Worldviews matter. Our framework for looking at the world will impact what we see, how we see it. Our worldview will also impact what we do and how we do it. Thus a worldview matters not just on a theoretical level, but on a very practical level as well.
Ideas have consequences, in other words, and bad ideas have bad consequences. What we think and believe can greatly impact what we do and the way we behave. And it goes without saying that the idea that all worldviews are equal is of course nonsense.
The Nazi worldview for example is a far cry from the sort of worldview adhered to by someone like Mother Teresa. Whenever bad ideas or worldviews dominate, we tend to see some pretty bad results. Conversely, whenever good ideas or worldviews predominate, we tend to see some pretty good results.
We have the witness of history to back this up. We see quite clearly in history where certain worldviews have led. Consider just one example: the way we treat the unborn and the newborn. We find that contrasting worldviews lead to quite different outcomes here.
Back in ancient – and pagan – Greece and Rome, life was cheap. This was especially so for babies, children and women. Men mattered, but others did not very much. Thus women were treated poorly, abortion was rampant, and infanticide was a common practice.
This contrasts greatly with what occurred when Christianity came on the scene. All three groups found their status highly elevated and their wellbeing greatly improved. Historians both then and now have of course documented all this. Thus it is worth looking at this in a bit more detail, especially given that a revival of pagan worldviews has led to a revival in the promotion of infanticide, as I have recently written about.
As the West becomes increasingly post-Christian – in fact, anti-Christian – and the old paganism reappears, then we see a corresponding increase in beliefs and practices long ago largely eradicated because of the Christian worldview.
Christianity, in short, was a great civilising force in human history. When Christianity goes, so too goes that civilising influence. The overwhelming force for good which Christianity has been for so long I have documented elsewhere. See for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/09/09/why-faith-matters/
So let’s look at infanticide and related issues in ancient Greece and Rome. It might be best to just offer here some broad summary statements. The references and documentation to the early historians and writers who discussed this can be found in these books for those wishing to take it further.
Let me begin with a quote from David Bentley Hart’s helpful 2009 volume, Atheist Delusions. He notes how Christianity actually transformed in very practical ways the early world as it replaced pagan worldviews and practices with those fomented by Christ:
“There can be little question regarding the benefits that the new faith conferred upon ordinary women – women, that is, who were neither rich nor socially exalted – literally from birth to death. Christianity both forbade the ancient pagan practice of the exposure of unwanted infants – which is almost certainly to say, in the great majority of cases, girls – and insisted upon communal provision for the needs of widows – than whom no class of persons in ancient society was typically more disadvantaged or helpless. Not only did the Church demand that females be allowed, no less than males, to live: it provided the means for them to live out the full span of their lives with dignity and material security. Christian husbands, moreover, could not force their wives to submit to abortions or to consent to infanticide.”
D. James Kennedy wrote a helpful volume in 1994 called What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? He also looks at how Christ and the early Christians turned their world upside down. Because Christians saw everyone – including children – as being made in the image of God, this led to some very real changes to how they were treated. He writes:
“It was a dangerous thing for a baby to be conceived in classical Rome or Greece, just as it is becoming dangerous once more under the influence of the modern pagan. In those days abortion was rampant. Abandonment was commonplace: it was common for infirm babies or unwanted little ones to be taken out into the forest or the mountainside, to be consumed by wild animals or to starve or to be picked up by rather strange people who crept around at night, and then would use them for whatever perverted purposes they had in mind. Parents abandoned virtually all deformed babies. Many parents abandoned babies if they were poor. They often abandoned female babies because women were considered inferior.
“To make matters worse, those children who outlived infancy – approximately two-thirds of those born – were the property of their father: he could kill them at his whim. Only about half of the children born lived beyond the age of eight, in part because of widespread infanticide, with famine and illness also being factors. Infanticide was not only legal: it was applauded.”
Alvin Schmidt’s very useful 2001 book, Under the Influence, also deals with this topic. For the first time in human history, all of human life was sanctified, and that certainly resulted in some major changes: “Historical research shows that infanticide was common not only in the Greco-Roman culture but in many other cultures of the world as well.”
He continues, “‘Infanticide,’ said the highly regarded historian W.E.H. Lecky, ‘was one of the deepest stains of the ancient civilizations.’ It was this moral practice that the early Christians continually opposed wherever they encountered it. And it was this depravity that they sought to eliminate.”
Many more such summary quotes could be offered here, along with quotes from those living back then. But my point by now should be quite clear: worldviews really do matter. Not all worldviews are the same. And when it comes to the very real issues of life and death, the importance of a worldview becomes all too apparent.
Today we have all sorts of esteemed academics and elites trying to make the case for infanticide. They even euphemistically term it “post-birth abortion”. And today we see the decline of, and attack on, Christianity all around the Western world.
It should seem clear to any thinking person that there is a very real connection between the two. Just as the rise of Christianity and the decline of paganism led to a major reduction in infanticide and abortion, so too today’s rise of a new paganism and the war on Christianity is leading to a rise in, and support for, infanticide as simply an extension of the abortion mentality.
Worldviews really do matter in other words.