Sunday, November 27, 2005

Book shows how Christianity helped us

This just in ... Christianity helped us .... the Indianapolis Star (via AP) is on the case.

Book shows how Christianity helped us ... quote!

"What Has Christianity Ever Done For Us?"

The provocative title of Jonathan Hill's new book might prod Christians to think about salvation from sin, the promise of eternal life, spiritual solace, inspiration, doctrinal truth, moral guidance and community warmth.

But Hill, an Oxford-trained British historical writer, doesn't focus on such impact upon individual souls, but rather on Christianity's role in world civilization. That's signaled by this InterVarsity Press book's subtitle: "How It Shaped the Modern World."

Hill offers an "objective look" at Christian contributions to balance histories that emphasize embarrassments from bygone eras when churches exercised political control -- the Crusades, sectarian wars, inquisitions, witch hunts and oppression of dissenters.

The theme is worth pondering when the European Union's proposed constitution doesn't even mention the religion's historical role. Noting that, and commending this book, Yale historian Lamin Sanneh (an African) says that without Christianity "Europe would be unrecognizable and undistinguished."

Many of Hill's positive points are aspects of Jewish biblical culture that Christians spread across the world.

It would be hard to calculate or contemplate the vast impact of Christianity's teachings about charity and the practical applications to which they have been put over the centuries.

Hill says Christianity's teachings on love and selflessness "fostered some of the most profound and appealing moral approaches that have ever been taught," quite in contrast with nonbiblical ethics from ancient times.

And think about language and literacy. Ninth-century missionaries who brought Christianity to eastern Europe first developed the system for writing local languages that exists today.