Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents

Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon

“For the good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.” —St. Paul, Letter to the Romans, 7:19

I NOW WANT TO EXAMINE a second major feature of Western civilization that derives from Christianity. This is what philosopher Charles Taylor calls the “affirmation of ordinary life:’ It is the simple idea that ordinary people are fallible, and yet these fallible people matter. In this view, society should organize itself in order to meet their everyday concerns, which are elevated into a kind of spiritual framework. The nuclear family, the idea of limited government, the Western concept of the rule of law, and our culture’s high emphasis on the relief of suffering all derive from this basic Christian understanding of the dignity of fallible human beings.

Let’s explore this by considering two related themes that arise from the same Christian root. The first is Paul’s statement above. Here Paul in a single phrase repudiates an entire tradition of classical philosophy founded in Plato. For Plato, the problem of evil is a problem of knowledge. People do wrong because they do not know what is right. If they knew what was right, obviously, they would do it. But Paul denies that this is so. His claim is that even though he knows something is wrong, he still does it. Why? Because the human will is corrupt. The problem of evil is not a problem of knowledge but a problem of will.

I also want to focus on the Christian exaltation of the low man, the common man, and the underdog. These groups were not favorites in the world of ancient Greece and Rome. Homer ignored them in his epics, concentrating entirely on life among the ruling class. Lesser men appeared, if at all, as servants. Aristotle too had a job for low men: slavery. Aristotle argued that with low men in servitude, superior men would have leisure to think and participate in the governance of the community. Aristotle cherished the “great-souled man” who was proud, honorable, aristocratic, rich, and (if this were not enough) spoke in a low and measured voice.