Sunday Times says Christianity is keeping us radical (sort of)

Courtesy of Flickr / Prentsa Alundia, under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Generic 2.0 licence. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gipuzkoa/39238800080
Courtesy of Flickr / Prentsa Alundia, under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Generic 2.0 licence. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gipuzkoa/39238800080

On 25 August the Sunday Times had an article by Rosamund Urwin entitled, “#JesusToo: Christianity is keeping us radical, says historian.”

The article was a reflection on the soon-to-be-released new book by Tom Holland, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind.

According to the article, in his book Holland calls Christianity the “greatest revolutionary movement” that the Western world has seen, and shows that it has paved the way for such diverse movements as secularism, civil rights, the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”, and even #MeToo.

Far from being conservative and static, he argues, Christianity “repeatedly sends out pulses of energy that rip up society.”

“Both the civil rights movement and the #MeToo movement are predicated on the powerful Judaeo-Christian notion of the intrinsic worth of human life. As for the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love,’ the concept of Love as a cardinal virtue comes straight out of the pages of the New Testament — even if Lennon wilfully neglects to acknowledge this debt in his song.”

What Tom Holland says is true. Both the civil rights movement and the #MeToo movement are predicated on the powerful Judaeo-Christian notion of the intrinsic worth of human life:—

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27[1]

As for the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” the concept of Love as a cardinal virtue comes straight out of the pages of the New Testament (even if Lennon wilfully neglects to acknowledge this debt in his song):—

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13[2]

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:16[3]

Many people today think of Christians as “conservative and static.” But when Christianity first burst onto the Roman Empire, its ideas were radical, revolutionary, and dangerous. Gradually the Roman ideal of power came to be taken over by the Christian ideal of love; boasting as a virtue, by the opposite virtue of humility. The idea that even slaves were created in the image of God and therefore of equal worth to anybody else was revolutionary.

“Even if Christians today appear ‘conservative and static’ to many people, that is not because of some innate conservatism. Rather, it is because we recognize in the coming of Jesus Christ and his giving of the gospel preached by his apostles, a kind of final revelatory word from God which gives us a set of unchanging principles by which to live.”

Even if Christians today appear “conservative and static” to many people, that is not because of some innate conservatism that Christians have (though some are naturally conservative, of course). Rather, it is because we recognize in the coming of Jesus Christ and his giving of the gospel preached by his apostles, a kind of final revelatory word from God which gives us a set of unchanging principles by which to live. By their very nature such principles are more abiding than principles for life derived from purely human reason — subject as it is to mutation as human attitudes change.

In the post-Christian societies of the Western world, in which social constructs built upon centuries of a Judaeo-Christian understanding of the world are being jettisoned for such human constructs, of course Christians’ response to this will often appear as conservatism.

I therefore welcome Tom Holland’s acknowledgement in this book of how Christianity gave us the way we think, in ways we barely even understand or realize.

And hats off to the Sunday Times for highlighting this in its article.

 

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind is published on 5 September by Little Brown. It is available in hardback at £19.99 and in paperback and on Kindle for £10.99.

 

 

Note
etimasthe.com is something I do outside of full-time employment. Consequently I generally only post new material on here once or twice a week.

The best way to stay informed of new content on here is to follow us on Twitter (@etimasthe) or to ‘like’ our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/etimasthe.

 


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 


[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1%3A27&version=ESVUK

[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13%3A13&version=ESVUK

[3] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+John+4%3A16&version=ESVUK

Add a Comment