We live in interesting times to say the least. Many within the church struggle to make sense of what we now call the “post-Christian era” in which civilization itself appears to be falling apart. Many Christians are wondering just how Western society got to this point. In the midst of this searching for answers, Kevin Swanson presents his arguments in his new book, Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West. While anyone can easily lament the decline we see before our eyes, Swanson takes the reader on a historical and biographical journey to demonstrate where things went wrong. His analysis is sure to be controversial, even within Reformed circles. Those who know Swanson (and particularly his eschatological viewpoints) won’t be surprised by what they’ll find in this book.
This might be a crude comparison to make, but Swanson’s book is basically the Calvinist equivalent of Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West. Whereas the trajectory of Buchanan’s book is more political in nature and focuses more on demography, Swanson’s writings are far more theological in nature and focus on the toxic philosophies of unbelieving humanists. My overall impression of Apostate is generally good, but this book is definitely not without its flaws. While some reviewers have chosen to attack the text because they disagree with Swanson’s eschatology and his views on theonomy, I’m not going to take that approach. While I certainly have theological differences with Swanson here and there, I aim to judge the book based upon its own merits.
In chapter after chapter, Swanson gives a biographical overview of those “big name” apostates in Western history. Each biographical sketch is designed to fit into the larger narrative of societal decline. All of these men added their own fuel to the fires of apostasy. Perhaps the most controversial name given in the list of apostates is that of Thomas Aquinas. While Swanson admits that he is hesitant to call Aquinas an apostate, he sees the 13th century theologian as the starting point for a centuries-long decline in the West. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not crazy about much of what Aquinas taught, but I would probably fall short of actually labeling him an apostate. So far as we know, he did not depart from the Christian faith. There’s certainly a broader discussion to be had about the legacy of Aquinas, but I’ll save that for another time. Continue reading