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On this question, Alvin J. Schmidt writes,
No, Christianity hasn’t had a bad influence on history. Christian beliefs and practices—that is, those consistent with Christ’s teachings—have produced countless positive by-products in history. This is true even though evil actions of erring Christians, especially prominent leaders (some probably not even truly Christian), are regularly recorded in history books, leading many to believe that Christianity’s influence has been mostly harmful. Commonly cited examples are the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the medieval witch persecutions, the executions of Hus and Savonarola, and the Roman Catholic Church’s silencing of Galileo. These acts were sinful and morally wrong—highly inconsistent with Christ’s teachings.
Christianity has had numerous positive influences on history. Largely unknown in today’s world, even to countless Christians, it elevated the sanctity of human life. In ancient Rome and other pagan societies, human life was cheap and expendable. The early Christians, motivated by the gospel, opposed abortion, infanticide, child abandonment, suicide, and gladiatorial contests—all legal and widely practiced in the Roman era. Fifty years after the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313, the now-Christianized Roman emperors outlawed these inhuman acts. Infanticide and child abandonment are still illegal in most Western countries, and while abortion has unfortunately made a comeback in the West, nobody has yet suggested that gladiators be brought back for popular entertainment.
In the fourth century, Christianity introduced hospitals to the world. Greeks and Romans had no such institutions of compassion. Christians, moved by Christ’s words “I was sick and you looked after me” (Mt 25:36), built hospices as early as 325 and hospitals in 369—first in the East and then in the West. The names of numerous hospitals still reflect this Christian origin: St. John’s Hospital, Lutheran Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, etc.
Before Christianity appeared, women were practically slaves, having little or no freedom and dignity. Not so in the Christian church! Women were baptized and instructed along with men and took communion along with men. Adultery was no longer defined in terms of a woman’s marital status; a married man having sex with a single woman now was also guilty of adultery. Christianity permitted a woman to reject a male suitor and inherit property. She no longer had to worship her husband’s pagan gods.
Here are other positive effects:
- Countries where Christianity has had the greatest presence were the first to abolish slavery. By contrast, slavery is still present in many Islamic countries.
- The principle that no man is above the law originated with St. Ambrose. In 390 he demanded that Emperor Theodosius repent for wantonly killing 7,000 people. He told the emperor he wasn’t above the law. In 1215 the Magna Carta expanded this Christian concept of liberty and justice.
- Christian teachings resulted in economic, political, and religious freedom.
- Universities grew out of the church’s medieval monasteries.
- Christian theology, not pagan pantheism, motivated early scientists to explore God’s natural world.
- Christianity inspired the invention of the musical scale and great musical compositions.
Finally, Christianity’s influence is present in many of the West’s social institutions and in its nomenclature, literature, and education, shaping much in the daily lives of people—both Christians and non-Christians. – Alvin J. Schmidt, “Has Christianity Had a Bad Influence on History?,” in The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 274–275.
While I would agree with Alvin J. Schmidt in general, he is still washing over some atrocious history. What we have had since Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in 325 CE and Theodosius I made it a state religion in 395 CE is a terrible and regrettable effect on people and history, with a trickle of true Christians and true Christianity holding on until today. Let’s take a real look at the history below and an objective view of how we should explain ourselves when one asks questions like, “Why are there so many religions?” “Why are there so many tens of thousands of Christian denominations?” “Are all religions acceptable to God?” “Is it true that there is good in all religions?” With Christianity’s atrocious history, how can Christians claim it is the only true religion, and which variety of Christianity is, in fact, the true one?
Overview of the Influence of Christianity
Christianity is a major world religion with over 2 billion followers. It has had a profound influence on history and has shaped many cultures and societies throughout the world. However, some people argue that Christianity has had a bad influence on history. This argument is often based on the idea that Christianity has been used to justify oppression, violence, and discrimination throughout history. In this essay, I will explore the arguments both for and against the idea that Christianity has had a bad influence on history.
First, let’s examine some of the negative aspects of Christianity’s influence on history. One of the most common criticisms of Christianity is that it has been used to justify violence and oppression. Throughout history, Christians have often been involved in wars and conflicts. For example, the Crusades, which took place between the 11th and 13th centuries, were a series of military campaigns waged by Christians against Muslims in an attempt to reclaim the Holy Land. These wars resulted in the deaths of millions of people and caused significant damage to the region.
