Western Civilization’s Most Important and Neglected Strand

For the last few generations, Western civilization has been under attack. But recently there were some excellent defenses of it made by Bill Maher (earlier this month) and by Greg Gutfeld in his program on Fox News last Friday.

Gutfeld said: “So let’s talk about the death of Western civilization. It’s in trouble, people….Now, before you accuse me of being too pessimistic, let me just say the West has been tested before and we’ve come through….in 1940 when it looked like the Nazis could take over all of Europe, it was the British who stood up to them alone. Sounds familiar to what Israel is doing right now, doesn’t it?”

Gutfeld went on, “When the wall and Soviet communism fell, our president didn’t. The West survived once again….So if you’re a parent, think hard about where your kids are going to school. Make sure they understand that America is unique in history and so are the achievements and the freedoms of Western civilization.”

I really appreciate the comedian’s insights as far as they go. But I would add that the Judeo-Christian tradition has been the critical foundation for this strength and resilience.

For example, Gutfeld rightly extolled Winston Churchill for his great rallying speech when the British army was surrounded at Dunkirk. But it’s important to also note that Churchill declared in that speech that they (the British) would fight against the Nazis in every way they could “until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Churchill said in another speech on June 18, 1940, “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”

Although many point to the influences of the Enlightenment, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome, it is the predominant Judeo-Christian influence that defines Western Civilization.

Meanwhile, another comedian recently defended the West. A few weeks ago, Bill Maher said, “For all the progressives and academics who refer to Israel as an outpost of Western Civilization, like it’s a bad thing… Western civilization is what gave the world pretty much every [expletive] liberal precept that liberals are supposed to adore. Individual liberty, scientific inquiry, rule of law, religious freedom, women’s rights, human rights, democracy, trial by jury, freedom of speech.”

He credited Rousseau and Voltaire with the giving the world the idea of human rights. There I would disagree. Rousseau and Voltaire were at war with Western civilization, and they helped create the nightmare that was the French Revolution. The streets ran red with blood because of their anti-God philosophies.

Maher did properly credit John Locke for the rights “against unreasonable searches and seizures” embodied in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But Maher left out Locke’s Christian worldview—which is seen throughout his books, including his Second Treatise on Civil Government, which Bill Federer notes had 22 references to the Bible to formulate his arguments. That book was influential to America’s founders.

Furthermore, John Locke wrote a book entitled, The Reasonableness of Christianity. I once attended Sunday school classes taught by Greg Forster, Ph.D., now with Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Forster credits his conversion to Christ through his study of that book by Locke for his doctoral thesis at Yale.

What makes Western civilization what it is? A dozen years ago, reports emerged that some Chinese intellectuals were beginning to realize how important Christianity was to the genius of the West.

Writing for the Iona Institute for Religion and Society (March 3, 2011), Tom O’Gorman opined, “In the West we are doing our best to destroy our Christian heritage; but in China, Chinese intellectuals are coming around to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful.”

Harvard University’s Niall Ferguson quoted a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in his book, Civilization: The West and the Rest: “The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”

At D. James Kennedy Ministries, we are gearing up to release in December our ground-breaking documentary based on a book that I co-wrote with Dr. D. James Kennedy, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written? This book shows how the Scriptures have transformed our world in a multitude of positive ways.

One quote from our book says it all—as to the Scriptural contribution to Western civilization. Said author and former Yale professor William Lyons Phelps: “Our civilization is founded upon the Bible. More of our ideas, our wisdom, our philosophy, our literature, our art, our ideals come from the Bible than from all other books combined.” 


Dr. Jerry Newcombe is the executive director of Providence Forum, a division of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air contributor. He has written/co-written 33 books, including (with D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Dr. Peter Lillback), George Washington’s Sacred Fire. 

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