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Tom Holland: How Christianity Gained Dominion and a Secular Historian Loses His Faith (in Liberalism) – AP

This weeks Australian Presbyterian article.

Tom Holland: How Christianity Gained Dominion and a Secular Historian Loses His Faith (in Liberalism)

Glen Scrivener is an Australian Anglican minister, film maker and evangelist. We didn’t do this deliberately, but it looks as though we have done an ‘evangelist swap’. Whilst the Scottish Presbyterian minister moved to Australia – the Sydney Anglican has gone to darkest Englandshire to bring the light of the Gospel, through a ministry called Speak Life. The English definitely got the better part of this particular swap – Glen is a brilliant evangelist who knows how to make simple films to get across profound truth. A recent example is this short video If Bibles were Phones:

Tom Holland is a secular historian who seems to be on a journey towards Christianity. His writings are fascinating – he is probably my favourite historian. His In the Shadow of the Sword is an informative account of the origins of Islam – something which seems to have started Holland on his road to Christianity. His latest book Dominion, The Making of the Western Mind should be compulsory reading for pastors, politicians and any educated person.

So, when I heard that Glen and Tom were to get together again for a discussion on Glen’s Reset programme, I was excited to see the end product. I was not disappointed. The resultant interview is moving, stimulating and strangely edifying – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=favILmUsVdg

The whole thing is worth watching for yourself but it is the last 15 minutes which are stunning. When asked where he was on faith this was Holland’s reply: ““I’ve lost my faith – as a liberal – I don’t really believe in it!…rather than drown completely in despair I can cling to stories – the power of Christianity is in the stories both in the Old and New Testaments.” He doesn’t think that they have to be literally true – but he has ‘surrendered to the truth of those stories. He is not quite there – but it is so moving to hear of his fascination with the Cross as the central event of human history.

However, it was deeply frustrating to hear him say that an obstacle to him was the reaction of the Church during this year of pandemic. He wants to hear what the Church has learned about the experience of plague during the centuries and what the bible says about plague. He heard the Pope talk about this that was ‘profound, comforting and unsettling’ but it went to the heart of what was going on in the world. But after that experience all he heard from the churches was just ‘a pallid echo of public health announcements. “The churches are there to give answers, not public health announcements”. “What does the Bible say about plagues? There is an awful lot of that in the bible. I would rather hear that from a bishop than how to wash my hands.”. He is so right. Overall the response of the churches has just been a pallid echo of the culture. But when you hear a non-Christian like Holland saying that when he wanted to hear from the Church the Word of God, and he didn’t – does it not embarrass, frustrate and anger you?

There is so much more in the interview (and the book) – I’ll leave you with a few tasters.

Holland deals with everything from Islam to Nietzsche, Human rights to evil.

“We are so habituated through seeing the world through Christian lens, that we don’t even recognise it”

“We don’t need Satan because we’ve got Hitler… but the dread of Nazism is because we are seeing things through Christian eyes”.

“Nazism is the most radical attempt to reject Christianity that Europe has seen”

“Where do human rights come from? …There was no concept of human rights in Greek and Rome”

“Humanity can’t bear too much reality”

Please pray for Tom Holland. He is one of a number of non-Christian writers who in my view are being used by the Lord to plough the cultural ground, thus enabling us to sow the seed of the Word, in order to reap the fruit of the Gospel. But pray for him personally. He comes across as a humble, lovely and seeking soul. O Lord, save the Historian! And use him as you used that historian of old, Dr Luke.

8 comments

  1. I’m humbled reading Dominion, slowly; his breadth, ability, fluency is so far beyond my dullness. There’s so much of history, even as a dunce in history, that is unknown to me.
    The whole sweep, puts into context the transience of our present times, a blink of the eye in the light of eternity. As if we know it all now and we’ll not repeat the past.
    In the words of CS Lewis, we today, are snobs, chronological snobs.
    Wife and I have and use Scrivener’s Daily reading books, Reading between the Lines, Old and New Testaments, He has the capacity to turn a phrase, a bit like Keller in a way, that encapsulates key points keying in on Christ.
    Perhaps if he hasn’t already been signposted to CS Lewis and his essays on literary criticism and myth, Holland may benefit, to move from story to reality of Christ. I think Lewis termed Christianity as true myth, that is all myths find their focus and fulfilment in reality of Christ, his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and return: good over evil, new life, new creation. a filled full life, eternal, death defeated.

  2. Tom is just fine.
    His direction of travel is certainly towards The Cross, but the last thing he needs are church mice mithering him along to some closed church that bottled Covid. As he says.
    His courage against Islam in his book ” Shadow Of The Sword” was both rare and costly. His religion is simply in need of The Cross, and Jesus does that if we get out of His way.
    Tom’s telling Truth. As is Ricky Gervais , Donald Trump and Peta Cridlin. All are Friends Of Jesus, and we should be learning from them as much as we aspire for them to learn from us. Few Christians are as honest, brave and knowledgeable as they are.

  3. Hi David

    I too enjoy Tom Holland’s work. To go a step further, have you viewed Paul VanderKlay’s analysis of Holland?

    Try here to start:

  4. “But when you hear a non-Christian like Holland saying that when he wanted to hear from the Church the Word of God, and he didn’t – does it not embarrass, frustrate and anger you?”

    Yes! 🙁

    I have read Holland’s “Millennium : The End of the World and the Forging of Christendon” and I loved it, so I will definitely check out “Dominion” too. Thanks, Pastor.

    Have a happy and holy Sunday.

  5. My humble opinion is that the reason the church had little to say about the plagues is due to being regularly branded as judgmental and inconsistent with love. Most of the revelation regarding plagues in the Scriptures relates to God’s judgment on sin which is so clear in Revelation for example. The 7 Angels with the 7 trumpets warn of impending judgment if people do not repent and the 7 Angels with the 7 bowls are the actual pouring out of the judgment. An intimidated faith community is very reluctant to venture into the scriptural coverage of plagues to avoid the stigma and consequently is rendered powerless in prophetic witness

  6. As it happens, after the installation (is that the correct word) of the new Archbishop of York, he was interviewed on local BBC tv news. While I accept that it is likely to had been highly edited he said Christian love of neighbour was to wear a mask. He also mentioned the word hope, without grounding it in Christ who nowhere got a mention.
    Little wonder Tom Holland is dissatisfied.
    However, there may be a need to delve a little deeper and perhaps with a little discernment in where he looks. In effect, someone with an invitation like Andrew’s in the Gospel: come and see. It may come from someone with influence in his life.
    Our Anglican church broadcasts Good News every week. A week ago a sister church, broadcast Andy Bannister, morning and evening.

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