Providing Insight into the history of the Christian Church
The Change Part 10
This is the 10th episode in our series examining the impact Christianity has had on history & culture. Today we consider the impact the Faith has had on science.This subject is near & dear to me because when I first went to college in the mid-70’s, I was studying to be a geologist. I’d always been fascinated by science and loved to collect rocks, so decided geology would be my field. I took many classes on the trajectory of one day working in the field as a geological engineer.I was only a nominal believer in those days and when I first entered college saw no incompatibility between evolution and Christianity. It seemed obvious to my then uninformed mind that God had created everything, then used evolution as the way to push things along. I now realize my ideas were what has come to be known as theistic evolution.One of my professors, who was herself an agnostic, was also a fastidious scientist. What I mean is, she hadn’t imbibed the ideology of scientism with its uncritical loyalty to evolution. Though she admitted a loose belief in it, it was only, she said, because no other theory came any closer to explaining the evidence. She rejected the idea of divine creation, but had a hard time buying in to the evolutionary explanation for life. Her reason was that the theory didn’t square with the evidence. She caught significant grief for this position from the other professors who were lock-step loyal to Darwin. In a conversation with another student in class one day, she acknowledged that while she didn’t personally believe it, in terms of origins, there could be a supreme being who was creator of the physical universe and that if there was, such a being would likely be the Author of Life. She went further and admitted that there was no evidence she was aware of that made that possibility untenable. It’s just that as a scientist, she had no evidence for such a being’s existence so had to remain an agnostic.For me, the point was, here was a true scientist who admitted there were deep scientific problems with the theory of evolution. She fiercely argued against raising the theory of evolution to a scientific certainty. It angered her when evolution was used as a presumptive ground for science.It took a few years, but I eventually came around to her view, then went further and today, based on the evidence, consider evolution a preposterous position.I give all that background because of the intensity of debate today, kicked up by what are called the New Atheists. Evolutionists all, they set science in opposition to all religious faith. In doing so, they set reason on the side of science, and then say that leaves un-reason or irrationality in the side of faith. This is false proposition but one that has effectively come to dominate the public discussion. The new Atheists make it seem as though every scientist worth the title is an atheists while there are no educated or genuinely worthy intellects in the Faith camp. That also is a grievous misdirection since some of the world’s greatest minds & most prolific scientists either believe in God, the Bible, or at least acknowledge the likelihood of a divine being.A little history reveals that modern science owes its very existence to men & women of faith. The renowned philosopher of science, Alfred North Whitehead, said “Faith in the possibility of science, [coming before] the development of modern scientific theory, is[derived from] medieval theology."' Lynn White, historian of medieval science, wrote, "The [medieval] monk was an intellectual ancestor of the scientist." The German physicist Ernst Mach remarked, "Every unbiased mind must admit that the age in which the chief development of the science of mechanics took place was an age of predominantly theological cast."Crediting Christianity with the arrival of science may sound surprising to many. But why is that? The answer goes back to Andrew Dickson White, who in 1896 published A Histor
The Change Part 9
This is the 9th episode in our series examining the impact Christianity has had on history & culture. Today we take a look at the influence the Faith had on property rights & individual freedom.I begin by saying I know what follows, some will take great exception to. While some of what follows will sound like politicizing, I will attempt to steer clear of that. There is an undeniable political component to this topic but I’m not politicking here. I’m simply trying to show how a Christian Worldview, that is, one that is Biblically consistent, does tend to promote a certain kind of economic system. And that system flows from what the Bible says about property rights.Some listeners might wonder why CS, a church history podcast, as left off its narrative timeline to engage in this series we’re calling “The Change.” Well, really, it still is history. I’m attempting to show HOW the Christian Worldview has impacted WORLD history and how people live and think today. That’s when history becomes relevant, more than just academic fodder – when we understand how the past influences today.In our last episode we took a look at Christianity’s impact on labor & economics. It shouldn’t take long to realize that 12 minutes isn’t long enough to deal with THAT massive subject. A 12 hour podcast would just scratch the surface of the Faith’s impact on economic theory & practice. A 12 month graduate course might make a bare beginning on the subject. Today, we’ll delve a little deeper, realizing that we’re really only dabbling in the shallows of a vast subject.A person’s labor and finances have little dignity when he/she lacks the freedom and right to own property. Both are rooted in 2 of the Ten Commandments; Exodus 20:15, 17 =“You shall not steal” and “You shall not covet”Both these commandments assume the individual has the right and freedom to acquire, retain, and sell his/her property at their own discretion.Private property rights are vital to people's freedom. The 2 cannot be separated. Yet this most basic truth is not well recognized today. It’s