Just before the turn of this century, the editors of Life magazine published a ranking of what they called the “100 Most Important Events and People of the Past 1,000 Years.” Their top ten included things like Galileo’s telescope, the Declaration of Independence, Columbus’s voyage, and, at number nine, “Hitler comes to power.” Calling that event important doesn’t feel right; impactful seems better. Still, the number one event of the last millennium according to Life magazine was “Gutenberg prints the Bible.” Good choice.
Of all the books printed on a Gutenberg press, the Bible was by far the most important and most influential. And it continues to benefit the world immensely.
Some will argue we would be better o without the Bible or Christianity. I couldn’t disagree more. The fact is, there will always be conflict between differing worldviews, just as there will always be political differences and conflicts. The question is, on which worldview should we build our society? Every society is built on one. Imagine for a moment if the founders of America had a Hindu worldview; our nation would look very different. What about a Muslim worldview or an atheistic worldview? All you have to do is look at societies that are primarily influenced by those worldviews to get an idea of what our country might look like.
Our founders, for the most part, had a biblical worldview. That’s not to say that all of them were Christians (most were), but the Bible had an undeniable effect on them. It also isn’t to say that they got it all right. This nation has never been perfect and it never will be. But what they built became one of the freest, most powerful and wealthy nations on earth.
The intent of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is to show how the Bible has had an impact on every area of life. Our education efforts only scratch the surface, as no building, not even a state-of-the-art eight-floor, 430,000-square-foot museum, can contain the whole of its story. On the Impact floor, we show the Bible’s influence on everything from the most powerful nation on earth down to an individual life. With billions of people touched by the Bible, the whole museum could be filled with just those stories.
In this fascinating book, Dr. Jeremiah J. Johnston takes us on a tour around the world and throughout history as he considers the impact the Bible and the Christian faith have had on humanity. What would our world be like without Christianity? Quite simply, unimaginable.
Of course, many people in today’s increasingly secular society think the Bible is obsolete and that Christianity is out-of-date. These beliefs are not new. Today’s so-called “New Atheism” is rooted in the nineteenth century when a number of bad ideas were advanced, but it goes even further back than that. People of all ages need to know this information. And this is why I am thrilled by the appearance of Dr. Johnston’s stimulating and well-written book.
Dr. Johnston first shows what the world was like before Jesus and the Christian movement arrived on the scene. It was not a pretty place. Poverty, slavery, prostitution, and the abuse of women and children were commonplace. It was a world of suffering and a world of fear. Racism and gross inequities were widespread and human life was cheap.
What changed that world? The evidence, says Dr. Johnston, is clear: Jesus and his movement set the world in a new direction that led to an enormous improvement in the quality of life. But before he highlights the many benefits of Christianity, he presents six important chapters that in graphic and disturbing terms show us what has happened in modern times when Christianity is shoved to the side to make room for a new worldview, one that is based on atheism and its many social and scientific corollaries. Again and again, Dr. Johnston digs down into the original sources of the “new” ideas of the nineteenth century and shows how almost always they were based on the pre-Christian ideas and practices of late antiquity. Far from representing advances in science and enlightenment, these bad ideas reflect the warped and evil thinking of a bygone era.
The depravity of men like Friedrich Nietzsche laid the foundation for the Nazi and Communist regimes of the twentieth century. These regimes, inspired by anti-Christian ethics and policies, were responsible for the deaths of almost 150 million people. For all their talk of science and education, if the New Atheists have their way they will take us back to a dark time. A return to the philosophies, ideologies, and bogus science of the nineteenth century will not be progress but a tragic regression.
The third part of this important book outlines the benefits that Jesus and the Christian movement have brought to humanity. Dr. Johnston shows how revolutionary the preaching and ministry of Jesus was from the norms of his day. The Roman world simply couldn’t resist the life-changing message of Jesus, and within three centuries, this nonviolent movement had swept the Roman Empire. Doctrines of racism were laid aside, crucifixions and the cruel gladiator games of the arenas were ended, the dignity of life was taken to new levels, the seeds of the emancipation of slaves were planted, and the groundwork of modern science was laid. It was the beginning of countless blessings bestowed on the world by the Christian church. Why would anyone want to see that end?
I am impressed by the depth and breadth of the scholarship throughout this book. Dr. Johnston is tackling complex, important topics. Behind the claims and conclusions lie careful research, as evidenced by the first editions, original-language editions, and other technical sources cited in the notes section. Reading this great book took me back to school for further education. What a treat!
Dr. Johnston writes like a leader—a leader for the church and the academy. He communicates as a statesman, speaking directly and effectively to the challenges of our time. Under his leadership, the Christian Thinkers Society has formed strategic partnerships and opened doors for fruitful and effective ministry. Unimaginable is a book for our time; it is a book that is urgently needed.