CHRISTIANITY HAS BECOME A POPULAR punching bag in the public mind. No doubt, much has been done in the name of the church that is horrible. No true follower of Jesus wants to be identified with priestly abuses, the crusades or inquisitions. But it is thoughtless and uninformed to assume these practices really represent the church through the ages. We all live with a Christian heritage but not everyone recognizes it. Last week we looked at how true followers of Jesus brought value to human life by putting an end to the common practices of abandoning unwanted babies, abortion, burning widows on their husbands funeral piers, and the brutal practice of slavery. But did you know that every school, college, and university you see is a visible reminder of the benefits of Christian faith?
Education in antiquity was for the elite only. Christianity gave rise to education for all. From the beginning Christianity has emphasized that the truth of God is revealed in the Word of God. Therefore, Christianity has been a teaching religion. As missionaries travelled around the world they felt the need to create alphabets for unwritten languages in order to give people a Bible. In order to help people read those Bibles they created schools of learning for all. A famous example of this is the Cyrillic alphabet, attributed to two Christian missionaries in the ninth century. Today more than 200 million people, representing more than 100 languages communicate nationally using that alphabet. This kind of work continues today.
The primary push for public education grew out of the Reformation. The Reformers believed that the Protestant Reformation would only hold if people could read the Bible for themselves. To ensure that result they promoted education for everybody. John Calvin recognized that “all truth is God’s truth” and so the study of nature was considered God’s second book of study. When the Pilgrims and Puritans first came to North America they passed laws, within 20 years of arriving, requiring the public education of all children. Their primary motive was that children should know the Scriptures for themselves. But the push for education did not stop at the lower grades. All universities in the world go back to three proto-types: Oxford, Paris, Bologna. At Oxford and Paris Christian theology, and to a lesser degree Aristotelian thought, were the chief subjects. At Bologna the chief study was church law. Almost every one of the 123 colleges and universities in the United States had Christian origins. Although these schools (like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and so on) have become secularized and anti-Christian they were founded by Christians for Christian purposes.
Consider all the benefits that have come to the world through education and we can be thankful that Jesus has been building his kingdom throughout the world. (Based on, What if Jesus Had Never Been Born, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe.)