Continued from...HuffPo Columnist Celebrates 'Slow, Whining Death' of Christianity
Let's examine just a few of these:
The Declaration of Independence reveals the source of Human Rights when it says that all men are "created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." It is the biblical idea of the intrinsic worth of the individual that gave rise to human rights laws.
Aristotle once said that a woman is somewhere between a free man and a slave. In his book "Reasons for God, Tim Keller points out that:
"It was extremely common in the Greco-Roman world to throw out new female infants to die from exposure, because of the low status of women in society. The church forbade its members to do so. Greco-Roman society saw no value in an unmarried woman, and therefore it was illegal for a widow to go more than two years without remarrying. But Christianity was the first religion to not force widows to marry. They were supported financially and honored within the community so that they were not under great pressure to remarry if they didn't want to. Pagan widows lost all control of their husband's estate when they remarried but the church allowed widows to maintain their husband's estate. Finally, Christians did not believe in cohabitation. If a Christian man wanted to live with a woman he had to marry her, and this gave women far greater security. Also, the pagan double standard of allowing married men to have extramarital sex and mistresses was forbidden. In all these ways Christian women enjoyed far greater security and equality than did women in the surrounding culture."1.
In the ancient Roman Empire, infanticide was not only legal, it was applauded and deemed "beautiful". It was Christianity that brought an end to this barbarism and vehemently condemns it still today. Christianity was also crucial in abolishing child labor.
It was the Church that used education as an opportunity to teach Bible literacy. In the new world, it was 'The OLD DELUDER SATAN ACT"(2) passed by the Puritans that paved the way for public education.
The "New England Primer"(3) was the first textbook used by the colonies. It used common biblical references as a means for learning letters of the alphabet and for reading.
The fact that the universe is ordered by physical laws rather than blind randomness and chance led early scientists to develop the scientific method to which we are now accustomed.
Some early Christian scientists included: Keppler, Boyle, Pascal, Pasteur, and Newton. Recently, Christian Scientist Sir Francis Collins after having cracked the human genome had this to say after witnessing the complexity of the human genome:
“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”4.
In his book, The Story of Medicine, Roberto Margotta says that the Hebrews made an important contribution to medicine by their knowledge of personal hygiene given in the book of Leviticus. In fact, he says, "the steps taken in mediaeval Europe to counteract the spread of 'leprosy' were straight out of the Bible."5.
Dr. George Rosen, a professor of public health at Columbia University, echoed this sentiment when he wrote in his book "A History of Public Health":
"Leadership was taken by the church...as the physicians [in medieval Europe] had nothing to offer. The church took as its guiding principle the concept of contagion as embodied in the Old Testament. This idea and its practical consequences are defined with great clarity in the book of Leviticus. Once the condition of leprosy had been established, the patient was to be segregated and excluded from the community . . . It accomplished the first great feat in methodical eradication of the disease."6.
In just about every aspect of Western society Christianity has played a major role in promoting the common good and improving on the lives of countless millions. It is indeed unfortunate that it is continuously demonized for its failures rather than equally appreciated for its contributions. Without Christianity many of the things we take for granted in the West would never have been realized.
Christianity certainly is not responsible for the world's ills; the human heart is, and always has been. Whether its the Church abusing its power by acting contrary to the Word of God, or it's atheistic regimes marching on nations and imposing totalitarian rule as they go, there is a propensity within the human heart for corruption that leads to suffering, pain and human acts of evil. Coincidentally, the Bible addressed the problem of evil thousands of years ago when it said:
"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
The Apostle John wrote this in John 3:19-21 concerning evil:
And this is the condemnation, that light (Jesus) is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.It isn't God who is evil; it's man who is evil. We are the ones who murder, steal, war, blaspheme, demean, and hate... We are the ones responsible for our own behavior. God has gven us a solution in Jesus Christ, but we choose evil. Why? Because we know better than God. But history continues to prove us wrong. We have seen evil and we are it.
It is only through recognizing the true nature of our own hearts, embracing Christ (and His roadmap for living) and turning from evil with the help of the Holy Spirit that the heart will ever be capable of affecting change by living a life of love and compassion for the least among us.
Trying to find answers to truth, meaning and goodness in a world riddled with evil and pain is what religious expression is really all about.
1. Tim Keller, The Reason for God, Dutton, 2008
2. The Old Deluder Act (1647), "Deluder.html." Constitution Society Home Page. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/deluder.html>.
3. "The New England Primer Index." Internet Sacred Text Archive Home. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/nep/>.
4. "I've Found God, Says Man Who Cracked the Genome - Times Online." The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article673663.ece>.
5. Roberto Margotta, The Story of Medicine, ed. Paul Lewis (New York: Golden Press, 1968), 36. Referenced in Kennedy, 142.
6. George Rosen, A History of Public Health, (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1958), p63.