The Book and society – how the Bible has changed the nations
Read how the Bible and the Christian faith have affected literacy, health care, and other positive ways. Many are blind to this fact
This text discusses the importance of the Bible. Has its effect on societies been positive or negative? Has it been an elevating or crumbling force in societal development?
If you ask atheists, their answer will be clear. They do not see the Bible as a constructive book, instead, they attack it and the Christian faith. They do not see anything good in the Christian faith. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, among others, serve as examples of such an attitude.
But what is the reality? Could it be that these atheists and many others have been blind to Christianity’s positive effect on the development of many Western countries? They do not see how the Christian faith based on the Bible, has increased social justice, strengthened our understanding of human value and improved living. Those societies, in which Christian faith and revivals associated with it have not been as present, have been in much worse state in this respect. It is also typical for people to want to move to countries where Christianity has had a strong influence. These countries include, e.g., England, the Nordic countries, several Western European countries, United States, Canada, Australia, etc.
Christianity and the Bible have thus strongly impacted the development of Western countries and other societies. For example, the president of the United States of America, Dwight D. Eisenhower, summarized his views on the effect of the Bible in his country in his speech held in 1956: “The Bible is endorsed by the ages. Our civilization is built upon its words.” (1). The former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, has also referred how her nation’s ideals are founded on the Bible and how the Judeo-Christian tradition influenced legislation, customs and the way the institution functions:
And indeed we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible. Also, it is quite impossible to understand our history or literature without grasping this fact, and that's the strong practical case for ensuring that children at school are given adequate instruction in the part which the Judaic-Christian tradition has played in moulding our laws, manners and institutions. How can you make sense of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, or of the constitutional conflicts of the 17th century in both Scotland and England, without some such fundamental knowledge? But I go further than this. The truths of the Judaic-Christian tradition are infinitely precious, not only, as I believe, because they are true, but also because they provide the moral impulse which alone can lead to that peace, in the true meaning of the word, for which we all long. - - But there is little hope for democracy if the hearts of men and women in democratic societies cannot be touched by a call to something greater than themselves. Political structures, state institutions, collective ideals—these are not enough. - - [Democracy necessitates] the life of faith - - as much to the temporal as to the spiritual welfare of the nation. (2)
As we speak of the development in the Western countries, the impact of the Bible cannot be bypassed. It has affected numerous areas of life, such as literacy, education, healthcare, and many others. The most important aspect, of course is the gospel and its eternal message, but other positive societal impacts should not be forgotten either. These are the effects we are going to look at next.
Democracy and social stability.
- (1 Tim 2:1,2) I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
The First Epistle to Timothy urges, e.g., to pray for those in authority, so that society could enjoy a peaceful life. It is better than having chaos, absolute dictatorship, and constant rebellion against those in power. It is better for the economic development and other forms of advancement if the authorities strive for goodness.
How is this related to developments in society and Christian faith? Democracy and social stability count as major aspects. Countries where Christianity has had a significant influence are usually more stable and practice more democracy than other countries where Christianity has not been as prominent. Many third-world countries serve as an example of poor governments. Often an unfit dictator has changed for another unsuitable dictator, which has kept the negative cycle going. Power-hungry and corrupted leaders have led the nation into poverty, a state that is difficult to get out of.
What is distinctive of democracy, which has arisen in predominantly Christian countries? One of the most essential features has been decentralization of power in a way that prevents one major group from having too much power. Political legislation, court of justice and their powers have been separated, as well as the police force. This decentralization of power has majorly prevented misconduct. Moreover, the most important principle should not be forgotten, the principle according to which justice and the law are above the leaders of the nation. They, too, are accountable to these principles, which are often directly taken from the Ten Commandments. This has prevented those in power from misconduct, and it has also been a safer option than dictatorship or direct democracy. For example, the form of democracy in ancient Greece, direct democracy (power was usually held by uncontrolled majority), was much more vulnerable. Hence, Greek democracies were often short-lived, usually lasting a few decades. They usually ended in chaos and misconduct of the direct democracy, like in the French revolution. As a result, e.g., distinguished philosopher Socrates was killed, like in the French revolution thousands of people were killed after the people took power into their own hands. Direct democracy has thus not been as secure form of democracy as a more dispersed form of democracy.
From here is it is good to move on to discuss missionary work. Atheists like to criticize it, but researchers have stated that missionary work, particularly, has positively affected the development of democracy and social stability. This has been the case in some African and Asian countries. Areas that have history of active missionary work are now in a better place than areas with little or no missionary work. It is evidenced, for example, by the fact that missionary areas now have more developed economy, relatively better health situation, infant mortality is lower, less corruption, increased literacy, and they have easier access to education than other areas. In Europe and North America, the same development took place earlier, and we can be sure Christianity also played its part back then. Christianity has positively affected people’s lives and human rights.
Scientist: Missionary work set off democracy
According to Robert Woodberry, the assistant professor at Texas University, the impact of Protestants’ missionary work in the 1800s and in the beginning of 1900s on the development of democracy has been more significant than originally thought. Rather than having a minor role in the development of democracy, missionaries had a substantial part in it in many African and Asian countries. Christianity Today magazine tells about Asia.
Robert Woodberry has studied the relationship between missionary work and the factors affecting democracy almost for 15 years. According to him, there where Protestant missionaries have had a central influence. There the economy is nowadays more developed and the health situation is relatively much better than in the areas, where missionaries’ influence has been smaller or nonexistent. In the areas with prevalent missionary history, child mortality rate is currently lower, there is less corruption, literacy is more common and getting into education is easier, especially for women…
According to Robert Woodberry, namely the Protestant Evangelists had a positive influence. However, the clergy hired by the government or Catholic missionaries, before the 1960s, did not have the same influence.
