NEW

We Wish You a Merry Saturnalia: Northern Churchman

We Wish You a Merry Saturnalia? The Northern Churchman There is a familiar feel to this time of year. The Christmas advertising on television, the darker evenings, the Carol Services – and the inevitable scoffers who call the Christmas story a myth. Not ‘Once in Royal...

Mark Pickles: The Story of Two Trampolines

Gospel-Driven Anglicanism By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles The Story of the Two Trampolines:  A passage that is frequently referred to during times of great revival is Isaiah 64:1-3:  “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your...

Ten Thousand Bibles for London’s Children

TBS Auxiliary Meets Ten Thousand Bibles For London’s Children The Greater London Auxiliary of the Trinitarian Bible Society was delighted to report at its Annual Meeting held on 15 November that over 10,000 Bibles have been distributed to London schools since the...

Good News for Egypt’s Christians

Barnabas Fund Reports Good News for Egypt’s Christians The government of Egypt licensed 125 churches and church-affiliated buildings on 14 November. It is the 24th batch of approvals made since the government committee overseeing the licensing process started work in...

Church Society’s Response to MP Ben Bradshaw

Church Society’s Response to MP Ben Bradshaw In the aftermath of Desmond Tutu’s daughter being refused permission to preside at a funeral in a Church of England parish, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told The Guardian that the “C of E must move swiftly to welcome lesbian...

Collins: Who’s Your Righteousness?

Who’s Your Righteousness? By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins Who’s your righteousness? "The Lord our Righteousness" was the sermon preached March 20, 1757 at St. Mary's Church in Oxford. It offended nearly everyone that day and William Romaine was invited to never preach...

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of 1963

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of 1963 Persons Against Whom Proceedings May be Instituted. Proceedings under this Measure may be instituted against an archbishop, any diocesan bishop or any suffragan bishop commissioned by a diocesan bishop or any other bishop or a...

Editorial: Joy to the World Cup

Editorial Joy to the World Cup The result of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is already in. And it appears the Church of England has lost. The latest advice from the Church of England’s Support Hub is for parishes to consider the timing of Christmas Carol Services to avoid...

Symes to Step Down from Anglican Mainstream Leadership

Symes to Step Down from Anglican Mainstream Leadership By Chris Sugden Andrew Symes is to stand down as Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream on January 1, 2023, after nearly ten years in post. Rev Symes, 56, who had earlier served with Crosslinks in South...

Retired Bishop Given Life Suspension

Retired Bishop Given Life Suspension By George Conger The former Bishop of Ramsbury has been suspended for life from the ordained ministry after he admitted to having sexually abused two women. The Daily Mail reported the Rt Rev. Peter Hullah had been the subject of...

Prudence Dailey: Commentary

Prudence Dailey:  Commentary

In Defence of Christendom

‘Of course, none of us would want to see the return of Christendom’.

These words were spoken some years ago by a bishop during a General Synod debate: I cannot now remember exactly who said them, nor the subject of the discussion; but I will never forget my naïve bafflement at hearing this utterance. Christendom has been defined as the centuries during which Western civilisation considered itself formally and officially Christian: why on earth would Christians welcome the de-Christianisation of the West?

While there is no specific date on which Christendom can be said to have come to an end, its fizzling out seems to have been recent and rapid. When I was born, in the mid-1960s, the tail-end of Christendom was still in operation: I arrived prematurely and, concerned that I might not make it, hospital staff immediately—and before even consulting my mother, who was recovering from a difficult birth—summoned the Chaplain to baptise me at once. At my state secondary school in the 1970s and 80s, we sang hymns and said prayers in assembly: that was residual Christendom, too.

I think I now understand where certain Evangelical objectors are coming from. Christendom (they argue) makes no distinction between the ‘saved’ and the ‘unsaved’, demands no individual acceptance of Christ, and sees no need for evangelisation and conversion. By contrast, to be a Christian in our modern secular culture demands a definite personal commitment.

The implication is that, at the time when Christianity could almost be taken for granted, many of those who thought of themselves as Christians were really only nominally so. There is, of course, an element of truth in this: in an environment when it socially expected or advantageous to lay claim to the Christian faith, and perhaps even to attend Church regularly, quite a lot of people are going to do so without any real personal faith.

To see things this way is, however, to privatise faith excessively, and to misunderstand human nature. As every parent who has sought to raise Christian children understands, while it is ultimately up to each person to accept or reject the Gospel, such decisions are not reached in a vacuum. Communities of shared faith provide an environment in which belief can be nurtured, and the Christian message is regarded as prima facie plausible. It is no surprise that the Bible several times speaks of whole households being baptised. What is more, secular writers such as Tom Holland and Douglas Murray have increasingly come to understand that Western culture is fundamentally underpinned by the precepts of Christendom, without which it is increasingly fragile.

Following the recent death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, as attention has been turned to aspects of his life that were previously not well-known, we can see the extent to which he represented the last dying embers of Christendom. Brought up, like any Greek prince, in the Orthodox Church, and then switching his allegiance to the Church of England because he was expected to do so, it would have been easy to imagine that his Christian observance was largely a formality. In reality, however, nothing could have been further from the truth: he was a man of deep Christian conviction, who not only read but also wrote religious books and prayers, and (it is said) persuaded Her Majesty to include more overt Christian themes in her annual Christmas message. Inextricably bound up with the Established Church—of which his wife was Supreme Governor—his faith was no less genuine for that.

It is, alas, highly unlikely that Christendom will return in the West in our lifetimes, or perhaps ever in this life. We should, however, recognise what we have lost, and pray that in God’s good Providence it might one day be restored.

Previous

Next