Book Review: Under the Influence, How Christianity Trans­formed Civilization, by Alvin J. Schmidt, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 2001, 423 pages.


Until I read Under the Influence, I did not clearly understand several important scriptures.  Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”  What are some of those benefits?  Do we have to wait until Christ returns to enjoy those benefits?  Because of Abraham’s faithful obedience, the Eternal blessed and multiplied the seed of Abraham, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice,” Genesis 22:18.  The seed of Abraham came to its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. How are the nations of the earth blessed because of the Messiah?  Again, must the nations wait until the Millennium to be blessed?  I have had such questions for some time.

This book answers these questions.  God’s promises through Christ are greatly blessing all nations on the face of the earth, NOW!  Almost every page of this book is an inspiration to the loving kindness of God.  Secular humanists today have duped many people into believing that Christianity has produced no benefits to our society.  These atheists are attempting to remove all refer­ences to God in our government, educational institutions, media, and public square.  The Truth is that in almost every facet of today’s life, the religion of Jesus Christ, albeit even in a watered down, corrupted form, has nevertheless delivered astounding benefits to society as a whole.

The Roman and Greek culture had a low view of human life, epitomized by gladiators in the Coliseum of Rome. Infanticide, killing of newborn infants, was a universal practice in the days of Jesus.  Infants were routinely abandoned, tossed away, to die.  Abortion was advocated by Roman philosophers. Glad­iatorial shows sacrificed multitudes of human beings and animals, for the lust of the fans. Suicide was condoned, often advocated, sometimes extolled by poets and leaders, committed by the elite and the general populace.  The pagan custom of cremation was the norm.  From the first century onward, Christians have utterly opposed such practices, and when they eventually gained ascendancy, initiated laws against such practices.

In sexual matters, Romans and Greeks were very “modern,” advocating fornication, adultery, prostitution, homosex­uality, pedo­philia, Lesbianism, group sex, and even bestiality.  There was no moral stigma regard­ing such perverse practices.  Christians elevated sex to a loving, lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, and declared sexual promiscuity sinful.  Society, until recently, has greatly benefited by restrictions against unlawful sex.

Messiah’s teaching elevated the status of women to a level unknown in most ancient societies.  If women’s liberation advocates today had an inkling of what it was like to be a woman in ancient cultures, they would bless the Eternal their God for the truly liberating influence of the Gospel!  Christian colonizers virtually eliminated the practice of clitori­dectomy (falsely called female circumcision) in Africa and the Middle East, foot binding in China, and suttee (burning of the widow at her husband’s funeral) in India.  If this was the only area where Christianity has benefited the world, the benefits of God’s ways would still be incalculable.  Did you know that in ancient Greece, the practice of hetaera allowed any man to have a legal mistress, in addition to his wife?  The burka still remains in fundamentalist Islam cultures today, waiting for the liberation of the Gospel.

I have merely scratched the surface of the abundance of benefits bestowed on the world as the direct result of the teachings of Jesus, as outlined in Under the Influence.  This is the most inspiring book that I have read in a long time.

Roman giving was called liberalitas, which meant giving to please the recipient so that he would later bestow a favor on the giver.  In stark contrast, the practice of Christian giving is called caritas, giving to relieve the recipient’s economic or physical distress without expecting anything in return.  That is the “giving and sharing way.”  Romans did not have compassion on the poor, the handicapped, or the elderly.  Neither did modern twentieth-century Romans, the Nazis.  Child labor laws, orphanages, soup kitchens, and the like, are examples of Christian charity (love) in action.

Christianity’s imprint on education is astounding.  As you may know, most of the universities in America were founded by churches to train ministers.  Christians want everyone educated, so they will be able to study the Bible and come to the knowledge of salvation.

A Benedictine proverb says, “To work is to pray.”  In Roman, Greek, Islam, Hindu, etc., society, work was done by lowly slaves and servants, and the wealthy were indolent.  Labor had no dignity in pagan society. Based on the Bible, the Christian work ethic has powered our society to its current state of unprecedented wealth for more people than ever before.

Today’s evolutionists would have you believe the lie that scientific advancement has come from those who disbelieve in the existence of God. Quite the contrary, most discoveries and advances in science have come through men and women who believed in God.  In fact, their religious belief caused them to seek to advance and improve society through technological inventions, in fulfilling the command of God to Adam, to “dress and keep” the garden of God.  Science truly has a multitude of Christian connections.

Our legal system, until its present defilement, has stood as a bastion against injustice and oppression.  No, it has never been perfect, but human laws based on Bible Law, have greatly benefited mankind.  Through professing Christians like the British man Wilberforce, slavery was abolished in western society, although slavery still exists in Islamic countries.

Even art, architecture, literature, music, and our language itself, have been greatly influenced by Christian teaching. If this book does not inspire you, you are hopeless!

Before all these godly benefits are lost, we would do well to appreciate and relish the many good things God has done for us.  Whether you live in Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas, you have been the recipient of many of God’s blessings to Abraham.  It is astounding to realize that the quality of our lives has been greatly enhanced by the blessings of the Almighty.  Forces are at work to take away God’s blessings and benefits.  In the World Tomorrow, God’s benefits and blessings will not be impinged and watered down: they will fill the earth like the waters cover the seas! 

Let us bless the Lord, and forget not all His benefits!

                          — by Richard C. Nickels Ω


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