If God does exist and does interact with His creation, you would expect Him to have a positive effect on people. While I’m aware that some people have had a bad ‘church’ experience and that some don’t like the moral restraints God has put on humanity, the positive effects He has had far outweigh the negative ones. Let’s examine some…
Be aware that I will be summarizing a lot of material from our class “How Christianity Changed the World”. So for more in-depth detail, please take that class.
1…the transformed lives of the disciples…at their leader’s crucifixion, they were cowards. When the message of the resurrection came, they had to be convinced. But once convinced, they never doubted again. These simple men & women gave the world the highest ethical teaching it has ever known. They believed and preached it, even to their deaths. Think of the absurdity of a little band of cowards in an upper room one day and a few days later, transformed into a group that no persecution could silence. And then attempting to attribute this change to nothing more than these people trying to start their own religion. Who would die for a lie? Their lives had been transformed by Jesus living in them.
2…the transformed lives of the early, persecuted Christians…Roman Emperors who violently persecuted these early Christians were Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius ( yes, the one in the movie ‘Gladiator’), Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, Maximian & Galerian. Fed to the lions, lighted as torches for Nero’s orgy garden parties, legs cut off, broken, torn apart and ripped apart by beasts in the arena, women thrown into brothels to suffer shame before being executed, etc. In spite of three centuries of persecutions, Christians did not attack their pagan enemies. They shed no blood but their own.
3…the transformed lives of 2,000 years of history…Ever since the crucifixion & resurrection of Jesus, people (who have been separated by time & place) have claimed that their lives changed by one man…Jesus Christ. Other religions don’t claim that their messiah is still living, is coming back and has changed their lives. People like James Clerk Maxwell (discoverer of the laws of electro-magnetism), Mitsuo Fuchida (Japanese pilot who lead the attack on Pearl Harbor), Nicky Cruz (gang leader), literary giants C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkein, Charles Dickens, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow & George MacDonald, skeptics like Lew Wallace (author of Ben-Hur, the best selling novel of the 19th century), Harriet Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 2nd best selling novel of the 19th century)…and the list goes on and on. The French Emperor Napolean said he could not imagine having his soldiers die for him AFTER he was dead, yet that is what he observed with Christians. And Christians are still being raped, tortured, maimed and killed for their faith. There were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all 19 centuries before. Half (some 35 million) of all Christian who have died for their faith did so in the 20th century alone. 2015 is the worst year EVER for Christian martyrs. No other world religion has had such transformative power in people’s lives. Please refer to the books “Jesus Freaks” and “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” for specific accounts of persecutions.
Interesting note…there were 10 1st century messianic movements in Palestine. Christ’s was the only one that succeeded.
How Christianity has changed Education:
Christianity was the first world religion to educate male & female children alike, despite their economic or social status. They saw all people as equals (Galatians 3:28). No other country or religion before that did this. Usually only the rich, elite boys got educated. Universities started out in monasteries. 92% of all American universities before the Civil War were founded by Christian denominations. Colleges like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Northwestern, Columbia, Univ. of Cal. at Berkeley, Univ. of Kentucky, Univ. of Tennessee, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. all started out as Christian institutions. Louis Braille, influenced by his Christian father, started the Braille system of raised dots, so blind people could ‘read’. The first thing missionaries do is teach people to read.
