St Paul’s ‘depth charge’: Why historian Tom Holland changed his mind about Christianity

St Paul’s ‘depth charge’: Why historian Tom Holland changed his mind about Christianity. By Justin Brierly.

Western culture is fundamentally different from that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and much of that difference is due to Christianity. For instance, our societies are much fairer and less cruel. The possibility of an afterlife and a reckoning leads to more restrained and less selfish behavior in the here and now. The notion that we are all, kings and peons alike, equal in the eyes of an almighty creator is socially liberating and protects the lower orders from depredations. Jesus was a political revolutionary (among other things).

Paul was a very influential figure in the early Christian world, and effectively wrote a lot of Christianity.

Tom Holland … is well known for his accessible works on antiquity including books such as Dynasty and Rubicon on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. He has also produced important (and by their nature controversial) TV documentaries and books on the spread of Islam.

What has also become apparent is that Holland is increasingly open about the fact his research has led to a significant change of heart towards Christianity as a cultural force.

The historian became both fascinated and appalled by the might and cruelty of the Roman Empire and aspects of the Islamic world that arose later. …

Of course, believing that Christianity has been a tremendous force for good does not mean you believe that it is true. On this front Holland says that, despite being attracted to aspects of Christianity, he has yet to make the metaphysical step of faith.

hat-tip Stephen Neil