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Why the West needs winning.

Thinking about the last post...

Why does Matthew Parris see God as the hope for Africa but not for Europe?

Well his diagnosis of Africa's problems boils down to this: too much crushing passivity and collectivism.  And so...

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

While he makes excellent points about the need for Christian evangelism in Africa, we must ask: Is Africa the only place that needs 'liberation'?   Surely to avoid an awful colonial condescension, we'd want to answer no!  But the alternative is to say that the Christian God needs to liberate both the African animist and the Western atheist.  Wouldn't it?  But Parris is a western atheist.  So what's going on?

Effectively Parris wants Christianity to convert Africa to the Enlightenment!  You see Parris has his own gospel of fearless individualism that will transform Africa's fear-bound collectivism.  The great trouble for Parris (and for all secularists) is that he has no basis for bringing this philosophy to Africa.  He's not allowed to proselytise.  The very autonomy that he prizes is incapable of crossing cultures.  How can the individualist enforce individualism?  Simply modelling it will not be enough as he himself admits.  The group-think, the tribalism, the spiritual bondage to fear is too great.  So what does he need?  He needs a stronger spiritual power that can proclaim freedom for the captives.  But what he also needs (yet doesn't own up to) is the warrant to cross cultures with such universal truth claims. 

He's wants to piggy-back on Christian evangelism to bring one aspect of the gospel's fruit to Africa.  This really shouldn't surprise us.  The Enlightenment itself had to come via this route.  It didn't have the power of its own rational cogency to birth itself!  It flowed out of a distorted Christian gospel, and could only have done so. 

You see, Parris's fearless individualism based on unmediated access to God isn't the Christian gospel.   What's it missing?  Well, notably - the Mediator and the community - Christ and His church.

Why has Parris missed such obvious elements of the gospel?  Because this is precisely what the west collectively misses.  If Africa's problem is 'fear-bound collectivism' who could deny that the west has an equally dire problem: 'me-first individualism'?

And from this problem the west, equally, needs liberation.  And for this problem there is only one solution - the Christian Gospel.


0 thoughts on “Why the West needs winning.

  1. Missy

    You've struck a chord with this note to the previous post.

    I was impressed with the observations Parris made - but I am not so hopeful as some that this will change his atheist convictions. I grew up hearing how Christianity is really an incredible gift to those in need, those suffering the entrapment of other, less noble, social obligations or stations in life. It was held as the best that most can hope to grasp - those incapable of true enlightenment.

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