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2 What is a Christian Civilization? 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. Everyone thought-however mistakenlythat he knew what Christian civilization was; no one doubted that it was possible; and most people would have said that it was the only form of civilization possible for Western man. This was true of the whole Christian world down to the eighteenth century; and the fact that I can use this expressionthe Christian world-and assume that the reader will know what I mean is sufficient in itself to prove the point. No doubt after the eighteenth century this was no longer the case on the European continent, and there the concept of Christian civilization had already become a controversial one. But this change did not occur to anything like the same degree in England and America. The Anglo-Saxon missionary movement of the nineteenth century; for example, as represented by men like David 19 20 The Historic Reality of Christian Culture Livingstone,l seems to have taken for granted that the expansion of Christianity was inseparable from the expansion of Western civilization. In the eyes of such men Western civilization was still a Christian civilization as compared with pagan barbarism and the non-Christian civilizations of the ancient peoples. It is easy enough for us today to realize their mistake and to see its tragic consequences. But the danger today is that we should go to the opposite extreme by denying the social or cultural significance of Christianity. A man like Livingstone could not have done his work without the Christian background in which he had been bred. He was the offspring of a Christian society and a Christian society involves a Christian culture. For however widely one separates the Word and the World, Christian faith and secular activity; Church and State, religion and business , one cannot separate faith from life or the life of the individual believer from the life of the community of which the individual is a member. Wherever there are Christians, there must be a Christian society; and if a Christian society endures long enough to develop social traditions and institutions, there will be a Christian culture and ultimately a Christian civilization . But perhaps I have gone too far in assuming general agreement in the use of terms which are by no means so clear as they appear at first sight. For words like "civilization," "culture ," and "Christian" are all of them likely to become highly charged with emotional and moral associations. I mean that the word "Christian" is used or was used in the recent past in the sense of morally excellentj "civilization" usually involved a judgment of value and implies a very high type of social and intellectual developmentj while "culture" is used in two quite different senses but usually implies a rather sophisticated type of higher education. But for the purposes of the present discussion I shall attempt to use these words in a purely descriptive way; without implying 1. [David Livingstone (1813-73), Scottish missionary and explorer.-Ed.] What is a Christian Civilization? 2I moral judgments-that is to say, judgments of value. I use the word "culture" as the social anthropologists do, to describe any social way of life which possesses a permanent institutional or organized form, so that one can speak of the culture of a tribe of illiterate cannibals. And I use the word "civilization/, of any culture that is sufficiently complex to have developed cities and states. Similarly, when I speak of individuals or societies as Christian, I mean that they profess the Christian faith or some form of Christian faith, and not that they are men or peoples who behave as we believe Christians ought to behave. Let us start at the beginning and inquire what culture-any culture, even the lowest-involves. No culture is so low as to be devoid of some principle of moral order. Indeed, I think we may go further than that and say that a culture is essentially a moral order and this is just what makes it a culture. Even those sociologists who are most inclined to minimize or deny the spiritual...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813220420
Related ISBN
9780813209142
MARC Record
OCLC
815969435
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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