Protestant missionaries were free of the control of the government. “One central stereotype in missionary work is that it relates to colonialism. - - However, Protestant workers, who were not funded by the government, reacted always critically to colonialism”, says Woodberry to Christianity Today.
The long-term work of Woodberry has received praise. Among others, research professor Philip Jenkins of Baylor University has noted the following about Woodberry’s research: “I really tried to find gaps, but the theory holds. It has great influence on the worldwide research on Christianity.” According to Christianity Today magazine over ten studies have reinforced Woodberry’s findings. (3)
Literacy, education, and science. Now we move on to civilization and science. A common view of today is that the Bible and Christianity have stood as an obstacle for the advancement of civilization and science. This view is strongly held by secularists and atheists groups. They have claimed that Christian God belief has slowed down development in society. They have also mentioned a conflict between God belief and science.
What is the reality of things? It seems that secularists and atheists are not educated on the positive effects of Christianity and the Bible in these areas. They are not aware of the history and do not know how radically these two things have impacted the civilization of societies. The following aspects should be taken into account.
• Firstly, the emergence of standard language and literacy. Everyone can understand that if a society does not have its own standard language and people are unable to read, it hinders the development of science, research, inventions, and prevents the spread of information. If people cannot read and books do not exist, knowledge does not spread. The society will stagnate.
How has Christianity affected the emergence of standard language and literacy? This is an area where many researchers have a blind spot. They do not know that nearly all standard languages have been developed by pious Christians. For example, in Finland Mikael Agricola, Finnish reformer and father of literacy, printed the first ABC book, New Testament, and other parts of the Bible. The people learnt to read through these books. In many other Western countries, the development has gone through similar processes. If Christianity had not existed, the development of Western societies could have been delayed by decades:
Christianity created the Western sophistication. If the followers of Jesus would have stayed as a faint Jewish sect, many of you would have never learned how to read and the rest would have read from hand copied scrolls. Without theology coined with progression and moral equality, the whole world would currently be at a state, where non-European societies were roughly in the 1800s: A world with countless astrologists and alchemists, but without scientists. A despotic world without universities, banks, factories, spectacles, chimneys and pianos. A world, where most children die before the age of five and where many women would die of childbirth – a world that would truly live in the “Dark Ages”. A modern world only arose from Christian societies. Not in the Islamic realm. Not in Asia. Not in a ”secular” society – as such a thing did not exists. (4)
Before there can be literacy, there needs to be a standard language. In this respect Christians have been key players, not only centuries ago in Western countries, but also in Africa and Asia later on. The following examples act as indicators of this phenomenon. Interestingly, even such languages like the main language of India, Hindi, Urdu in Pakistan, and Bengali in Bangladesh have gotten their grammar and linguistics as a result of missionary work. Hundreds of millions of people speak and use these languages:
Vishal Mangalwadi: I grew up in the heart of the Hindi language, Allahabad, almost 80 kilometers from Kash, where Tuslidas wrote the Ramcharitmanas, the most significant religious epic in Northern India. I was constantly told that Hindi derived from this magnificent epic. But when I began to read it, I got confused as I did not understand a word from it. The author’s “Hindi” deviated completely from mine, and I began to question where my mother tongue – the official national language of India – came from.
… Neither did the Hindu scholars develop the language. It is thanks to Bible translators, such as John Borthwick Gilchrist, and linguist missionary workers, such as pastor S.H.Kellogg, that the current standard language of Hindi was developed from the language used by poet Tuslidas (ca. 1532-1623).
… Bible translators and missionaries gave more than just my mother tongue, Hindi. All living standard languages in India are testimonies of their work. In 2005, researcher from Mumbai speaking Malayalam as his mother tongue, doctor Babu Verghese, left his 700-page doctoral thesis to be evaluated at the Nagpur university. He proved that Bible translators created at least 73 current standard languages from the dialects of illiterate Indians. These include the official national languages of India (Hindi), Pakistan (Urdu), and Bangladesh (Bengali). Five Brahmin scholars examined Verghese’s thesis and granted him the title of Doctor of Philosophy in 2008. They also unanimously recommended that after its publication the thesis be a mandatory schoolbook for Indian linguistics students. (5)
Christian missionary work has always been all-round helping people in nature so that they have always rushed to the aid of sick, disabled, homeless and outcasts. Christian missionary work has built the whole basis for basic and higher education school systems in numerous African countries. At the same time missionary work has significantly contributed to forming a network for healthcare… A well known African researcher, the Professor of the University of Yale Lamin Sanneh, has claimed that missionaries have done the greatest service for local cultures in Africa by creating the basis for a written standard language. (6)
• England serves a great example (see the speech by Margaret Thatcher above!). It was the most developed and advanced country in the 1900th century, but what initiated this success? Revival created by John Wesley (1703-1791) played a major role in achieving this global status, as the revival was spread across the whole country. It awakened people’s social awareness and caused changes in numerous societal sectors. For instance, as a result the working conditions improved for the labor force in factories, orphanages were founded, the position of the poor was improved, safety homes were created for widows, prison conditions were made more humane, hospitals were renewed (Florence Nightingale), legislation went through improvements and slavery, e.g., was abolished after the death of Wesley. William Wilberforce, to whom Wesley wrote his last letter, played a key role in abolishing slavery.
Wesley’s impact is well illustrated by the fact that during the early years of his efforts riots would often arise when he arrived in a new village. However, without exaggeration we can say that at the end of his 88-year long life he was the most respected and loved figure in England. Moreover, historian J. Wesley Bready has even considered that the reformation movement caused by the Wesley brothers prevented England from plunging into a similar revolution and violence that ravaged France. This shows how widespread the impact Wesley and his brothers had was in the English society.
