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Three Great Prophetic Truths that Transformed the World, Part 1: Did Judaism & Christianity Improve the World?

An atheist close to me was raised as a conservative Christian. The gospel never penetrated his heart, but he was, on the whole, a well behaved kid who absorbed a strong sense of morality, obedience to authority, concern for his neighbor’s well-being, work ethic, sobriety and self-restraint. He imagines, if you talk with him, that his “superior” behavior and morality, his basic human decency is the product of his atheism, and NOT a holdover from his upbringing. He imagines a world where he and people like him can tear down Christianity and all religion, so as to free society from the guilt and spiritual threat that religious messages deliver to people, without unseating the basic fabric of morality and common decency he holds dear. He is simultaneously horrified by today’s youth who lack, as he sees it, any semblance of decency and honor. He does not connect the dots.

He is, I believe a microcosm of the larger culture war in America today.

On the one side, we have the Western World founded, however imperfectly, on the foundations of the Judaeo-Christian vision of ethics and morality that emerged from the Scripture-writing prophets of Israel and spread, via the Gospel & Church with the rise of Emperor Constantine, to every corner of the Roman Empire. The mingling of corrupted political designs with religious fervor is not ideal, but the impact on the world was immense just the same.

On the other side, we have the human heart as it exists when not confronted, curtailed, and partially imprisoned by the moral constraints of basic biblical truths. Those striving to unchain society and each human heart from religion generally, and Christianity in particular, imagine that the Western World rose of its own accord to be what it is, in spite of Christianity and not because of it, and, thus, does not need Scripture or Christianity to sustain it. They imagine that what we are and how we behave and the social institutions that we love will go on as before without the church, gospel and Scriptural morality… only better.

What, however, does real history teach us? What kind of a world did the prophets live in and how did their messages change it? Would there be a “modern world” without them? Would Western Civilization have been possible without them? What will we eventually become if we succeed in banishing their voice from our world?

We mustn’t be fooled by slowness as humans count slowness in terms of the impact that foundational ideas about God, Man and Reality have on the world. Human culture is stubborn because the human heart is stubborn. Society crumbles much faster and more easily than it gains, but it can still take generations for the true impact of a shift in basic notions & first questions to become obvious. The price of a thing, especially when measured in statistically verifiable numbers in a large society, often lags by decades.

If one really wants to know what the world will look like without the Gospel, Church and Scriptural paradigms, look to those nations that have never had a serious Church presence; look to what the world was when the prophets of Israel first got their inspired fingers into it.

It took many centuries, with gains and losses, but the impact of their ideas about God, Man and Reality, transformed life for billions, underpinned the modern Western World, and hold the key to sustaining human society into the future… if we can keep the god-haters at bay.

There are three main ideas I’d like to unpack over the next week or so.

  1. The prophets exposed Idolatry for what it was in light of God’s true essence.
  2. The prophets demanded justice in society based on man’s relationship to this God.
  3. The prophets exposed the nature of true worship as an act of the heart and not merely ritual.

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