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Christianity and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  346 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Two long essays: “The Idea of a Christian Society” (on the direction of religious thought toward criticism of political and economic systems) and “Notes towards the Definition of Culture” (on culture, its meaning, and the dangers threatening the legacy of the Western world).
Paperback, 216 pages
Published April 11th 1960 by Mariner Books (first published 1939)
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John
May 01, 2013 John rated it really liked it
This is certainly an important entry into the discussion about the relationship between Christianity and culture. Eliot, writing in the 1930s from Britain, offers a vision of Christian society that is distinct from the society in which he then lived--in other words, he acknowledges that what once may have been a Christian society had then moved past such a designation. This fact is significant because it forces Christians to grapple with the world as it is, rather than as we imagine it to be. Fu ...more
John
Mar 28, 2011 John rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is really two books in one--the first focuses on the Church and State relationship, the second on defining and discussing a Christian culture.

There is much good here, though I found his style made it difficult to follow the thread of his argument. There are some good, challenging ideas here. For example, he argues against the merits of a classless society, arguing instead that societies should be hierarchical with dynamic classes in tension with one another and people moving in and out of
...more
Erik
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 20, as one of Ten Books on the Humanities.

Included in the "Literary Classics" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.
Michael
Feb 21, 2017 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: culture
Certainly some stuff worth reading in here. However, there was also large sections that were either un-noteworthy or completely entrenched in the political world of England in the mid-twentieth century.
Andrew
Jul 19, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
This book gave me plenty to think about. I didn't always agree with Eliot, but I always found him thought-provoking.

Here are a few of the points where Eliot seems to get things right:

1. A society is "Christian" to the extent that it directs life towards Christian ends. That is, in a Christian society, even a non-Christian would be channeled toward Christian ends simply through the structures of society. Conversely, in a un-Christian society, even a Christian is frequently morally culpable simply
...more
Paula
Jan 01, 2015 Paula rated it it was ok
It was probably because I had such high expectations, but when the author is T. S. Eliot one cannot avoid high expectations. In addition, I had read a lot of hype about the book from conservative intellectuals who had found great meaning in Eliot's essays. I really wanted to like it. And, okay, I like it. There are a few quotes that I've marked and will return to for further thought, but I'm not going to read the book again. What is there has been said before, and better.

This book has the same
...more
Eduardo Garcia-Gaspar
El autor, T. S. Eliot, fue un literato inglés, poeta, ganador del Nobel en 1948. Nació en 1888 y murió en 1965. En esta obra presenta dos ensayos y algunos apéndices adicionales sobre el mismo tema general, el de la cultura y conceptos asociados, como política, educación, estado, pero sobre todo Cristianismo.
En sus primeras páginas establece el tono general: «La idea de una Sociedad Cristiana es una que podemos aceptar o rechazar; pero si la aceptamos, debemos tratar al Cristianismo con mucho m
...more
David Withun
May 26, 2016 David Withun rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
In the two sets of essays featured in this volume, Eliot explores the relationship between religion and culture as well as the consequences of this relationship for a post-Christian Europe. The first third or so of the book is a particularly insightful meditation upon the relationship between Christian faith and the cultures of those peoples which adopt it. I happened to be reading Achebe's Things Fall Apart at nearly the same time I read this book, which granted a great deal of insight into the ...more
Tim
Oct 21, 2008 Tim rated it really liked it
A slightly strange book containing two essays: The Idea of a Christian Society, and Notes towards the Definition of Culture. The second essay, somewhat more substantial than the first, isn’t explicitly Christian, so the title’s a bit misleading. Both are carefully reasoned, original and thought-provoking, with Notes presenting an extended meditation on culture and a meticulously developed definition (which is sometimes rather surprising). Eliot’s analysis is complex and penetrating, his conclusi ...more
J. Alfred
Feb 23, 2014 J. Alfred rated it liked it
These essays, which read as being paranoid and stoic by turns, were published from a variety of times just before, during, and after World War Two, which makes a good deal of sense. When the world looks a lot like it might be ending, I suppose that those are reasonable and even impressive reactions.
TS Eliot is a really smart guy, and if you're interested in hearing his views on the world OUTSIDE of the lens of his poetry, this is a good way to go (one could argue, I think, that most of what he
...more
David
Dec 24, 2008 David rated it liked it
Reprints two small books Eliot published ten years apart. “The Idea of a Christian Society” (two stars), published in 1939, really doesn’t make it to the table of serious discussion. “Notes towards the Definition of Culture” (4 stars), published in 1948, certainly does. Eliot considers creative, vital culture to be founded on various tensions that balance unity and diversity of social class, regionalism, and religion. His conservatism does not swoon over the value of authority, and he usually ju ...more
Kevin
Jul 05, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish this book before it had to be returned to the library, but I already desperately want a copy. The book contains a series of three essays by Eliot on the necessity of a Christian government and what a Christian society would look like. He pointedly does not address the form of a Christian government because he denies that one form is required. Rarely have I read something with which I agreed so much, from such a surprising source. I would encourage everyone w ...more
Christina Bouwens
Aug 03, 2011 Christina Bouwens rated it did not like it
Never can I recollect reading such elitist b.s. My opinion of Eliot significantly decreases the more I read of him past his mid-career. Each snide comment he makes about the necessity for social stratification, educational levels for the upper down to the lower classes, a Christian state -- controlling each nation of the globe, etcetera etcetera is given with the statement that these aren't "feelings" or mere "opinions"; no, they are "obvious facts," according to the later T. S. Eliot. Ugh. Reli ...more
Jason
Apr 06, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: churchy-stuff
Pretty interesting, but unfocused.

