It’s a lie when people say “secularization civilized Christianity”. No, it didn’t. Quite the opposite. Christianity civilized secularism and other pagan religions. But with the secularization of society, many of the vast influences that Christianity had in civilization are disregarded and/or rejected. This post isn’t only to educate those who are unaware about Christianity’s history and influence in the world, but to inspire Christians today to start, or continue, the work that Christ began. “Without Christianity’s teaching that the Logos is a person, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe to today would have never established itself” – Luc Ferry, atheist.
SANCTIFICATION OF HUMAN LIFE
“God created mankind in his own image; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27
Christianity has always had an adherence to the sanctity of human life. So when it came to abortion, infanticide, and child-abandonment, Christians took an opposing stand and publicly condemned these issues until they were outlawed. The Romans had an extremely low view of life. Most were viewed as cheap and expendable1. The practice of infanticide was “infamously universal”2 – including India, Japan, Brazil, Eskimos, and Africa. Infants were killed for being deformed or physically fragile, by being drowned or cut by their throats3. Those like Cicero and Seneca justified infanticide. Early Christians repeatedly condemned infanticide, i.e. Didache, the Epistle of Barnabus, and Callistus of Rome, basing it on the Scripture, thou shall not kill, and that every human being is made in the image of God. Through Christian literary and public condemnation, Emperor Valentinian outlawed it. Greeks and Romans also abandoned babies by “tossing” them away4. Not only did Christians publicly condemn these acts but took in abandoned children into their homes to protect and nourish them. In particular, Afra of Augsbur, prostitute in her pagan life, converted to Christianity and created a ministry to take care of all types of abandoned children – children of prisoners, thieves, runaway slaves, etc.5 Emperor Valentinian also criminalized child-abandonment.
Unfortunately, the sanctity of life – what Christians have fought for, for so long – has now been undermined, even by Christians, today.
“There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28
Out of all religions and non-religions, Christianity elevates women to the highest level. Too many people are unaware of the low view that was of women. The Athenian women had the social status of a slave;6 they weren’t allowed to leave their homes without their husbands7 and were not allowed to talk to other men in their own home.8 The Greek wife had no freedom either; she was to be kept “under lock and key.”9 In a poem: “We women can’t go out just when we like. We have to wait upon our men.” 10 Jews barred women from testing in court.11 I can go on, but basically, women were deprived of basic freedoms.
“The birth of Jesus was the turning point in the history of woman.”12 Take a look at the way Jesus respectfully and humanely treated the Samaritan Woman – He broke the law by doing so. It seems like a shrug-whatever type thing today but not back then. “One is not so much as to greet a woman” was a rabbinic teaching13. Jesus broke that rule again when He entered into Mary and Martha’s home, and broke it by teaching Mary about Godly principles, since yet another rabbinic teaching was “let the words of the Law be burned rather than taught to women.”15 Broke both laws again by talking to and teaching Martha after His resurrection. He appeared to women first after His resurrection. Women followed Jesus. All this seems to typical today, but extremely unusual back then. The apostolic Church welcomed women and women became leaders, i.e. Priscilla and Phoebe. Women became more active within the church than men (60% of the Christian community was female15…come on, men 😉 ), women began to spread evangelism and missionaries, and built churches.16 This is where Jesus, Paul, and the Early Church broke the social and religious laws that kept women silent and secluded; by treating women equally.
A few other successes – Child brides were common in many places: Babylon, Rome, Assyria. This, however, became less common with the influence of Christianity17. For centuries the custom in India was to burn a widow alive. The Christian teaching is much more humane. Jesus had compassion for and protected widows (Luke 7:11-15, 21:2-3). Much thanks to Christian influence, this practice was banned.18 The Chinese foot binding was practiced for thousands of years, where girls, age 5, would have their feet bound. It led to their foot breaking and having curled toes. This also led to severe infections, leg imputations, or even death.19 Why? To please men. It made women walk on tiptoes and “seductively” sway. Christian missionaries in China led the crusade to have the government outlaw this practice.20 Today, women have rights because of what Jesus exemplified. Women’s rights, without a direct revolution, became a revolution.
