Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Christianity Changed The World

Finally, I finished this book. Here is my review.

This book is excellent: a must read for anyone interested in history, sociology or apologetics. It can be a foundation for any Christian seeking to understand "the big picture" and a guide for anyone wanting to unlock cultural secrets of the West to more effectively preach the gospel. The author consistently and directly tackles the question, "How has Christianity changed the world?"

The author establishes a benchmark for change in each chapter by contrasting early Christian views and practices with that of the surrounding world, chiefly the Greco-Roman system but also the Judaic and Semitic systems of the Middle East and, less often, the Far East systems. He then traces how Christ's followers impacted their world from a discipleship perspective and attempts to hit the highlights of change as they unfold in history to the modern age.

The first few chapters are by far the most impactful. The Christian ideas regarding respect for human life and women, health care and abolition were the most significant and often shocking to me. The high ideals held by and sacrifices made by Christians were in stark contrast to the very base and ignoble ideas of the Greco-Roman system- the same type of system we as a society are fast striving to rebuild. The middle of the book tackles important but less impactful ideas, specifically regarding government, economics and science. The end of the book was somewhat tedious, addressing architecture, music, literature, holidays and language; but he rigorously followed the same pattern and showed how much of our modern world still echoes the teaching of Christ.

The author is Lutheran and this slant definitely shows, but it never put me off. He equally embraces all mainstream Christian denominations without apparent partiality and constantly goes back to the Scriptures, to the teachings of Jesus and the acts of the early church. He favorably portrayed some people (such as Origen) and writings (Didache, Shepherd of Hermes) which I have been taught were the "bad guys" in some way or another, or were evil writings. This has caused me to question to some extent this clear-cut assumption. I may pursue further reading on some of these but it is really of little interest to me.

2 comments:

A Pilgrim's Porridge said...

This book sounds interesting. Maybe I will pick it up this summer.

Your comment on Origen is interesting. I'd don't know much about the writings you mentioned but do understand that the biggest issue with Origen is how he interpreted scripture.

He established allegorical interpretation of scripture which is still a plague in todays church. This type of liberty with scripture is what led him to castrate himself.

I understand the sentiment to "study out" versus buying into whatever is taught, and I encourage that. I certainly think that in this case our elders were right, Origen was a heretic in a very Rev. 22:18-19 way.

The Angry Coder said...

Ah! Thank you for mentioning that. I knew I had heard it all explained once or twice before and all I walked away with was a general sense that he was one of "the bad guys". But the specifics escaped me and I had not lifted a finger to investigate as to why. I suppose there are an endless array of questions just like that on which we could all spend inordinate time studying, verifying and reaching our own conclusions. But for the most part, I think the answer, either way, will have little impact on my day to day walk or perspective of this world. There are other questions in my mind I would like to research on before ever hitting this one. But it was good to be reminded of those claims about him to get a sense of bearings.