Another example of Christianity being used to justify violence is the Spanish Inquisition, which took place in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The Inquisition was established by the Catholic Church in order to combat heresy and enforce religious orthodoxy. During the Inquisition, thousands of people were tortured and executed for their beliefs, often on the flimsiest of evidence. The Inquisition is widely regarded as one of the darkest periods in Christian history.
Christianity has also been used to justify discrimination and oppression against various groups of people. For example, during the period of European colonialism, Christians used the Bible to justify the enslavement of African people. The idea that black people were inferior and could be treated as property was widely accepted by many Christians at the time. Similarly, Christianity has been used to justify the oppression of women, with many Christian traditions promoting the idea that women should be subservient to men.
These are just a few examples of the negative aspects of Christianity’s influence on history. However, it is important to remember that Christianity has also had many positive influences on history. For example, Christianity has inspired many people to engage in acts of charity and compassion. Throughout history, Christians have established hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable organizations to help those in need. The Christian belief in the inherent dignity of every human being has also been a driving force behind many movements for social justice and human rights.
Christianity has also played an important role in the development of Western culture and society. Many of the values and ideas that underpin Western civilization, such as democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, have their roots in Christian thought. The Christian emphasis on individual conscience and the importance of personal morality has also been a significant influence on Western culture.
Another positive aspect of Christianity’s influence on history is the role it has played in the development of art and literature. Many of the greatest works of art and literature in Western history have been inspired by Christian themes and ideas. For example, the paintings of Michelangelo and the novels of Dostoevsky are deeply influenced by Christian beliefs and values.
It is also important to remember that Christianity is a diverse religion with many different traditions and beliefs. While some Christians have used their religion to justify violence and oppression, many others have used it as a source of inspiration for compassion and social justice. It is not fair to judge Christianity as a whole based on the actions of a few individuals or groups.
The Force and Coercion of Catholicism
The Catholic Church established a powerful presence in Mexico, Central America, and South America through the use of force and coercion. If the local populations refused to convert to Catholicism, they were often met with violence and even death. This practice of subjugation and domination was widely used to spread the faith and the message of the Bible throughout the region.
The conquest of Mexico, Middle America, and South America by the Catholic Church in the 16th century is one of the most controversial episodes in Christian history. The Spanish conquistadors, led by figures such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, arrived in the New World with the explicit goal of converting the indigenous populations to Catholicism. They often used violent methods to achieve this goal, and those who refused to convert were sometimes executed.
It is true that the conquest of the Americas was accompanied by significant violence and brutality, and the Catholic Church played a role in this violence. However, it is important to note that the motivations behind the conquest were complex and multifaceted. While the desire to spread Christianity was one factor, economic and political factors were also significant.
Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between the actions of individual conquistadors and the official teachings of the Catholic Church. While some conquistadors may have used Christianity as a pretext for violence and exploitation, the Catholic Church officially condemned these actions and sought to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
In the aftermath of the conquest, the Catholic Church did play a significant role in the colonization and evangelization of the Americas. Many Catholic missionaries worked to convert indigenous populations to Christianity, and the Church established a significant presence throughout the region. While there were certainly instances of violence and oppression during this period, there were also many examples of Catholic missionaries working to protect the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples.
In recent years, the Catholic Church has apologized for its role in the conquest and colonization of the Americas. Pope Francis, for example, has acknowledged the suffering inflicted on indigenous peoples and has called for greater respect for their cultures and traditions. The Church has also taken steps to support social justice and human rights in the region, working to address issues such as poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.
In conclusion, the conquest of the Americas by the Catholic Church was a complex and controversial episode in Christian history. While the Church did play a role in the violence and exploitation that accompanied the conquest, it is important to distinguish between the actions of individual conquistadors and the official teachings of the Church. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the many positive contributions that the Church has made to the region in the centuries since the conquest, including the establishment of hospitals, schools, and other social institutions, as well as its ongoing efforts to support social justice and human rights.
Molestation of Hundreds of Thousands of Children Over the Past One Thousand Years
The sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy is a deeply troubling and tragic aspect of Christian history. There have been numerous cases of sexual abuse by priests and other church officials throughout history, and these cases have had a profound impact on the lives of victims and their families.
The Catholic Church, in particular, has been rocked by a series of high-profile sexual abuse scandals in recent decades. Investigations have revealed that many priests and other church officials have been involved in the sexual abuse of children and that the Church has often failed to take appropriate action to address these abuses.
