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Christianity and European Culture, Term Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1652

Term Paper

Subject, Purpose, and Audience

The book contains selected works from Christopher Dawson.  Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) was a Roman Catholic author and historian who has a significant number of writings attributed to his name.  He and other coverts were instrumental in the rise of English Catholic scholarship.

The 1960 work “The Historic Reality of Christian Culture” is included in full.  There are additional essays in the second half of the work that touch on the theme of Christianity and European culture.  These subjects span a significant number of angles and views upon this basic subject.

Dawson digs into the culture to reveal what he believes are the reflection of the beliefs and ethics of the people in the culture.  Resulting in the deterioration of some of these values, Dawson creates and analyzes many views of society and culture from Christianity within these constructs.  Dawson allows these issues to enter the forefront of the readers’ awareness in order to question how these affect one’s life.

Dawson’s intended audience is that of Catholics and those from Britain.  To the former, Dawson wished to allow the Middle Ages to later current Christian culture, where appreciation and knowledge could integrate into everyday life.  To the latter Dawson countered the Victorian historians charged Christianity was a deviation from European development by arguing for the relevancy of Christian culture.

The book’s essays touch on the critical integration of society and Christianity in Europe.  Those who wish to explore these issues would be interested in this collection of Dawson’s writings.  This audience extends to those within the Christian faith, as well as those in academic who study such trends within the religion, meaning that it could be interesting for spiritual or historical purposes.

Themes

The themes in which Dawson makes use of carry a significant weight in terms of scope.  In his “The Historic Reality of Christian Culture” Dawson gives his thought on the state of Christian culture.  In the accompanying essays, there are of course a number of topics that are addressed by Dawson.

“The Historic Reality of Christian Culture”

This section of the book was written as a result in the lectures that Dawson gave at various institutions throughout the United States.  It was written in 1960, formed into eight chapters that characterize Christian culture in the past and present world, and its association with non-Western cultures.  It takes on issues of the past, yet focuses on the current and continued mission of the Christian church.

Dawson concentrates on the current state of the church and modern culture.  He believes that the church should concentrate on this, and not the tensions between church and state that is seen in traditional Europe.  For instance, Dawson believes that the developing social teaching of the modern Popes should be supported.

Dawson also analyzes the relationship between Christianity and the non-Western world.  Dawson has a particular interest in particular non-Western and non-Christian cultures, such as Islamic Spain.  The relationships of cultures such as this to Christianity are of a particular interest, to which the reader is able to see throughout this book and in the last couple of chapters in this section.

Selected Essays

The selected essays that follow “The Historic Reality of Christian Culture” supplement the material found in the first section of the book.  Tied to the first section, Dawson continues his analysis of culture as shaped by spiritual and moral factors, in addition to political or economic factors equally.  Dawson even extends to the traditions of Greece and Rome to view the role of Christianity in these cultures.

Overall, the essays are those of meaning.  Dawson contends that the Christian pride is the Cross, and that of politics and other irrelevant factors in culture.  Dawson took on the topics of the essays in order to highlight the Christian faith, and not to criticize and place the spotlight on issues within culture.

Organization and Clarity

The book finds a simple level of organization.  Where it may have certain difficulties in the clarity of the work, it is full of interesting concepts and those which carry significant weight in the context of Christianity.  Overall it performs it job well in enlightening the Christian culture to that of truth.

Organization

The organization of the first part is relatively simple.  In keeping with the work, “The Historic Reality of Christian Culture,” there are no issues in the organization of this part.  The first part keeps well with the original work, in which the treatment of topics takes on an orderly nature in the topics it covers.

The second section is a selection of essays from Dawson.  They pose no major problems in organization.  In fact, it takes on a progression that analyzes various historical aspects of Christian culture, and then leads into the role of truth in one’s faith in regards to the topics that Dawson brings up in the second part.  While it is not perfect, in terms of being able to see exactly what the essay is about in relationship to others, the organization of the second part is done quite well in terms of the progression of topics.

