Review: Progress & Religion by Christopher Dawson

In this book, Dawson traces the history of Western civilization, focusing on the ideas of Christian religion and scientific progress, which he views as the distinctive ideas of Western Civilization. To these ideas, Dawson attributes the remarkable success of the West over the past several thousand years.

He begins with a treatment of the idea of progress in relation to sociology, history, and anthropology, explaining how each has worked, in turn, to undermine the essential foundations of Western Civilization. Dawson then moves to an earlier period in history and traces the rise of the various world cultures and world religions from their roots in creative cooperation with the environment through to the rise of civilizations. In the course of this explanation of the more general rise of culture, Dawson highlights the unique aspects of Western Civilization.

He then moves to a history of Europe specifically, again focusing on the dynamics of religion and progress. He explains the ways in which the specifically Christian ideas of history, science, and the Incarnation have been the defining influences on Western Civilization. He also explains the dissolution of these ideas beginning with the Enlightenment and the subsequent period of decline which Western Civilization has entered into.

Dawson concludes the book with a call to restore the Christian center of unity in Western Civilization, and thereby preserve our civilization. He writes that the West can once again restore its “vital rhythm and balance” if it again comes into contact with nature and with tradition, with those two great defining forces of all peoples.

In all of this, Dawson provides a necessary corrective to the misconceptions of our tradition and history rampant in academia today. He does an excellent job of addressing the unique features of the West. His call to restore the unity of Christendom is a call we in the West must hear before it is too late.

I recommend this book for anyone interesting in history, especially in historiography, and in the preservation of the greatness of Western Civilization.

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