Christianity on Trial
February 10, 2002
by Bruce Walker
Sometimes the most obvious facts are the same facts most hotly debated by liberals. Christianity on Trial (Encounter Books: San Francisco 2002) by Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett is an invaluable resource for combating the most insidious lie of secular liberals about the historical impact of Christianity.
As with so many "debates" with liberals, Marxists, Nazis, Socialists, Fascists and others on the ideological left, begin with the knowledge that truth is irrelevant to Christophobes. This initially puts serious Christians at a disadvantage: we do care about what is true and we believe that there are moral absolutes in the universe.
This allows them to point out what Christians are compelled by faith to acknowledge: we are all flawed. When amoral, materialist totalitarians point out that Christians have fought wars in the name of religion and persecuted people in the name of God, they are simply stating the obvious. Every group of people in human history has committed atrocities.
Jews, for example, participated in the extermination of Christians in Jerusalem and Yemen during those brief periods of history in which the opportunity presented itself. Some Jews also look back with fondness towards the Caliphate at Cordova, a period in which millions of Christians were enslaved (often to Jews) as a "Golden Age" because it was a period of cultural flowering and general prosperity for Jews.
Jews were disproportionately over-represented in the first modern state, the Soviet Union, which committed megamurder, and Jews were ardent supporters of Mussolinis Fascist Italy, as long as it left Jews alone. Yet no honest Jew would defend the atrocities undeniably committed against Christians by Jews.
What then does matter? If Jesus did not even have perfection among the disciples, then obviously statistical perfection is not envisioned by God and should not be by man. Tendencies, however, are expected by Christ as He acts in our lives. This should be reflected in patterns of society and patterns of life.
The Judeo-Christian impulse has had a uniquely benign influence upon human history. President Bush is absolutely correct in noting that the moral position of Jews and of Moslems in the Middle East are different. The Moslems hate the Jews, and the Jews simply wish to be allowed to live in peace. The generally benevolent influence of Judaism, when taken seriously, upon human behavior is well known among honest people. An excellent book by Dennis Praeger, Why The Jews?, methodically shows how Jews behave better, work harder, and elevate those societies in which they live.
Christianity on Trial takes up the "eight hundred pound gorilla in the living room" - not only has devout Christianity provided the same benefits as devout Jews, but in many areas of human goodness Christians are uniquely good. This is certainly not conventional wisdom among the pseudo-intelligentsia who take delight in every lash against the back of Christians.
But it is also clearly true. Subject by subject is dissected and demonstrated to be the unique product of Christianity. Slavery? St. Patrick is the first person in recorded history to unequivocally reject slavery. The Anti-Slavery Society and all the abolitionist movement were exclusively Christian.
Even more interestingly, a recent book, The Jesus Sutras, written by a nontraditional religious scholar notes that in China, while Mahayana Buddhists (who embrace the most benevolent form of this metaphysical system) had a monastical system that owned 150,000 slaves, the Christian monasteries of China at the same time had no slaves at all - so in its different forms at the far western and far eastern geographical edges of Christendom, those who followed Jesus quite independently reached an identical conclusion regarding slavery, utterly at odds with how humanity had viewed slavery in all prior recorded history.
Christianity on Trial addresses a bundle of other putative crimes of Christianity, like the patently absurd notion that misogyny has its roots in Christianity. Instead, the very notion of the moral equality of men and women was first proclaimed in human literature by St. Paul (the most maligned of all the Apostles by modernists), and anyone with even passing familiarity with the interplay of traditional Greco-Roman religions, Judaism, Mithraism, and Christianity knows that the principle historical interpretation for the success of Christianity in converting the Roman world was its great appeal to women.
Again, those most compassionate and tolerant of the non-Christian religions - Judaism and Mahayana Buddhism - appear dramatically behind Christianity. Orthodox Jews, to this day, may include in Shul the prayer "Thank G-d that I was not born a woman" and Gautama Siddhartha himself (the Buddha) considered women so far below men on the level of reincarnation that he did not wish them to have any formal place in his system.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is when the authors take on the topic of science and knowledge who contribute to a topic very much in the public mind today, as Islam and Asia become critical topics of public discussion. Why did science and technology rise in the backwaters of Europe?
The greatest charge on Christianity has typically been that it was anti-scientific, and yet virtually all the pioneers of modern science were Christians. Galileo, Copernicus, Newton to name just a few, considered that their breakthroughs in science proved the existence of a Blessed Creator for all the universe, and of the promise to all mankind (not just those born a man, a Jew, or a Brahmin) to participate in the salvation of creation.
The book is long overdue, and when one of the authors discussed the book on C-Span recently, it was obvious that he was not trying to "oversell" Christianity. Which is, of course, the ultimate merit of all true followers of Jesus. God became a man and entered the world. For our sakes, He died. That means all of us must try our level best to seek truth, give mercy, do justice, make peace, and all the other merits of Christian faith. We will fail - oh, will we fail! - but we will fail like a child in the hands of a loving parent, who is ever true.
Christianity (and I will state it bluntly) is the reason why mankind has moved out of caves and chains and torture chambers into the world of hope. As we say at my church (and many people sing the same thing in there churches each Sunday) "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." If the blessings of this world come from God, and not man, then we are all entrusted with a special purpose. The black baby born with AIDS in Zaire or the shivering beggar in Calcutta is equal in Christs eyes to Churchill in 1940 or Lincoln at Gettysburg.
While pundits cast lots to determine the best social and political and economic policies, we Christians rest sure in the knowledge that we know nothing, except what He has let us know. Christianity on Trial does an excellent job of outlining why (not if) serious Christians have been at the forefront of every great advance in human civilization. Because God came into the world for the infinite love of us, and because from that act all the wanderings of galaxies and jumping of quantum are nothing. Truth is not relative, but absolute. Love is not relative, but absolute.
So what Stalin and Hitler and Mao could not crush, cannot be crushed. The power of empires and ideologies are nothing. There is a reason why the people who could have chosen safety and comfort chose death camps, and there is a reason why all of them were Christians. Christ is the ultimate hope and the ultimate promise of a universe in which the temperature is a chilling four degrees Kelvin (or -267 degrees Centigrade) and in which everything but God ultimately descends into either dead entropy or a purging cycles of big bangs.
Christianity on Trial is an indispensable reference for those of us who see the obvious and who wish our brothers and sisters to see the obvious as well.
Bruce Walker has been a dyed in the wool conservative since, as a sixth grader, he campaigned door to door for Barry Goldwater. Bruce has had almost two hundred published articles have appeared in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law & Order, Legal Secretary Today, The Single Parent, Enter Stage Right, Citizen's View, The American Partisan, Port of Call, and several other professional and political periodicals.
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