rarely taught in public schools which seem bent on promoting socialism, which we’ll see in a moment is contrary to Scripture. Promoters of socialism often decry private property rights, arguing that “human rights” are more important. This sophistry is deceptive and lacks historical support, because where there are no private property rights there are also virtually no human or civil rights. What rights did the people under Communism have in the former Soviet Union, where the state owned everything? Except for a few personal incidentals, private property rights didn’t existent. Not having the right to private property was closely linked to not having the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press. Similarly, what human rights do the people have today in Cuba or China, where property rights are also nonexistent?The American Founding Fathers, who were strongly influenced by biblical Christian values, knew that individual economic, political, and social freedom was intrinsically linked to private property rights. Even while still subjects of the British king, they made it clear property rights and liberty were inseparable. Arthur Lee of Virginia said, “The right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive a people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.” That’s why when the Constitution was written, its formulators included private property rights in the Article I, Section 8. The 3rd Amendment gives citizens the right to grant or deny housing on their property to soldiers. And the 4th Amendment protects the property of citizens from unlawful search and seizure.But ever since the appearance of Karl Marx's economic and political philosophy known as Communism, private property has been politically attacked. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, written in 1848 says, “The
The Change Part 8
This is the 8th episode in our series examining the impact Christianity has had on history & culture. Today we take a look at the influence the Faith has had on labor and work.Historians of the traditional school laud Greco-Roman civilization for what it bequeathed the modern world in politics & philosophy. But in the classical world poly-phi was done by the elite; the wealthy & powerful 1% who had the leisure time to engage exclusively in intellectual pursuits. What gets glossed over in this era is the low regard paid manual labor & those classes of society that did it. You could make a good case that it was the tension between the tiny elite, patrician class & the lower masses of plebeians that was the deciding factor in shaping Roman history.Both Greeks & Romans thought manual labor fit only for slaves & the lower classes who had to work because they couldn’t afford slaves. The wealthy shunned work or any kind. Plutarch reported that Plato was infuriated at 2 fellow philosophers because they constructed a machine to help solve problems of geometry. Such a device ought to have been made by a slave or artisan—not by thinkers & freemen. But that wasn’t the end or extent of Plato’s outrage. He was also incensed that a machine had been constructed to make geometry practical; it corrupted the excellence of geometry as a thought-experiment! In Plato, at least, and his thinking here likely expresses the rest of the Athenian elite – there was utter disdain with & for the everyday world of the common man.The ancient mathematician Archimedes was embarrassed by having constructed devices that aided his studies in geometry. The 1st C BC Roman philosopher Cicero said no gentleman ought to lower himself to engage in daily labor to provide for his needs. He said, “Vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labor…and all mechanics are engaged in vulgar trades.” Seneca, who lists the honorable activities for freemen, never mentions manual labor.In Athens in the 1st C AD, 1/3rd of the freemen did nothing more than sit in the city’s political assembly hall and discuss issues of State while slaves performed the work that made the State run. There were 5 times as many slaves in Athens as citizens.So, if the elite 1% weren’t working, what were they doing? They were seeking pleasure purchased by the wealth earned by the lower classes they despised. It was into this anti-work cultural environment the early Christians entered the Greco-Roman world.The value assigned simple work by Christians stemmed from 3 sources.First – they had Jesus as their example.He grew up in the home of a craftsman. Tradition says Joseph was a carpenter but the NT word tecknon refers to a skilled construction worker. Remember that though Joseph & Mary were from Bethlehem in the S just a few miles from Jerusalem, they lived up N in Nazareth when Jesus was born. That’s where He was raised. Joseph lived in Nazareth because in that day, that’s where the work was. Herod was building a new capital for Galilee in the city of Sepphoris, a short hike from Nazareth, which in that day was little more than a work camp for Jewish laborers working on Herod’s project. Tour the ruins of Sepphoris today and you come to the conclusion, Joseph probably did more work as a mason than as a carpenter. And following custom, Jesus would have learned his father’s trade & spent many hours in the quarries & on-site shaping stones. He plied this trade till he was 30.Second – The early Christians had another excellent role model in the Apostle Paul who from his Hebrew heritage had learned a trade, even though his real career was as a rabbi. Paul repeatedly used his tent-making as the means of supporting his ministry. So much so, that phrase has come over into our vernacular.Third – Early Christians were well aware of Paul’s admonition in 2 Thess. 3:10 that “If a man won’t w
The Change Part 7