These cases of sexual abuse represent a grave violation of the trust that is placed in religious institutions, and they have caused significant damage to the reputation of the Church. They have also raised serious questions about the culture and practices of the Church and have led to calls for greater accountability and transparency.
It is important to note, however, that the issue of sexual abuse is not unique to the Christian Church. Sexual abuse occurs in many different contexts, and it is a widespread problem that affects many different communities and institutions. While the Church must be held accountable for its failures to address sexual abuse, it is important to recognize that this is a broader societal problem that requires a multifaceted response.
In recent years, the Catholic Church has taken steps to address the issue of sexual abuse, including the establishment of new policies and procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of abuse. The Church has also sought to provide support and compensation to victims of abuse and has implemented training programs for clergy and other church officials aimed at preventing future abuse.
While much work remains to be done, these efforts represent an important step forward in the Church’s response to the issue of sexual abuse. It is important to continue to hold the Church accountable for its actions, and to work to ensure that victims of abuse are given the support and justice that they deserve. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the Church’s response to sexual abuse is part of a broader societal effort to address this problem and that all of us have a role to play in ensuring the safety and well-being of children and vulnerable populations.
Catholic Bishops, Cardinals, and Even Some Popes Took Prostitutes as Their Concubines and had Bastard Children
The issue of sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy, including bishops, cardinals, and popes, is a troubling aspect of Christian history. Historically, there have been numerous cases of church officials engaging in sexual relationships with women, including prostitutes, and fathering children outside of marriage.
These cases represent a serious breach of the Church’s teachings on sexual morality and the sanctity of marriage, and they have caused significant damage to the reputation of the Church. They have also raised questions about the integrity and leadership of the Church and have led to calls for greater accountability and transparency.
It is important to note, however, that the issue of sexual misconduct is not unique to the Catholic Church. Sexual impropriety occurs in many different contexts, and it is a problem that affects many different communities and institutions. While the Church must be held accountable for its failures to address sexual misconduct, it is important to recognize that this is a broader societal problem that requires a multifaceted response.
In recent years, the Catholic Church has taken steps to address the issue of sexual misconduct by clergy, including the establishment of new policies and procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of misconduct. The Church has also sought to provide support and justice to abuse victims and has implemented training programs for clergy and other church officials to prevent future misconduct. We might mention that this support only came after being caught and tried in court. Before that, they covered it up by moving sexual predator priests around.
While much work remains to be done, these efforts represent an important step forward in the Church’s response to the issue of sexual misconduct. It is important to continue to hold the Church accountable for its actions and to work to ensure that victims of abuse are given the support and justice that they deserve. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the Church’s response to sexual misconduct is part of a broader societal effort to address this problem and that all of us have a role to play in ensuring the safety and well-being of vulnerable populations.
Protestants killing Catholics and Catholics killing Protestants Before, During, and After the Reformation
The religious conflicts that occurred before, during, and after the Protestant Reformation represent a dark chapter in Christian history. These conflicts were characterized by violence and intolerance, with Protestants and Catholics often resorting to extreme measures to defend their faith and suppress dissent.
Tensions between Catholics and Protestants were already high in the years leading up to the Reformation. Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and called for significant reforms to church practices and doctrine. The Catholic Church responded with repression and persecution, often using violence to suppress dissent.
The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was a widespread slaughter of French Protestants (Huguenots) by Catholics beginning on 24 August 1572 and continuing for several days . The marriage of the Protestant Henry of Navarre to the Catholic Margaret of Valois triggered the massacre. It was instigated by Catherine de’ Medici, the mother of King Charles IX, who was seeking to eradicate the Huguenots and restore the French monarchy to its Catholic roots. The massacre is estimated to have killed up to 70,000 people. It is remembered as one of French history’s most violent and destructive events.
During the Reformation itself, these tensions boiled over into open conflict. Protestant leaders such as Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland led rebellions against Catholic authority, while Catholic leaders such as Mary I of England and the Counter-Reformation popes sought to stamp out Protestantism through violent means. These conflicts resulted in significant bloodshed, killing thousands of people in battles, massacres, and executions.
Even after the Reformation, religious conflicts continued to plague Europe. In England, for example, tensions between Protestants and Catholics flared up in the 17th century, resulting in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the English Civil War of 1642-1651. In France, the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Huguenots (French Protestants) lasted from the late 16th century until the late 17th century, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
These conflicts were fueled by a toxic mix of religious and political motivations, with many leaders using religion as a pretext for advancing their own power and interests. The legacy of these conflicts is profound, with many parts of Europe still struggling to come to terms with the violence and intolerance of the past.
