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Peter Kreeft – How to Destroy Western Civilisation.

I love Peter Kreeft – the Roman Catholic philosopher who has remarkable insight – I don’t always agree with him – but he is always stimulating,  None more so than in his latest work, How to Destroy Western Civilisation and other Ideas from the Cultural Abyss. It is a collection of essays.   I love it.  It’s not always easy going – but I took 82 quotes from it and now share half to them with you for your edification.  I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did…If this whets your appetite – get the book!  

  1. The single most necessary thing we can possibly do to save our civilization—the single most necessary thing citizens can ever do to save their civilization, at all times and all places and in all cultures, whether they are good or evil, religious or irreligious, ancient or modern—is to have children. If you don’t have children, your civilization will cease to exist. Before you can be good or evil, religious or irreligious, you must exist.Page: 7
  2. We know that our most certain knowledge is divine revelation, since God alone can neither deceive nor be deceived. Page: 14

3) The most obvious and radical symptom of our sudden decline, and the cause of many of the other symptoms, especially the decline of stable families, is the Sexual Revolution. What was the deeper disease that caused and motivated that revolution (and the more general revolution of moral relativism that was needed to justify it)? It was, as Solzhenitsyn so simply said in his 1983 Templeton Prize address, that “we have forgotten God.” As Aquinas said (also very simply), when a man is deprived of true, spiritual joy, he must become addicted to carnal pleasures to fill the vacuum. Is there an optimistic prognosis? Yes. The cure is conversion, of mind, of will, of heart, and of life. And the only way to the conversion of a culture is the conversion of individuals, beginning with ourselves and every individual with whom we come in contact. Page: 15

4) Spiritual warfare is real. Wars on earth always reflect wars in Heaven. Life is jihad, holy war. Too many Muslims think the enemy is flesh and blood, and too many Christians think there is no enemy at all. The devils laugh at us both. Page: 16

5) A crucial example of our reversal of first and second things is the relation between truth and freedom. Freedom is for truth, not truth for freedom. Deny truth, and you destroy freedom. The truth makes you free; freedom does not make you true. Page: 18

6) Politics is not absolute. Politics is not religion. In the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, we are political about our religion and religious about our politics. That is our idolatry. Page: 18

7) The enemy within is far worse than the enemy without. Islamic terrorists can only kill a few bodies; our own home-grown apostates and immoralists can kill our souls.Page: 20

8) It’s the unmentionable elephant in the living room. It’s sex. Religious liberty is being attacked in the name of sexual liberty.Page: 26

9) “It is something unbelievable that today a mother, herself, murders her own child. . . . This is one of the greatest poverties. A nation, people, family that allows that, that accepts that, they are the poorest of the poor.”Page: 33

10) Then, every Christian knew one salient fact about Christianity: that it is either everything or nothing, either the world’s stupidest lie or the world’s ultimate truth; that if Jesus Christ is not literally everything to you, then He is nothing at all. Now, almost no one knows that anymore, and those who do, and say so, are labeled “fanatics”. I want to defend one fanaticism. Not fanaticism as such, not any other fanaticisms, but only one fanaticism: a fanaticism for Christ and His Lordship and His will as the one and only thing that matters in your life. Page: 68

11) Thomas Aquinas tells us that the only way to master a strong passion is by a stronger passion. The only passion stronger than the passion for self is the passion for Christ, for only Christ is greater than the self and yet the lover and savior of the self.Page: 70

12) Putting God second is like putting the top button of your coat into the second buttonhole. It throws off all the others. When the second button is put into the first hole, nothing comes out right. When subjective reality does not conform to objective reality, nothing comes out right. Sanctity is sanity. Page: 78

13) There are only two ways to live, and both have an absolute. Christ’s way is to let God be God, to acknowledge the real absolute. Our alternatives, our idolatries, diverse as they are, always amount to the same thing: choosing ourselves instead of God as the absolute. For whether we serve abstract idols like capitalism, communism, Americanism, pacifism, terrorism, theism, atheism, or any other ism, or whether we serve concrete idols like money, sex, fame, power, and comfort or self-esteem and peace of mind, in all cases, we are choosing them on our own authority and for ourselves. If we try to be broad-minded and scatter our loves over this world of many good things, we will find that we are really very narrow-minded, for the ego is a very, very narrow thing. But if we accept Christ’s narrow way and have the mind of Christ, if we live the narrow-minded life of Christ-mindedness, we will find that we are as broad as God. Let the ego die, pass through the needle’s eye, and your soul will soar and fly through the sky. But if, instead, you try with your own wings to fly, you’ll fall into your own I. Page: 80