This episode is another in our series considering the impact Christianity has had on history & culture. Today we take a look at the influence the Faith had on Education.The roots of the Christian posture toward education lies in Jesus’ command to His disciples just before He ascended to heaven. He told them as they went, to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to keep all that He had commanded.The modern Evangelical church has taken the word & idea of discipleship & turned it into something rather different from what those original disciples understood it to mean. A 1st C disciple from the region of Galilee where the original disciples were from & where Jesus spent most of His life & did most of His ministry, was someone who’d been selected by a rabbi to follow him and become a devoted learner. A disciple was, in the most intense sense of the word – a scholar whose field of study was the life & teaching of his rabbi. His goal was to be just like that rabbi, and he spent 15 years of his life following his rabbi, 24/7/365¼ so that he could be just like his rabbi.He began following at 15 and ended at 30. If he proved himself a worthy student & his rabbi sensed he too was called, he became a rabbi at the age of 30. The Gospels tell us Jesus was about 30 when He began his public ministry. He was following in this pattern for rabbis & disciples in place in 1st C Galilee.If a disciple wasn’t quite cut out to be a rabbi, which required a demonstrated divine authority from God, then a disciple returned to his village to become the Torah-teacher in the local synagogue school where all Jewish boys & girls went from the age of 6-10. There they trained these youngsters to memorize the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. Check it out: They didn’t just memorize the names of the 5 books of Moses; they memorized all that was written in them. Genesis thru Deuteronomy, word for word.Those boys who excelled at memorization in this 1st phase of education went on to phase 2 in which the Torah teacher taught them the rest of the Tanach, as well as the commentary on it by Israel’s most famous rabbis. It was the cream of the crop from this phase that became candidates to train under a rabbi as a disciple.The point is this: When Jesus told His disciples they were to go & do with others what He’d done with them – make disciples, they understood what “teaching them to keep all Jesus had commanded” meant = a rigorous course of education that aimed not just at knowledge but at life-change.The disciples took Jesus’ command seriously. Acts 5 tells us after the Feast of Pentecost, the disciple snow turned Apostles never stopped teaching. As Acts chronicles the Apostle Paul’s ministry, we see his emphasis on teaching. Paul was a teaching machine! He used every opportunity to inform people of the truth then call them to the implications of that truth.In giving the qualifications for the church leaders called “elders,” which in the NT is synonymous with the words “bishop” & “pastor,” Paul says they must be able to teach. Immediately following the time of the Apostles, the 2nd generation of Christian leaders took up the mantle of leadership & set out to cull the essence of what Christians believe. They devised what’s known as the Didache, meaning – the Teaching / Instruction. This was written sometime between 80-110 AD.In the early 2nd C, Bishop/Pastor Ignatius of Antioch urged all churches to instruct children in the Scriptures and to teach them a trade. This was a direct carry-over from Judaism which placed tremendous emphasis on literacy, on God’s Word & on knowing a skilled trade.As we saw in a long-ago episode of CS, while baptism in the NT was something believers were urged to do as soon as they came to faith as a public profession of faith, as the decades passed, baptism was delayed until after new believers could be catechized – that is, taught the cate
The Change Part 6
This is episode 6 in a series examining the impact Christianity has had on history & culture. Today we continue our look at the impact The Faith had on the world’s view of Charity & Compassion, specifically in the founding of hospitals & health care.In an earlier episode we noted how so many of what are called liberal ideals of modern society had their roots in the Christian transformation of culture, specifically in Western Civilization. Those ideas flowed from the Faith’s high view of the sanctity of human life, which was a radical departure from the pagan view of man and the strict classism that dominated the ancient world. The dilemma today is that secular liberalism wants to keep the advantages and rights Christianity brought w/o the moral and spiritual core that empowered them. Christianity’s exalted view of man is based on its higher & prior exalted view of God. Gut society of that view of God and its view of man is destined to decline. Which is precisely what we’re seeing in modern Western societies today. As one philosopher posed the question: “Can man be good without God?” The answer is; “Not for long.” As my pastor said years ago, “Is it any wonder that when schools tell children they are nothing but the chance result of random chemical reactions and descended from apes, they then begin to act by the law of the jungle while they live in Los Angeles, or London?Those who assume modern charity and compassion, whether it be government welfare or voluntary assistance, developed on its own without the energizing influence of Christianity are misinformed. People need to understand that “civilization” isn’t some kind of mystical force that happens on its own. It’s not the product of social evolution where man keeps getting better & better. Christianity WAS the premier civilizing influence that shaped the modern world and gave Western civilization the benefits that have meant advancement.The German historian C. Schmidt, a century ago said to disregard Christianity’s influence in civilizing the ancient world is “blind to the history of nations, and to the history of the Human heart. Both proclaim loudly that charity cannot be the product of egoism, nor a humility of pride; that without the intervention of God no new spirit could have regenerated individuals in the world.”Carlton Hayes wrote, “From the wellsprings of Christian compassion our Western civilization has drawn its inspiration, and its sense of duty, for feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, looking