The question of what good has Christianity done for Western civilisation is at the forefront of our 21st-century cultural crisis, whether we like to admit it or not.
As we live in the aftermath of Islamic dominance in Europe, it is Christianity that distinguishes Western civilisation instead of the common misconception that the West must be white or of a racial, cultural or linguistic group.
Popular Western culture through an enlightened media often baulks at the idea that Christianity has been a stalwart for equality. But as a matter of fact, it is through the doctrine that all people are made in the image of God, that we are equal. The rise of Christianity displaced pagan traditions and schools of thought such as Aristotle’s belief that some people were natural slaves.
Despite an increasing number of denominations appearing beyond the Overton window in mainstream society for their Christian values and with perceptions of how women are treated, Christianity has been the best advocate for women.
The human rights of consensual marriage are founded upon Christianity, declaring that women are not the chattel of men and are the sacramental equal to their husbands.
Ridding the world of religion and especially Christianity to resolve world conflict is a common misconception often held by those who fail to recognise their dogmatic belief systems. Children’s storybooks and a poor understanding of history have also led us to perceive paganism as a peaceful tradition. But such perceptions of the ‘noble savage’ fail to recognise the brutality and violence that pre-dated the rise of Christianity.
Respect for life
The notion that all religion leads to violence is a false pretence that many often imply as cover for their intolerance. Some religions advocate warfare on non-believers, but not Christianity, and this can be seen through Christians having placed an increased number of restrictions on war.
An example is Augustine declaring that war should only be fought for generally defensive purposes. The creation of the Geneva Convention owes its tradition to the new Christian practice starting in the 10th century to differentiate between combatants and civilians.
A distinguishing feature of Christianity has been its respect for human life which has saved countless lives literally as well as spiritually throughout the world.
The barbaric practice of child and human sacrifices has no place in Christianity, as Christians know what is necessary to please God and that the ultimate sacrifice has already been completed through Jesus. It was the lack of understanding of the true God that led many pagan and other religions to take up the practice of human sacrifices.
Inclusive and creative
Being inclusive and creative are not things that are perceived to be tenets of Christianity, but the reality could not be further from the truth. The Bible records through Acts chapter 2 of the Holy Spirit giving the apostles ‘tongues of fire’, which enabled the apostles to speak in the many foreign languages of the non-believers.
Christianity seeks to include people not by making them conform to cultural practices but by reaching out to them in their distinct environment.
Additionally, Christians have the privilege of knowing that they are not confined to a physical building for worship, as the Bible tells us that the Church exists when believers are gathered for Jesus.
Another example of the creativity that is found through Christianity was in AD601 when Pope Gregory the Great declined to destroy the pagan temples in Anglo-Saxon England but instead had them consecrated for Christian worship.
As GK Chesterton writes “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”
It is only through Christian worship that there is the joy that fills the Church in celebration of God’s creation and His good order, this is something not found through any other religion. Christianity is also comedic not in the sense that matters of faith are accidental or that God is to be mocked.
But Christians can rejoice in God’s providential timing for answered prayers and share in humour about the Bible through publications like the Babylon Bee and Christian Memes, without fear of being struck down by lightning bolts.
One consequence of the Reformation was the incoming of the Puritan movement that took the laughter and joy out of Christian worship. J. R. R. Tolkien writes in his letter responding to Camellia Unwin’s question of the purpose of life, that we exist to be giving God joyful praises in awe of the splendour of His glory.
Christians are once again facing challenges from anti-God totalitarian ideologies from both left and right. Both communism, fascism and everything in between are vying to fill the God-shaped hole that is growing in the Western world.
No true salvation can be found through adopting socialism as a human attempt to reduce capitalist inequalities. No eternal life can be gained by placing trust in conservative ideals that seek to use human effort to preserve this broken world, which forsakes the great hope of a new heaven and new earth in God’s kingdom.
The West is shifting culturally, geographically and linguistically; but it has only been through the Christian premise of Western civilisation that the entire world has achieved the progress to today’s 21st century.
We do not need to hold onto the West as being a white ethnocentric empire, but we do, however need to spread the benefits of Western civilisation as founded upon Christianity throughout the entire world. And do so through the reasoned Christian principles of love, equality and joy!
This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Thursday 7 November 2019