How Christianity has changed Science:
Alfred North Whitehead, the renowned British philosopher & mathematician of the early 1900’s, said the origins of modern science required Christianity’s insistence on the rationality of God. If God is a rational being, then may not humans being made in His image, also employ rational processes to study & investigate the world in which He created. The Christian Francis Bacon is credited with starting the modern scientific approach by using inductive reasoning. Up to this point, most scientists used deductive reasoning. The ancients believed that the gods were part of the creation. Figuring out how the world worked was seen as useless as it was invading the gods realm. And their gods were not always rational. For example, planets were seen as having an intelligence & feelings, hence this is what made them move. Christians saw themselves as having dominion over the world God had created (Genesis 1:28). Since God was rational and humans were rational (some were anyway), then the laws God set up to run the universe should be rational also. Unfortunately, some Christians held to the Aristotelian method of deductive science. It took the Protestant Reformation to really blow the doors off of scientific investigation. From the 1400-mid 1800’s, every major scientist explained his motivations in religious terms. The most prestigious scientific society in history, the Royal Society of London, was founded by Calvinist Christians in 1645 with 7 of its 10 founding members being Puritans. The founder of Scientific American magazine was a Christian…isn’t that a hoot? Christian scientists include Nicholas Copernicus, Johann Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Alessandro Volta, Andre Ampere, Georg Ohm, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Lord Kelvin, Joseph Lister and many, many modern Nobel prize winners of today. Christians make up about 1/3 of the world’s population but make up over 65% of its Nobel prize winners.
How Christianity has changed Charity and Compassion:
We need to transfer ourselves back to the Greco-Roman culture. This will be hard, as we have grown up in a Christian culture. Human compassion among the ancients was rare. Plato said that a poor man (usually a slave) who was no longer able to work because of sickness should be left to die. Roman philosopher Plautus said that “You do a beggar bad service by giving him food and drink; you lose what you give and prolong his life for more misery.” Remember that Roman spectators took great delight in seeing gladiators mauled or stabbed to death in the arenas; a practice that took place for over 600 years. In its extreme form, these cultures could easily practice human sacrifice, especially in the land of Canaan. Into this callous, compassionless culture, Christians entered. See Matthew 25:35,36,45 John 15:13
Charity to orphans…Child abandonment was common in the ancient world. Christians established orphanages for homeless children. No other culture
or religion did this. Christians did this because they saw biblical teachings that said every human life was precious in the sight of God.
Charity to the aged… There is no historical evidence of homes for the aged in the years preceding Christianity. Christians established homes for the aged by the 5th century. Before that, many Christians took them into their homes and cared for them. While some cultures did esteem their elders, it didn’t translate into caring for them when they were old, frail and alone. For example, in the Eskimo culture, many years ago, it was a common practice to let their aged slowly freeze to death.
Charity by American voluntary associations… In the 1940’s, Gunnar Myrday (a foreign observer) noted, “No country has so many cheerful givers as America.” He attributed this to “influence from the churches.” The following organizations were largely influenced by Christians and Christian churches:
Fraternal Benefit Societies
Lutheran Brotherhood, Ukrainian National Association, etc.
Kiwanis, Lions, Optimist, Rotary, etc.
Soup kitchens, rescue missions, Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters, etc.
Child labor laws… A major tragedy of the industrial revolution was child-labor exploitation. People who greatly influenced governments to outlaw child-labor were English Christians like William Wilberforce, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle and Anthony Cooper, aka. Lord Shaftesbury.
While child labor has been effectively outlawed in “Christian” western countries, it still is widespread in many non-western, non-Christian countries today. Countries like China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Africa, etc.
People who think that human charity and compassion existed as a result of mere civilization without the impetus and influence of Christianity are just plain misinformed.
George Grant says, “As missionaries circled the globe, they started hospitals, founded orphanages, started rescue missions, opened soup kitchens, incorporated charitable societies and changed laws… they lived as if people mattered.” Sympathy toward the poor is a concept that comes from Christianity; however, the elite and rich in the GRC despised them.
Hospitals and health care… The Greco-Roman world had a colossal void when it came to caring for the sick and dying. Because God loves everyone (John3:16), Christians cannot please God unless they love one another (John 15:12,13). The early Christians rejected the inhumane treatment of the sick and dying. They saw each person has having a redeemable soul and so, they needed to nurse and nurture each and every person regardless of the physical condition or social standing. Saving physically frail people was an affront to the GRC. It violated their cultural norms. Seneca, 1st century Roman philosopher, said, “We drown children who at birth are weakly and abnormal.” Doctors and hospitals for everyone else did not exist until Christians established them.
