there almost certainly is no God” (he’s no statistician if he thinks P(God)=17% means “almost certainly no God”; Horses win at 6.0 every day, I got 6.9 about Trump in 2016, and someone who applies “almost certainly” to a probability of 17% should stick to something he knows about, as he certainly knows little about probability.
    .
    At least he does not say God does not exist (in that book anyway), but many self-identified atheists, such as Adams, and the vast majority of those I’ve heard, do deny the existence of God, a position I can’t understand, living as we do on an insignificant planet orbiting an unremarkable star, one of an estimated 100,000,000,000 stars in the Milky way, which is one of an estimated 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the Universe, of which we know all but nothing.
    .
    Einstein said “I am not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds”. If it was too much for Einstein’s brain, it’s far too much for my brain and was even decades ago.

  • rod.stuart

    It seems to me that the Revelation of St. John has arrived.
    Can there be any doubt that John caught a glimpse of the “peaceful demonstrations” that appear ’round the globe?
    The populace is being programmed for “The Great Reset”. Part and parcel of this evil will be the sign of the beast, which will logically be related to the Gates “vaccine” with the quantum dots. In preparation, the people are instructed to bear the humility of the mask, leading to a visible sign of some sort similar to the Star of David that the Nazxis insisted the Jews wear. If you are curious about Klaus Schwab, have a look at his friends.
    https://youtu.be/sb9jRqgDOJ8

  • Carlos

    Excellent Article Peter, you just made one small error:

    # Men in frocks have a right to compete in women’s sports provided they take some hormones.

    You don’t have to take the hormones any more, (you probably still need the frock though), any reference to biological sex is transphobic.

    Carlos

  • Alistair

    As Roger Sandal used to argue societies are based on a “culturally justified false belief” Once a culture stops “believing” in its “false belief” the culture is at an end. Think of Aborigines. We are not immune. Trying to re-animate Christianity is a big ask since most of the major Churches reject proselytism and seem happy to cede ground to any tin pot religion that comes its way. Think the Pope promoting South American Indian animism – Think the Archbishop of Canterbury admitting that he “doubted God”. I dont think Christianity will survive in Western Churches Maybe African Korean or Chinese?

  • Peter Marriott

    Thanks Peter, a good piece and I agree, particularly on the ‘woke’ bit. We have a Rector like that, however I draw a veil over his and the various bits of ‘wokeness’ in the present prayer book and at home, and when I travel, always read the 1662. Furthermore, in church I usually recite the Lords Prayer as laid down in it, and I know of others who do the same, so all is not lost and never can or will be.

  • Peter Smith

    Peter Mariott, my Rector is excellent – so they are still around, thank God.
    Rod. Stuart, watched that Michael Matt video via the link you provided. Definitely worth a watch. I am now more concerned than ever about our future.

  • lloveday

    Carlos,
    Going on for 2 years ago, my then 70yo sister played basketball in the Masters Games in Adelaide – not enough oldies like her, so her team played in the 55+ section, and if I was not there to watch, I’d not have believed her – her direct opponent was a well over 6′ man. Don’t these people have any pride????

  • Alice Thermopolis

    PS: “What can’t be left is the damage a growing lack of belief is having on the fabric of our civilisation.”

    Nietzsche predicted such a state of nihilism – “the history of the next two centuries” – in 1887.

    Perhaps also time to re-read Schopenhauer. From his On Religion: “There is finally the further fact that the God who prescribes forbearance and forgiveness of every sin, even to the point of loving one’s enemy, fails to practise it himself, but does rather the opposite: since a punishment which is introduced at the end of things, when all is over and done with forever, can be intended neither to improve nor deter; it is nothing but revenge. Thus regarded, it seems that the entire race is in fact definitely intended and expressly created for eternal torment and damnation – all, that is, apart from those few exceptions which are rescued from this fate by divine grace, although one knows not why. These aside, it appears as if the dear Lord created the world for the benefit of the Devil – in which he would have done far better not to have created it at all. This is what happens to dogmas when you take them sensu proprio; understood sensu allegorico, on the other hand, all this is susceptible of a more satisfactory interpretation.

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