Proof 1 – The First World:
With all of its fairly stenchy warts and wobbles, the “Western World” (i.e.: North America and western Europe) is the “go to” spot for the world’s down and outers. As the Muslim world implodes on itself they are not rushing Chinese or African borders, they are going “west.” Before our modern refugee crisis, the West was still the epicenter of cultural, commercial and scientific revolutions that had never occurred anywhere else. And it did so while it was predominantly gripped by a Christian worldview. It was a Christianized Roman Empire that began reforming from barbarism towards the slowly evolving European world which eventually gave birth to British Common Law, the U.S.’s Bill of Rights and the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. Nowhere on planet earth today – or in history – have people enjoyed greater protection under the law from their governments than here in the “First” or “Western” world. Atheistic thinkers such as Harvard’s Steven Pinker readily admit that judeo-christian ethics are the foundation of North American and European views of mankind’s special position in the natural realm. Pinker is a radical philosopher that would sacrifice a handicapped baby in order to save the life of a non-handicapped one.1 This type of triage occurs all the time in societies that do not see humans as possessing a different value than animals and things.
Humans having the Image of God is a distinctly judeo-christian notion that formed the inspiration behind the value and protection westerners enjoy that Indians living in the Caste system do not. That non-Muslims in the Muslim world do not. That citizens in atheistic communist regimes do not. Without the special nature of men and women resulting from God’s creating them with a unique quality not present in the animal kingdom, humans are left to find their degree of importance within their society. How useful are you? Usually, in totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany or communist Russia and China, this depends on your health, intelligence and/or productivity. The ant hill is supremely more important than any one ant because the ant hill greatly outlives individual ants. Yet Christendom reverses this equation on its head. Any one individual is eternal and will outlast even the greatest earthly empire.
By connecting the dots of the judeo-Christian worldview, the Christian world developed a theory of public life that is the envy of those stuck in oppressive systems. Remember that the first civilization to ever outright ban race-based slavery was the western Christian world. The Arab middle east – by contrast – had slavery until the 1960’s. Ideologies that are based on the biblical worldview have a tendency to infuse freedoms and individual protections that increase human flourishing. Although far from perfect, the modern western world stands out in medical, financial and cultural achievements as well as legal justice when compared to the remainder of the planet.
Proof 2 – Scientific Revolution:
Coincidence, right? It just happened that enough time had gone by for people to experiment with economics, music and science and Europe just happened to be going through its bible fling at the time of multiple breakthroughs. Right?
Egypt, China, India and the Aztec world all had long standing empires for hundreds and even thousands of years and they did not revolutionize human justice or natural sciences. All of these ancient civilizations developed basic math, astronomical observations, some engineering tricks and mediocre medical treatments. Yet they all hit a similar roof. They circulated the same pond without significant breakthroughs.
The Greco-roman world made some interesting stabs at uncovering fundamental rules to reality. Atomic theory, heliocentrism and serious musing about ethics was begun by these proto-europeans. Yet it took over 1000 years of marinating in Christendom for human thought to birth a lively scientific revolution. And this breakthrough was caused by Christian worldview specifics, not merely happen to coincide with it on a timeline.
Many cultural historians credit St. Thomas of Aquinas with laying the groundwork for the scientific revolution that changed our world. And this is where Christianity comes in. Most worldviews, including those of ancient Babylon, Greece, Islam, the pagan animism of South American and African tribes as well as the Naturalist Chinese held to erroneous views about nature. They saw it either as an outflow of chaotic forces or as behaving according to the whims of a god or group of gods. Underlying their philosophy of nature was not order but changing moods and unknowable forces. As we can appreciate, this was not conducive to looking for fixed laws in nature. Sure, watching stars and planets move allowed these cultures to spot repeatable patterns, but when they looked at the flesh of animals or the dirt and rocks of earth, they did not have the frame of mind to seek for the clockwork of physics for an explanation. To them, things were as the gods wanted them to be at any given time. Changes in weather were due to divine mood, not the playing out of laws.
Modern physics teaches that an incredibly strict set of unchanging laws underlie all of nature. Now, how does this relate to Aquinas and his Christian worldview? Well, the Old Testament repeatedly espouses a view of nature that parallels our modern scientific perspective and stiffly contradicts other ancient worldviews. One such example is found in Proverbs 3:19-20:
By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
The Hebrew words “wisdom,” “understanding” and “knowledge” draw a picture of God detached from Nature in the sense that He uses “intelligence” and not direct brute force or magic. God uses information to fashion life. This differs from ancient Babylonian and Greek creation myths. No accidental bleeding during a divine war (i.e.: Babylonian creation myth) no dead giant’s skull forming the sky (i.e.: Norse mythology) or the direct fashioning of the world by God’s actual hands. But the distant and detached use of knowledge. Given the mode of thought of Jewish and Christian thinkers, it would appear that their view of the world aligned them with the notion of seeking knowable, observable laws that were themselves not gods or forces, but the mechanical, purposeful work of a Creator that had made Nature according to a system of rules (or knowledge).