Nursing as a profession was started by Florence Nightingale, a Christian who was greatly influenced earlier by a Christian doctor and his nurse. It is an astonishing mystery that the Greeks and Romans, who built large temples in honor of their gods and goddesses, fashioned statues of all sorts, wrote a wide variety of literature, built big arenas, built aqueducts and great roads, and NEVER built any hospitals for the regular people. The American church historian Philip Schaff said, “The old Roman world was a world without charity.”
How Christianity has changed Labor and Economic Freedom:
The Greco-Roman world had an extremely low view of physical labor, namely that it was suitable only for slaves and the lower classes. At one time, Athens had five times as many slaves as citizens. The Roman philosopher Cicero said: “…vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workers whom we pay for mere manual labor…”
Christians assigned work honor and dignity for 3 reasons:
1. Jesus was a carpenter, a lowly profession.
2. Paul earned a living from a trade, tent-making.
3. They believed 2nd Thessalonians 3:10, Luke 10:7
Hence, Christians saw work as a “calling” that was under the Lordship of Christ…Colossians 3:17,23, 24
This view of work being honorable set them apart from the prevailing view but it also earned them derision because they prospered economically as a result of their strong work ethic. In today’s world, it is simply assumed that all workers deserve a fair wage for the work that they perform. Until the Judeo-Christian view of work came to be, this wasn’t
true at all, as the majority of residents worked as slaves. As a result, there wasn’t much of a middle-class in the GRC. The middle-class arose due to the Christian work ethic, especially the Puritan work ethic in the 1600’s. The Christian work ethic has been rightly credited with greatly reducing poverty and its by-product, disease.
As an example, after WWII, Japan intentionally adopted Western economic and industrial values that were largely the product of the Christian work ethic. Once the effects of a cause have become operative, they can be utilized apart from the original cause.
How Christianity has changed Property Rights and Individual Freedom:
For the most part, private property rights for the common man were non-existent in the Greco-Roman world. Private property rights are vital to people’s freedom. The two cannot be separated. Where there are no private property rights, there can be no human or civil rights.
Exodus 20:15, 17 “…you shall not steal and you shall not covet…” Both of these commandments assume the person has the right and freedom to acquire, retain and sell his property at his discretion.
Matthew 20:15 also supports this. Jesus only spoke against the over-attachment to material things; never to their exclusion.
Capitalism (or more accurately, free markets or free enterprise) is a by-product of Christianity’s value of spiritual freedom applied to economic life and activities. In countries where the free market is not permitted to operate, the gap between rich and poor is the widest – exactly the opposite of what we currently hear. Because of man’s fallen nature, we may need to place some barriers on this system, but not too many.
Is it coincidence that the greatest amount of freedom and economic prosperity exist in countries where Christianity has had a dominant presence? As Rabbi Daniel Lapin said, “It’s no accident that a capital market has never arisen indigenously in any non-Christian country.”
By giving dignity to work and accenting the spirit of individual freedom, Christianity has produced profound economic effects…
How Christianity Abolished Slavery:
Slavery is a common stable in every society that ever existed – including Africa, Arabia, Greece, Rome and the American Indians long before Columbus. With few exceptions, kings, pagan priests and philosophers approved of it. Slavery is not just about whites enslaving blacks – it’s primarily about people enslaving other people. It exists today in many parts of the world, especially in the Sudan, where Muslims are enslaving Christian and others.
Christianity was the first major religion that was against slavery. Galatians 3;28 Paul’s statement was beyond revolutionary; it was ridiculously radical, and unheard of before in history.
Because of Christianity, slavery had become extinct by the 14th century in Europe. It was revived by the British empire’s expansion in the 17th century, especially in the British colonies (including America). William Wilberforce finally ended slavery in England in the 1800’s because of his Christian convictions. Most of the abolitionist movement (2/3rds) in America in the mid-1800’s was made up of Christians and clergy. While there were some Christians who defended slavery, this doesn’t nullify that fact that most Christians were against it and because of them, it ended here in America.
