Sep 11, 2012
neil

What if Jesus had never been born…how the lives of even the irreligious have been shaped by his life

Something from Tim Keller’s new book Center Church to get you thinking:

In his history classes, C. John Sommerville used to demonstrate to students how thoroughly Christianized they were, even those who were atheistic or antireligious. He would list the values of shame-and-honor cultures (like those of pagan northern Europe before the advent of Christian missionaries) and include values like pride, a strict ethic of revenge, the instilling of fear, the supreme importance of one’s reputation and name, and loyalty to one’s tribe.

Then he would list corresponding Christian values, which had been hitherto unknown to the pagans of Europe — things like humility, forgiveness, peaceableness, and service to others, along with an equal respect for the dignity of all people made in God’s image. Many of Sommerville’s most antireligious students were surprised to learn just how deeply they had been influenced by ways of thinking and living that had grown out of biblical ideas and been passed on to them through complex social and cultural processes.

His point was that much of what is good and unqiue about Western civilization is actually “borrowed capital” from a Christian faith, even though the supernatural elements of the faith have been otherwise neglected of late in the public sphere. 

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