Where Would Civilization Be Without Christianity? The Gift of Mission

The act of translating and enculturating the gospel has been Christianity's greatest contribution to human civilization.
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Early in the ninth century an anonymous poem known as the Heiland ("Savior") began to circulate among the Saxons of northern Europe. Two or three generations earlier these same Saxons had been brutally conquered by the Franks under Charlemagne. Forced to undergo baptism at the point of the sword, they hardly had experienced authentic evangelization. This was where the Heiland came in, for it translated the story of Christ into the Saxon language and cultural world. According to this poem, Jesus was the most powerful Chieftain ever born. The words Jesus used to teach and perform his mighty deeds of "magic" were called "God's Spell" (or gospel). His 12 companion foot soldiers, or thanes, came from among the sons of Saxony, and Jesus conducted his ministry throughout their lands. For instance, the wedding at Fort Cana was held in a Saxon drinking hall, and the liquor drawn from the stone vats was the best apple wine. No one hearing the poem could miss its point: Jesus Christ, who was mightier than Woden, Thor, and the rest of the ancient gods, was alone the true Saxon Savior.

Around the time the Saxons were first coming into contact with Jesus, a small Christian community on the other side of the world in the imperial capital of China was translating the message of Jesus Christ into the Chinese language and cultural idioms. A monument erected in 781 in their monastery in the city told how Christians from the Persian empire had first brought the "Luminous Religion" to the imperial capital more than a century before. There they had been welcomed by the Chinese emperor, who invited them to translate their Scriptures in the imperial library. Among their early efforts were a series of evangelistic texts written in Chinese in the ...

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June
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