The decline of the West is due to a disease, a spiritual disease (Christopher Dawson)

20 Mar

On the Great Historian (and prophet?) Christopher Dawson (excerpt):

The Roman Empire and its Hellenistic civilization had become separated from any “living religious basis” and, although Augustus attempted to restore that basis, he was unsuccessful. In spite of the high material and intellectual culture, “the dominant civilization became hateful in the eyes of the subject Oriental world,” and indeed its own greatest minds were alienated from it, a “price that every civilization has to pay when it loses its religious foundations, and is contented with a purely material   success.”[47]

Western civilization now faces a grave spiritual crisis at the very time when it has, by conquest and technology and trade tended to unify the entire world.[48] If our culture is to survive it must obtain some religious roots, either by conversion back to Christianity or by finding some new spiritual principle. Dawson was no fatalist; he believed either alternative possible if men would seriously make the attempt. Naturally, he thought the more desirable would be to return to Christianity. Thus the challenge is issued to Christians:

The new Babylon is threatened by an even more catastrophic and suicidal end than any of the world empires of the past. Thus we find ourselves back in the same situation as that which the Christians encountered during the decline of the ancient world. Everything depends on whether the Christians of the new age are equal to their mission—whether they are able to communicate their hope to a world in which man finds himself alone and helpless before the monstrous forces which have been created by man to serve his own ends but which have now escaped from his control and threaten to destroy him.[49]

Dawson proposed a first step towards solution of the problem of secularism. He believed that higher education should be of most concern to the Christian. “It is in this field that the secularist danger is most formidable…[for] if (Christianity] loses the right to teach it can no longer exist.” Moreover, education is also the weak point of secularism: “The only part of Leviathan that is vulnerable is its brain.”[50] Dawson devoted one of his last books to the proposal to institute, in private, Catholic colleges, a program for the study of Christian culture.[51] It is a proposal that strikes one as hopelessly inadequate, at least in the United States, in view of the increasing problems private colleges have in merely surviving. But those difficulties do indeed point to the immediacy of the issue for our churches; their right to teach is being rapidly eroded away.

Original and full Article

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