A Defense of Christianity's Influence on History

Evidence does not support what many secular institutions teach us.
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Dignity and charity. Steadily, the Christian missionary movement stretched out, converting the Northern European barbarian hordes, the Angles and Saxons, and the tribes of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Warriors gradually became knights, infused now with new ideals of civility and chivalry that still inform our society. Because Jesus honored women and valued children, the developing civilization of Europe began to take on his imprint in these ways, albeit imperfectly, but to an extent utterly foreign to other cultures of that time and to many in ours today. Because Jesus had said: "Whatever you do for one of the least—the poor, the imprisoned, the sick—you do for me" (Matthew 25:31-46, my paraphrase), Christ's followers showed concern for the weak and the marginalized. They developed innumerable hospitals, orphanages, and other centers of charity, again, to an extent unknown before on planet Earth.

Science and higher education. Other religions, including the classic Greek and Roman ones, held that the gods (and therefore the movements of nature) were capricious or unknowable. But Christians believed that God was rational and had given human beings minds to discover his glory in the created order. Episodes of regression aside, Christianity was indisputably the world's most massive sponsor of the scientific enterprise and the academic culture that fostered it. The Christian passion for the pursuit of truth led to the establishment of an untold number of schools and universities. Go study the inscriptions carved into the stones of the Western world's greatest institutions of higher education and you will be thunderstruck by the prevalence of the biblical imprint there.

The modern world. Yale professor Jaroslav Pelikan remarks that Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost 20 centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? In his book The Victory of Reason, Stark answers that question: Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls. Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in 1800. It would be, Stark says, a world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists … a world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos … a world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth. The modern world arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a "secular" society.

There would be no world as we know it today if Easter had never happened.

What Is God Doing Today?

As the writer of Hebrews asserted, Christ calls his witnesses to present God's message of hope despite all opposition (Hebrews 12:3). Today we face an articulate and assertive army of anti-theists who are deeply embedded in our academic institutions and who trumpet their worldview even through the organs of entertainment. They declare that if we could just leave religion behind and build instead on the innate genius and goodness of humanity, we would have a better world.

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