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Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan



How To Destroy Western Civilisation
And Other Ideas From The Cultural Abyss
by Peter J. Kreeft
Ignatius Press

The title is, of course, ironic. What the great Peter Kreeft is asking us to do with God's grace is to re-build Western civilisation. To be more specific, Christian civilisation, since all that is great about the West has deep, Christian roots. In order to restore something, we need to find out how badly it has been damaged. Western civilisation is in bad shape. And rapidly getting worse. Kreeft notes that even among churchgoing Christians, it is only a minority that puts God first. The call to holiness and martyrdom, if need be, is rejected outright. We like the idea of Christianity but it is not something we would want to make too many sacrifices for. How many of us are prepared to follow the example of an early Christian martyr who wrote "credo in unum Deum" in his own blood as he lay dying?

Only Jesus Christ can save us and our culture. Kreeft calls us to cultivate certain virtues and they need to be Christ-centred. We need the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. Human beings are passionate and there is but one thing that can overcome our passionate self-love: the love of God. We need to know why we want what we want: because of Jesus. We need to pray regularly to Jesus. We need to use our gifts for the sake of Christ's kingdom. We need to be people of integrity. We need to be generous and apostolic. In other words, our virtues need to be rooted in Christ and for the sake of Christ. Kreeft quotes the famous saying that  the only tragedy in life is not to be a saint. Ultimately we have one enemy: sin. The greatest sin is pride, playing God. The remedy for this sickness is not found in ourselves. It has to come from God. We need grace. Without God, we are like ships without a rudder, says Kreeft.

God's mission for his Church is to help us "march into the future armed with the wisdom of the past." We are neither traditionalists looking back nostalgically at some golden past, nor are we progressives dreaming up new fads and fancies. We are Christians trying to be saints.

Kreeft sees Marx, Freud and Darwin as the three most influential of modern thinkers. To understand Marx, we need to understand Nietzsche and the will to power. Freud's appeal is not so much to power as to pleasure, and pleasure has been reduced to sexual pleasure. Darwin provides the pseudo-scientific justification for reducing man to a material thing caught up in a meaningless universe. But such scientism is self-contradictory: there is no possible scientific proof which shows us that only science can give meaning to the ultimate things.

The philosopher John Rawls said that governments don't need to understand what it means to be human in order to govern humans. The infamously foolish remark of Justice Anthony Kennedy is that "at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence." That, says Kreeft, is like telling our creator: "move over, you're sitting in my seat." Mussolini remarked: "everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism." Rawls, Kennedy and Mussolini are basically singing from the same hymn-sheet in praise of relativism. And that is what is destroying our Western civilisation, the greatest of civilisations thanks to Christianity.

What is the one thing necessary to create a stable society? Stable families that worship God and are open to having children. Without this we are, in the words of Private Frazer, doomed.

This is yet another great book from one of the great Christian writers of our age.


Copyright ; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2021

Version: 7th May 2021



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