How exactly did Wesley affect the advancement of civilization in England? The following quotations will tell us something about that. They bring forth how Wesley’s efforts resulted in newly founded schools and Sunday schools where children learned to read. Wesley also had a significant impact on making books available for the regular people:
Wesley worked hard from 1739 to his dying years in 1971. His working efforts were incredible… Wesley travelled all over England on the back of a horse for about 400,000 kilometers in any weather, day and night, on roads that were dangerous and sometimes barely even travelable… This sophisticated man, a sharp theologian and a respected intellectual reminded his preachers that “it is not possible to be profound nor thoughtful as a preacher if you do not read a lot”. All the preachers were assigned to distribute and sell books, and they were also required to be familiar with the contents of the books. Encyclopedia Britannica’s statement about Wesley in this regard is that “no other person did as much in the 18th century to advance book reading, nor made as many affordable books available to the people”…
… England after Wesley abolished many flaws of the 18th century that had plagued the country, because hundreds of thousands of people had become Christian. They had changed hearts, as well as changed attitudes and mindset, which is something that affected the whole society.
Many reforms were a direct consequence of the Wesley-revival. First of all, it evoked the abolition of slavery and improvements to the working conditions of factory workers in England. Then followed schools in factories, schools for the poor (“ragged schools”) night schools, and technical schools, more humane prison conditions, orphanages, reformation of the criminal law, as well as numerous other undertakings in spiritual, social and humanitarian work and education. (7)
Sunday school movement began in July of 1780, when a lady called Meredith started to host a school in her home down Souty Alley. Older boys acted as guides for the younger boys. Raikes wrote four school books based on the Bible. Slowly, the schools were also welcoming girls. Raikes was singlehandedly responsible for almost all of the expenses. More Sunday schools were founded in Gloucester and in its surroundings. In 1831, when it had been 20 years from Raikes death, approximately fourth of England’s 1,25 million children attended Sunday school. England was becoming a literate society due to the teaching of God’s words; the government had nothing to do with it. (8)
Thomas H. Huxley, Darwin’s “bulldog”, is also a good example of the Christian influence in England. He, too, supported the teaching of Christian faith, like the majority of Englishmen, even though he was a strong supporter of Darwin. He wrote in one of his essays in 1870 the following:
I believe that no person or community has ever achieved anything, nor will they ever, if their actions are not controlled by love for some sort of ethical ideal. - - And if I was forced to choose a school for my children, where they will receive real religious guidance, or a school without such guidance, I would choose the former, although my child would consequently receive a lot of theology.
Thus, when the majority from the public of England declared wanting that the Bible be taught for their children in primary schools, - I see no reason to oppose this wish. Surely, I as an individual cannot retain my coherence and oppose other children being taught, what my children have been taught to do. (Thomas H. Huxley: Science and Education Essays, No. 15, The School Boards: What They Can Do, and What They May Do, Macmillan, London, 1893, pp. 396-402. First published in the Contemporary Review, Dec. 1870)
A good question is whether England would have been as successful as a country in the past without the impact of Christianity. I hardly doubt it. That is if we look at atheist communist countries as a reference – those were the countries where millions of people were killed, and any opposition was drowned. Living conditions in those countries were worse for the citizens than, e.g., in England, where Christianity was respected. These days, however, the general trend seems to favor similar atheistic ideals that the first communists supported.
• Another area that was heavily influenced is universities and schools. Those, among literacy, are important for the advancement of science, research, inventions and the spreading of information. Without these knowledge and research would never advance.
What has been the impact of Christianity in these areas? Secularists and atheists are often unaware that the Bible and Christian faith have been significant in the educational domain. Hundreds of universities and tens of thousands of schools were initiated by pious Christians or founded through missionary work. The following English and American universities are famous, e.g.:
- Oxford and Cambridge. Both cities are filled with churches and chapels. These universities were originally founded to teach the Bible.
- Harvard. This university was named after pastor John Harvard.
- Princeton College (originally College of New Jersey). The first principal of this college was Jonathan Edwards who is known in America for the great revival in the 18th century.
- Pennsylvania College. Another leading figure in the great revival, George Whitefield, founded a school that later evolved into a college in Pennsylvania. Whitefield was the son of a saloon keeper and colleague of above-mentioned John Wesley in England. He had an exceptionally beautiful, harmonious loud voice making him able to speak to tens of thousands of people in outdoor events. He sometimes even preached with tears in his eyes due to the compassion God had given him.
What about India? India is not known for its Christian ways. However, this country, like Africa, houses thousands of schools that have Christian roots. The first universities also share the same roots. William Carey’s efforts serve as another example. He founded dozens of schools for children from all castes. He built the first printing house in India and taught Indians how to use paper. He founded the first Asian newspaper in Asian language and established India’s first libraries where people could borrow books. He contributed to the advancement of agriculture and horticulture through the society he founded (Agri-Horticultural Society of India), and he published the country’s first books on science and natural science.
Vishal Mangalwadi tells more about the ways the Bible has impacted his home country, India:
When I began to investigate the Bible whether God had really blessed India, I made astonishing discoveries. The university, where I studied, municipal autonomous community and democracy that governed my area, court house near my home and the justice system it represents, modern Hindi that I speak as my native tongue, secular newspaper I had just began to write for, the garrison to the west of my home town and the botanical garden on the east side, the library near our garden, the train tracts running through my hometown, healthcare system I use, the agricultural college on the other side of town – all these were things my hometown owed thanks to people who took the Bible seriously.
I had always been told that the 19th century “Indian renaissance period” had begun with Raja Ram Mohan Roy. My astonishment was great when I found out that it actually began when the Bible arrived in India. We had always been told that India owed its thanks for its freedom to the fight of Mahatma Gandhi, when in reality, our freedom was thanks to the Bible. Before the arrival of the Bible, the modern idea of a nation and freedom were unknown to Indians. Hindu generals had upheld the mogul dynasty that governed in India. But that was only the beginning. (9)
• Above we talked about how Christian faith has affected literacy and how thousands of schools and universities now exist as a result. In India, Africa, and many third-world countries this development is relatively new, but in Europe it took place centuries earlier.