Slavery was first abolished in the Western world as a direct result of Christianity. To those who disagree, answer these questions:
1) Was slavery first abolished in countries where Christianity had a major influence or a minor influence?
2) Where slavery exists today, does Christianity have a major or minor influence in those countries?
3) For those countries that still practice slavery, which religion or political system is in place?
How Christianity Elevated the Sanctity of Human Life:
Infanticide is the killing of newborn infants. Historical research shows that infanticide was common in many ancient cultures such as the Greco-Roman world, India, China, Japan, and Africa, as well as North and South American Indians, among many others.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have never wavered in their condemnation of infanticide – in part because of Matthew 19:14. They have always called it what it really is – murder. The Roman Emperor Valentinian (sufficiently influenced by Bishop Basil of Caesarea in Cappadocia) formally outlawed it in 374AD.
The Greco-Roman culture (among many others) practiced child abandonment. In neither Greek, nor Roman literature can we find any guilt feelings over this practice. Clement of Alexandria, a church father in the later part of the 2nd century, condemned the Romans for protecting birds and other creatures better than its children. Christians did more than just condemn the practice; they often took these children into their homes and raised them as their own. This is one reason why the early Roman church wasn’t very rich; as they expended a great amount of time and money on raising these children. When
the Roman Emperor Valentinian outlawed infanticide in 374AD, he also outlawed child abandonment. Christians saw child abandonment as a form of murder.
Plato, Aristotle, Celsus and others had no problem with abortion, the killing of the unborn. While there was a little opposition (like Hippocrates), it was very little. Plato said it should be done to stop over-population of the state. Most ancient cultures practiced abortion. The early church’s opposition to abortion, infanticide and child abandonment distinguished Christian from pagan societies. And their opposition was a major factor in giving the Western world its high regard for human life (at all stages in its development). Emperor Valentinian outlawed abortion in the Roman empire in 374AD.
Gladiators fought not only other men but beasts also. Thousands upon thousands of them were slaughtered during the seven centuries of the “games”. These games were held throughout the Roman empire. The emperor Trajan (98-117AD) celebrated his conquest of Dacia by hosting games that lasted four months and included 10,000gladiators with 10,000 beasts. Half of the gladiators died during the games, while
many more died afterwards, from their wounds. Emperor Titus inaugurated the Roman Coliseum in 80AD with 5,000 thousand animals being killed in one day, plus hundreds of gladiators who lost their lives that day.
Christians condemned and boycotted these games as murder (Exodus 20:13). Their opposition didn’t go unnoticed, as Romans thought the Christians were being unpatriotic. A Roman pagan is quoted as saying, “You do not go to our shows, you take no part in our processions… you shrink in horror from our sacred (gladiatorial) games.”
The historian W.E.H. Leakey (no friend to Christianity) states: “There is scarcely any single reform so important in the moral history of mankind as the suppression of the gladiatorial shows, a feat that must be almost exclusively ascribed to the Christian church.” The games were outlawed in the Roman empire in 404AD.
How Christianity Stopped Child Sacrifice:
Where paganism rules, it was not uncommon to see human beings, especially children, sacrificed to pagan gods. Child sacrifices were common in places like Canaan (Palestine). 1st Kings 18:16-40, 2nd Kings 16:3, 21:6 and Jeremiah 7:31
The pre-St. Patrick Irishmen sacrificed prisoners of war and newborns to the harvest gods. It was also common among the pagan Prussians and Lithuanians until the 14th century. The Aztecs and Mayans of South America also practiced child sacrifice and didn’t stop until conquered by the Spanish.
Whether the human life was a fetus, an infant, or an adult, early Christians saw God as the creator of all human life (Job 1:21); only He could give and take human life. If we took a fellow-human life, it was murder. This view that human life was sacred went totally against the prevailing Greco-Roman view. The Roman emperor Tiberius (14-37AD) loved to see tortured humans thrown into the sea. Emperor Caligula (37-41AD) killed all who once served in his palace. He also dragged humans through the streets with their bowels hanging out!
