Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Christianity Changed the World - a review

The Lord be with you

In 2004, Zondervan Publishing House rereleased Alvin Schmidt’s book Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization under a new title How Christianity Changed the World. I read the book awhile back and found it to be very well-written and very informative; “two thumbs-up.” While looking for something else, I stumbled across the following review of Schmidt’s book. Instead of “someday” getting around to writing one myself, I thought I’d just post this one. I’m not sure if Zondervan is still publishing the book or not. Ten years is a long time for a book to remain in print in our modern age. But if they aren’t carrying it anymore, I’m sure you can find a copy on or Amazon. As you read the review just remember, every time you read Under the Influence translate that in your mind to How Christianity Changed the World.

Volume 69:3/4
July/October 2004

Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization.
By Alvin J. Schmidt.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001.423 Pages.

Christianity is unique among world religions. While most religions claim an idea, a book, or a philosophy as their foundation, Christianity sprouts from a more personal root. Islam has the Koran and the idea of divine oneness. Modern Judaism refers to the Torah and rabbinic traditions. Eastern religions flow from the fount of eastern philosophies. However, Christianity confesses a personal God, who interacts with his creatures in the most intimate way. Indeed, God comes in human flesh and blood, not merely to teach or communicate ideas, but to touch the diseased, raise the dead, and perfect his creative work. Thus, the Nicene Creed expresses the heart of Christianity by passing over Jesus’ teaching and focusing on Jesus’ incarnate actions. Christ comes, not merely to speak, but to live a life in the flesh. He is conceived and born, suffers death, rises from the grave, ascends to the right hand of the Father where he even now rules all things for the sake of His church.

While other religions rely upon creative followers to give life to ancient ideas and make their philosophies relevant to the modern world, Christianity follows a different path. The life of Christianity flows, not from an idea, but from the person of Christ who rules at the right hand of the Father and continues to interact with his creatures to bring them to fulfillment. The living Lord needs no one to make Him relevant to the modern world; he requires no new packaging to make him accessible to a new century. Thus, the history of Christianity is not the history of an idea, or even the history of Christ’s disciples, but the history of Christ’s personal presence as he continues to act in, with, and under his church for the life of the world.

This distinctively Christian perspective of history is demonstrated in Alvin Schmidt’s Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization. This book is a much needed survey of Christianity’s impact on western culture. In a so-called post-Christian world where orthodox Christianity is condemned for its Christological exclusivity, Professor Schmidt’s work is a welcome read. His book publishes the truth of Christianity’s profound impact on the world with a winsome, but not overstated, pen. Under the Influence investigates such themes as Christianity’s impact on life issues, sexual morality, the dignity of women, hospitals, science, justice, slavery, music, art, and literature. The broad spectrum of themes included in this book makes it a valuable addition to anyone’s library. Pastors will find it inspirational for sermons, confirmation, and Bible class; laymen will find it both easy to read and highly illuminating. This book is not only worthwhile; it is a necessity in today’s pluralistic culture.

James Bushur
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Decatur, Indiana

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