The so-called scientific revolution also relates to our topic. Secularist and atheist groups often pose the idea that the revolution had nothing to do with Christianity, but these claims are dubious. That is, in modern sense science has only sprung one time in the 16th to 18th century Europe, when Christian theism was dominant. It did not begin in a secular society, but namely in a society that was inspired by Christianity. Nearly all leading scientists believed in creation. Some of them included Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, John Ray, Louis Pasteur etc. They did not represent the enlightenment but Christian theism:
These are the slogans used by one of the most long-standing and most efficient campaigns based on polemic articles in the history of Western countries. Although, this campaign generally has had a very significant impact on intellectual world, it does not seem to have made an impact on the scientists per se. The executors of the scientific revolution were famous for their belief in God and this tradition they represented has continued in science. For example, during the whole of the 19th century scientific development was as much of a religious mission as it was a secular mission – aspiration to understand Gods creations continued. (10)
There are a few comments that indicate how faith in God was typical among these famous scientists. We can see that in their memoirs and writings:
Johannes Kepler: I think that the reason for many universal attributes can be led back to God’s love for humans. Surely no one wishes to deny that when building the universe for habitation, God thought about its habitats over and over again. Since humans are the objective of the cosmos and the universe. (11)
Isaac Newton, the most famous scientist of the 17th century: When I wrote my research on our System, I directed my focus on those principles, which made humans believe in God. Nothing can make me happier than seeing my research being useful in that respect. (12)
Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry: The great and wise Creator of the nature, whose piercing gaze reaches the whole universe and sees all of its parts in one instant, in the beginning created material objects as systems and set the laws of motion to control them according to His purpose and so created the world - - similarly to a well made clock. (13)
John Ray, the father of English natural science: For a free human there is not a more valuable or pleasant job than to ponder the beautiful works of nature and to honor God’s boundless wisdom and goodness. (14)
What made it possible for the scientific revolution to take place? The around 60 universities that exited in Europe by the year 1500 can be seen as one contributing factor. These universities were not maintained by secularists or the government, as they were established with the active support of the church in the Middle Ages. Natural sciences and astronomy held a significant role in those institutions. High level of freedom of research and discussion were also prevalent in the universities. These universities had hundreds of thousands of students, who in part laid out the groundwork for the scientific revolution to take place in the 16th - 18th century Europe. This revolution did not appear suddenly out of nowhere as it was preceded by ideal conditions. Other continents did not have as widespread education and similar universities like Europe, because Christianity had not been as prevalent there.
The Middle Ages created a basis for the greatest accomplishment of Western society: modern science. Claim that says science did not exists before “Renaissance” is simply untrue. After familiarizing themselves with classical Greek research, scholars of the Middle Ages developed ideology systems, which led science much further compared to the antique times. Universities, where academic freedom was protected from the leaders’ power, were founded in the 1100s. These institutions have always provided a safe haven for scientific research. Even Christian theology proved to be uniquely fitted to encourage researching the nature, which was believed to be God’s creation. (15)
Vishal Mangalwadi: In my home country natural sciences were not taught in Hindu ashrams and Buddhist monasteries. Why did European universities – which were just as much religious – began to teach and research them? Bible students realized that reading the “Book of creation” was more important than reading Greek and Latin books. The latter were written by people, but the former by God. Paracelsus wrote that before familiarizing oneself with the works of Galen, Avicenna, and Aristotle, one should read the Book of creation, get to know the library “bind, made and written by God Himself. (16)
Hospitals and social work. Human health and well-being are crucially important. Living a normal life would be much harder if those things were not in order.
What does Christianity have to do with this? Many secularists and atheists are also unaware of the positive Christian impact in this domain. That is many charitable organizations have Christian roots in the Bible. For instance, the Red Cross was founded when the warm-hearted Christian, Henri Dunant, saw the plight of the injured on the battleground and began to plan ways help them. Florence Nightingale, a pious Christian, also helped others by reforming both military -and public healthcare. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, and Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children foundation, are also well-known. The latter organization began when Jebb worked to aid starving children in Central Europe after the First World War.
Christianity has thus had a positive effect on numerous domains, including social work. Poverty, sickness, hunger, and homelessness contribute to major issues in many parts of the world. However, the societies where Christian faith has been dominant, and where spiritual revivals have occurred, now suffer less from these issues. No society is perfect, of course, but if the world were void of the gospel, there would be a lot less hospitals and a lot more poor and hungry people. The majority of hospitals in the world have their roots in Christian faith:
During the Middle Ages the people, who belonge to the Order of Saint Benedict, maintained over two thousand hospitals in the Western Europe alone. The 12th century was remarkably signigicant in this respect, especially there, where the Order of Saint John operated. For example, the large Hospital of the Holy Ghost was founded in 1145 at Montpellier, which quickly became the center of medical education and the medical centerl of Montpellier during the year 1221. In addition to medical care, these hospitals provided food for the hungry and took care of widows and orphans, and gave out alms to those who needed them. (17)
Even though the Christian church has been criticized a lot throughout its history, it has still been the forerunner in medical care for the poor, helping captives, homeless or the dying ones and improving working environments. In India the best hospitals and educational institutions connected to it are the result of Christian missionary work, even to that extent that many Hindus use these hospitals more than the hospitals maintained by the government, because they know that they are going to receive better care over there. It is estimated that when the Second World War began, 90% of nurses in India were Christians, and that 80% of them received their education from missionary hospitals. (18)
Many of the best, still existing medical institutions in India’s peninsula were founded by Christians’ initiative, often against the wishes of the colonies. Missionaries have had downright an exceptional impact on health care in Asia and in Africa. They have taken care of leprous, made groundbreaking discoveries in epidemic doctrine, developed national healthcare systems, educated basic healthcare employees and founded school institutions for women doctors and nurses. (19)
In church the affairs of this life were as much taken care of as were the affairs of the future life; it seemed that everything that the Africans accomplished, originated from the missionary work of the church. (Nelson Mandela omaelämäkerrassaan Pitkä tie vapauteen [Nelson Mandela in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom])
What about hospitals and charity organizations managed by humanitarians and atheists? These groups have often been bystanders in this area. English journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, (1903-1990), who himself was a secular humanist but nonetheless honest, took a note of this. He drew attention to how a worldview can affect the culture:
I have spent years in India and Africa, and in both countries I have come across plenty of righteous operations run by Christians from different denominations; but not once have I seen a hospital or orphanage run by a social organization or a leper colony established by humanitarians. (20)
Economy. Above, we discussed how the Bible and Christianity have affected democracy, literacy, education, science, social work, and brining aid to people. Many social reforms are rooted in the Christian faith.
