Without Christianity, and our roots in Judaism, the world would be a much sadder, less hospitable, crueler place. You might think of some evil also done in the name of Christianity. True, any human being is fallible and makes mistakes. If you meet anyone that claims they have NEVER made a mistake, then in front of you they have committed their first ..... lying!
How has Judaeo-Christianity Influenced the World? A brief History
- Western civilization was built by Christianity
- Most advances and inventions were conceived in the Western world
- The Ten Commandments are the basis of law in all democratic countries
- The West was built on two pillars, Athens [classical civilization] and Jerusalem
- Classical civilization was infused with barbarous practices like pederasty and slavery
- Rome grew weak and decadent
- The Dark Ages were the result of this decadence
- Classical Rome was smashed by the Hun, Goth, Vandal and Visigoth barbarians
- The barbarians later converted to Christianity and became a more civilized and less rude people
- Christianity gave order, stability and dignity
- Monks copied and studied manuscripts that preserved the learning of late antiquity. Without their work we would know little of this time period.
- Monasteries became the locus and productivity throughout Europe [read Dawson, Christopher, "Religion and Rise of Western Culture"
- Wastelands became hamlets, then towns and eventually commonwealths and cities
- The savage barbarian warriors became the chivalric Christian knight and new ideals of civility, manners and romance were formed
- Christianity is the basis of our laws, economics, politics, arts, the calendar, our holidays and our moral and cultural priorities [Roberts, J.M. "The Triumph of the West"]
- Art flourished and brought forth Michaelangelo's Pieta, and Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and Rembrandt's Christ at Emmaeus and Simon in the Temple
- Venice displays the spectacular murals of Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto
- What would classical Western music be without Handel's Messiah, Mozart's Requiem and the soaring compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach?
- Gothic cathedrals last as a present testament to the influence of historical Christianity
- What would Western literature be without Dante, Milton and Shakespeare?
- Christianity gave the aforementioned men's genius its distinctive expression
- Even famous atheists like Voltaire and Nietzsche were educated by Jesuits and Nietzche's father who was a pastor, Nietzche's autobiography reflects the reference of Pilate regarding Christ when he said "behold the man"
- Even the word "secular" is of Christian origin and was invented as a name to call priests who lived in a parish
- Secular values may have been severed from their original source, but they too are of Christian origin
- All of these roots of our Western culture had Christian teaching, inspiration and influence.
- In attempting to remove it, many have thrown out the baby AND the bathwater
- Separation of church and government was a Christian idea to prevent the state from interfering with the church. Some who are ignorant of history have confused the concept making it often into the OPPOSITE to what it was intended, in other words, the state OFTEN interferes with the practise of religion instead of allowing the church to be separate from the state. It is interesting how the communistic countries went to great lengths to expunge every religious influence and even history from their culture. Sadly that same pattern is reappearing in our own supposedly democratic Western society. Textbooks of history in the U.S. for example often leave out how the country was first established because the Pilgrims were religious figures, so they are left out. [Stalin applauds.]
- The very idea of the state staying out of religious affairs came from Jesus saying after he asked for a coin "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's"
- That idea was a unique concept as most classical cultures had religion tied in with the state. Greeks worshiped Greek gods; Romans worshiped Roman Gods and eventually even the Caesar
- Monotheism was a concept mainly coming out of Judaism and Christianity
- In Judaic law, God's law extended to every sphere and society of life. The same is true of Islamic tradition
- However Jesus separated the state and religion by the famous quotation given previously
- The idea of "limited government" came through this same teaching of Yeshua [anglicized Jesus] which extended to private property
- In Judaeo-Christian teaching, God gave freedom to individuals to do as they wish even if it is to leave his teachings. In fact when atheists talk about being free to do what they want, little do they know the concept originally came from the very thing they negate, God! Remember the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve were not compelled to follow. They were asked.
- Early modern thinkers like John Locke invented the concept of religious tolerance as they realized that a forced obedience of practise of Christianity results in a weak church. The centuries have seen we see today with some churches "Christian" in name but anything but in belief
-Another idea which derives from Christianity
The idea is simply that ordinary people are fallible and yet these fallible people matter.
In this view, society should be organized to meet the ordinary fallible person's needs which are part of a spiritual framework.
"The nuclear family, the idea of limited government, the Western concept of the rule of law, and our culture's high emphasis on the relief of suffering all come from this basic Christian understanding of the dignity of fallible human beings." (Dinesh D'Souza)
To understand this idea we need to look at two ideas.
- "For the good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that i do." St. Paul's statement to the Romans
- Plato's idea that the problem of evil is a problem of knowledge. People do wrong because they do not know what is right. If they knew what was right, obviously they would do it.
Paul denies that idea by stating that even when we know right, as fallible human beings we often do wrong. Why? Because our will is corrupt and we often do what we feel like doing regardless of what we know.