This book is actually two essays by the great modernist poet. I was drawn to the work because I have a somewhat modernist aesthetic sense but a firmly conventional view of morality. After discovering that Eliot was a staunch Christian conservative, I had to give some of his prose a try.

The first essay is on the formation of a Christian society. The thesis of this piece was never very clear to me, but there are some very quotable lines along the way. The second e
...more
Peter B.
Jun 04, 2013 Peter B. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
This was a helpful and careful examination of society, culture, Christianity's relation to them, and the beginning of realistically building a healthy Christian society and culture.

"We may go further and ask whether what we call the culture, and what we call the religion, of a people are not different aspects of the same thing: the culture being, essentially, the incarnation (so to speak) of the religion of a people."
Tom
Aug 05, 2012 Tom rated it really liked it
The first third of this book is outstanding and timeless. Such a great summary of what a Christian culture should strive to be and how Christians should interact with culture. This part is so exceptional that it overcomes the rest of the book, which is rooted in its time and is less Christian-focused.
Diane
Jan 27, 2011 Diane rated it liked it
This book contains two essays, one in which the author discusses the nature of society and culture, and one in which he discusses the content of a specifically Christian culture. The author has some interesting ideas, but they are very similar to those expressed by C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton more cogently in other publications.
Abby
May 04, 2008 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Religion students, Christians
Recommended to Abby by: Jesus Christ
Although brilliantly written, I found the philosophy hard to stomach given how necessary Christian faith was to his world view at the point of this work. I find Augustine easier to sympathize with.
And yet, this is the guy who wrote the Waste Land, a brilliant poet and accomplished essayist, and these are at their base levels very thoughtful, well-done essays.
Steven  Hunter
Nov 23, 2013 Steven Hunter rated it really liked it
Eliot's book almost seems prophetic. I admittedly had a hard time getting into the book, but there were many jewels. Yet, my own struggle with it was likely due to the fact that I was preoccupied with other research. If for no other reason, the last chapter on education is worth the purchase and read. I would suggest that all educators read this book, and especially that chapter.
J. Aleksandr Wootton
Nov 12, 2008 J. Aleksandr Wootton rated it really liked it
Eliot's essays are a bit dense and long to read all in one sittings, however, I encourage this to be read in as few as possible. He is keenly insightful and writes as one who has clearly considered his subject from many angles; at each point he pauses to explore and bring closure to every side-avenue the reader may consider while following his argument.
Bryan Bridges
Jul 08, 2015 Bryan Bridges rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Good European perspective on the relationship between church and culture, including how government and education play a role. T.S. Eliot clearly functions on a higher level than I do and the book was published in 1939, so there are some parts where I'm just like "huh?" Enjoyed for the most part, though.
Eric Barger
Mar 31, 2013 Eric Barger rated it it was amazing
Wow. A meaty read for a short book. I'll have to read it again to really begin to understand everything there.
Louise
Sep 24, 2015 Louise rated it liked it
Of course, much of what he said has passed onto history. Some ideas still hold true. Many of his views are certainly a reflection of the life and time he was born into.
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May 16, 2016
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Jun 03, 2014
Nightocelot
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Dec 11, 2015
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Sep 30, 2015
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Thomas Stearns Eliot was a poet, dramatist and literary critic. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry." He wrote the poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets; the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party; and the essay Tradition and the Individ ...more
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“But the Church cannot be, in any political sense, either conservative or liberal, or revolutionary. Conservatism is too often conservation of the wrong things: liberalism a relaxation of discipline; revolution a denial of the permanent things.” 22 likes
“It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe--until recently--have been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all of our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning...I do not believe that culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole culture goes.” 6 likes
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