A Question I Was Asked:

Can the British Imperialism of the Past Be Excused?

I know you are more well versed in the Bible rather than history but I wanted to ask about the British Empire.

There might be people who say that a major reason for British expansion was for the spread of western culture and Christianity, but my teacher puts it in a negative light, saying they thought other nations were heathen and as a result just killed most of them.

What I'm worried about is people using this example to show that religion spreads more conflict than any other problem, despite other reasons the empire had for expansion.

What is your view on this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

In fact, I have studied modern history at depth in the past; the period I studied is mainly the period from about 1750 onwards.

Strictly speaking this question lies outside of my usual area but I will give my honest opinion for what it's worth.

Your teacher is far too cynical but that reaction is so typical of the modern approach. This negative attitude towards "imperialism" is partly because of the decline in Christianity in the West during the last 100 years. It is simply not understood by moderns how committed the British were to spreading Christianity and Christian civilisation to as many places as possible. Yes, other peoples were considered as "heathen" if they were not Christian, but the British were anxious to spread a better way of life to people who were suffering in their tens of thousands because of needless ignorance, poverty, continual tribal strife and a devotion to pagan superstitions.

Yes, colonialism also helped British interests in other areas too, I don't deny that, but is it not a very good thing that the missionary peoples taught better health understanding, built hospitals, trained doctors for overseas mission, taught fair legal judicial systems, founded schools and so on? Modern liberals are so biased in refusing to consider the full picture. Frankly, I am proud to be British because of the compassion and altruism of the British colonial tradition of the past (unlike that of certain other countries). Am I suggesting that it was perfect? No, it was not perfect, it was not 'the kngdom of God on earth' (as some have taught). Were mistakes made? Of course, I don't deny that. Were native peoples sometimes treated unjustly? Again, I cannot deny that, neither can I excuse that, but we have to understand that the world was a far different place back then. Also, within a colonial system strict laws were obviously needed - most of then entirely for the benefit of the colonized people.

In our day liberals and socialists are entirely opposed to colonialism in general, and to the British Empire in particular but they resolutely refuse to consider the entire picture. Ironically these same liberals now impose their own imperialism - social and intellectual imperialism: they think that everybody should think entirely like them, no matter what country or religious background they are from. They also think that 'authority' is a dirty word but God rules with authority in the Heavens and one day every single human creation - no exceptions - will be subject to it (Romans 14:11).

Robin A. Brace. October 20th, 2016.