Defending Western Civilisation, or defending Christendom?

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)
3 min readJan 18, 2024

“Modern Australia has an Aboriginal heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character.” — Hon Tony Abbott AC

This week, I did a course with Emmanuel College Sydney called Christian Political Thought (Through The Ages). It is a Christian Liberal Arts College in the Reformed Protestant Tradition. Some of you reading this will know that I’ve been studying a Master of Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame at Broadway, Sydney, part-time. As I intend to finish my Master’s dissertation at the end of this year, I thought I’d brush myself up on the Liberal Arts at the start of the year, but from a non-Catholic Tradition.

The course covered the following big ideas:
- The Greeks articulated and created many of the categories and concepts for Western political thought, including Christian political thought.
- The scriptures are not political theory textbooks or works of political philosophy. However, the Hebrew and Christian scriptures contain political texts, and a Christian political theology flows out of these.
- Christian political thinking, specifically relation to the Roman Empire, shifted dramatically from the first century to the fourth century — from antichrist to “Christian,” from “Babylon” to “Rome.”
- The Christianisation of society resulted in a tension and, ultimately, a conflict between the church and the political kingdom.
- The collapse of a united Western church had significant political effects, especially confessional states, with Christians re-thinking their concepts of allegiance, citizenship, and the state.
- The confessional state is overtaken by the revolutionary and liberal state. As Christianity’s formal role recedes new forms of Christian thought emerge to face the challenges of revolution, industrial society and modern war.

My note-taking started off with: politics is human relational, pluralistic/diverse, pertains to authority over matters of shared interests, ultimately leading to deliberation. But to be honest, I didn’t take much notes, rather, I spent three days immersing myself into a world outside of the routine, in true classical Liberal Arts style. I excitingly exchanged thoughts instead, and Dr Simon Kennedy was just brilliant!

I talked about the cricket for quite a bit on day one, and as a non-cricket fan I’ve never talked about cricket so much in my life. Basically I was trying to relate cricket to politics. During the Bible and politics lecture, Psalms 82:2 caught my attention: How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? (NKJV)

Currently there’s an ongoing debate as to whether workplaces should be ‘woke’ or apolitical. But as Christians, should we evangelise the workplace as per Psalms 82:2? A Two-Kingdoms dilemma indeed. By the time we got to the Modernity lecture on day three, which covered sphere sovereignty, I came across the term ‘tempered monarchy’. It then occurred to me:

Western Civilisation started with Ancient Greece, then the (Western) Roman Empire Hellenised and Christianised itself because it seemed like a good idea. Eventually the Empire fell, the spectacular example of this being the Sack of Rome of 410 AD, thereby creating a European power vacuum for the Romanised Western Church to eventually fill, then somewhat repeat history. The provocation of Martin Luther by Rome should come as no surprise, and the Reformation then lead to a Protestantised Enlightenment etc. (the cycle continues to now give us liberal Western states facing Roman Empire style challenges)

What this tells me is that a tempering of the Romes, Churches etc of the world would go a long way in stabilising human history, which is nothing but stable. Perhaps due to the fallen nature of the human person, zeitgeistic instability is inevitable in history. When you look at the tumultuous history of Western Civilisation as I have described it briefly, what are we on the side of politics that I am on exactly defending about millennia-old Western Civilisation? It seems to me that Christendom is ultimately in Western Civilisation, but is not of said Civilisation.

It’s not that we shouldn’t be defending Western Civilisation, we should be defending Western Civilisation because the alternative options don’t look great (at least not to me), but ultimately, as Christians, we should be politically defending eternal Christendom amongst the Western and non-Western nations, with a touch of Christian temperance.

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Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)

Trans-inclusionary radical feminist (TIRF) | Liberal Arts phenomenologist from @notredameaus | Anglo-catholic | all opinions expressed here are my own