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Christianity and European Culture (Selections from the Work of Christopher Dawson)

Christopher Dawson

Publication Year: 2012

This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the development of Dawson's thinking on questions that remain of contemporary importance

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xxxii

This edition of selected works of the historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) brings together his thoughts on two general themes. The first is Dawson's contention that the modern era presents a challenge to traditional ways of living in the West that is totally new and inhospitable, ...

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pp. xxxiii-xxxiv

First and foremost, I would like to thank Christina Scott, daughter of Christopher Dawson and executor of his literary estate, for taking a chance on an amateur scholar and for allowing me to undertake this project. Her excellent biography of her father, A Historian and His World, has been extremely helpful, ...

Part One. The Historic Reality of Christian Culture

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1. The Outlook for Christian Culture

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pp. 3-18

There is always a danger in speaking of so wide and deep a question as that of Christian culture that we may be speaking at cross-purposes. It is therefore just as well to start by defining our terms. When I speak of culture I am not thinking of the cultivation of the individual mind, ...

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2. What is a Christian Civilization?

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pp. 19-33

The question which I have taken as the title for the present chapter is one of the vital questions of our times. It is very necessary that we should ask it, yet the fact that we are doing so is a symptom of the state of doubt and uncertainty in which modern man exists. For in the past it was no problem to the ordinary man. ...

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3. The Six Ages of the Church

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pp. 34-45

In spite of the unity and continuity of the Christian tradition, each of the successive ages of the Church's history possesses its own distinctive character, and in each of them we can study a different facet of Christian life and culture. I reckon that there are six of these ages, each lasting for three or four centuries ...

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4. Christian Culture as a Culture of Hope

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pp. 46-53

The science of culture—culture history, cultural morphology and the comparative study of cultures—is of very recent origin. It grew up in the nineteenth century with the development of the new social sciences, above all anthropology; and it had no place in the traditional curriculum of liberal education. ...

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5. The Institutional Farms of Christian Culture

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pp. 54-64

We cannot separate culture from religion any more than we can separate our life from our faith. As a living faith must change the life of the believer, so a living religion must influence and transform the social way of life—that is to say, the culture. It is impossible to be a Christian in church and a secularist or a pagan outside. ...

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6. Civilization in Crisis

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pp. 65-83

We have become accustomed to taking the secular character of modern civilization for granted. We have most of us never known anything else and consequently we are apt to think that this is a natural and normal state of things, so that whatever our own beliefs may be, we do not expect modern civilization ...

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7. Christianity and Western Culture

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pp. 84-97

The survival of a civilization depends on the continuity of its educational tradition. A common educational system creates a common world of thought with common intellectual values and a common inheritance of knowledge, which makes a society conscious of its identity and gives it a common memory of its past. ...

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8. Is the Church Too Western?

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pp. 98-104

During the last four or five centuries, the expansion of Christianity in the non-European world has been associated with the expansion of Western colonial power. The missionaries went hand in hand with the European explorers and traders and conquerors who sailed unknown seas and discovered new continents ...

Part Two. Selected Essays

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1. The Study of Christian Culture

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pp. 107-117

The following essays1 cover so wide a field in space and time that it may be difficult for the reader at first sight to grasp their connection with one another. True, they all deal with some aspect of "medieval" culture, but the word medieval is in itself unsatisfactory or insignificant. ...

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2. The Modern Dilemma

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pp. 118-131

The modern dilemma is essentially a spiritual one, and everyone of its main aspects, moral, political and scientific, brings us back to the need of a religious solution. The one remaining problem that we have got to consider is where that religious solution is to be found. ...

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3. Europe and the Seven Stages of Western Culture

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pp. 132-151

The existence of Europe is the basis of the historical development of the modern world, and it is only in relation to that fact that the development of each particular state can be understood. Nevertheless it is a submerged reality of which the majority of men are only half conscious. ...

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4. The Classical Tradition and Christianity

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pp. 152-169

If Europe owes its political existence to the Roman Empire and its spiritual unity to the Catholic Church, it is indebted for its intellectual culture to a third factor—the Classical Tradition—which is also one of the fundamental elements that have gone to the making of the European unity. ...

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5. The Secularization of Western Culture

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pp. 170-181

It is not possible to discuss the modern situation either from the point of view of religion or politics without using the word "culture." But the word has been used in so many different senses and is capable of so many shades of meaning that it is necessary to say something at the outset as to the sense in which I am going to use it, ...

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6. The Planning of Culture

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pp. 182-194

The conception of a planned society has had a revolutionary effect on social thought and political action during the last twenty years and its importance is still hardly realized by public opinion. Yet it is possible that it marks a change in human civilization greater than anything that has occurred since the end of the stone age ...

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7. The Kingdom of God and History

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pp. 195-212

The development of an historical sense—a distinct consciousness of the essential characteristics of different ages and civilizations—is a relatively recent achievement; in fact it hardly existed before the nineteenth century. It is above all the product of the Romantic movement which first taught men to respect the diversity of human life, ...

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8. The Christian View of History

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pp. 213-231

The problem of the relations of Christianity to History has been very much complicated and, I think, obscured by the influence of nineteenth-century philosophy. Almost all the great idealist philosophers of that century, like Fichte and Schelling and Hegel, constructed elaborate philosophies of history ...

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9. The Recovery of Spiritual Unity

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pp. 232-250

No one can look at the history of Western civilization during the present century without feeling dismayed at the spectacle of what modern man has done with his immense resources of new knowledge and new wealth and new power. And if we go back to the nineteenth century and read the words of the scientists ...


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pp. 251-262

E-ISBN-13: 9780813220420
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813209142

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2012