Not only would this fit with our modern view of physics, but it builds into the Christian scholar’s mind the notion that nature is a system that adheres to a pattern of wisdom or understanding. Not the ever changing whims of gods or forces but the strict pattern of thought of a Being’s Intelligence. Mind not mood. Fixed pattern not hot (then cold) emotion. Further, because humans are made in “God’s Image,” our minds are little versions of the Great Mind that made the rules. So not only does Nature tick consistently along according to observable patterns, but these patterns should be recognizable by the brains of humans. Science in other cultures had always stopped at a specific junction. Going beyond this point proved tricky. But due to the worldview of Christians, there was hope that if we continued to hammer away, we would uncover — and understand — the rules on which Nature relied. Aquinas kick-started the academic pursuit of looking away from mathematics and ethics and using the rigorous rules of logic to decipher the inner workings of the world. Within half a millennium, this focus birthed the Christian enterprise of the modern university and the scientific revolution as we know it.
It was the christianized mind of europeans which progressed mankind beyond its former limitations. The fathers of disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, physiology and higher mathematics and reasoning were overwhelmingly Christian. In later years a growingly secular world tried to paint these men and the scientific revolution as accidentally occurring within a Christian world, but as we see, history and reason do not bear this out.
Proof 3 – DNA:
For thousands of years we wondered what made animals and plants tick. Then came the 20th century and the discovery of DNA. We lifted up the hood of Life and found that it was not a random mucus-filled squirm of flesh but precisely engineered micro machines. In turn, these machines relied on information stored in each cell of an animal or plant’s body to know how to function and what to do. This package of information is what we call DNA.
Before your body is built, you are simply a blue print. Your dad’s sperm brings half the information (i.e.: DNA) and your mom’s ovum carries the other half. From this package of information the tiny machines in the mom’s ovum start building your body.
So imagine getting a box in the mail with screwdrivers, nuts, bolts and a manual filled with 600,000 pages of information. Accompanying the contents in the box was a phone number you could call to have materials delivered to your house. With all of this you could build a super computer with a robot body. Well, that’s how all lives begin.
Now, if you did receive such a box, would you really wonder how the wind and weather had rolled all of this up into a neat package and brought it to your front door? Nope. You would instantly assume someone had designed this package and printed out the manual so that the robot computer could be built. IKEA sends people home with items that have millions of times less complexity and info than DNA, yet no one doubts a Swedish furniture designer isn’t somewhere out there, responsible for the end result.
Atheism takes a massive wallop to the chin in such an obviously engineered biological realm. Sorry, I can’t forget everything I know about everything and chalk up massive information and an army of tiny machines to… chaotic chance? Really? You really, really believe novels can be written by dumping marbles onto keyboards? No you don’t. Neither do I.
Just to bring the point home think of this, DNA is literally 3 billion letters making about 600,000 pages of information. This library is housed in a package that keeps it intact: the cell nucleus. Little tiny machines open the DNA up at specific spots and then another machine (mRNA) literally photocopies it. Then the mRNA carries that photocopy over to another micro machine (tRNA) that is carrying a specific piece of lego (i.e.: amino acid) in its other hand.
As it attaches to the DNA copy, the tRNA’s piece of lego is snapped to the piece that was brought by the previous tRNA machine (peptide/protein synthesis above). So therefore the order of the letters in the DNA copy determine the order of the pieces of lego. That is what the DNA was there for in the first place, to be a guide for the order in which the lego is to be assembled. Your DNA is literally a lego manual with Steps 1 through a bazillion. Printed in order, waiting to be read and used. When complete, the chain of legos (amino acids) are brought to another set of machines (rRNA and ribosomes) that fold that chain in a very precise configuration and tada!.. you have a single protein.
This is how individual cells use your DNA blueprint to build hormones, body tissues, etc. Everything the body needs is built from the information contained in the DNA library. Bill Gates said DNA “is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” And for good reason. That is exactly what it is.
At this point, any worldview that does not highlight human beings and nature in general as the purposeful design of a massive Intellect become very wobbly in my opinion. Extremely unsatisfying.
