WHY CIVILISATION AND HUMANITY ARE INDEBTED TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH(Please fact check me!)
In popular culture today, there is a very strong theme portraying Christians as dull, scientifically backward or just plain crazy oddballs. From Sheldon Cooper’s mother in the Big Bang Theory to Ned Flanders in the Simpsons. Matter of fact, there was a Simpsons quip where a prospective teacher of Maggie Simpson expresses awe at the latter’s IQ of 130, sarcastically calling it impressive “for a Christian”. All of this perpetuates a stereotype of seeing theists (particularly Christian) as being these dumb, deluded, not-so-smart members of society while atheists are the noble, enlightened, freethinkers of the day. What if I proved to you that everyone on earth today has Christianity to thank for at least one thing they have been beneficiaries of? Please fact check me on every claim made in this article.
First, did you know that the concept of University originated in Christian tradition? The term comes from the latin Universitas magistrorium et scholarium, which means “Meeting of teachers and scholars”, and it was early Christians who met in this way and this (particularly the meeting of Catholic monks) formed the basis of the modern university. Note that Christians were not the first set of people to meet in this manner but the Buddhists and Greek Philosophers who met in that manner did not leave any lasting institutions. If you think this claim is dubious then consider this: The three oldest universities in the world today were founded by Christians. They are:
(1) University of Bologna, founded 1088 by Irenius, an Italian jurist and theologian. (2) Oxford University: Founded circa 1096. On its own website, it claims to have been founded based on the religious scholarship of the second century AD era. As a matter of fact, it has a patron saint, St Frideswide and the university’s motto is culled from Psalms 27:1 “The Lord is my Light” (3) University of Paris founded in 1150. It, again based on its own website, says it was founded as an extension of the Cathedral schools in France.
But that is not all, the oldest, and one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Harvard University, was also founded by Christians. Matter of fact it was named after a certain John Harvard, described as “a lover of God and learning”, who gave one third of his estate (1700 pounds) to the building of the university in 1639. Yale University, was set up originally for the purpose of training church ministers and lay leaders. it was set up by ten Congregational ministers. To keep the article as brief as possible, I have just talked about the most popular and prestigious institutions. A great deal of the top 50 universities in the world have one affiliation or the other with the Christian faith.
What if you never went to university? You still have Christians to thank. If you went to or take your child to Kindergaten, the father (pioneer) of the Kindergarten was a German Christian called Frederich Froebel. The father of modern education is another Christian theologian called John Amos Comenius. He in fact authored the first children’s picture book (Orbis Picturis, our world in pictures). Martin Luther was a proponent of education for all, he was also Christian.
What about the disabled and those with special needs? A French priest named Charles Michel-De’l ‘ Epee developed sign language for the deaf and this was brought into America by another Christian Laurent Clerc (The so called Apostle of the Deaf in America). Following on from this Thomas Hopkins Gallaudette, a Christian educator founded the first school of the deaf in Washington alongside Laurent Clerc. What of the blind? Devout Catholic Louis Braille invented the braille system of raised dots used by the blind to read and write today. Johannes Sturm pioneered the modern system of grade school, where you write exams to pass and advance to the next level. What of the school books you used? Johannes Gutenberg (despite the very scarce details of his personal life, he had very close catholic connections from the details available) was the father of the printing press, his connections to the catholic church as well as his publishing of the Gutenberg Bible and the Psalter (A book containing Psalms) all seem to indicate he was a Christian as well. How far behind would literature, learning and books today be without the printing press of Johannes?
