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December 25, 1999
Column #956

WHAT IF JESUS HAD NEVER BEEN BORN?

     ''Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever lived, has changed virtually every aspect of human life - and most people don't know it,'' asserted Rev. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe in their inspiring 1994 book, ''What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?''

     They give persuasive evidence that people inspired by Jesus created mass education, modern science, representative democracy, capitalism, the elevation of women, the ending of slavery and the creation of universities and hospitals.

     I wrote a column on the book five years ago. This week I re-read it, and decided to write a fresh column for Christmas. In my second reading, I saw tragic elements mixed with the joy of recognizing the extraordinary impact of Jesus.

     Before Jesus came into the world, life was cheap. It was dangerous for a baby to be conceived in classic Rome or Greece where abortion and child abandonment was widespread. An unwanted baby would be left in the woods to die or be eaten by wild animals. However, abortion and abandonment disappeared in the early church. Why? Christians considered every life to be precious, created ''in the image of God'' (Genesis 1:27).

     Sadly, life is becoming cheap again. Abortion is widespread and assisted suicide has been legalized in Oregon. In Sudan people captured in war are sold as slaves for $50.

     ''Every school you see, public or private, is a visible reminder of Jesus Christ. The phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in Christianity,'' they write. The world's languages were first set to print by Christians who wanted people to be able to read the Bible. Luther translated the Bible into German.

     In Geneva, Calvin advocated education for everyone so that they might know God and glorify Him. The Puritans passed a law in 1642 requiring education for all children. And for 217 years, all schools in America were private and financed by Christians. The result, according to John Quincy Adams was that only 4 out of 1,000 Americas were illiterate in the early 1800s.

     Public education was introduced in 1837. And its result: 40 million illiterates a literacy rate approaching that of Zambia.

     ''Had Jesus never been born, there never would have been an America,'' writes Kennedy. First, Columbus discovered America on his way to plant Christianity in the Orient. Before they left the Mayflower, the Pilgrims agreed to the first Christian self-government in the ''Mayflower Compact.'' They pledged for ''the Glory of God,'' to ''combine ourselves together in a civil Body Politick.'' That inspired 100 different compacts and constitutions in New England.

     Samuel Adams, who did more than any to arouse opposition to English rule of America, said, upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence, ''We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven...let His kingdom come.''

     Underlying democracy's development was Scripture: ''Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'' (II Cor. 3:17).

     However, many Americans have transformed liberty into license. It is outrageous that pornography is defended as ''freedom of speech,'' and that half of U.S. marriages end in divorce when vows were taken on God's altar ''till death do us part.''

     ''If Jesus had never been born, science would likely not have come into being,'' the authors assert. ''You would not be reading this book by electric light. You would not have a microwave oven, a television, or a radio.''

     Modern science could not have developed among Arabs because of the fatalism that underlies the Muslim religion. If everything is fatalistically determined, why try to change the natural world? Nor could science have originated in Hindu India or in China among Buddhists, for both faiths ''teach that the physical world is unreal and that the only reality is that of the world's soul.'' By contrast, Christians taught that God is rational, the source of truth.

     Blaise Pascal, whose math innovations and probability science was important enough for a computer language to be named after him, wrote that God is not merely ''Author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements...but the God of Abraham,'' Isaac, Jacob. ''The God of Christians is a God of love and consolation.''

     Bible-believing scientists founded branches of science: antiseptic surgery, Joseph Lister; bacteriology, Louis Pasteur; calculus, Isaac Newton; computer science, Charles Babbage; comparative anatomy, Georges Cuvier; chemistry, Robert Boyle; genetics, Gregor Mendel.

     Yet in India, millions of Hindus who believe in Jesus, refuse to become active Christians, according to Ralph Winter, founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions. ''They see Christianity as the carrier vehicle for alcohol, sexual liberation and tearing down the family.''

     It is up to this generation to reform Christianity to make it credible to unbelievers.

Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.

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