The Goodness of Christianity:

The Movement that Transformed Civilization (Part I)

by Corey Miller, President and CEO, Ratio Christi

The cross has left its mark on civilization

The Imprint of Jesus is Unmatched in History

The mark of history, his story, seems to be the imprint of Jesus. Speaking eight languages by age 20 and earning a PhD at 22, Yale historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, minced no words in the introduction to his book:

Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about Him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost 20 centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?[1]

Harvard psychology professor and atheist, Steven Pinker is the author of a recent best-seller, Enlightenment Now, which has a cover endorsement by billionaire, Bill Gates. Gates claims that it is his new favorite book of all time. The book is an apologetic for secular humanism and somewhat revisionary history compared to the work of an actual historian from Yale.[2]

Pinker’s message is that reason, science and humanism—which he claims are the key themes of the Enlightenment—have led to mass progress in most areas of life. No doubt they have contributed. They are allegedly our best means of continuing this progress into the future. But these ideals are not consistently upheld and are often under attack. Therefore, we need to fortify and defend them against counter-Enlightenment enemies like religion.

He reveals his ignorance as he saws off the branch on which he sits. The very university from which he luxuriously pontificates was founded by the Puritans, devout apprentices of Jesus. Its motto for nearly 300 years was “Truth for Christ and the Church.”

Prosperity and Jesus

Pinker endorses the capitalist enterprise but fails to see that the father of modern capitalism, Adam Smith, was a Christian who spoke of the “hand of God” in his great work, The Wealth of Nations. Three billion people have since been delivered from poverty, thanks in part to capitalism, and billions more have been helped by charity. Far from Marxism’s socialistic impetus of coercive giving, “from each according to their ability to each according to their need,” Jesus modelled giving by giving himself. The early church followed.

Jesus, not humanism, is the greatest motivator for charity in the history of humanity. As a Jew he embraced the sanctity of human life. He was the finest expression of humanity and of the highest form of love. Christianity is the biggest movement in history and followers follow. The compassionate Jesus community emerged very early on. This fact is recognized by even the most ardent atheist thinkers. Princeton moral philosopher, Peter Singer, confesses:

The doctrine of the sanctity of all human life, and the seriousness with which the killing of any member of our species is regarded, mark off the Christian ethical and cultural tradition from almost all others…. That very many different societies have seen no moral objection to abortion and infanticide is, I think, well-known. Even if we restrict our attention to infanticide, the list is almost endless…. Both Plato, in the Republic, and Aristotle, in his Politics, propose that the state command the killing of deformed infants…. We find nothing resembling the doctrine that the lives of all born of human parents are sacred in the pre-Christian literature. There can be no doubt that the change in European attitudes to abortion and infanticide is a product of the coming of Christianity.[3]

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