14) Many people simply cannot understand the concept of eternity. Eternity does not mean endless time or even infinite time. That is just progressivism in disguise. Eternity means another dimension entirely, a timeless dimension, a vertical dimension, an absolute that judges all horizontal movements in time, both traditionalist and progressivist, by its own standard. For its standard is the true God. Page: 84

15) Thus, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was exactly on target when, in his great Templeton Address of 1983, one of the greatest and most prophetic speeches in the history of Western civilization, when he diagnosed the ultimate cause of all the ills and decadences and self-destructivenesses of our culture of death in one simple sentence: “Men have forgotten God.” The sophisticates and intellectuals and chattering classes that heard that speech were outraged. They never forgave him. People will forgive you for being wrong, but they will never forgive you for being right. Page: 85

16) God’s mission for His Church is to march into the future armed with the wisdom of the past. Secular movements sometimes do this, too, but Christianity is different because our foundation is not the past but the eternal truth God revealed and incarnated in the past, and our goal is not merely a better world in the future but a world beyond time, a world beyond the world. Page: 87

17) Our culture’s god is not science as such, however, but its application, technology.Page: 89

18) Our age worships the future. We must not respond by worshipping the past.Page: 91

19) Liberals, the aggressors in the culture wars, deny the very existence of culture wars, for the same reason the Nazis denied that they invaded Poland.Page: 96

20) By the way, the fact that Europeans do not admit the culture war exists proves, more than anything else, that they have already lost it. The continent that used to be called Christendom is fast becoming a Muslim continent, and not by shedding blood in wars—we stopped that attempt at Poitiers and at Vienna and at Lepanto—but by shedding menstrual blood, that is, by a far harder, costlier, and nobler sacrifice than war: by having children. And I candidly have to say they deserve it, and we deserve to lose it.Page: 97

21) Tolkien first. The Lord of the Rings is us. Its story is our story, its battle is our battle, its world is our world, and its protagonists and antagonists are ours, too. We are fighting hordes of intellectual orcs, and we are an unlikely fellowship of assorted kinds of creatures, mainly hobbits.Page: 101

22) The Sexual Revolution is far more radical than any political revolution in history. Politics is only water off the duck’s back, but sex is inside the duck.Page: 105

23) Mention of The Last Battle and Narnia reminds us that every piece of fiction Lewis ever wrote was about spiritual and (often physical) warfare—as is the whole Bible and three quarters of the psalms.Page: 116

24) If you want to see an advanced case of men turning into sheep, visit Canada. I think Canada can be saved only by massive immigration from the lower east side of New York City.Page: 122

25) I find hardly any philosophical or ideological term more confusing than the term “liberalism”. I used to call myself a liberal, back in the sixties. I now call myself a conservative. But I haven’t changed my mind on a single issue. The labels have changed. Page: 123

26) First, man is soul as well as body. Materialism makes liberty impossible. If man has no spiritual soul, he has no liberty, for matter has no liberty. What we mean by liberty is not the unpredictability, randomness, and indeterminateness of subatomic particles.Page: 129

27) America has faced three great enemies of liberty: communism, slavery, and abortion. Communism denied the right to property. Slavery denied the right to liberty. Abortion denies the right to life. The right to life is the most fundamental right of all, for if you are denied the right to life, you are denied all other rights as well.Page: 131

28) So the moral quality of individuals is the single most important cause of a good or a bad society. Page: 134

29) What is the single most important cause of morally good or bad individuals? There is no question about the answer to that one. Massive and uniform social science gives us the answer: families. Stable, loving families. Page: 138

30) In Canada, it is now illegal to say there are only two genders or even to use the words “mother” and “father” on public documents. We are no longer moving toward Brave New World, we are in it. This is not the separation of church and state, it is the exact opposite: the institutionalization of a new church, or anti-church. Page: 142

31) Traditional (“conservative”) wisdom tells us to be tolerant of people, even stupid and wicked people, but intolerant of stupid ideas and wicked behaviors; to love sinners but hate sins. In fact, the whole reason for hating sins is loving sinners, as the whole reason for a surgeon to hate cancer is his love for his patient’s health. Page: 143

32) But the freedom that is the most important one of all is the one that has suffered the most pervasive denial. This is the freedom to become what we are designed to be and supposed to be. For “what we are supposed to be” is no longer widely believed to be anything more than what we ourselves suppose ourselves to be. To the modern mind, it is not an objective reality. The finish line is invented by the runners. No longer may we invoke either nature or nature’s God as the source of any natural ends. To put it bluntly, we have internalized the motive of the first sin of Satan, who would not serve, only command; who insisted on the ultimate freedom, the freedom to play God. The ancient Greeks named about five hundred gods, the Romans five thousand, the Tibetan Buddhists nine million, but Americans are the most polytheistic people in history: they have named 330 million gods. Page: 148

