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