“It is true that Europe was also a society of nations and that therefore the racial element, the bond of common blood, like the bond of common speech and common fatherland, played an important part in its development. But both civilization and nation are like chemical compounds which owe their very existence to their synthesis and any attempt to resolve them into their compound elements involves their destruction.”
The Judgment of the Nations — pg. 143
Dawson’s warning is worthy of hearing. It is possible to distinguish the elements which comprise a nation or a civilization, breaking them down, for observational and analytical purposes, into their constituent parts of culture, faith, and race (or even more precisely; ethnicity) but there is a difference between making a distinction concerning these chemical compounds and seeking to isolate these chemical compounds as unrelated to the other impacting chemicals. For example, faith is a distinct chemical in this compound (sticking with Dawson’s analogy) but as culture, (as another distinct chemical) is the outward expression of a people’s inward beliefs, faith cannot be totally divorced from the discussion of culture, just as culture cannot be totally divorced from a discussion on the faith it is reflecting. As another example, the faith that is held and acted upon is the faith that exists in corporeal, material genetic people and who they are genetically impacts their faith just as their faith impacts their corporeality. As another example, culture is intimately related to ethnicity. Can anyone imagine the Japanese doing Cajun culture, or the South Sea Pacific Islander doing Cowboy Rodeo?
Faith, Ethnicity and Culture are all wrapped up together and the idea that these are all “social constructs” is something only a pure Gnostic or pure Materialist would argue. A pure Gnostic handles this by saying, “Change the thinking (the Theology / Ideology) around and presto change-o you can change Japanese civilization into a Civilization which speaks Cajun and eats gumbo. A pure Materialist handles this by saying, “change and rearrange the environment that the South Sea Islander lives in and he too will become a lasso twirling, tobacco chewing, bronco busting Cowboy.” It’s all so reductionistic. Twist a few knobs, and turn a few dials and we can re-make the world by our expertise at social engineering.
This is what the Alienist does. The Alienist doesn’t recognize the chemical compound that civilization and culture is and equipped with his Gnosticism or Materialism (and oddly enough sometimes both at the same time) the Alienist comes rushing in to break apart the chemical compound of which Dawson speaks. For the Alienist there is nothing supernatural about civilization and nations. For the Alienist they are simply the result of time plus circumstance plus chance. They are a social construct. Tinker around with the circumstance and you can produce anything you want. Hell, you can even produce men who need to have tampons in their bathrooms.
However the theo-ethno-cultural realist agrees with Dawson. There is something about civilizations and nations, resulting as they do from a combination of theology (faith), ethnicity, and culture that accounts for the differences in social orders. Further theo-ethno-cultural realists believe that, at least as it pertains to Christian cultures, that there is something about Christian cultures that has a supernatural air about them. They most certainly are not social constructs that can be understood solely by reading post-modern sociologists.
Like it or not, there is among individual people groups a common blood which in God’s ordination shapes and influences people groups as to who they are. Common blood is not the only reality that binds people together but it is an absolutely key component along with faith and culture. That is the compound of which Dawson speaks.
Just as man could not be man apart from both the dust of the earth and the breath of God so man cannot be man apart from both his ethnic identity and the kind of religion – spirituality that has possessed him and which he has possessed and the culture that those together produce.
All of this is basic Christianity. That is all it is and where people have a problem with it today they need to take it up with the Church Fathers, many of whom recognized this same dynamic, and before them with the eternal God who teaches it everywhere in Scripture.