Speaker Series: Christianity’s Contribution to Society

Greg Sheridan, Foreign Affairs Editor, The Australian,  on “Autonomy and Dignity: Secularism’s Debt to Christianity”

In the second instalment of our new ‘Speaker Series’ events this year, the acclaimed Greg Sheridan AO shared his eloquent thoughts and remarkable experiences which shape his book ‘God is Good for You’. In a fascinating review he listed and explored the number of ways Christianity has shaped society and western civilization. So, what does our civic culture owe to Christianity?

(Extracts taken directly from Greg Sheridan’s speech, 8 March 2019)

Equality: Christianity said, famously, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, male or female. You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The respect for the realm of conscience came directly out of Christianity and was not founded in the ancient world.

Separation of Church and State: The Old Testament first spoke in favour of secular government – “render under Caesar what comes under Caesar and render under God what comes
under God.” (Matt 22:21). It was the Christian view that held the belief in separating the spheres of Church and government.

Liberalism and Civic identity: Popes and Bishops very early on denounced slavery saying “this does not belong to you it only belongs to God. In fact, it doesn’t even belong to God because God has given human dignity to each person and he doesn’t revoke His gifts.”

Everything in modern liberalism had been thought through in the internal Christian dialogue. Papal governments gave the idea to state governments vs feudal governments). Secular powers copied the pattern of canon laws and papal governance.

All the things we like about liberalism was thought through by the latter part of the middle ages.

Egalitarianism: St Benedict in the 6th century founded modern monasticism which was the first egalitarian society. No rank or status or ownership would exist based on uniform and democracy.

Experimental science: directly came from the Christian understanding of God and creation. People looking for patterns in creation who were trying to discover God’s mind, led to scientific discipline.

So what then happens when you cut off every element of civic identity from its roots? For a time, you will live on the moral capital of the inheritance because you’ll still use those ideas of good and evil and objective truth…but over time, society is trying to live off the scent of an empty vase.

And once God is completely gone and all the Christian roots of liberalism are gone, liberalism becomes mad. Liberalism becomes an ocean cruise in which you try to distract yourself until death. Boredom sets in and human boredom is very dangerous.

Without God, human nature loses both its distinctiveness and universality. Without God, you revert back to primal realities of self, family and tribe and there’s no need to consider the rights of
any other group and that attacks the universality of human nature. But also it attacks the distinctiveness of human nature– without God we are just another crop in the biosphere.

Nothing is inevitable, and although Christianity is in decline in the West, there are movements of new growth and there’s every reason to be hopeful. However, he left us with Irishman’s anthem: the situation is desperate so we should advance on all fronts.

The Speaker Series is an opportunity to thank you, our benefactors and members of the Cardinal Gilroy Society, for your generous support. It also provides an update on the various works you have supported over the years. Together we can celebrate some of our achievements, and discuss how we can further work together to achieve the greater good in both society and the Church.


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