33) Pascal says there are only three kinds of people: those who seek God and have found Him, those who seek Him but have not found Him, and those who neither seek nor find Him. The first, he says, are reasonable and happy: reasonable because they have sought and happy because they have found. The second are reasonable but unhappy: reasonable because they seek and unhappy because they have not found. The third are not only unhappy but also unreasonable, because they will not seek. There is no fourth class, who find without seeking. Page: 154

34) The most fundamental dividing line, for Pascal, is not between the believers and the unbelievers, between those who have found God and those who have not. The most fundamental dividing line is between the seekers and the non-seekers, because that is the dividing line between the honest and the dishonest, the open minded and the closed minded, those who care about truth and those who do not. And Pascal implies that is also the dividing line between Heaven and Hell. For Pascal’s supreme authority, whom he believed to be God Himself in the flesh, promised that all who seek will eventually find, implying that those who do not seek will not find, ever. And obviously Jesus was talking about seeking and finding God, not anything else. Page: 156

35) Dostoyevsky speaks of his religious faith as emerging “from the furnace of doubt”. Faith like his is unshakable because it has already been shaken. Honest religious faith, as distinct from mere personal convenience, does not come from avoidance of the hard questions but precisely from confrontation with them and from the hope that, whether the other things Jesus said are true or false, at least this one thing is true: “Seek, and you will find.” Page: 172

36) God says “Come let us reason together.” Satan does not. God appeals to reason, Caesar appeals to force. Page: 176

37) sinners, actions and persons; who say that their whole personal identity is what they do and, therefore, if we reject what they do, we reject what they are; that to hate their life-style is to hate them, the whole, the person, the I. That is a religious judgment, to identify something with the whole self. These people who support this new religion now rule the media, in fact, so well that I would probably be prosecuted for “hate speech” if I dared to identify them, though we all know who they are. They are the only people in the world, other than Muslim terrorists, who are obeying Churchill’s formula for winning a war, whether a military war or a culture war: “Never, never, never, never, never give up.” Their latest victory is transgenderism. It will not be their last.Page: 183

38) But the college professor who sniffs at the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hesiod, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Pindar, Plato, Aristotle, Livy, Cicero, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Augustine, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the letters of Saint Paul, in a course since mauled by the campus politicians, is not overeducated. That professor is undereducated, and overschooled, a deadening duo. Page: 183

39) A sane person understands that reality comes first, and language later; language is in the service of reality. Page: 183

40) We want to believe that our words can alter reality: we want to believe that we can, by linguistic magic, negate the Word through whom all things were made, and the things themselves. “You shall be as gods”, said the serpent (Gen 3:5).5 Hence the battle in our day is theological, whether we wish to admit it or not. If a man claims to be a woman, which he can never be, and demands to be addressed as such, he is not merely asking for right etiquette. He is demanding that we enter his delusion, or his lie. It is not true. Page: 183

41) Here is Muggeridge’s conclusion: It has long been my opinion that the most appropriate name for the times in which we live would be the Age of Credulity. . . . Science (the very word has undergone a singular distortion; meaning originally a condition of knowing, it has come to signify particular branches of knowledge), which purports to inculcate skepticism, has surrendered the human mind to a degree of absurdity which would have astounded a medieval scholar and made an African witch doctor green with envy.

The New Saturday Review 3 – Christianity for Modern Pagans; Along Came a Spider, John Anderson Conversations; WWII in Colour; Beautiful City Across the River; Cancel Culture; Garfish. 

 

17 comments

  1. Brilliant quotes! My appetite is whetted! Kreeft casts light on the fundamental spiritual battle in which we are presently engaged and demonstrates the seriousness of the situation. How we need the Spirit to open the eyes of the spiritually blind.

    As I read the quotes pertaining to Canada I genuinely fear for Scotland’s future in the hands of the SNP and the Greens. What have we done to deserve this? Perhaps exactly as Solzhenitsyn said, it is simply that we have forgotten God, or worse, deliberately turned our back on him.

  2. We must not treat “Western civilisation”, or even the old European Christendom, as an idol in its own right to which women’s bodies can be sacrificed – any more than the opposite sacrifice of them to wealth generation and consumerism. Both rely on force and punishment, because those make money while encouragement and support *cost* money. It took two wars and a pandemic to teach our grandparents’ masters the simple lesson that unfed parents living in slums aren’t going to reproduce to order – if nothing else, working two or three jobs leaves little time or energy for sex!