“No longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” – Philemon 1:16
Slavery made its way to Europe from African and Arab countries. Slaves made up about 75% of the population in Athens and Rome.21 Christianity’s teaching on equality – no slave nor free – had an incredibly positive effect on slaves. Christians treated slaves the same they would a freeman and communed with them at the altar. Contrasting this with Romans whose believes were “a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave. Therefore, there can be no friendship with a slave.”22 Christians freed slaves. The number is unknown, but at least, 15,600 slaves (95-400AD).23
Emperor Justinian was sympathetic to what Christians were doing so he abolished all laws that prohibited freeing slaves. William Wilberforce was a politician who fought for years against slavery, attempting to make it illegal. Finally, just a few days before he died, Parliament passed the abolition act – freeing 700,000 slaves. Many more stories – Elijah Lovejoy lost his life fighting for slaves to be freed. Charles Torrey helped 100,000 fugitive slaves escape. Harriett Tubman liberated at least 700 slaves. “Christianity is not a segregated religion. It offered itself without restriction to all individuals, classes, and nations; it was not limited to one people, like Judaism, nor to the freemen of one state, like the official cults of Greece and Rome” Will Durant.
“Christians, the pioneers of science” – Alvin Schmidt
Although Christianity had a huge impact on education in general – first university, public schools, Deaf and Blind education, etc., – I want to focus mainly on science. Because there are both Christians and nonChristians alike who believe science and Christianity don’t mix. The reason there were so many prominent Christian scientists was because they wanted to study God and His nature, through His works. This post is getting long, so very quickly to name a few Christian scientists… Gregor Johann Mendel – founder of the modern science of genetics. Nicolaus Copernicus – formulated the model of the universe where the sun (not the earth) is the center of the universe. Johannes Kepler – established the heliocentric theory, and developed the laws of planetary motions. Galileo – father of observational astronomy. Sir Francis Bacon – established the scientific method. Isaac Newton – formulated the laws of motion, and universal gravity.
But today it’s “Science and Christianity are incompatible”, and, even though faith played an enormous part in these scientists’ lives, this is omitted in most educational institutions today. “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands” – Psalms 19:1.
We cannot forget that while Christians were changing the world, they were heavily persecuted and killed. And yet, Christianity still survived, and grew. My plea for Christians is to get back to the core of Christianity – to change the world, to love others, to treat everyone equally, to speak out and fight for those without a voice, through Christ; to become Christ-like. But to also accept any backlash or persecution that comes your way. When Christians were trying to outlaw widows being burned India, society backlashed severely saying that the “Hindu society would be shaken if widows were not burnt alive.”18 Whatever Christ has put in your heart, whether it’s to love everyone or fight for equal rights in a country that has none, do it. Accept God’s will for you and commit to it wholeheartedly. Do everything in love. “Let my life be the proof of Your Love; let my love look like You and what You’re made of.”
- Richard Frothingham – The Rise of the Republic of the United States, 1910
- Frederic Farrar – The Early Days of Christianity, 1882
- Moralia, 2.171D
- Will Durant – Caesar and Christ: A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity…, 1944
- George Grant – The Third Time Around: A History of the Pro-Life Movement…, 1991
- Charles Albert Savage – The Athenian Family: A Sociological and Legal Study, 1907
- C.M. Bowra – Classical Greece, 1965
- F.A. Wright – Feminism in Greek Literature: From Homer to Aristotle, 1923
- Plutarch, Lycurgus 15.8
- Aristophanes, Lysistrata 16-19
- Yoma 43b
- L.F. Cervantes – Women, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967
- Berakhoth 43b
- Sotah 4.3
- Rodney Stark – The Rise of Christianity…, 1996
- W.E.H. Lecky, – History of European Morals…, 1870
- Keith Hopkins – The Age of Roman Girls At Marriage, 1965
- Rawlinson – India: A Short Cultural History, 1952
- Howard S. Levy – Chinese Foot Binding…, 1966
- Lin Yutang – My Country and My People, 1935
- David James – Slavery and Involuntary Servitude, 1992
- Nichomachean ethics 8.11
- W.E.H. Lecky – History of European Morals, 1927