How Christianity Elevated Sexual Morality:
Roman writers (Juvenal, Catullus, Martial and Ovid) testify that sexual activity between men and women had become depraved before, and during the time that Christians appeared in Roman society. Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, sadism, orgies and bestiality had become common and were even illustrated on household items like oil lamps, bowls, cups and vases. Yes, even their children saw these items, so modesty was nowhere to be found.
Adultery… Adultery was exclusively defined in terms of the women’s status, not the man’s, and was a property violation. So, a man, married or single, couldn’t be accused of adultery but a woman could because she was another man’s wife and adultery was a property offense punishable by death. Because of this, many married women registered as prostitutes so they were not exclusively seen as their husband’s property and could then commit adultery without being punished. Into this culture, Christians said that sex between a husband and wife was an expression of mutual love and respect, not of self-serving lustful gratification.
1st Corinthians 7:3, 1st Peter 3:7
They also believed the sex act made them “one flesh” and required them to be faithful to each other. Contrary to the GR pagan view, they saw sex outside marriage as wrong and sinful. Per a 2nd century document, “They (Christians) have a common table, but not a common bed.” Believers also saw marriage as a type of relationship between believers and God. Ephesians 5:22-33
Homosexuality… Christians saw any sexual act outside of monogamy within marriage as sinful. Obviously, they weren’t admired for rejecting the Roman’s sexual immoralities. Saint Augustine said in the 5th century that the Roman’s despised Christians because they opposed their unrestrained sexual lifestyles. Tertullian said that the Romans so despised the Christians that they hated the name ‘Christian’. No other world religion elevated sexual morality to this degree (or anywhere close to it). Christianity condemned all forms of homosexuality as being wrong and sinful and contrary to the way God made humans. Romans 1:27, Jude 7
How Christianity changed the Status of Women:
A Greek woman:
Wasn’t allowed to leave the house without her husband or his escort (usually a male slave)
When her husband’s male guests were present in his home, she wasn’t allowed to be with them and had to retire to her own part of the house. But the husband’s mistress could be there and accompany him to events outside the home. His mistress was his companion and sexual partner.
Girls didn’t go to school; throughout their lives they weren’t allowed to speak in public.
Greek poets equated women with evil; it was the Greek myth of ‘Pandora’s Box’ that blamed women for introducing evil into the world.
Greek female infanticide (the killing of newborns) far exceeded that of males.
A Roman woman:
She was under the absolute legal control of her husband, who had ownership of her and all of her possessions. (the Roman law of ‘Mannus’)
She couldn’t divorce him, although he could divorce her at any time.
She even lacked the right to tell her husband’s slaves what to do.
A husband could even kill his wife for a non-adulterous offense with the approval of an extended-family tribunal. For his wife’s adultery, the husband alone could kill her.
The low regard for women also showed itself in how they were treated sexually. Chastity, in the Christian sense, was almost unknown in heathen societies. Women were slaves to man’s lower passions. Greco-Roman women were often temple prostitutes, like in the temple of Aphrodite (Diana). Pagan gods had very low standards with regards to women and sexuality.
Although Greeks and Romans had their mistresses, they weren’t allowed to marry more than one woman. Most other ancient societies, especially in the Middle East, allowed and encouraged multiple marriages (one man with several wives, but not the other way around). To a large extent, Christianity stopped this; however it still exists in many non-Christian nations today, especially Muslim countries.
Because of Jesus and his teachings, women – especially in the West – enjoy more privileges and rights than at any other time in world history. Because of Galatians 3:28, women were treated as equals to men. In 374 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valentinian repealed the thousand year old laws against women because of Galatians 3:28.
Christianity has also had an incredible impact on common words and symbols, expressions and sayings, art and architecture, music, the literary world and political freedom. For specific examples of these, take our class “How Christianity Changed the World”.
“How Christianity Changed the World” by Dr. Alvin Schmidt
“Christianity on Trial” by Carroll & Shiflett
“What’s So Great About Christianity” by Dinesh D’Souza
For His Kingdom,