Reason #1 Society Is Transformed Everywhere Christianity Is Introduced and Embraced

Jeremiah J. JohnstonBy Jeremiah J. Johnston7 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Body of Proof: The 7 Best Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus—and Why It Matters Today by Jeremiah J. Johnston


Chapter 4

Reason #1 Society Is Transformed Everywhere Christianity Is Introduced and Embraced

More people attend church on Easter Sunday than watch the Super Bowl. But what would our world be like if that first Easter had never happened? If the Christian movement had never taken off?

Good questions, But even speculatively guessing at an answer is a bit like the counter-factual narratives being told about the resurrection today. For example, what if Greece has been overwhelmed by Persia? What if Winston Churchill had given up and Britain had surrendered? What if Hitler had won World War II?

But we don’t need to guess. We can study what the world would be like without the resurrection of Jesus. And we already have a pretty good idea of what the world was like before Jesus and the Christian church (short answer: It was awful!). And thanks to communism and Nazi Germany, we also have a pretty good idea of what the world would become if Christianity were driven out of society.

Christianity has changed so much in the world. Christian belief is not indifferent to suffering. For Instance, it successfully abolished slavery not once but twice—in late antiquity and again in the 1800s with the elimination of the transatlantic slave trade after the American Civil War. Much more could be said and had been written about the efforts of Christian leaders like William Wilberforce and John Welsey, who tirelessly worked in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to abolish slavery. (More recently, a third wave of Christians are at the forefront of ending slavery in the marginalized world.)

It should be noted that Wilberforce and Wesley lived during the so-called Age of Enlightenment. Were secular philosophers of the time “enlightened” to the evils of slavery? The simple answer is no. A Who’s Who of major enlightenment figures supported slavery: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Voltaire, David Hume, and Edmund Burke, among others.

From only one religion or belief system historically emerged the conclusion that slavery was absolutely evil: Christianity. In contrast, Islam does not consider slavery to be a sin. Muhammad personally owned and sold slaves. The Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira (Islamic trilogy) contain the most elaborate and comprehensive slave code in the world. Islam has enslaved more people than any other culture and still practices slave-owning in areas of Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Sudan.

But the question What would our modern world be like without Christianity and, specifically, the resurrection? is a bit more foundational. Frankly, I’m not sure there would even be a modern world without it. To be sure, cultural and technological advances came about here and there. For one, the weapons of the Romans were more sophisticated than the weapons of the empires of the Ancient Near East, But Roman society was not much more advanced. Ideas of rights, laws, and equality were nothing like what they would later become thanks to the emergence of Christianity.

The impact of the Christian faith, of Jesus himself on the world, is huge and probably impossible to measure fully. Every society where Christianity is introduced and embraced—from the first centuries AD to modern times—has been transformed, especially in the following four ways. As we will see, the church, unified and mobilized, is the greatest force for good on earth.

1. The Revelation of a Loving God

The revelation of a loving God was key to societal changes made in the first centuries AD—and still is today. In fact, one of the most startling and revolutionary teachings in the Christian message is that God loves humanity: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).

This idea rooted in the faith and Scriptures of ancient Isreal would have struck first-century pagans as simply astounding. Their gods both merely tolerated and did not tolerate humankind. At best, they were indifferent to the human plight, and at worst, they resented humans and sometimes lusted after them. They toyed with them and often acted against them capriciously. That’s why most pagans believed the gods felt little or no compassion for humans and some gods were even jealous of humans who were more beautiful or gifted. They were petty, easily offended, and vengeful. Indeed, they were often deceitful and couldn’t be trusted. Humans had to placate, cajole, and even bribe them.

Christianity’s belief in one God changed all that. Christians not only proclaimed that “God is love” but that he sent his Son to bring reconciliation between God and humanity—to redeem them. Ancient pagans had never heard of such a thing. The God of Jesus, described as a heavenly Father who loved his children, who was patient with them when they were foolish and sinful, and who was a wholly reliable, faithful God of truth, was simply mind-boggling for them. Almost incomprehensible.

On top of that, this Son of God was raised up to a new and glorious life. Not only could humans be reconciled to God, but they could be assured of a new and perfect life in the world to come—something the people of the pagan world could only wish for, never knowing if it could be attained.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Christian message of a loving, redeeming God has attracted 2.4 billion followers, more than any other faith. And as the gospel continues to be shared around the world, so may Christ’s followers increase.

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