Nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put into words a common view, that Christianity is one of the most destructive things to ever happen to Western civilization and we’d be better off without it. A number of people today see faith and reason as inherently opposed and thus if humanity wants to move forward it has to throw off the shackles of religion.
But when you look at what actually happened in history, a different story emerges: Christianity is one of the best things to happen to the Western world. Here are three of its top accomplishments.
There’s a reason science arose in the Christian West. The Christian view of the world is that God created all things in an orderly way, not random or chaotic. And, since human beings are made in His image in likeness, we also have reason and thus can explore the world He made. It’s comprehensible, not too far beyond us.
That view is exactly what lays the foundation for science. In fact, science is impossible with such a view of the laws of nature.
Notable famous Christian scientists, and what they did:
- Nicolas Copernicus – creating the heliocentric model of the solar system (with the sun at the center)
- Johannes Kepler – formulated the laws of planetary motion
- Sir Isaac Newton – gravity, and lots of other foundational laws of physics
- Gregor Mendel – genetics
- Georges Lemaitre – the Big Bang
- Max Planck – quantum theory
Planck, in fact, saw faith and science as on the same side, “Religion and natural science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never relaxing crusade against scepticism and against dogmatism, against disbelief and against superstition, and the rallying cry in this crusade has always been, and always will be: ‘On to God!’”
2. Knowledge (of all kinds)
When the Roman Empire fell, a great deal of knowledge and technology stood on the brink of being lost forever. Monasteries helped preserve this knowledge for us to have today. Not only did they preserve religious texts, but philosophers like Aristotle, Roman writers like Cicero and Virgil, pretty much anything they could get their hands on. Without their tireless work, much of it would be lost today.
We take for granted that “progress” is a good idea, that we should improve the world and make it genuinely better. The Greeks didn’t share such a view. They saw the world as cyclic, constantly going through stages of growth and decay. And if the world is cyclic, there’s not much point in working hard at anything: it will just decay in the future, then come back, and in fact, your idea probably has been done before.
Yet Christianity sees things differently. Time is not cyclic but linear, and it points to heaven. The world is on a journey and it’s our job to improve it while we’re here and to never forget that heaven is what we’re trying to make it look like. Earth will never be heaven, but it can be more like it.
There you have it! Three things at the core of Western society, all of them coming from Christianity. Not too shabby.
What Has Christianity Ever Done for the West? | Strange Notions