It is important to remember, however, that these conflicts do not represent the true spirit of Christianity. While religious disagreements will always exist, Christians need to seek dialogue, understanding, and cooperation with those of different faiths and beliefs. The lessons of the religious conflicts of the past should serve as a warning against the dangers of intolerance and extremism and as a call to work towards a more peaceful and harmonious future.
Catholics Tortured and Killed Bible Translators Before, During, and After the Reformation
The Catholic Church’s stance towards Bible translation in the centuries before, during, and after the Reformation was a complex and controversial issue. At the time, the Catholic Church was the primary custodian of the Bible, and many church officials were wary of allowing the Bible to be translated into the vernacular languages spoken by ordinary people.
One of the main concerns of the Church was the fear that allowing the Bible to be translated into the vernacular would lead to incorrect interpretations and heresies. Church officials believed that the Bible was a complex and difficult text that required the guidance of trained theologians to be properly understood. As a result, they sought to keep the Bible in Latin, the language of the Church, and discouraged or even banned translations into other languages.
There were, however, many individuals and groups who sought to translate the Bible into the vernacular in order to make it more accessible to ordinary people. These Bible translators often faced significant opposition from the Church, and some were even tortured and killed for their efforts.
One example of this is the case of William Tyndale, an English Bible translator who lived during the 16th century. Tyndale sought to translate the Bible into English but was met with fierce opposition from the English authorities, who were closely aligned with the Catholic Church. Tyndale was eventually captured, tried for heresy, and executed.
While the Church’s opposition to Bible translation was certainly problematic, it is important to remember that this stance was not unique to Catholicism. Many Protestant leaders, such as Martin Luther, also opposed the translation of the Bible into the vernacular, at least initially, and sought to maintain Latin as the language of the Church.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the Catholic Church’s stance towards Bible translation has evolved. In the years since the Reformation, the Church has come to recognize the importance of making the Bible accessible to ordinary people and has actively encouraged the translation of the Bible into various languages.
In conclusion, the Catholic Church’s opposition to Bible translation in the centuries before, during, and after the Reformation was a complex and controversial issue. While this opposition led to the persecution of Bible translators and the suppression of vernacular translations, it is important to recognize that this stance was not unique to Catholicism and that the Church’s position has evolved over time. Today, the Catholic Church actively supports translating the Bible into various languages to make it accessible to people around the world.
How Can Christians Claim Christianity is the True Religion?
From the perspective of many conservative evangelical scholars, the historical record of Christianity is a complex and multifaceted one. While there have certainly been instances of violence, intolerance, and oppression within the Christian tradition, there have also been many examples of compassion, social justice, and artistic expression. Furthermore, many conservative evangelicals believe that the core teachings of Christianity, such as the belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God and the Savior of humanity, are true and timeless, and that they offer a path to salvation and a meaningful life.
In the face of Christianity’s historical legacy, many conservative evangelicals would argue that the key to understanding Christianity is to focus on its core teachings and values rather than its historical practices and institutions. They would also argue that the Church has evolved and changed over time and that the Church’s teachings and practices today are very different from those of the past.
At the same time, many conservative evangelicals would acknowledge the dark moments in Christian history and would seek to learn from these experiences in order to build a better, more just, and more compassionate world. They would also argue that Christianity, like any other religion, is a complex and multifaceted tradition that cannot be reduced to its historical legacy alone.
In terms of converting people to Christianity, many conservative evangelicals would see this as a central aspect of their faith. They would argue that the teachings of Christianity offer a path to salvation and a meaningful life, and that sharing these teachings with others is an act of love and compassion. However, they would also recognize the importance of respecting the beliefs and traditions of others and would seek to engage in dialogue and mutual understanding with those of different faiths and beliefs.
Jesus Had One True Church in the First Century, Now With 41,000 Denominations, and This Atrocious History, Is There One True Church Today?
The question of whether there is one true Church today is a complex and contentious issue, and opinions on this matter vary widely among different religious traditions and individuals.
From a Christian perspective, the idea of a “one true Church” can be traced back to the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is said to have founded a single, unified community of believers during his ministry on Earth. This community, which is often referred to as the “Body of Christ,” was intended to embody the teachings and values of Jesus and to provide a unified witness to the world.
