August 20, 2014

Christian Hellenism — The Foundation of Western Culture

From the chapter on “Liturgy and Theology and Byzantine Culture” in The Formation of Christendom by Christopher Dawson (Sheed & Ward, 1967): The essential achievement of the patristic age was the synthesis of Eastern religion and Western culture, or, to be more precise, the uniting of the spiritual traditions of Hellenism and the political and social traditions of Rome. This synthesis has remained the foundation of Western culture and has never been destroyed, in spite of the tendency of the Reformation to re-Hebraicize Christianity and that of the Renaissance to re-Hellenize culture. And this synthesis has been no less important for Christianity itself. No form of Christianity since the days of Marcion has attempted to disavow its basis in the Old Testament, and Catholic Christianity has always been fully conscious of its debt to Hellenic thought, primarily for its contribution to the theology of the Fathers and the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils, but also in a secondary … [Read more...]

Thoughts from a great historian

A quote from Catholic historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) in "Religion and the Modern State" (1936): Religion gradually retreated into man's inner life, and left social and economic life to the State and to a civilization which grew steadily more secularized. A man's debt to religion was paid by an hour or two in church on Sundays, and the rest of the week was devoted to the real business of life -- above all, the making of money. Such a division of life into two compartments -- and very unequal ones at that -- was not the Christian solution, nor could it be permanently successful. If religion loses its hold on social life, it eventually loses its hold on life altogether. And this is what happened in the case of modern Europe. The new secularized civilization is not content to dominate the outer world and to leave man's inner life to religion; it claims the whole man. … [Read more...]