We Don’t Understand the Difference Christianity Makes

It’s common to hear today that morality is “obvious” and we don’t need Christianity to know what’s right and wrong—we could chuck the whole thing out the window, and we’d be fine. But the truth is, most people have no idea of the difference Christianity is making to their current understanding of morality, whether they believe it’s true or not. Our culture has been so shaped by the person of Jesus that we take many things for granted that were despised 2,000 years ago—things that have not been obvious to all cultures, and that won’t be obvious once we exchange our Christian worldview (with its insistence on the dignity of every human person and the value of self-sacrifice) for another (such as one that features a meaningless, purposeless universe, where humans are accidents).

I wrote about this idea a few weeks ago when I came across an article by a historian who discovered, much to his surprise, that his morals were thoroughly Christian. Now here’s more on this topic of the difference Christianity has made to Western morals from Tim Challies, who wrote about 3 Awful Features of Roman Sexual Morality:

Christianity condemned the Roman system in its every part. According to the Roman ethic, a man displayed his masculinity in battlefield and bedroom dominance. In the Christian ethic, a man displayed his masculinity in chastity, in self-sacrifice, in deference to others, in joyfully refraining from all sexual activity except with his wife. The Roman understanding of virtue and love depended upon pederasty—the systematic rape of young boys. But the Christian sexual ethic limited intercourse to a married man and his wife. It protected children and gave them dignity. A Roman woman was accustomed to being treated as second-class human being but “in Christendom, a woman found a culture of genuine love that saw her as equally important as any man in the eyes of God. She was sexually equal with the man in the marriage union and had equal recourse under the law of God to demand marital fidelity.”

Do you see it? Christianity did not simply represent an alternate system of morality but one that condemned the existing system—the system that was foundational to Roman identity and stability. Christians were outsiders. Christians were traitors. Christians were dangerous. Their brand of morality threatened to destabilize all of society. No wonder, then, that they were scorned and even persecuted.

Read the rest of Challies’s post. There’s a tendency to think that whatever we experience in our own culture is “normal” (especially when our ideals have spread throughout the world into other cultures), but one can easily see that Western Civilization, with its ideals of human dignity and sacrificing to uplift the oppressed, is not the “norm” for cultures throughout history.

Cultures don’t just happen; they’re driven by ideas, which create their ideals. It’s worth asking, where are our new ideals (such as self-autonomy above all, even at the expense of the lives of the defenseless), gleaned from a Darwinist worldview, leading us?

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Amy K. Hall

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