What about economy? How has Christianity affected the economy? The answer is that those countries have often been prosperous where revivals have occurred, people have valued the Ten Commandments, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and the ethical teachings in the New Testament. Such countries include the Nordic countries, Northern America, Western Europe, and Australia. The same countries have also been leading on the happiness index. If we look at the development in these countries over a longer period of time, we see that they have been more prosperous than countries with a dominant atheistic or pantheistic worldview.
Partially factoring in on the economic development are the things from the list above, such as literacy, education, democracy, and social work, which have been influenced by the Christian faith. If these things reach a high level, it will also benefit the nations on the economic level. Alternatively, if there is no literacy or education, for example, it will be much more difficult for a nation to rise out of poverty.
So, what sprung the economic development in Europe? Max Weber, a well-known German economist and sociologist, studied this topic more than a century ago. When he looked for reasons for the success of the West, he claimed that it all began in Geneva and the activities of Jean Calvin there (Max Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1958, original work in German 1904-1905). This city was one of the poorest cities in Europe and the most foul-smelling in Europe. It was known for its criminals, corruption, slums, and problems, but when Calvin began teaching the principles of God’s word and how to live, it changed the city. Poverty was replaced by a city known as the center of international diplomacy, aid, and other organizations. Switzerland is also known for its banking activities. Calvin played an important role in this. He advised bankers to take excessive interest rates because he saw usury as a sin. Calvin set a fixed interest rate of four percent. It allowed a small profit for the lender and enabled the borrower to finance a possible new investment. The four percent interest rate set by Calvin remained in Switzerland for four centuries.
The following comment also refers to this topic, the influence of the Christian faith in the past. It is about eighteen American tourists who visited China and met a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The researcher amazed the guests as he reviewed the reasons for the success of the West. It is noteworthy that in China, too, over the last thirty years, the Christian message has won the field, with some estimates saying there are already nearly 200 million Christians in China. At the same time, China has gradually emerged from poverty and its economy has grown:
At first, we thought that it was about a political system. Then we focused on your economics. But over the past 20 years we have come to realize that the core of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The moral basis of Christian social and cultural life was, what made possible the rise of capitalism and subsequently moving on to democratic politics. We have no doubts about this. (23)
The following example also points to the same. It compares North and South America with each other, specifically their past history. In principle, South America would have had exactly the same opportunities for development and great natural resources, but there has not been similar wealth as in the North. The quote also sets out the reason why one area has prospered, and the other has not.
Will the situation change in the coming years as the spiritual situation in South America has changed, while the United States, for example, has drifted far from the spiritual heritage that its fathers had? The United States has become e.g. the largest producer of porn and its pernicious entertainment industry is affecting the whole world. It is likely that America’s importance among the nations will fade and its best days will begin to be behind us. Other countries come along and pass it in development.
It is told that a South-American once asked: What could be the reason for the success of North-America and that South-America is not nearly as successful? North-America is one of the most richest areas in the world, where as South-America is one of the poorest. A person, to whom this question was directed, replied: It is because Spanish people went to South-America to search for gold, where as English people went to Northern-America to search for God.The truth is that initially a significant amount of people moving from Europe to North-America were Christian Protestants, who fled persecution and had suffered from plight. (24)
The professor of administrative studies, Mariano Grondona, from the faculty of law of the national University of Buenos Aires, says that none of the countries in the East or the West were “developed countries” before the 17th century: “The “Protestant Reformation was the factor that brought economic development into Northern-Europe and into Northern-America.” (25) He also remarks that the economic growth in Protestant countries has partly regressed, exaclty because the spiritual life of these countries has decreased. (26)
As stated, a high standard of living and well-being are not self-evident. They can have a connection to our worldview and what we think about our origins. That does not mean that the worldview would affect every single move in the economy, but it does have some significance.
One example is corruption. Research shows that the countries most affected by the Bible are the least corrupt. Secularist countries, such as former communist and atheist countries, are about as corrupt in this respect as Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic countries.
What about India and idolatry? If we think about the situation there, one of the major reasons for the problems and suffering in this beautiful country may be precisely Hindu philosophy. When the first and second commandments say that we should not keep other Gods by the one true God, nor make idols (Ex 20: 3,4: You shall have no other Gods before me. You shall not make to you any Graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.), India has not complied with this. Instead, rats and other pests are protected there because they are considered sacred. Although they destroy a lot of grain, they are protected. Things like this certainly affect the economy because they cause the starvation of millions. Without its philosophy of placing rats and other animals before humans, India could be a more prosperous country. K. P. Yohannan, himself an Indian, describes the situation and the problems in his home country:
I'm not trying to belittle the social and material needs of the Asian people, but I feel that it is important to point out again that the basic problem in Asia is of a spiritual nature. The Western media focus almost completely on the hunger problem. When the media shows them images of starving children, it is difficult for Americans not to get the wrong idea that hunger is the worst problem.
