- Hardcover: 99 pages
- Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited; Ninth Printing edition (1962)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0007JJRPI
- Package Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,229,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The idea of a Christian society, Hardcover – 1962
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He reckons, rightly, that Britain is not so much a Christian society as one which tolerates Christianity as a cult.
He does not care for the advocacy of changes in Britain deducible from Christian principles - such an ideological action smacks of totalitarianism. I cannot really see how, apart from converting most individuals, he can see his idea of a Christian society realised if views are not imposed and if a Christian society is to be mare than a sub-Christian society (his term) which allows values shared by Christians and others to be espoused in its institutions.
He rightly points out that liberalism succeeds in producing philosophies which deny liberalism - people cannot be tolerant of intolerance.
He blames materialism on urbanisation and industrialism; the masses are still an un-enlightened mob for all their material advances. He does not, however espouse a Ruskinian wish to return to rural parishes, though he sees the time coming once again when the parish will be a viable unit (a prophecy of the micro-chip revolution when people will be free of work and able to live and work in their homes and neighbourhoods and have more time for participatory democracy at grass-roots level?'
He criticises the education system for being based on a collection of subjects without an overall philosophy of man and fears the increase of technical subjects which fit children as machines for work and he also fears the indoctrination possible through education in the sphere of humanitarian ideals which are not held by the consensus (peace education?) and he anticipates Enoch Powell's speech recently on the growing materialism of education FOR a purpose rather than an end in itself and argues that Christian activity in education should not be limited to religious instruction but to the total curriculum. In this he is right, not least when he argues the need for a clerisy to provide seminal thought by clerisy he refers to philosophers with no attachments and to educationists who are intelligent, thinking people engaged in the system, not to meddling clergy.
He rightly sees the ultimate in liberal Protestantism as being nationalistic unitarianism - Hitler was looming large at the time of writing.
He has the typically protestant view, however, that the chief concern of the Church is with spiritual matters and that the state should provide the freedom for this to be possible (and yet earlier criticises Britain for merely tolerating Christianity) and be based on values which arise from a spiritual view of man. In this, his ideas seem to be based more on Greek philosophy than on a doctrine of the Incarnation. Values which follow from a spiritual view of man, he says, differ from individual to individual - so I suppose he would praise paternalistic philanthropy yet condemn political lobbying by Christians and prefer ambulance—style social work to attacking structural causes of sin and injustice.
That he is opposed to a protestant 'two kingdoms' theory in which the church has a high ideal for its members and a different function given to the state, smacks of triumphalism — he bewails the secularism of his age and the way in .which Christian apologetics have 'given in' by answering secularists' own questions and not starting with Christian principles. As David Edwards, in the preface to this new edition, suggests, many (and I am one of them) detect a whiff of incense which suggests the Spanish Inquisition. Edwards goes on to argue that had Eliot developed his social thought more, British Conservatism might have taken note and been saved from the materialism which has characterised it increasingly over the past thirty—five years.
His poetry was more true to experience.
In discussing the fact that the church and the world will always be at odds, other writers make the same point, only more convincingly. Peggy Noonan comes to mind immediately. She makes the case much more passionately.