The Global Influence of Christians

Apr 18, 2018 by

by Canon J John:

Increasingly, I’m coming across a distorted view of history and society. Writers and speakers look at the modern Western world with its technology, culture and its advocacy of human rights and democracy, and imply that it all mysteriously ‘just happened’. It is taken for granted that those values we prize, and which most of the world seems to want, are simply accidents of history and have nothing to do with the beliefs of those Christians who shaped them. So there is no reference to the Christian beliefs of important historical figures who were motivated by their faith.

The truth is that Christianity played a significant role in shaping what we call ‘the West’. I think to ignore that fact is dishonest. Let me here just highlight a few things worth remembering.

Consider human rights; the idea that every individual has rights and freedoms. It is most famously expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, which reads: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ If we hold to the biblical belief that everybody is made in God’s image and as such has value. It’s no coincidence that Amnesty International, the leading human rights group, was founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson – a Christian.

Consider children. In the ancient world – as in parts of the modern – children were treated as being inferior to adults and of little value. In many cultures, infanticide was common. However, following the example of Jesus (Matthew 19:14), Christianity values children. That high evaluation was worked out in the creation of orphanages by Christians such as Thomas Barnardo, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and George Müller, and in the labours of the tireless Lord Shaftesbury in creating laws to restrict the use of children in factories and mines.

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