    Solzhenytsin was of the Eastern Church, and some of the most vital (and consequently persecuted) Churches that now are, are further East still. Muslims are not of themselves foreigners to be outbred by the “Western civilised”, as though they were animals – many are being quietly brought to Christ, while some white Britons seeking an authoritarian strongman God, rather than a weakling hanging on a Cross, are going the other way. I can remember as common when I was small the anti-Catholic belief, now simply transferred to the Muslims, that breeding in poverty stricken hordes was a popish Plot to overthrow the decent, Protestant, British race. It’s no better now for having colour added to the mix.

    God did not depend on the Roman Empire to keep His Church, and he doesn’t need “the West” to do it now. He wants (not needs) Christians, of every race and nation and colour, and He will take souls where He finds them. Let us beware we are not so making “people like us” our aim, that we fail to produce “people like Him” by converting the people – yes, those Scary Muslims and migrants too – we already have. And making a society where women can be confident those babies they have *will be fed*.

    1. Thanks Karen – even if it is a slightly confused post – arguing against things that are not being said.

      Who wants to control womens’ bodies?

    2. Hey Karen,

      I was interested too in your comment of women’s bodies being sacrificed or sacrificed to wealth generation and consumerism. On the other hand women throughout history have used their bodies, their sexuality for power and been driven by status and financial gain.

      So the challenge is twofold wiht the emancipation of women and also the responsibility that women have that comes with such emancipation to not use the power that comes with that for worldly gain or to oppress, including self-oppression and persecution of their femininity and divine power.

      People need to realise that it’s not through demanding freedoms and rights that we live life to the fullest but in taking responsibility for choices conducive to such.

  3. Western Civilisation’s seeds of destruction were planted when the Jews brought Christianity, with its ‘Bad Book’ and frantic hatred of Reason, to Ancient Rome.

      1. Both the good parts and the bad parts of Western Civilization, or only the good parts?
        The Lord bless you David for this important article

      2. Also without Greek philosophy, democracy, Roman law, etc there would be neither Christianity nor Western Civilization. Read Socratic Logic by Peter Kreeft 😉

  4. Thank you for posting this. I have been wondering about setting up a prayer group to pray specifically on the issues raised here. I feel as if I am living in a world that says black is white and white is black and I am being coerced to agree with nonsense.
    The COVID hysteria is the current component. You must take the vaccine, but we now know that the vaccine does not work because hospital stats in the UK and other countries show more vaccinated than unvaccinated with COVID. The inventor of MRNA says that this is ADE and happened with other vaccinations – ie we are making matters worse by the vaccine. And still they are doubling down on their efforts towards vaccine passports. This is either mental derangement or malicious intent. The postmodernists say that there is no absolute truth, we know differently. God is truth.

  5. I shall have to return to read the rest of these quotations. However, those that I have read are certainly “requotable”! Thanks, David, for the overview.

  6. Thanks for this David. I am very tempted to buy the book! I particularly like #5 about truth and freedom but they are all worth reading again.

  7. Not quite certain how Kreeft can pontificate on sex and morality and apparently fail to say anything about the systemic sexual abuse of children by those in the Catholic church and the criminal behaviour by the church itself in covering up and perpetuating the destruction of children’s lives – or perhaps you can direct us to that section of the book where he addresses that.

    1. You speak so certainly about what you don’t know. Kreeft has spoken about the sexual abuse of children and how wrong it is…One of the best ways to destroy Western civilisation is to destroy the Church – one of the best ways to destroy the church is to fill it with false believers and leaders.

  8. We need to recognise that we are in a 1st century AD situation. This country is not a Christian country, and any vestiges of that have long gone. The only answer to the current malaise is not to bemoan the loss of our Christian culture, but to dedicate ourselves to the simple preaching of the cross – that is the only hope for our benighted country.

    1. Absolutely agree with you. There are lively, vital, growing churches in this country – lots are black Evangelical, which may not be *precisely* what the “bemoaners” have in mind – but it hasn’t been a “Christian country”, with effective control of the secular State, for a very long time.

      And it may not have been altogether good for God’s work when it did – the Papal authority was thrown off for a reason. I’m not sure that simply substituting secular Parliamentary control of the Church for its opposite was a good thing for propagating actual *belief*.

      In short, you are completely right – we have to start over, assuming at best complete ignorance and at worst, the sort of distorted stories that had the Roman persecutors convinced that Christians were cannibals. May the Spirit help us in the old task, ever new.

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