Guns, Government, Goods, or God?
Former Time magazine correspondent, David Aikman, tells a powerful story involving eighteen American tourists who visited China in 2002. At the end of a busy day of visiting Beijing, the group’s activities for that particular day concluded with an evening lecture. The speaker was a young Chinese scholar who represented China’s premier academic research institute, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). What the group of American tourists heard from this young member of China’s academic elite was astonishing! Instead of the official old Communist dogma about religion being the opium of the people and missionaries being tools of Western society’s imperialism, the Chinese speaker said,
…[W]e were asked to look into . . . what accounted for the success . . . of the West all over the world. . . . We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion:Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this. (qtd. in Aikman, Jesus in Beijing 5, emp. added)
The ultimate foundational explanation for the progress, prosperity, prominence, and power of the Western world in general, and the United States in particular, rests in the “Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life” (i.e. the revelation of the Judeo-Christian worldview that culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ). It does not rest ultimately in guns, government, or goods, but in God (Christian theism). The fact that Jesus of Nazareth has been demonstrated to be ‘the dominant figure in the history of Western culture” (Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries 1) undergirds the claim that the best foundation for human progress and welfare is rooted in the principles of the Judeo-Christian ethical system.
Great European and American leaders argue the case. In his speech at Zurich University (1946), Winston Churchill said: “This noble continent [Europe] . . . is the fountain of Christian faith and Christian ethics. . . . If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its three or four hundred million people would enjoy” (James, Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches 7.7379). During an interview in 1968 with David Frost, Ronald Reagan openly expressed his awareness of the place of the person Jesus Christ when he said Christ was the historical figure he admired most. In an earlier speech, Reagan asked, “Can you name one problem that would not be solved if we had simply followed the teachings of the man from Galilee?” and Reagan affirmed “the answer to ‘each and every problem’ could be found in the ‘simple words of Jesus of Nazareth’” (Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan 121).
These voices, in the basic substance of their message, are harmonious with the American Founders. In his inaugural speech, John Adams, America’s first vice president, and second president, affirmed his belief that “a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity [are] among the best recommendations for the public service” (Fellow Citizens-The Penguin Book of U.S. Presidential Addresses 18).
Seven years earlier, Benjamin Franklin, writing a few weeks before his death in 1790, extolled the universal superiority of the teaching of Jesus Christ. In a letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale, Franklin said, “As to Jesus of Nazareth . . . I think the system of morals and religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see” (Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiographical Writings 784).
If it is the case, as affirmed by such an unlikely source as scholars from China’s academia in conjunction with the voices of the greatest European and American leaders, that ‘the heart” of Western civilization is “the Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life,” then attacks on the Christian worldview are attacks on the foundation of the Western world, not the least of which is America. Such attacks occur daily in America from Hollywood to Washington D.C. to high level campuses of academia, health care agencies, churches, shopping malls, schoolrooms, living rooms, and numerous other places in Hometown, USA.
Christian values will not survive in a culture that rejects the divine foundation of these values (cf. Romans 1:18-32). As the chairman of the missions committee in one of America’s greatest churches said to me recently: “This is not just a ‘religious’ issue. This is a ‘civilization’ issue—the very continued existence of our civilization.” Later, in an exchange of emails he expressed appreciation that the Warren Center is focused on defending “the very foundations of our civilization.”
The young Chinese scholar was right. The great European and American leaders were right. The Founders were right. My friend from the missions committee was right. What about you? Have you thought about it? What are you doing to help in the battle that threatens the very lives of each one of us as well as the lives of our children and grandchildren? Warren Apologetics Center is addressing it in a significant way. We need your help.
Charles C. Pugh III