Why Christendom Is Still Christian image

Why Christendom Is Still Christian

Tom Holland’s Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind is certainly one of the books of the year, and one of those rare contemporary volumes that I would recommend all pastors read. I am thrilled that Joel Virgo has written us a proper review for this coming Wednesday, but in advance of that, here’s the conclusion of Holland’s argument. (I’ve highlighted a few key sentences for the incorrigibly lazy.)

Today, as the flood-tide of Western power and influence ebbs, the illusions of European and American liberals risk being left stranded. Much that they have sought to cast as universal stands exposed as never having been anything of the kind. Agnosticism—as Huxley, the main who coined the word, readily acknowledged—ranks as “that conviction of the supremacy of private judgment (indeed, of the possibility of escaping it) which is the foundation of the Protestant Reformation.” Secularism owes its existence to the medieval papacy. Humanism derives ultimately from claims made in the Bible: that humans are made in God’s image; that his Son died equally for everyone; that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. Repeatedly, like a great earthquake, Christianity has sent reverberations around the world. First there was the primal revolution: the revolution preached by St Paul. Then there came the aftershocks: the revolution in the eleventh century that set Latin Christendom upon its momentous course; the revolution commemorated as the Reformation; the revolution that killed God. All bore an identical stamp: the aspiration to enfold within their embrace every other possible way of seeing the world; the claim to a universalism that was culturally highly specific. That human beings have rights; that they are born equal; that they are owed sustenance, and shelter, and refuge from persecution: these were never self-evident truths ...

To be a Christian is to believe that God became man, and suffered a death as terrible as any mortal has ever suffered. This is why the cross, that ancient implement of torture, remains what it has always been: the fitting symbol of the Christian revolution. It is the audacity of it—the audacity of finding in a twisted and defeated corpse the glory of the creator of the universe—that serves to explain, more surely than anything else, the sheer strangeness of Christianity, and of the civilisation to which it gave birth. Today, the power of this strangeness remains as alive as it has ever been. It is manifest in the great surge of conversions that has swept Africa and Asia over the past century; in the conviction of millions upon millions that the breath of the Spirit, like a living fire, still blows upon the world; and, in Europe and North American in the assumptions of many more millions who would never think to describe themselves as Christian. All are heirs to the same revolution: a revolution that has, at its molten hearts, the image of of a god dead on a cross ...

Many [Christians], over the course of this time, have themselves become agents of terror. They have put the weak in their shadow; they have brought suffering, and persecution, and slavery in their wake. Yet the standards by which they stand condemned for this are themselves Christian; nor, even if churches across the West continue to empty, does it seem likely that these standards will quickly change. “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” This is the myth that we in the West still persist in clinging to. Christendom, in that sense, remains Christendom still.

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