after the homeless, clothing the naked, tending the sick, and visiting the prisoner.”Who built hospitals? Who founded rescue missions in decaying inner cities? Orphanages? Soup kitchens? Who founded charitable societies, taught literacy, worked tirelessly to end slavery, campaigned for equal rights, ended child labor? Christians! Men & women who understood the sanctity of human life & the urgency of guarding human dignity - that’s who.It’s been interesting watching the assault the New Atheists have leveled on religion in general and Christianity in particular. They say the Faith is standing in the way of human progress. Yet virtually every support that makes it even possible for them to say that was provided by Christians living out their Faith. Where, pray tell, are the atheist rescue mission and orphanages. Where are the atheist founded & funded hospitals?Jesus was concerned for people’s bodies as well as their souls. In commending the faithfulness of the disciples in Matthew 25, Jesus lauded their feeding & clothing the needy. The Gospels tell us as part of His ministry Jesus went all over Israel healing illness & disease. The blind, deaf, palsied, lame and even the socially outcast lepers were all healed by Him. Indeed, Jesus’ ministry seemed to pulse between these 2 poles – teaching & healing. Frequently the text tells us He was moved with compassion as he looked on the crowds coming
The Change Part 5
This episode continues our series examining the impact Christianity had on history & culture. Today we consider how the Faith impacted the world’s view of Charity & Compassion.Early Christians quickly gained a reputation for their concern for the poor & disenfranchised. Unlike paganism with its acceptance of fate & the Greco-Roman enforcement of social classes, the Gospel viewed all human beings as created in God’s image & of equal value. Having its roots firmly in Judaism, Christianity considered justice to include a healthy dose of mercy & compassion. The Law of Moses regulated the treatment of slaves so they retained their dignity. It required the corners of fields be left unharvested so the poor could glean. And it required an annual tithe to be set aside specially for the poor & needy. All of this was unheard of in the pagan world.Building on this base of Jewish charity was the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25 who said that taking care of the hungry, the sick & prisoners was a kindness shown to none other than Himself.The parable of the Good Samaritan was one of the favorites of the Faith & shaped the Church’s mindset toward the needy.In the mid 3rd C, Tertullian in North Africa records that Christians had a common fund to which they voluntarily contributed. No strong-arm fundraising was needed; believers were glad to add coins to the box whenever they could. This fund supported widows, the disabled, orphans, the sick & prisoners jailed for their faith. It was also on occasion used to bury the poor & to purchase a slave’s freedom.All of this stands in marked contrast with the Greco-Roman attitude toward the poor. They practiced what was known as liberalitas. This was assistance a wealthy benefactor showed to a someone in need, with an eye to their repaying the favor someday, somehow. In Roman society, the upper classes rose in status by having lots & lots of clients who supported you. They shouted your name when cued to do so at some public event. The louder your name was shouted, the more supporters you had & so the more prestige you garnered. So a wealthy Roman would help someone who was needy only if that person could go on to add his voice to his support base. It wasn’t genuine charity; it was buying support. I’ll help you today, if you shout my name tomorrow real loud and get all your family & friends to do the same. The motive was selfish.Charity just for the sake of helping someone in need was officially considered by both the Greeks & Romans as being weak & counter-productive. Someone who’d fallen onto hard times & couldn’t rescue himself was pathetic, not worthy of concern. And who knows; their poverty or illness might be the work of the gods, punishment for some foul sin. So don’t alleviate their suffering or you might incur the wrath of the fickle deities who controlled the fate of mere mortals.I just said that charity wasn’t officially allowed in pagan society for these reasons. But history tells us while Paganism didn’t practice it, some pagans occasionally did. Almost all cases we know of where people reached out to help others in need was when some catastrophe like an earthquake struck of fire swept a city. Then the suffering was so widespread & in everyone’s face people couldn’t avoid helping in some way. But generally, in day to day life, all giving to the needy had a self-serving end.Christians didn’t practice the selfish liberalitas of the Romans. They practiced caritas – compassionate caring. There was no thought of what one was going to get out of such care. It was done simply because the person receiving the help needed it. The motive was to glorify God.Believers were moved by the words of 1 John 4:10–11 – “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”They re
Southern County Boy
I would not thought I would find myself in such agreement with a California metropolitan. Thanks for the episode on Calvin, it was and very informative and not at all what I expected. I thought it was without bias.
Great Accessible Content
It is so important that Christian’s today know and understand the history of their faith and how it has developed over the centuries. As a Catholic religious studies scholar I love this podcast as it presents great content and discussion. It is presented from a nonjudgmental perspective and explained in a way that won’t leave the average Christian’s head spinning.
I had been wanting to dive into church history for awhile (how did this doctrine come to be? Or that tradition?), and 70 episodes in, this podcast has thoroughly satisfied my curiosities. Easily digestible, almost always interesting, and great narration. Thanks, Lance!