Top 20 Books on How Christianity Changed Our World
The world as we know it would not exist were it not for Christ and Christianity:
If you run with the spin put on things by the secular humanists, atheists and misotheists, you would think that Christianity has only been a force for evil in the world, and a detriment to a civilised, harmonious and prosperous society. But the truth of the matter is the exact opposite. The amount of good Christianity has contributed to the world is incalculable.
It goes without saying that if Jesus Christ had not existed, there would be no Christianity. And a very good case can be made that if it were not for Christianity, the West as we know it would never have existed or come about. The West is inexplicable apart from Christianity.
A number of important books have sought to document the tremendous impact for good that Christianity has had on the world. Here I offer twenty of the best. Other volumes could be mentioned, but if the reader bought just two or three of these, they would be very well placed to make the case for Christianity’s unique contribution to the world as we now know it.
Before listing these volumes, let me offer a few select quotes from some of the books. One of the earliest written books on my list is What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? by D. James Kennedy. He gives a quick overview of the volume with these words:
Despite its humble origins, the Church has made more changes on earth for good than any other movement or force in history. To get an overview of some of the positive contributions Christianity has made through the centuries, here are a few highlights:
Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages.
Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages. In addition, most of the world’s greatest universities were started for Christian purposes.
Literacy and education for the masses.
Capitalism and free enterprise.
Representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment.
The separation of political powers.
The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times.
The discovery of the New World by Columbus.
The elevation of women.
Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic.
Higher standards of justice.
The elevation of the common man.
The condemnation of adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions. This has helped to preserve the human race, and it has spared many from heartache.
High regard for human life.
The civilising of many barbarian and primitive cultures.
The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages.
Greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art.
The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel.
The eternal salvation of countless souls!
Jeremiah Johnston asks us to imagine what life would be like if Jesus – and Christianity – never existed. Early on in his very useful book he says this:
There was indeed much to be anxious about in the ancient world. By today’s standards, it was hell on earth. Poverty, sickness, premature death, domestic violence, economic injustice, slavery, and political corruption were the givens of life. Absent were any ideas of justice, equality, mercy, democracy (as we know it today), education, and protection of the weak and marginalized. All this started to change when people began living with a sense of the divine, a sense of God’s presence.
The closing paragraph of Alvin Schmidt’s very helpful volume says this:
Finally, whether it is the existence of holidays, vocabulary, symbols, verbal expressions, or personal names (derived from preceding Christians) that identify countless people today, the effects of Christianity have been immense and widespread. And when its many other contributions, cited in this book’s pages, are considered, history and civilization owe Christianity a tremendous gratitude. The words of Carsten Thiede and Matthew D’Ancona seem appropriate when they say that “the [Christian] Gospels are the very building blocks of our civilization. Without them Giotto would not have painted his frescoes in the Arena Chapel at Padua; Dante would not have written the Divine Comedy; Mozart would not have composed his Requiem; and Wren would not have built St. Paul’s Cathedral. The story and message of these four books – along with the Judaic tradition of the Old Testament – pervade not only the moral conventions of the West but also our system of social organization, nomenclature, architecture, literature and education, as well as the rituals of marriage and death which shape our lives. . . Christians and non-Christians alike.”
Lastly, the Australian Catholic commentator and education expert Kevin Donnelly says this early on in his new collection of essays:
Concepts like the inherent dignity of the person, the right to liberty and freedom and a commitment to social justice and the common good arose as a result of Christ’s teachings detailed in the New Testament. . . . Much of Western civilisation’s art, music and literature can only be understood and appreciated in the context of Christianity and the life of Jesus. . . . Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, plays a significant role in health, education, welfare and much needed charitable and social welfare services that in addition to serving the common good and promoting social cohesion and reciprocity save governments and taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Here then are my top twenty volumes that carefully and in great detail make the case for the overwhelming contribution Christianity has made to the West and the rest of the world:
Carroll, Vincent and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial. Encounter Books, 2002.
Donnelly, Kevin, Christianity is Good For Us: Why Faith Matters. Wilkinson Publishing, 2021.
D’Souza, Dinesh, What’s So Great About Christianity? Regnery, 2007.
Hill, Jonathan, What Has Christianity Ever Done For Us? IVP, 2005.
Holland, Tom, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. Little, Brown, 2019.
Johnston, Jeremiah, Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity. Bethany House, 2017.
Kennedy, D. James, What if the Bible Had Never Been Written? Thomas Nelson, 1998.
Kennedy, D. James, What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Mangalwadi, Vishal, The Book That Made Your World. Thomas Nelson, 2011.
Mangalwadi, Vishal, This Book Changed Everything. Vol. 1: The Bible’s Amazing Impact on Our World. SoughtAfterMedia, 2019.
Mangalwadi, Vishal, Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations. YWAM Publishing, 2009.
Scott, Otto, The Great Christian Revolution: How Christianity Transformed the World. The Reformer Library, 1994.
Schmidt, Alvin, Under the Influence. Zondervan, 2001 (reissued as How Christianity Changed the World. Zondervan, 2004.)
Scrivener, Glen, The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality. Good Book Company, 2022.
Sheridan, Greg, Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in our World. Allen & Unwin, 2022.
Sheridan, Greg, God is Good For You: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times. Allen & Unwin, 2018.
Spencer, Nick, The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values. SPCK, 2016.
Stark, Rodney, America’s Blessings. Templeton Press, 2012.
Stark, Rodney, For the Glory of God. Princeton University Press, 2003.
Stark, Rodney, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success. Random House, 2005.
A few concluding thoughts. Just over half of the books presented here are authored by Americans. The others feature Australian writers (Donnelly and Sheridan); English authors (Hill, Holland and Spencer); and one from India (Mangalwadi).
Also, a number of these books I have already penned full-length reviews of, including the first volume by Mangalwadi: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/09/28/5981/
And these titles:
As to my most highly recommended volumes, well, given that I feature three each from Mangalwadi and Stark, that must mean they are high on my list. But perhaps my three top choices – if push comes to shove – would be Hill, Holland, Schmidt.
4 Replies to “Top 20 Books on How Christianity Changed Our World”
In the same vein, here is a quote from one of the most eminent philosophers of science of the 20th century.
“I do not deny that it is as justifiable to interpret history from a Christian point of view as it is to interpret it from any other point of view ; and it should certainly be emphasized, for example, how much of our Western aims and ends, humanitarianism, freedom, equality, we owe to the influence of Christianity. (…) What matters to Christianity is not the historical deeds of the powerful Roman conquerors but (to use a phrase of Kierkegaard’s) what a few fishermen gave the world.”
(Karl Popper The Open Society and it’s Enemies.1945, v.2 : 258-259)
Many thanks for that Paul.
A very helpful article, thank you.