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This quote from Rodney Stark puts the matter about as boldly as it can be put. And Stark does a good job proving his case. See also Dinesh D'Souza and The Beatitudes & the Saints.
Christianity created Western Civilization. Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls. Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, 1800:
A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists. A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos. A world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth -- a world truly living in "dark ages".
From Stark's book:
The Victory of Reason:
How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, & Western Success, p. 233.
If that seems absurd, consider the following:
One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We donít have any doubt about this. Ibid., p. 235.
And who would write such outrageous prose? Stark introduced that paragraph as a "recent statement by one of Communist Chinaís leading scholars". Perhaps the same Chinese Communist leader who said that if he had his choice of a national religion, it would be Christianity because it was the Christians, he said, who were taking care of the social problems, reaching out to the poor and needy. Quite a change from Mao Tse Tung, who is famous for his claim that morality proceeds out of the other end of a gun barrel.
Honest followers of Jesus Christ will always be doing those things admired by the Chinese. Of what other religion or philosophy can that be said?
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Note: I just (July 28, 2008) found another reference to the second quote above, in David Aikman's book, The Delusion of Disbelief, p. 167-8. Aikman reports.
When a group of eighteen American tourists were in Beijing in 2002 on tour of the landmarks of Western missionary efforts in China, they met with a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the nation's most prestigious academic institute in the fields of philosophy and social sciences. What the scholar had to say astonished them.
No doubt! One wonders who this scholar was, and whether his ideas have any acceptance in the power structure, or whether he could get in trouble if his name were known. Aikman reports another Chinese comment:
A young Chinese journalist, totally educated in the atheist education system of Communist China, in September 2007 presented a paper at an academic conference in Chicago recounting his two-year personal search for the answer to that very question. In his paper entitled, "God and the Essence of Liberty: a Preliminary Inquiry into the History of Freedom," thirty-one-year-old Hong Xu's conclusion couldn't have been more clear: "the single most important thing I would like to share with you here is this... faith in God as Lord is the beginning of freedom."
That is, of course, precisely the message of the Bible. It is no accident that the Chinese rebels against communism at Tienanmen Square many years ago were waving our own Declaration of Independence.
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Date Posted - 01/08/2008 - Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012