Tuesday 13 October 2020

The Culture Wars are Not a Christian Civil War

I recently saw a video clip in which a historian was saying that the present culture war (to use the commonly accepted term, in my view it's a spiritual war) was actually a civil war rooted in Christianity with one side favouring the moral teachings of the 10 Commandments and St Paul, while the other focused on the idea that the first shall be last and the last first, and took the story of God's chosen people being liberated from slavery as a guiding principle. I have to say I found this very unpersuasive. Obviously, there is some truth in it but it does not begin to unearth what is really going on.

Often today people take from Christianity what they want to take and ignore what doesn't fit in with their own ideas. This has always happened to an extent but to say that the culture wars are between different interpretations of Christianity just because their setting is a society that was originally formed by Christianity is idiotic. If the transcendent reality of God is not accepted, if Christ is not accepted, if the primacy of the spiritual over the material is not accepted, then we are not talking about something that has anything to do with Christianity. Christ said, "If you love me, keep my commandments". To bring the Christian message down to a purely secular level, as the left does, is to totally distort it and the result cannot be said to have anything to do with Christ. Of course, there are good grounds for saying that the left only takes anything from Christianity in the first place the better to attack its central message since its aim from the beginning has been destruction. I don't mean this was always the aim of every single left-leaning person. Many have been fired by a desire for justice and social improvement. But the aim of the powers behind the left that have used it as a battering ram at the gates of Western civilisation has always been destructive.

The wonderful thing about real Christianity is that the two absolutes of love and truth are both fully acknowledged and brought into harmony. Attempts to split them apart always lead to the loss of both and that is what has happened in the world. You are left with false truth and unloving love as we have now. The only solution is to restore the unity of these two and this can only be done when we raise them up from a material to a spiritual level but spiritual means spiritual understood spiritually not spiritual understood from a secular perspective which is the perspective of the earthly man and his priorities as an earthly man. That is the great mistake of the modern churches and why (see the last post) they are becoming increasingly redundant.

The culture wars have arisen in an ex-Christian society but that does not mean they are the responsibility of Christianity or some kind of inevitable outcome of Christianity. When you attack something, you must do it from where it is and often you do it by seeking to deform and distort it so that it eventually becomes something other than what it really is, retaining only the name. This is not a Christian civil war but a war on Christianity, and the fact that some of the weapons used are ostensibly Christian just proves the truth of the old adage that the corruption of the best is the worst.


Bruce Charlton said...


Yes, and indeed it isn't really a 'war' so much as an invasion followed by genocide - so one-sided is it.

From my reasing of the fourth gospel, I am pretty sure that there has been a serious misunderstanding of what Jesus meant by 'commandments' - this can be seen by observing the usages. Commandment often seems to mean something more like 'statement', 'principle' or 'belief' - than 'laws' or 'military commands'.


William Wildblood said...

I don't know what the original word was but all I mean here is that if you love Jesus then you observe his teachings without cherrypicking.

MagnusStout said...

This post is very correct, but deep in a way that may be difficult for the secular to understand. I wonder if the speaker in that talk was the author of "Dominion" (who's still an atheist)?

Another supporting idea that comes to mind is "being in the world, but not of the world." And, "do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..." I think this highlights--as you've repeatedly written--the primary of the spiritual above the material.

Seen in that light, fighting for this politician or that political plank (Culture Wars) seems to invert the proper order, elevating crass materialism (quid pro quo) above the spiritual. And, that doesn't even begin to address the very real problems with democratic systems (hat tip to Dr. Charlton's posts on voting).

I wonder if part of what it means to be the "salt" and "light" of the world is that we each express the love of Christ individually to those in our orbits? Wasn't that how Christianity started? It worked then; why not now?

The Culture Wars really seem fueled by fear and a need for control--emotions not associated with a spiritual disposition. Giving into such emotions seems to provide a foothold for evil. And, it seems to make space for the worst kind of leaders (authoritarians and charlatans).

Finally, I particularly like your point about real Christianity expressing truth and love. This is a very rare thing in a person--a diamond--that cannot be faked or mistaken; this is the divine light pointing to Christ. There are numerous stories of Saints and other holy persons who had such auras. I think such a disposition can only be found by fighting our sin nature (this inward fight) so that we can more closely reflect the light of God.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, Magnus, you are quite right. It was Tom Holland who said this. He seems to be one of those people, a bit like Jordan Peterson, who starts saying the right things but, when you scratch the surface, are really just a different version of the standard secular leftist.

Moonsphere said...

Tom Holland is certainly interesting and articulate - like Peterson he can talk and talk right down to the minutiae.

They are filled with a sense of wonder, not about God but rather about their own particular gifts. In these times much can be made by seeming to go against the prevailing atheo-materialist culture. Shows like "Unbelievable" breathlessly promote such pseudo-profundity. And yet one feels they are as far from actual belief as a Dawkins or a Dennett.

No intellectual argument can awaken faith.

William Wildblood said...

Just as you say, Moonsphere. These people seem to respond to spiritual things intellectually or aesthetically but that's not enough and if you are restricted to that you will fall back into worldliness sooner or later.

Chris said...

"No intellectual argument can awaken faith."

That's true, but arguments can have very important functions. They can open the door to faith and they can strengthen faltering faith. Ultimately, we believe what we will to believe, but we will is, in some part at least, what we think.

Moonsphere said...

Yes, I agree. Especially when you say intellectual argument can "open the door to faith". But somehow faith has to be already waiting there behind that door. Which seems not to be the case for many people. Something else seems to be blocking their ability to believe.

As you say, we cannot choose to believe against our will. And so perhaps it is best to consider faith as a gift from God, that we cannot take personal credit for.

TonguelessYoungMan said...

Moonsphere said: "Yes, I agree. Especially when you say intellectual argument can "open the door to faith". But somehow faith has to be already waiting there behind that door"

In other words, an intellectual argument is insufficient on it's own. The vast majority of people today (including the ones who claim to be otherwise) are materialists. Trying to bring these people around is like trying to start a car with no engine.

On the other hand, I think virtually everyone has something within them to view the spiritual (if only to a lesser degree) but it's underneath unimaginable layers of, for lack of a better way to put it, modern people stuff. The only thing that (might) change that on an individual level is personal experience.

William Wildblood said...

My definition of a materialist is someone who, whatever beliefs they have, however ostensibly religious they are, whatever spiritual practices they might adopt, behaves and acts and thinks as though this world has any relevance outside its function as a training ground for heaven.

Chris said...

"Trying to bring these people around is like trying to start a car with no engine."

I think that's true for the majority. But, becoming familiar with the philosophical problems that naturalism entails can, as I said, "open the door". When I started my intellectual/spiritual journey, I simply took it for granted that materialism was true. When analyzed honestly, at the very least, one ought to conclude that this worldview is far from iron clad .