Why Christianity is not a sufficient basis for our civilization

A reader told me he found this old comment of mine useful and asked me to re-post it.

You had asked me to explain my statement:

“The deeper problem this phenomenon points to is that Christian faith, though it is the center of the West’s historic and spiritual being, cannot by itself provide the enduring structure of Western society or of any other concrete society.”

I mean that Christianity, unlike, say, Orthodox Judaism or Islam, does not provide an earthly structure of society, a way of life. Christ’s teachings, and the New Testament as a whole, are about how to get into the kingdom of heaven. They do not provide a pattern for earthly, social existence. They do not provide a guide to politics. This is of course pinpointed in Jesus’ differentiation between the things of Caesar and the things of God.

Therefore a Christian people, a Christian society, in order to have a viable structure for functioning and existing in this world, must rely on organizing principles that do not come from Christianity itself. In actual history, these principles have come from, e.g., the classical Republican tradition, or the Empire (thus, after the Western church broke with the Eastern empire, the Pope chose Charlemagne to be the worldly, political, military arm of the Church, since the Church itself was not a worldly organization and could not provide that political structure and capability), or the political/tribal structure of the Germanic tribes (in which the king was first among equals among his warrior band, a political form which in evolved into Western-style democracy).

The great error of many modern Christians, especially low-church and evangelical Christians, but even many modern Catholics as well, is the belief that Christian faith by itself is sufficient for political as well as spiritual existence. And this has the danger I mentioned, that the faith of the New Testament, divorced from the particularity and concreteness of any political or cultural organization, devolves into a vapid, self-sacrificing universalism which spells the death of any earthly society.

The need for such concreteness is respected, and reflected, in the Orthodox forms of Christianity, namely the Roman Church, the Eastern Church, and the Anglo-Catholic arm of the Anglican church, and perhaps some traditional forms of Lutheranism as well.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 23, 2005 06:20 PM | Send

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