What causes hunger? Asian Christians know that the awful situation is only a symptom of the actual problem – spiritual slavery in the yoke of Satanic philosophies. The key factor – and the most overlooked one – in understanding the hunger problem in India is the religious system of Hinduism and how it influences the production of food. Most people are familiar with the concept of the "holy cow"; cows roam free eating tonnes of grain while people nearby are starving. A less well known animal protected by the religion, and one that has caused more trouble, is the rat.
According to those who believe in reincarnation, rats must be protected because it is likely that a rat will receive a soul when it starts its spiritual journey towards Nirvana. Even though there are many people who do not share this belief and who try to poison rats, extensive attempts to eliminate the rat problem have been rejected by religious parties. One of the Indian heads of state has said, "The problems in India will never cease until the religion is changed..."
Rats eat or destroy 20% of the Indian grain meant for human consumption every year. A recent inspection in a grain cultivation area called Hapuri in northern India showed that there are in average ten rats in each building. (...)
One could assume that the destruction caused by the rat in India would cause contempt. Instead, rats are protected and even worshipped in some places due to the people's spiritual blindness. One example of such a place is a temple a couple of dozen kilometres south of Bikaner in northern India. (27)
Rabi Maharaj, a former Hindu guru, refers to the same issue. He believed that Hinduism, its fatalistic belief in karma, reincarnation, and false gods, is the root cause of India’s problems. It is important to note that Europe was also, in many respects, a society similar to India or Africa a few decades ago. There were idols, earthlings, pantheism, and animism. Even in the Nordic countries, there is no need to go back many centuries when that was the case.
It is impossible to describe India to people who have not seen it for themselves. The misery, poverty, disease and superstition are shocking. The villages are awful too, but only when the visitor sees the millions and millions of people crowding the cities of India will they feel sheer terror. (...)
My heart hurt when I looked at the suffering multitudes of India. I wondered why the western people are searching for spiritual information from India. From experience I knew that Hinduism, its fatalistic belief in karma, reincarnation, and wrong gods was the basic reason for the problems in India. It was the blindness of the western people that made them turn to search for enlightenment from eastern mysticism! There was nothing else but darkness, and the anguish of India proved very clearly how deep this darkness was. Such an enormous deceit could only come from the same devilish, intelligent source that drives millions of people to destroy themselves because of the apparent paradise of drugs. (28)
Crime, alcohol, drugs. It was highlighted above how the Bible and the Christian faith have affected democracy, literacy, education, science, social work, and helping people, even the economy. Many social reforms have come to be because of Christianity. Without the Bible and its positive impact on society, there would be far more problems and less literacy.
One aspect is also crime or lack thereof. Crime has major societal implications. For if everyone commits crimes, such a society will soon become impoverished and life will become difficult. Or what if no one worked at a normal job – then what would happen? It would lead to a rapid paralysis of society. The shops would lose food from the shelves, we run out of fuel in a few weeks, there would be no one in the hospitals to take care of patients, taxis and public transport would not work, the fire department would not put out fires and all services would cease. The chances of living would become exceedingly small and mortality in society would increase.
How has the Bible and the Christian faith affected crime? It is known how many prisoners have left their criminal careers, which also benefits society financially. It has been calculated that one day in prison costs society about 150 euros, and if, for example, 50 people end their criminal careers to become ordinary taxpayers, society will suddenly save tens of millions of euros in extra costs.
Now moving on to the 19th century and one example of how crime dropped dramatically. Charles G. Finney was one of the most famous preachers of the time. In his book, Wonderful Awakenings, he recounts the case where the city’s crime fell relative to one-ninth of what it had been before. The city became calmer for the sake of order.
I have told that the moral situation changed greatly through this revival. The city was new, economically prosperous and enterprising but full of sin. The population was especially intelligent and ambitious but as the revival swept through the city by bringing large crowds of its most remarkable people, men and women, to conversion, there happened a very miraculous change concerning the order, peacefulness and morality.
I had a talk with a lawyer many years later. He had been converted in this revival and was a general prosecutor in criminal cases. Because of this office, the criminal statistics were thoroughly familiar to him. He said about the time of this revival, “I have examined documents of criminal law and noticed a surprising fact: while our city has grown three times larger after the times of the revival, there has not been even a third of the indictments than there were before. So miraculous an effect did the revival have on our society.”(…)
(...) Both public and personal opposition gradually abated. In Rochester I did not know anything about it. The salvation had its own great visitation, the revivals were so powerful and moved so widely, and people had time to become acquainted both with themselves and the results of them to such an extent that they feared to oppose them as before. The priests also understood them better, and the wicked were convinced that they were acts of God. This idea of them became almost common, so clear was the sane nature of the conversions, so really transformed, “new creations”, were the converts, so thorough a change occurred both in individuals and in the society, and so permanent and undeniable were the fruit.
Alcohol may also be at the root of crime. Many acts of violence have been committed under the influence of alcohol as when a person’s judgment has failed. In addition, new problems arise through alcohol: the breaking of families, the increase in medical expenses, sick children (about 600-700 children affected by alcohol are born in Finland every year), the increase in traffic accidents, the increase in absenteeism and other problems. We should not forget about the economic cost of alcohol to society. In the article Sweeping the alcohol problem under the rug is expensive, Kauppalehti (September 16, 2011) told how liquor amounts to a big bill. It mentioned how alcohol costs a small country like Finland a direct cost of about one billion euros. Indirect costs multiply the amount:
Alcohol causes clearly more disadvantages and costs in working life than people generally think. Experts state that "complaisant" doctors make it difficult to see just how major a problem alcohol is when they disguise illnesses caused by alcohol abuse, saying that they have been caused by something else…
It is difficult to assess how much additional expenses alcohol causes to employers, however. Researchers of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) state that alcohol causes around one billion euro in direct annual costs for the society. Indirect costs can be up to five billion euro. (...)
