Civilisation

Phillip’s posts on the Soviet Union and my own reading for pleasure at the moment have made me think again about the concept of “civilisation”. It has been common for us to talk about decay and loss over at NEO and AATW.

Older contributors and commenters have seen notable changes in the USA and UK over a long time span (and within their religious communities). But even people in the rough age bracket shared by Phillip and me can remark with wonder at the changes technology and the so-called “War on Terror” have brought to our societies – not to mention the fact that as students of history, both Phillip and I tend to take a long view of things anyway.

Indeed, I’m often hear to remark to people that I consider the Hellenistic period to be the beginning of modernity. On a really bad day, I pull it back earlier and apply my assessment to the Iron Age. These comments are not entirely tongue-in-cheek. Those who know the material and know me well might have some appreciation of what I am getting at.

Advancements in technology and other areas of skill do not entail that we will always have the maturity we need to integrate those advancements in a healthy way into our societies. A teleological approach to ethics helps to highlight this problem.

Consider the discovery of metallurgy to make blades. In and of themselves, the blades can do nothing. On the one hand, the use of the blade in surgery brings a benefit to society; on the other, the use of the blade for murder is a curse.

The Biblical commentary on the story of civilisation reveals the need for divine intervention to protect humanity from evil spiritual forces and from itself. The purpose of the narratives in Genesis is to reveal the need for a Saviour, while the Revelation of Jesus Christ depicts the consummation of the salvation narrative.

12 thoughts on “Civilisation

  1. Two points:

    #1 Being a former classicists in my university days, I like how you point to the Hellenistic age. In many ways there’s two innovations. One is a type of the Military complex created by the Macedonians and the use of the new weapon called the Sarissa. And the other is the beginning of the a sort of diversity cult with Alexander’s conquest. Of course, the Romans will adopt this with the Roman Maniple and expansion.

    #2 I’ve been academic in my assent to Christianity. More and More I’m convinced that one has to actively participate in the supernatural to see and participate in it. When the great Saints say prayer is vital—the reason is is because it’s essential. It must be done constantly.

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    1. Nicholas

      Great observations. I think we all have some soul-searching to do as our faith is tested in life, and that will intensify as the end of the age approaches. There’s a reason that the Apocalpyse feels very Old Testament, and I think the rediscovery of Bronze Age thinking is part of what God is doing in His Church right now – part of the process of bringing us to fullness as we gather the best bits of all our history together: Bronze Age supernaturalism; Enlightenment technical prowess; etc.

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      1. Here’s an interesting proposition; the decline of Christian culture in our recent age is due to the comforts of technology. For example, you say that the Apocalypse feels Old Testament, so in the late 50s-70s there was an optimism in orthodox Christianity that said if we adapt to the age that has produced comfort via technology then we will still be the preferred message. However, the Christian message has never been the world is okay…which is why older age usually prompts a reexamination etc.

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      2. Nicholas

        Indeed – and a sizeable chunk of contemporary Christianity has been infected with dominianism and post- and a-millennialism. These are heresies and they do have an impact. To the extent that it is possible to derive clarity from Scripture on eschatological matters, we do not have the luxury of pretending all viewpoints are equally valid – that does everyone a disservice.

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      3. I disagree that amillenialism is a heresy. As an Augustinian in the body of my scholarly work, I view amillenialism through the lens of the Kingdom of God. Skeptics often ask what did Jesus bring that was different than any other religious figure? The Incarnation brought God—it brought Christ the King. The Incarnation and the kingdom of God are interrelated bringing the Lordship of Christ to humanity, which is why Christ says it will bring division.

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      4. Nicholas

        As you know, I disagree with Augustine on that point. For me he represents the departure of Christianity from its Jewish roots. For me, premillennialism is about the restoration of Israel and the vindication of the Church. I addressed this in my sermon on the day of the Lord. I’m hoping to revisit it in the future and write about the pre-Nicene fathers at some point.

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      5. I don’t think it departs from Jewish roots but instead fulfills them. There is plenty of Old Testament typology that indicates a Lordship of God and the coming of the Messiah of the gentiles, which in my ways, is why Matthew writing to the Jewish community has the Magi narrative.

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      6. Nicholas

        I agree with that – but I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I think historic premillennialism accepted the Kingdom as both now and then: the promises to Israel were not all fulfilled, but fulfilment began with the First Advent. George Eldon Ladd is quite good on this point, but I can recommend more contemporary scholarship if you’re interested. Happy to send you some books I’ve found helpful if you’d like some literature on the topic.

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      7. The position I explained is a development of Ratzinger from the Western fathers. Historically, the Pharisees, Chief Priests, scribes etc. rejected Jesus’ teaching of the Kingdom because it want seen a fulfillment of the prophecies of Israel. Amillenialism, separates the geopolitical aspect of premillennialism, which was the concern of Jewish. The Word speaks of making the world anew or a new creation—not necessarily a perfection of the world that already exists as viewed by the Jewish scholars.

        The Kingdom of God is the fiat of our response toward the Lordship of God who has come in the Incarnation.

        I’m willing to look at any material on the matter though if you can digitally reference them somewhere, it might be less costly.

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      8. Nicholas

        The material I would recommend is:
        -“One King: A Jesus-Centered Answer to the Question of Zion and the People of God” by Samuel Whitefield
        -“Debunking Preterism” by Brock Hollett (a former preterist, interestingly)
        -“Premillennialism” by Michael Vlach
        -“jesus and the Kingdom” by George Eldon Ladd

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