Oct 1, 2013

Three atheists who think the world needs Christianity

Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, recently reviewed a book by Harvard Professor, Niall Ferguson entitled Civilisation: The West and the Rest.  In his review Lawson includes a remarkable quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (which describes itself as  ‘the highest academic research organization in the fields of philosophy and social sciences as well as a national center for comprehensive studies in the People’s Republic of China‘). Here is what the Chinese have discovered:

One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful.


The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.

Now the Chinese are not alone in reaching this conclusion.  Bruce Sheiman in his book An Atheist Defends Religion writes about the impact of Jesus on our world. Christianity he says introduced:

A commitment to human dignity, personal liberty, and individual equality did not previously appear in ANY other culture.

What you and I take for granted, living as we do in the UK, has its origins in Christianity and the Christian worldview.

Matthew Parris writing in the Times talked of his own return to Africa after 45 years away and concluded;

travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

Christianity has made a massive difference to our world.


  • How very true. But what of the future now we are a post-Christian culture?

  • Perhaps things are both harder and yet more exciting for Christians living in our post Christian culture?
    Harder (and scarier), because maybe the potential for damage and danger is so much greater with every year we slip further away from our Christ-inspired anchors in morality, human dignity, etc.
    But perhaps more exciting in terms of the opportunity, now that we are the minority, the counter-cultural ones. Perhaps the more the post-Christian secular and materialist worldview is shown as bankrupt and unable to deliver on all its promises of freedom, morality and happiness, it will turn back to see what else is on offer.
    The question is, are we ready for the challenge? Could Christians live as such distinctive, conviction-led and yet loving and welcoming communities, that the disappointed post-Christian culture might look at us and say, that’s what we need?

  • I enjoyed this, but would suggest one revision to the title: the world doesn’t need Christianity so much as it needs Christ. This takes the focus off of what we (humanity) have fashioned from His precepts and turns it back to following Him. (Imitate me as I imitate Christ).

    I realize this may be a pedantic argument on my part and I also hope the meaning is not interpreted harshly.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the post. I think the reason I went for the title is because it represents the thinking of the three contributors rather than a Christian perspective. In other words if it were a post on my thoughts and reflections I would have have written something along the lines you suggest. Hope that helps.

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