How has the Bible and the Christian faith affected this area? Has it been helpful in trying to get rid of alcohol addiction? The following quote says something about this. Erik Edin was an alcoholic himself, but he experienced a change and as a result began to help other alcoholics. Because of his actions, an estimated 10,000 alcoholics were freed from their addiction. It meant huge economic savings for Swedish society:
It was the year 1954. Erik Edin met Lewi Pethrus and from these events the LP organization started working in Strandgården. There began wonderful work of helping alcoholics. Over the next 30 years the work developed with a fast rate. Erik Edin was said to have saved 10 000 people and their families in a program in Swedish Television.
Erik Edin was also awarded with a medal and he was elected into the Swedish Parliament. He was valued by the whole country, because the largest amount of alcoholics had been saved and become sober through him. None of the other institutions taking care of alcoholics came near the kind of results that Erik Edin had. (29)
What about the situation in Finland? One example is the Laestadian revival movement. It was born in the 19th century among the Sámi, many of whom were caught in alcohol. Lars Leevi Laestadius, Sámi himself speaking the Sámi language, was a key figure in this area. Soon a change began to take place among the Sámi.
An interesting historical reference to this can be found in the Bishop's inspection report (Enontekiö Episcopal Inspection Report 1902, attached Report on the Enontekiö Chapel Congregation, prepared for the Bishop's inspection 5-7.7 1902. OTA Eb: 4. OMA) From Enontekiö:
The Laestadian movement must be said to be the form of Lapland's religion and the only direction that hints at spiritual pursuits, without which there would be sheer paganism, reindeer theft, drunkenness, fornication, etc. everywhere. For everyone who is not attached to that movement in one way or another is attached to the above-mentioned sins and many others.
What about drugs? The so-called hard drugs can be very enslaving. A person slave to these substances is usually incapable of long-term work. In addition, many drift into crime in an attempt to pay for their expensive lust. Usually, hard drugs are a worse problem than alcohol.
How has the Christian faith and the Bible affected this area? If we compare how people are freed from drugs by worldly methods and how they are freed by God, there is a relatively big difference. Secular methods are often expensive, treatment outcomes are poor, and addiction may be replaced by another addiction (Drugs are offered in place of another drug such as Subutex or methadone.) Instead, God’s power can touch any drug user who genuinely wants it and who surrenders their life to God. David Wilkerson, who has worked with drug addicts in New York for years, shares his own experience. The state has saved a lot of money through such activities, where hundreds or thousands of drug addicts have freed themselves from their addiction:
We specialise in desperate cases and will reject no-one, although we worked at first only with teenagers. Those who need help come to us voluntarily, usually when they have lost all hope. (...)
We simply believe in God’s power of breaking the shackles of habit and also making the victory thus achieved last through faith. I’m not interested in whether other professional organisations fighting drug addiction accept my method or not. I know that drug addicts accept it. I challenge anyone in the world to bring a hundred people cured from drug addiction to a single even, like we did. As of yet, nobody has responded to this challenge. We can present to you thousands of former drug addicts who were completely freed from drugs and filled with the power of God. (30)
What about sexually transmitted diseases? They are largely caused by our society not respecting the teaching that sex is really only between a husband and wife in marriage. Therefore, in light of this, premarital relationships, spousal betrayal, and homosexual sex relationships are wrong (1 Cor 6: 9,10: Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not Deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor Thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.).
However, sexual misconduct also has economic consequences. For example, drug treatment for one AIDS patient costs about € 20,000 per year (31). In addition, there are other costs, so it is not exactly cheap care.
Particularly harmful in this sense is homosexual sex (men). While thousands have marched for this, and we understand that people’s choices must be respected, this will also have an impact financially. For the unfortunate fact is that a very large percentage of sexually transmitted diseases have spread through homosexual relationships. Professor David Deming has written the following:
The fact that two-thirds of cases of syphilis and AIDS concerns one percent of the population clearly shows that homosexuality is not a safe choice ... I am disturbed by hypocrisy. Many ardent supporters of the homosexual agenda condemn opponents of mandatory vaccinations. They remind us that vaccinations serve the common good by reducing disease. But they do not accept that the reduction in homosexuality achieves the same goal ... We are constantly told about the costs of gun violence, smoking and obesity. What are the costs of homosexuality? How much does it cost to treat syphilis, AIDS and a whole host of other diseases? What price do we have to pay for the fact that syphilis, which was almost defeated, has now been allowed to spread again? (32)
Family life and when it breaks down.
- (Matt 19:3-9) The Pharisees also came to him, tempting him, and saying to him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said to them, Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall join to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh?
6 Why they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say to him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorce, and to put her away?
8 He said to them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away does commit adultery.
- (1 Cor 7:39) 39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
- (Mal 2:14-16) 14 Yet you say, Why? Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously: yet is she your companion, and the wife of your covenant.
15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And why one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, said that he hates putting away: for one covers violence with his garment, said the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously.
When it comes to the costs to society, many of them are due to the wrong lifestyles: crime, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, unhealthy diets or STDs (e.g., one AIDS patient costs about € 20,000 a year. In addition, there are other costs). It is good that society can help people who are involved in these things, but it certainly makes more sense for each of us to strive to change our lifestyles in the right direction. It gets a lot cheaper and people themselves benefit from it.
What about family life and human rights? If the Christian faith is genuine, it should also affect these areas.
That is what happened in the first centuries of the Christian faith. For example, in ancient times, child abandonment, child marriages, the poor position of female widows (just as female widows have even been burned in India) and slavery were common (about 15-30 per cent of society in Greece were slaves), but these customs and things gradually disappeared under the Christian faith. The Bible and the Christian faith had a positive impact on the lives of many groups of people.