If all that Christianity did was contribute to education and printing of books alone, that would be more than enough impact to civilisation but it goes way beyond that to specific fields of knowledge as well. Anybody who has ever read anything relating to jurisprudence (study of law), cannot avoid Christian names such as St Thomas Acquinas, Thomas Hobbes, St. Augustine of Hippo to mention a few. Further, even the great minds of the enlightenment and scientific age were affiliated with the Christian faith. From philosopher Rene Descartes to the father of Modern Physics, Isaac Newton. What of the father of electricity? Michael Faraday? The great astronomer Galilei Galileo was a catholic. Do you love maps? or Atlases? The father of modern day cartography (Drawing and documenting of maps) is a Christian named Gerardus Mercartor (Hence today we still hear about the Mercator Map). A Christian man was studying the Scripture and stumbled upon Psalms 8:8 which references the “paths of the seas”, he vowed to find them, he so discovered those paths that he became known as the father of oceanography, his name is Matthew Fontaine Maury. The Metric system was pioneered by Gabriel Mouton, a French priest, but it was John Milkins, an English bishop who popularized it. Calculus was discovered by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal (both Christians, the latter being the theologian associated with Pascal’s wager). Fathers of modern day computing, Charles Babbage (A complicated guy in terms of his religious views but a professed Christian who some did regard as a heretic) and Blaise Pascal(again). As if that is not enough, modern day accounting and book keeping (the double entry system of debits and credits which is the backbone of accountancy) is the brainchild of the Italian mathematician and clergyman Luca Pacioli.
Alright, I admit some of those discoveries (never mind that they were the backbones of the more modern and advanced scientific breakthrough) were a while back when “everyone was Christian” (which again makes us wonder why there was not an era where every one was a predominant faith despite a lot of faiths preceding Christianity). Never mind that Charles Darwin who atheists almost venerate attended a Christian University (University of Cambridge which had a mandate by Pope Gregory IX to “teach everywhere in Christendom), never mind that the name of the college of the Christian University Darwin attended was called “Christ College”. Let us ignore all that and ask this question. All of this was in the past! What has Christianity done for us in recent times? In the 20th and 21st Centuries?
First of all note that the oldest universities established by Christians are still functional today. Also, the oldest hospital in the world today, St Bartholomew’s in England is a Christian hospital. The joint oldest hospital in America, Charity Hospital was formerly called St John’s and was established by Christians. Secondly, anybody who has read law must have heard of Lord Denning of England, he is in almost every law textbook and his quotes are almost scripture in matters of law and equity, He died relatively recently in 1999. Third, let us look at the Nobel Prize Statistics, the institute released statistics of winners by religion in commemoration of its first hundred years (1901–2001).
The statistics are as follows: 65.4% are Christian, 21.1% are Jews, 7% Agnostic and Atheist, Freethinker 3.4%, Buddhist 1.1%, Muslim 0.8%, Hindu 0.7%, others 0.6%. It does not stop there, Christians have won a total of 78.3% of Nobel Peace Prizes, 72.5% in Chemistry, 65.3% in Physics, 62% in Medicine, 54% in Economics and 49.5% in literature.
Note that the Nobel prize is meant to be awarded to, in the words of the institution, “those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to Mankind”. Is it safe to assume based on those statistics that Christianity is still benefiting mankind today? Did you notice atheism (for all its claims to superiority of thinking and freedom of thought) does not even come close?
On top all of this, the Bible remains the highest selling book in all of human history. Sales are so massive in fact, that it is purposely excluded from bestsellers list world wide. Why is the book so sought after if Christianity and Christ have no influence in the 21st century?
Note that this is merely a tip of the iceberg, I did not go into how Jesus Christ and Christianity have inspired the arts, architecture, literature e.t.c.
I also highly recommend the book which inspired this article, Person of Interest by J Warner Wallace. A fantastic read if the relationship between Christ and Civilization floats your boat.
In conclusion, the stereotype of Christians being dumb, backward or not having contributed to humanity is a baseless and quite frankly, very silly one. The world would be light years behind without Christians and Christianity. The world owes a debt of gratitude to the Jesus Christ, belief in whom has inspired pioneers and visionaries in almost every, if not every field of human endeavor. This is not surprising because if Jesus Himself (apart from the more important matter of being Lord and Saviour of course) was an intellectual juggernaut, we do not expect any less from His followers.