Onward Christian soldiers, with this book in hand

Aug 31, 2021 by

Dominion by Tom Holland; Generic, 2020.

FITTINGLY enough, I finished Dominion, Tom Holland’s history of Western Christian thought and its shaping of the Western mind, on the same day as the fall of Kabul. Holland’s book is a magnificent, magisterial work that not just all Christians but anyone who cares about the ascent and decline of Western civilisation should read. Although perhaps sometimes it overstates its case, it brilliantly succeeds in its objective of showing how much Western thought owes to Christianity, rather than, say, the Enlightenment.

Crucial to its success is that it starts its journey in a thorough examination of the cultures and intellectual development of the pre-Christian world of classical antiquity: Greece, Rome, Judea and Persia. This illuminates just how revolutionary Christian ideas, particularly St Paul’s doctrine of equality, were in a world where might was right, and the poor and the needy were to be despised. Although you might expect such novel teachings to find favour with those less fortunate, what is striking is how they also converted some, such as St Martin, who were born to great wealth and status. Whether it was in the post-Roman early Middle Ages or 19th century Africa, the power of Christian ideas inspired men and women to spread the Christian message at great personal risk and sacrifice.

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