What about modernity? If the Christian faith is genuine, it should affect everyone’s attitude toward the permanence of marriage. If a person respects the teachings of the Bible, they will strive to do their best for the marriage. But what is the current trend? Until a century ago, there were only just over a hundred divorces a year in Finland; now almost every other marriage fails. When there is a loss of respect for the teachings of the Bible, such as the permanence of marriage, the direction is clear. However, the breakdown of family life has major financial consequences. If, for example, children are excluded, it will be costly for society (Etelä-Suomen sanomat reports on 31 October 2010: Almost billion euros used in institutional care for children and youth, Problems with children experienced a strong rise since the early 1990s ... The institutional care of one child can cost up to EUR 100,000 per year ... / Similarly, Aamulehti reports on March 3, 2013: One marginalized teen costs 1.8 million. Even one rehabilitation back into society is a plus.).
In addition, the more families break and the more false models are favored, the more housing, income support and other benefits will have to be paid to remedy the situation. This is shown in the following news. On the other hand, if the teachings of Jesus and the disciples are followed in these areas, it should have the opposite effect of families staying together making the support of society less needed.
Divorce is costly for many
Economist Pasi Sorjonen of Nordea Bank wonders why the financial impact of divorces is not discussed much even though divorces are very common and the financial impact caused by a divorce can be great for the people involved.
A study by Nordea Bank suggests that a divorce can lower the living standard of a family even more than unemployment. It is a very extensive social phenomenon: almost half of the marriages now end in divorce.
"Divorces are very costly to the society," says Executive Director Heljä Sairisalo of the Finnish single-parent family association. (Newspaper Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, 25 January 2011)
The rate of giving allowances is accelerating in Finland… Housing allowance is being paid at a more and more rapid rate. In November Kela paid public housing allowances for over 93 million euros, when the same amount last year in November was a little under 87 million euros and in the year before that it was 65 million euros. The total sum of the money that goes into public housing allowances has doubled in the 21th century.. (Newspaper Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, 8 January 2017)
What is the Christian faith about? The impact of the Bible and the Christian faith on society has been discussed above. As a result, many useful things have been obtained. That is if there had been no Bible and Christian faith, there would have been less social justice in societies, worse living conditions, and lesser understanding of the human value. In addition, there would be more selfishness.
However, the core of the Christian faith is not social projects, but a relationship with God and the forgiveness of sins. Social projects are useful only for this life, but the forgiveness of sins extends beyond this life.
How can a person be forgiven of their sins then? Put simply, it is through Jesus Christ. This is the central teaching of the Bible and the New Testament, and it was also taught by the Reformers. It does not require deeds or our own merits, as everyone can receive immediate forgiveness of sins. Therefore, take a step of faith in Jesus Christ and allow yourself to be reconciled with God! Jesus said in his time (John 5:39,40): Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life. If you are serious, you can also pray for salvation, for example, as follows: ”Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.”
1. America's God and Country - Encyclopedia of Quatitions, p. 227. Toim. William J. Federer. Amerisearch, Inc. 2000.
2. The Rt Hon Michael Alison MP & David L. Edwards, (toim.): Christianity and Conservatism, p. 337-338, Hodder and Soughton 1990.
3. Matti Korhonen, Uusi tie 6.2.2014, p. 5
4. Rodney Stark: The victory of reason. How Christianity led to freedom, capitalism and Western Success. New York, Random House (2005), p. 233
5. Vishal Mangalwadi: Kirja, joka muutti maailmasi (The Book that Made Your World), p. 181,182,186
6. Usko, toivo ja terveys, p. 143, Risto A. Ahosen artikkeli
7. Vishal Mangalwadi: Kirja, joka muutti maailmasi (The Book that Made Your World), p. 285,286,292
8. Vishal Mangalwadi: Kirja, joka muutti maailmasi (The Book that Made Your World), p. 236,237
9. Vishal Mangalwadi: Kirja, joka muutti maailmasi (The Book that Made Your World), p. 72,73
10. Rodney Stark, (2004), p. 172
11. Mysterium Cosmographicum
12. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, toim. H.W. urnbull & J.F.Scott & A.R.Hall & L. Tilling. 7 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3:233
13. Tapio Puolimatka: Viisauden ja tiedon aarteet Kristuksessa, p. 364
14. The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation, 1691
15. James Hannam: The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution
16. Vishal Mangalwadi: Kirja, joka muutti maailmasi (The Book that Made Your World), p. 265
17. David Bentley Hart: Ateismin harhat (Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies), p. 65
18. Lennart Saari: Haavoittunut planeetta, p. 104
19. Ramachandra, Vinoth, Gods that Fail, Carlisle: Paternoster Press 1996, 216
20. Malcolm Muggeridge: Jesus Rediscovered. Pyramid 1969.
21. P. Cousineau: Conversations with Houston Smith on the spiritual life, p. 259
22. Jukka Norvanto: Raamattu elämään, Alussa 1 Moos 1-5, p. 34
23. D. Aikman: The Delusion of Disbekief, p. 168. Carol Stream, Illinois.: Saltriver.
24. Uuras Saarnivaara: He elivät Jumalan voimassa, p. 289
25. Mariano Grondona: A Cultural Typology of Economic Development, in Culture Matters, ed. Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, p. 54,55
26. Loren Cunningham / Janice Rogers: Kirja joka muuttaa kansat (The Book that Transforms Nations), p. 95
27. K. P. Yohannan: Haaste, joka lähtee sydämestä (Revolution in World Missions), p. 130,131
28. Rabindranath R. Maharaj: Gurun kuolema, p. 190
29. Carl-Gustav Severin: Rohkeasti täysin raitis (It Is Never Wrong To Be Totally Sober), p. 100
30. David Wilkerson: Kukkaislapsia löytöretkellä (Purple-violet Squish), p. 9
31. Heikki Peltola, infektiotautien professori Hus Lasten ja nuorten sairaala, Helsingin sanomat mielipidepalsta 2.3
32. David Deming: The Gay Agenda and the Real World, American Thinker, December 19, 2015.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!