Now, you may be wondering what Christianity has to do with DNA? Fair question. As I stated in point 2 above, other world views that look to divine creation do not see nature or human life as being built on fixed laws or information, but as powered by chaotic forces from either the gods or some ephemeral substance. I find this highly dissatisfying. Nature is not a hodge podge batch of forces, but precisely engineered atomic interactions. Hebrews and Christians long before modern times expressed nature as the outflow of the high level wisdom, understanding and knowledge of an intelligent and purposeful Engineer. Of all the worldviews that invoke a Creator, I find judeo-christianity as the most sober fit with modern biology and the physics on which it relies. The Bible called humans a “distinctive” “enterprise” that was done with a “high distinction” that, when studied and understood, would open our mouths with “awe” and reverence. Personally, this fits DNA and biology a heck of a lot more than the Hindu tales of Lord Brahma slicing off pieces of himself to form human kind. But, you decide.
Proof 4 -Israel
Funny thing about Israel, it can’t seem to be wiped out no matter how many super powers try and do so. Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Nazis and the Arab world couldn’t put pull off the ‘coup de grace.’ Being a relatively small community, Israel should never have survived the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. These ancient kingdoms didn’t just destroy Israel militarily, they then absorbed all the Jewish high classes (rich folks, scholars, priesthood, etc) and took them back to their respective lands. No culture has ever survived this type of brain suction and deportation. When total national exiles take place, within a generation or so the citizens in exile lose their identity and are absorbed in the victorious culture. Losing their heritage. Now considering that Israel was hundreds of years in forced exile, not once, not twice but thrice it should be a long forgotten footnote in cultural history. Yet it still stand, thousands of years later.
Even having no oil reserves like its Arab neighbors and only the dust of the desert to work with, Israel has the highest GDP per capita ratio in the Middle East. Innovation has allowed Jews to irrigate their homeland and turn it into a bread basket. Highly successful technological industries have also padded its cash flow.
Its holy scriptures make up one half of the best selling, most oft copied and studied book in human history: the Bible. Within which we see that the Muslim world began as an off-shoot of Abraham’s family line. From Israel springs the three largest and most influential movements in world history: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And this tiny, seemingly indestructible country has a knack for always being at or near the center of worldwide geopolitics. If it wasn’t for the animosity of the Islamic world towards the Jews and their State, most of the Western world may never have heard the words “Qur’an” or “jihad.” Instead, due to U.S. support for Israel, the whole first world is dragged into the reality of Islam and has been made painfully aware of its beliefs and goals.
Such a tiny, fragile country, always being under the thumb of the prevailing superpowers and yet never being vanquished. Keeping its culture and poise. It shouldn’t be here, but it is. This brings a heavy reality to the biblical statements about God promising He would keep Israel intact until the end of civilization. So far… seems fairly legit. I score this one as a point in favor of the Christian worldview.
Proof 5 – Jesus
Statistically Jesus’ life is ridiculous. On the scale of super duper famous He is off the charts. You have to double check to make sure the numbers are correct. And they are. He is the biggest deal to ever hit the planet. His estimated birth date splits history in two: before and after Him. Whatever month, day and year it is today is a measure of how long it has been since He was born. The best selling book of all time revolves around Him. About half the planet’s population worships Him. Meaning more people follow Him around the world than any other figure or movement in history. More books have been written about Jesus than any other person. More songs, art, movies and music have been made in His honor than anyone or anything else. More charity has been done in His name than any other movement or idea. He is the most recognizable figure in all of history. On and on you can go. It really is a completely unprecedented life.
Yet He never had a position of power in any military or government. He had no money or home. He never walked more than 200 miles from His home town. He only had 3 years of public life. Three years. That’s it. But He turned history upside down with that short stint. His ethics permeate the Western world. Every major religious movement puts their arm around Jesus. Muslims consider Him the only sinless prophet of God. Hindus see Him as a benevolent divine avatar. Buddhists embrace Him as do Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a multitude of sects such as the Ba’hai. He is the only common thread throughout all of the world’s religious traditions. Even atheists will speak well of Him, calling Jesus a good moral teacher or some other compliment. Seems He is a really big deal here on earth.
Question is, who is this most famous guy? What is His claim to fame?
When we look to those who died for following Him (i.e.: early Christians) it seems they believed Him when He claimed God-hood. Apparently He convinced them of that and they were willing to die for that claim. Roman and Jewish records of the first few generations of Christians state that Jesus was worshipped. Not followed. All early records of Jesus’ teaching (inside and outside the bible) show that He had no political revolution in mind. He did teach principles of good living, but most of His teachings pointed back to Himself as the Judge and Saviour of the world. And His God-hood. No other vaunted figure in history has ever claimed God-hood. Homeless crackheads do that all the time. But nobody believes them. People like Confucious, Buddha or Ghandi are reverred but not worshipped. And none of them claimed God-hood. Normal, sane, moral reformers always claim to be mere men because that is what they are. How come the most honored and successful moral reformer in history claimed the most insane title for Himself? How can sanity and insanity co-exist in the same mind?
You have to decide. Was He insane, or was He truthful?
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
- Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, second ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.