A couple of days ago I wrote a piece titled, What Ended Western Civilisation? I hypothesized about what some future historians would surmise were the chief causes of the decline of the West. But this time I want people to consider something else: What created Western civilisation?
It was a combination of things:
The legacy of Greek Philosophy and Roman Law,
With the nations of Europe,
Combined with Christianity.
These three pillars are what made the West. None of these three alone were sufficient, all three of them together were necessary.
But I’d also like to note something else. Christianity is not just responsible for helping create Western civilisation, it is also responsible for creating the nations of Europe and giving them their sense of national, rather than simply tribal, identity.
Here is a good example of how this came about shared on the Kings and General’s channel: How the Norse Became Christian:
This video gives a brief summary of how Christianity made the Scandinavian nations. Note how much the commentator emphasizes how Christianity helped make entire nations understand their national identity.
There is a wicked trend in the church today for many Christian intellectuals to say that nationalism is in opposition to Christianity. But the remarkable thing about this comment is that it shows how ignorant many Christian thinkers are of how Christianity helped the nations of Europe understand their national identities.
This happened in similar ways across the West. Missionaries would move into a pagan area, share the gospel with leaders of nations, kings and nobles, and once converted these kings and nobles would lend their power to the conversion of their peoples, as much as was possible.
Within a few generations, these nations were then centering their understanding of their identity around the Lord Jesus Christ. In this process entire peoples would come to understand their shared heritage and identity, and entire nations, such as Denmark and Norway, among many others, were formed.
A good example of how this would happen is that once a church network had established itself in a nation, the church would begin the task of translating the Bible into the dominant local language of the people. This happened across the West.
Modern Protestant missionaries and Bible translators tend to practice a rather inefficient policy of seeking to translate the Bible into the heart language of every tribal group they can come into contact with. You may have heard such advocates talk about how there are so many thousands of unreached people groups with no bible in their language.
What they are referring to here is the existence of tiny tribal groups with variations of languages often related to other localized tribal languages. These Protestants will then seek to devote time and resources to getting a Bible to every single one of these small tribal groups. This takes a lot of time and energy and has to be repeated for every one of these tribal groups.
The medieval church took a far wiser approach. They would tend to translate the Bible into the dominant language of an entire collection of tribes, say in Norway, or Bulgaria, or Russia. Then they would teach the leading men of these peoples to read and write this language, along with Latin or Greek, and this would have the effect of within a whole generation or two an entire nation was forged with a shared identity around Christ, the Church, and their shared national language.
This was a far more successful way of bringing nations to Christ. It reached more people at a faster rate and had the side effect of helping forge national identities across Europe.
Of course, nations and national identities existed before Christianity, but Christianity helped many nations to formalize their national identities and expressions. Which is really fitting because it is God who created the nations, and therefore, it makes sense that his Church would help formerly pagan nations assert their identities.
Many Protestants will have some issues with some of the strategies of the early Church around converting nations. But it must be said that the medieval church had a far better record of converting nations than the modern Protestant Church. This is just a fact, and therefore we should learn from these aspects of their strategy which are consistent with God’s word.
Nationalism is not only not in opposition to Christianity. Christianity made itself a servant of the nationalist spirit again and again in the past in order to direct peoples, as nations, to place themselves in submission to Christ. This is the end goal of Christian Nationalism; that nations would lift up the glory of Christ, the King of kings, as supreme. This is also a key pillar of authentic Western civilisation.