However, this unified community began to splinter and divide over time, with different groups of Christians developing their own theological and ecclesiastical traditions. Today, there are thousands of Christian denominations, each with its own beliefs, practices, and organizational structures.
While some Christians believe that their particular denomination represents the “one true Church,” others argue that the Church is more broadly defined and can encompass a diversity of traditions and beliefs (interfaith, More on This Below). Some Christians also argue that the idea of a “one true Church” is more of a spiritual ideal than a concrete reality and that the Church is always in a process of renewal and reform.
The issue of the Church’s history, including its dark moments and controversies, is also a significant factor in discussions of whether there is one true Church today. Some Christians argue that the Church’s failures and shortcomings are evidence of its human fallibility and the need for ongoing repentance and renewal. Others point to these failures as evidence that the Church is fundamentally flawed and that no one denomination or tradition can claim to be the “one true Church.”
Ultimately, the question of whether there is one true Church today is one that each individual must answer for themselves based on their own beliefs, experiences, and values. While there is no one right answer to this question, it is important to approach the issue with humility, openness, and a willingness to engage in dialogue and mutual understanding with those of different faiths and beliefs.
What Is the Bible’s Viewpoint On Interfaith?
The concept of interfaith relations is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, as the term “interfaith” is a relatively modern term that did not exist in biblical times. However, conversing with people of different faiths and beliefs does not necessarily conflict with biblical teachings.
RESPONSE: There is a big difference between engaging people of other religions in conversation for meals and accepting their religion as truth. Jesus, Paul, Peter and others did not accept Judaism and other pagan religions as equal to Christianity. They sought to convert those people to Christianity. So, your concept of interfaith is a bit disingenuous.
WRONG UNDERSTANDING CONTINUES: You are correct that there is a significant difference between engaging in dialogue with people of other faiths and accepting their religion as equal to Christianity. From a Christian perspective, the belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God and the savior of humanity is a central tenet of the faith, and Christians are called to share this message with others. At the same time, many Christians believe that engaging in dialogue and building relationships with people of other faiths is an important way of living out their faith and demonstrating God’s love and compassion. While Christians may not accept the beliefs of other religions as equal to Christianity, they can still seek to understand and respect the perspectives and experiences of people of different backgrounds.
RESPONSE: You say, “they can still seek to understand and respect the perspectives and experiences of people of different backgrounds.” No, they can seek to understand and respect their right to have their perspectives and experiences, which is a big difference.
It is important to respect the right of people of different faiths and backgrounds to hold their own perspectives and experiences, even if those perspectives and experiences differ from our own.
In engaging with people of different backgrounds, Christians can seek to understand and respect the rights of people to have diversity of human experience and belief while still holding true to their own faith and values. This also applies across Christian denominations. Not all so-called Christian denominations are true. We can listen to their stories and perspectives, learn about their cultures and traditions, and seek common ground based on shared values and experiences.
At the same time, Christians should also be clear about their own beliefs and values and should not compromise their faith in order to accommodate the beliefs or practices of others. Christians can respect people’s rights to their beliefs and practices of people of different backgrounds while holding fast to their faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God and the savior of humanity.
Ultimately, the goal of engaging with people of different faiths and backgrounds should be to build bridges of understanding and respect for evangelistic purposes while still holding true to our own faith and values.
How did Jesus view religious leaders who pretended to be righteous but disrespected God? “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.’”—John 8:42-47.
Is it truly showing loyalty to God and his moral standards if his followers join in religious unity with those who practice and condone behaviors that God condemns? The Bible instructs Christians to avoid associating with people who engage in immoral behavior such as fornication, greed, idolatry, verbal abuse, drunkenness, and extortion. Christians are also called to shun behaviors such as fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, stealing, greed, verbal abuse, and extortion. Those who engage in such practices will not inherit God’s kingdom. Furthermore, James 4:4 warns that those who desire to be friends with the world are making themselves enemies of God. As lovers of Jehovah, the psalmist in Psalms 97:10 urges us to hate what is bad, as God watches over the souls of his devoted ones.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
Overall, the Scriptures call Christians to remain faithful to God and distance themselves from the corrupt systems of power and influence in the world and false religion, and false Christianity. It serves as a reminder that the ultimate allegiance of believers should be to God and his kingdom rather than to worldly powers and systems, false religion, and false Christianity that are at odds with God’s values and principles.