"Every school you see - public or private, religious or secular - is a visible reminder of the religion of Jesus Christ. So is every college and university." Dr. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe document in their "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" book that the phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in Christianity.
The pursuit of the knowledge of God in a systematic, philosophical and in-depth way gave rise to the phenomenon of universities all around the world. It was the Christian faith that gave rise to the idea of higher learning.
THE GIFT OF LITERACY
Christianity is a tremendous force for education. Most of the world's languages were first set to writing by Christian missionaries. The first book in most languages of the world has been the Bible. Christianity has been the greatest force for promoting literacy worldwide throughout history.
The Christian missionary movement in the 19th Century pioneered tens of thousands of schools throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands - providing education for countless millions, even in the remotest jungles, giving the gift of literacy to tribes which had not even had a written language.
Peter Waldo was a wealthy merchant, well respected and a man of influence, in the community of Lyons. One evening, while entertaining friends at his home, one of them suffered a sudden seizure and died. This incident so shook Waldo that he began to seriously think of his soul and eternity beyond the grave. He began to regularly attend church services, but was not satisfied with the superficial rituals in Latin. He employed two priests to come to his house to translate the Gospels of Christ into French. Waldo was most excited as he read, meditated on and carefully studied the Words of Christ.
Yet, instead of comfort and peace, he found conviction and challenge. He saw himself as the foolish rich man who was laying up treasures on earth, but was spiritually poor towards God. Again and again he read the Words of Christ: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for the abundance of a man’s life consisteth not in those things which he possesseth” Luke 12:15.
"All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the Kingdom is the Lord's and He rules over the nations." Psalm 22:27-28
The Greatest Century of Missionary Advance
The greatest era of missionary advance was the 19th century. The considered judgement of church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette is that: "Never had any other set of ideas, religious or secular, been propagated over so wide an area by so many professional agents maintained by the unconstrained donations of so many millions of individuals."
A World to Win
At the beginning of the 19th century, Protestant Christianity was concentrated in Europe and North America. Except for some small Christian enclaves, Asia was almost untouched by the Gospel. Africa was still the "dark continent" - except for the ancient Copts in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and a small number of Dutch settlers at the Southernmost tip of Africa, at the Cape.
The Puritans bequeathed to us a heritage of pastoral theology unsurpassed in the history of the English-speaking church. The Puritans modelled a pattern of ministry that was both plainly Biblical and intensely devotional. The Puritans managed to balance head and heart, doctrine and devotion.
Puritan theology (defined as Biblical, Evangelical and Reformed theology) served for more than three centuries as the basic doctrinal framework for Evangelicalism, throughout the Protestant world, including Baptist, Congregational, Independent, Anglican and Presbyterian traditions.
The Puritans were convinced that Biblical theology and doctrinal truth were essential for healthy Christian experience and service. They insisted that the saving knowledge of God is essential for Christian living. This means that we need to know God personally and learn more about Him through His Word. What we believe affects how we live. Bad theology leads to bad practice. “It is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know Him as He is.”
The fundamental idea of Puritanism was the supreme authority of Scripture and it expressed itself in a fervent dedication to the cause of civil freedom.
Did you know that the first English translations of the Bible were banned? That the first printed copies of the New Testament in English had to be printed in Germany and smuggled into England in bales of cotton? Did you know that the Bible translator responsible for this was burned at the stake for the crime of translating the Scriptures into English?
Bishop Stephen Bradley observed: “We are in danger of forgetting truths for which previous generations gave their lives.”
That our churches are in danger of forgetting the great Reformation truths, for which previous generations of martyrs willingly laid down their lives, was forcefully impressed upon me during a ministry trip to Europe. I had the opportunity to visit Oxford and see the Martyrs Memorial. It drew my attention to an event that occurred 450 years before.
The Reformation in Europe during the 16th century was one of the most important epochs in the history of the world. The Reformation gave us the Bible now freely available in our own languages. The now almost universally acknowledged principles of religious freedom, liberty of conscience, the rule of law, separation of powers and constitutionally limited Republics were unthinkable before the Reformation. The Reformers fought for the principles that Scripture alone is our final authority, Christ alone is the head of the Church and justification is by God's grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by faith alone.
Few people today realise that the first Bibles printed into English had to be smuggled into England, and that the Bible translator, William Tyndale, was burnt at the stake for the crime of translating the Bible into English.
The extra-ordinary attempt by US president Barak Hussein Obama to deflect attention from violent Islamic Jihad by condemning the Inquisition as 'evil done in the Name of Jesus Christ', should make us take a fresh look at the Inquisition:
One of the re-occurring accusations against Christianity is that Christians are responsible for: "The Inquisition!"
Frequently, while trying to love one's neighbour and share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christians receive some tirade against "The Church" and "The Inquisition!" The Inquisition is used as some kind of general-purpose club with which to bludgeon Evangelical Christians.
On one occasion while I was being interviewed on a national secular radio programme, on the publication of my book: Biblical Principles for Africa, the first caller attacked me, and my book, over something that the book doesn't even deal with - she claimed that Christians were responsible for 'the Inquisition' which 'burned thousands of witches!'
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them." Matthew 7:15-16
STEPHEN VII (896-897AD)
"He dug up a Corsican predecessor, Pope Formosus (891-896), when he had been dead for over nine months. He dressed the stinking corpse in full pontificals, placed him on the throne in the Lateran and proceeded to interrogate him personally. After being found guilty, the corpse was condemned as an anti-pope, stripped and minus the two fingers with which he had given his fake apostolic blessing, was thrown into the Tiber." (Vicars of Christ - the Dark Side of the Papacy by Father Peter de Rosa).
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Western civilisation has been blessed with the greatest freedom, productivity and prosperity ever known in history. The liberty, standards of justice and creativity enjoyed in Western civilisation is a direct result of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.
First Things First
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught: "But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33