Clarity

The clarity of the book is questionable.  While it is a subjective opinion, it seems to take on quite a number of subjects.  This is complicated when you consider the number of ideas and dynamics to which Dawson speaks.

The selection from Dawson’s texts is quite ambitious.  To those who have studied theology, society, and the relationship between Christianity and secular cultures, it becomes quite ludicrous to think that Dawson’s texts could simply be stringed together to provide any real depth.  In fact, these do not provide the depth necessary to completely give the subjects touched on the attention needed.  As a result, it is safe to say that the clarity of the issues is not supported well, simply in light of the ambitious integration of a number of different ideas, cultures, and religious topics.

However, the selections from Dawson’s work are certainly not lacking in usefulness.  The maximum value extracted out of these selections belongs to the nature of the selections.  While not providing academic fullness in scope and material, it allows the reader who is not accustomed to these topics to become enamored in them.  Certainly those who hold an interest in these topics, but have not devoted too much time in the study of Christian culture, will find these selections fascinating.

Satisfaction of Subjects and Topics Raised

Overall the collected essays from Dawson provide a particular level of satisfaction, in regards to the subjects and topics raised.  As discussed, it allows for the reader to become comfortable with certain subjects, while not providing too much information that could overbear one in the text.  As a result, it provides a level of satisfaction that bodes well for its intention.

The texts allow a brief yet insightful treatment of the questions that are raised.  For the many topics which Dawson brings up with the selected texts, a level of insight is probed into the reader which makes for a pleasant reading.  Dawson’s voice provides the reader with the vast complications of the subjects that are dealt with, yet does not overbear the reader with these more “academic” positions.  As a result, Dawson’s treatment provides a level of satisfaction where readers are given a solid foundation to the subjects addressed.

Research Performance

The question of good research from Dawson is answered simply.  Dawson’s research and knowledge of the subjects is impeccable, clearly making him representative of his status within the Catholic and historian levels of scholarship he achieved.  These are all presented in concise manner for the reader’s pleasure.

Dawson’s performance in terms of research is carried out well.  He allows for the basic reader to become involved in the more complex discussion in academics, in addition to more basic and fundamental guidelines.  Offering the criticisms of those on both sides, Dawson then provides his own analysis clearly outside of the presentation of these discussions.  In examples such as these, Dawson displays his scholarship and research, where views are placed into context quite well, which demonstrates his impeccable research skills.

Consistency

Dawson displays consistency in his arguments.  However, there is a level of objectiveness lacking in his arguments.  This is one point in which the reader should be well aware of in reading Dawson’s texts.

The most noticeable lines this tendency can be seen is in regards to what ought to happen.  Dawson has defined views regarding the state of Christianity, especially in regards to the role of secular culture and the like, which not all will share with him.  For instance, Dawson makes generalizations of Christians in regards to economics: “The dollar is a very good thing in its way (the sign of the cross) and there are many good Christians who are quite ready to make it the standard of our civilization” (26).  Such generalizations may not be appreciated by those living in their faith.  This also goes in regards to other instances, such as in the way Dawson believes Christian culture should aim, as not all readers are interested in these religious politics, but rather the interesting discussions Dawson touches upon.

Conclusion

Dawson’s selections make for a very interesting read.  The book succeeds in bringing about many different topics which will interest all but those who have studied the intricacies of these topics.  For many Dawson treats these subjects pleasantly, and the average reader will take well to the interesting connections Dawson provides.

On the other side, the work does not provide that much depth.  Those who are interested in academics may find the many issues Dawson provides the reason to its thin treatment, as the scope takes away from possible depth the issues could be given.  As a result the book stands as a useful collection of essays for some that provide interesting topics and arguments, and for others it represents a collection of essays that do not provide much depth and too much scope to be useful.

Works Cited

Russello, Gerald, and Christopher Dawson. Christianity and European Culture: Selections from the Work of Christopher Dawson. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1998.

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