The Common Man is Important
Christian principles also elevate the low man, the common man and the underdog contrary to classical philosophers like Aristotle or authors like Homer.
Aristotle believed that these men were destined to be the slaves of powerful men. Homer ignored them in his epics, concentrating totally on the ruling class. Lesser men appeared only as servants.
Jesus was NOT such a man. He was born of humble circumstances in a stable and lived most of his life as a carpenter's apprentice. He traveled usually by foot and occasionally by donkey.
We could travel back in his family history and see that he was in the line of descent of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth was NOT a Jew but a Moabitess who gave up her life with the baby-sacrificing people to be a friend to Naomi. Boaz was in the direct line of descent of a prostitute who saved Israeli spies from the evil intentions of her fellow city-dwellers. And yet Jesus, better known in that day as Yeshua came from the union of a stranger to the Jews and a prostitute. Hardly a reference to include on a resumé!
From the example of Jesus, came a change in the worldview. Instead of looking up to men of noble birth and high status, Jesus picked fishermen and tax collectors to spread the good news to the world.
Thus began a change in society that the common man was as worthy of a special life and a special purpose as haughty aristocrats.
One of those changes was the idea that marriage and family were entrusted to the common man.
By contrast in ancient Greece, often touted by atheists as the pinnacle of knowledge, the family was NOT considered very important.
Plato proposed the abolition of marriage and family which was to be turned over to the state. Aristotle recognized the need for the family but denigrated the institution as not very complete or noble. It was for procreation. Marriages were arranged and the husband and wife were not even expected to be friends. Aristotle believed that women were largely incapable of friendship.
Homosexuality was common in Athens and notorious in Sparta as it was encouraged in gymnasiums and used to build solidarity among soldiers in war.
Pederasty, which today we would call pedophilia, relations between men and boys were more favored than between relations between men of the same age. The idea promulgated was that the boy agreed to sexual relations and in return he would receive knowledge and tutoring.
We can admire the great achievements of Greece and Rome but we need to keep in mind that along with them the sexual practises of that day live on mainly in prisons and by marginal groups like the Man/Boy Love Association.
In the Christian era, homosexuality and pederasty were considered sinful.
Christianity elevated the heterogeneous monogamous love which would provide the basis for the lasting and exclusive relationship between husband and wife to provide for child-rearing.
These premises were introduced by Christianity into a society to which they were completely foreign and yet have lasted in general to this day.
Romantic Love and the Choice
Second, romantic love, began to be the alternative basis for getting married and for preserving a happy marriage.
Third, the idea of choice, was introduced, while arranged marriages by the rich continued for some time, the alternative of men and women choosing their own mates for life became more and more common. As imperfect societies these ideas may have become shallow compared to the commitments when first introduced but still it forms the basis of Western culture for hundreds of years.
These society-changing ideas were introduced as Christianity spread throughout the Western world.
Servant Leadership, Progress & Morality
Along with them came the idea of servant leadership, that the elected officials of government actually are to work for the betterment of the common man. A far cry from the aristocracy of the rich and powerful in Greece and Rome.
Francis Bacon and Descartes called for a technological system in which man masters and possesses nature but not in a harmful way but considered the recovering of the Garden of Eden.
Locke defended the idea of property rights and cultivation of nature as an imitation of God the creator. Progress, the idea of things constantly getting better over time were an extension of the God-image in man.
Moral ideas based on scripture like the abolition of slavery have started and continue to spread through most of the world seen as progress in morality. Perhaps future generations will become morally enlightened enough to take better care of the planet and cease killing the unborn.
Compassion, a concept demonstrated by Yeshua for lepers, the poor, the needy, the sick and the blind developed and spread throughout the world along with Christian missionaries of many kinds.
So it is not unusual in Western societies to help other countries in time of famine, or flood, quakes or eruptions where some other cultures stand by unconcerned but those originally coming from a Christian heritage are usually first on the scene. I also have to mention the state of Israel, much maligned by the ignorant, the hate-mongers and the prejudiced, was among the first to reach Haiti in the recent quakes in 2010 and in many other areas around the world where disasters such as tsunamis have occurred.
This makes absolute sense as the root of Christianity is Judaism. We did not get all of our Christian concepts directly from Jesus Christ but often from the example of his Jewish race.
The Christian concept of compassion for others known or not around the world, has also included building the first hospitals, groups like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, the YMCA all originally were based on the Christian concept of compassion for all.
From Vincent de Paul, Albert Schweitzer to Mother Teresa, Mark and Hilda Buntain, Christians have taken it upon themselves to become responsible for the poor, sick and those in need.
Nowhere else not in any religions or in secular society do we find anything like this. It is not just Christians who acknowledge that this Western faith has done an incredible amount to improve human life and reduce human suffering.
The Influence of Christianity on Early Science [next]
Have a good!