Book Report for
What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?
This book, written by two Christians (D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe), makes the argument that the impact of Christianity on human history and culture is an overall positive one. The arguments presented by the book are sound and greatly help support the thesis.
One of such arguments made is that the gospel has helped make human life better by teaching man to love, and to value human life. “In short, it was dangerous to be conceived and born in the ancient world. Human life was exceedingly cheap. But then Jesus came. He did not disdain to be conceived in the virgin’s womb, but He humbled Himself to be found in fashion as a man. Since that time, Christians have cherished life as sacred...” (Kennedy and Newcombe, 12). This passage argues that only after the coming of Christ did humans start caring for the lives of others, such as children, women, and slaves.
Also, the authors claim that instead of curbing scientific advancement throughout the years, the Church helped to develop modern science. “It waited for Christianity to come and take several of the different strains and weave them together to produce in the sixteenth century the phenomenon we know as modern science. It was because of a number of basic teachings of Christianity. First of all is the fact that there is a rational world. This gave rise to the possibility of scientific laws. It is interesting to note that science could not originate in the philosophical view prevalent in the world today. The prevailing philosophy of the Western world today is existentialism, which is irrational. It would not be possible for science to develop in an irrational world because science is based on the fact that is water boils at 212 degrees today, it will boil at 212 degrees tomorrow, and the same thing the next day, and that there are certain laws and regularities that control the universe. This all stems from the Christian concept of the God who created a world- a God who is rational and who created a rational world.” (Kennedy and Newcombe, 95). Here, the authors bring up an interesting point- that in today’s science-centered society, the very thing that is its obsession would never have developed with its current irrational philosophy. Thus, this statement refutes the atheistic argument that the Christian religion is an enemy of science. In the same chapter as this passage, the authors also note that many of the founders of various prominent branches of science were Christians, such as Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, and Johannes Kepler. This statement debunks the common myth that scientists are to be atheistic, for Christians are among the most famed and pioneering scientists in history.
The authors also make a claim that the modern hospital is the product of over a thousand years of Christian blood, sweat, and faith. “Christianity has made significant contributions in the realm of health. First of all, applied Christian living is healthy. Second, Christianity played an important role in the development of the institution of the hospital, to the point that some historians attribute the creation of the hospital in itself to Christianity. The example and teaching of Jesus has inspired ministers, priests, monks, nuns, missionaries, and untold numbers of laymen to bring medical help to the poor in virtually ever country of the world. Often, Western medicine has been introduced to a Third World country or to a primitive culture by Christian missionaries. In short, had Jesus not come, medicine would not be as widespread, nor would it ever have been as compassionate.” (Kennedy and Newcombe, 141-142). The chapter goes on to explain that in the past, the wealthy would have their own physicians, and only the poor would have to resort to a hospital. Though the Church once caused a stall in the advancement of medicine, for they- like many other religions- forbade the dissection of human corpses, which prevented the healthy growth of medicine. However, with compassion and care, many hospitals- and forerunners of hospitals- were established by Christians, some of which are still in use today. Also, the modern organization The Red Cross- that provides relief to those who require it- was started by a Christian who wished to help wounded soldiers. Thus, though for a period of time the Church retarded the progress of medicine, without the Christian religion, the modern hospital would simply not exist.
The authors also make an amazing point that the morality of the human race before the birth of Christ left much to be desired. In Chapter 11 of this book, the authors describe life before the advent of Christianity as cruel and barbaric, giving Emperor Nero of Rome, the brutish barbarian tribes of Europe, and the wicked traditions some African tribes followed as examples. However, through the Bible, and the hard work of missionaries to spread the word, these cultures developed a higher standard of morality. “She began to teach them about the Son of God who had loved them enough to die for their sins. Astonishingly, God opened up their hearts. They became very willing to hear. One after another, the chiefs of the various villages yielded their lives to Christ. One after another the tremendously horrible customs plaguing these people for years were abolished; the murder of twins, infanticide, the slaughter of wives and slaves, the trial by poison and boiling oil, and all other terrible customs.” (Kennedy and Newcombe, 168-169). The Bible has the power to break age-old immoral customs of people. Now, as America is straying away from God and these morals, there is an increase in violence- such as school shootings- in this country. If we keep straying from these morals, it is quite possible for America to become the uncivilized barbarians our ancestors once were.
However, with all of its virtues, the Church is not without its vices. Christians have been the reason for some of the most ruthless actions taken in history. In the name of the Christ, the Crusades came into being, the Inquisition took place, the Thirty Years War was fought, and Anti-Semitism ran rampant. However, the authors make an interesting point: “Christianity is comprised of those who have repented of their sins and truly believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and their Lord. In times past Christendom was comprised of true Christians and those professing Christians who have never experienced the saving grace of Christ.” (Kennedy and Newcombe, 209). The authors then go on to claim that these atrocities were perpetrated by those who are professing Christians but have not experienced His grace. However, even though true Christians did not commit these crimes, the Church has much to repent for.
Thus, the thesis of this book- that the impact of Christ on human lives is an overall positive one- is well supported and sound. Truly, had Christ never been born, the current quality of life on Earth would surely be as inhuman as it was thousands of years ago.