Dr. Alvin Schmidt was interviewed in a series on the excellent Lutheran podcast Issues Etc regarding his new book, How Christianity Changed the World. I am blogging through the interviews because I think their content are a great introduction to what appears to be a great book that re-revises history in an effort to fix the errors of modern anti-theists, as well as the dominance of anti-Catholic and anti-theist spin among the enlightenment historians.
Just imagine if all of these evils done away with PRIMARILY by Christianity were still prevalent. Oh sure, "Christianity is evil." Wake up from ignorance of history. The evils of the Catholic Church and such misrepresented events such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, while important, pale in comparison to the substantial, if not critical impact of Chrsitianity on the west. Advances which paganism, humanism, and atheism had naught to do with, except sometimes as OPPONENTS to such advances.
Here's the audio, and I have brought out some points below.
Here are some of Schmidt's points, taken from the interview and this article:
1. Life was miserably cheap in Christ's day
- Islam: We see this even today in Islamic society
- Romans: Frederic Farrar has noted that "infanticide was infamously universal" among the Greeks and Romans during the early years of Christianity."
- The East: Historical research shows that infanticide was common not only in the Greco-Roman culture but in many other cultures of the world as well. Susan Scrimshaw notes that it was common in India, China, Japan, and the Brazilian jungles as well as among the Eskimos.
2. Outlawing infanticide
- The Didache (written between ca. 85 and 110) enjoins Christians, "[T]hou shalt not. . . commit infanticide."
- The Epistle of Barnabas: One finds infanticide also condemned in the Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 130) as it comments on the Didache's opposition to this immoral practice.
- Callistus of Rome (d. ca. 222), a onetime slave who later became bishop of Rome, was equally appalled at this common method of disposing of unwanted infants.
- Abandoned Children in Rome: Callistus of Rome gave refuge to abandoned children by placing them in Christian homes. Benignus of Dijon (late second century), who like his spiritual mentor Polycarp was martyred, provided protection and nourishment for abandoned children, some of whom were deformed as a result of failed abortions. Afra of Augsburg (late third century) was a prostitute in her pagan life, but after her conversion to Christianity she "developed a ministry to abandoned children of prisoners, thieves, smugglers, pirates, runaway slaves, and brigands." 17 Christian writings are replete with examples of Christians adopting throw-away children.
- Infanticide Outlawed: Only a half century after Christianity attained legal status, Valentinian, a Christian emperor who was sufficiently influenced by Bishop Basil of Caesarea in Cappadocia, formally outlawed infanticide in 374 (Codex Theodosius 9.41.1). He was the first Roman emperor to do so.
- Global Condemnation until modern west: This led to the global criminalization of intanticide across the west – not until the 20th century can you find ANY Christian country that approved of, or even discussed infanticide
3. Christians opposed the gladitorial games
- Minucius Felix cites a Roman pagan who strongly criticized the Christians for their anti-gladiatorial posture: "You do not go to our shows; you take no part in our processions. . .you shrink in horror from our sacred [gladiatorial] games."
- Most people think that the sacredness of human life came from humanist roots, but they really did not. Greece and Rome did not provide them, Christianity did.
4. Abandonment of Religious Human Sacrifice
- Cannanites: Sacrificing human beings for religious reasons was not confined to the pagan Canaanites and the spiritually fallen Hebrew kings.
- The Irish: before St. Patrick had brought the Christian gospel to them, "sacrificed prisoners of war to war gods and newborns to the harvest gods."
- Prussians: Sacrificing humans was also a common practice among the pagan Prussians and Lithuanians even until the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The British author Edward Ryan noted in 1802 that these people "would have done so to this day were it not for Christianity."
- Aztecs: Another place where widespread human sacrifices occurred was in what is now Mexico. Here the Aztec Indians, a warlike people, frequently fought in order to acquire prisoners whom they used for human sacrifices.
NO MAN BEING ABOVE THE LAW
1. St. Ambrose
- In Roman and Greek society, the Emperor was a God, and above the law. Ambrose and other Christian scholars helped debunk this idea, supporting equality under the law.
2. The Magna Carta (1215)
- Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton: Led the charge to get this document enacted into law, provided legal procedures that were binding upon ALL, limited the power of kings
- The Magna Carta was the first creedal governmental declaration, modeled after the precedent of the Nicene creed.
1. Pederasty was common in Rome
- It was almost impossible for a boy to grow up and not be accosted by an older, adult male
- Christianity introduced the criminality of sexual molestation of children to the West
- Bestiality was not widely condemned society wide before Christianity
- Many objects from Roman culture show women and men having sex with animals – it was common because it was not condemned, but a matter of fact.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND MARRIAGE
1. Outlawing of Patria potestas
- In the 4th table of Roman law, the father had the right of life and death over his wife and children, even when they were adult.
- Under Emporer Valentinian, this too was outlawed.
2. Safety for female prisoners
- Constantine's son, Constantias (337 – 361), ordered the segregation of jailed male and female prisoners. To most people today the segregation of male and female prisoners seems rather obvious. But it should be remembered that the pagan Romans had little or no regard for the welfare of women, especially for women who were no longer under the manus (controlling hand) of their husbands. And since it was quite acceptable to have sexual relations with such women, the Romans had no moral qualms about housing men and women in the same prison quarters.
3. Support for Marital Equality
- Wedding ceremonies among the Greeks and Romans were often joked about
- The Apostle Paul's admonitions of mutual love, submission, and service in marriage conflicted with the truly paternalistic Roman and Greek practices
3. Outlawing of Polygamy
- Very common before Christ – it was not practiced among Christians, but rather entirely discouraged. This became the rule in the west.
4. Outlawing of Sati in India (widow burning)
- While various provinces and governors of India tried to suppress or outlaw Sati, in 1829, the British outlawed this practice across the country under Lord William Bentinck [NOTE: he does not seem to have been motivated by Christianity, only by Christian values in Britain and his desire to anglicize India's system of laws and government].
5. Outlawing of Chinese foot binding
- Due to the direct influence and work of Christian missionaries, in 1912, footbinding was finally oulawed.
6. Outlawing of Female Genital Mutilation
- [Not enough time to clarify in the interview.]
For much more on this first subject read The Sanctification of Human Life