How The Reformation Changed Music

This is an interesting excerpt about the history of music and why it flourished in the West and not elsewhere… similar to science. It is a bit incomplete as he spoke a little more on Kurt Cobain prior to where I start, and after he gets into Bach and other classical artists influenced by the Bible.Vishal Mangalwadi


  • Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011), 9-15.

….Cobain’s music appealed to contemporary America because it was a full-throttled disharmony of rage, anguish, hatred, despair, meaninglessness, and obscenity. His song titles included “I Hate Myself, I Want to Die” and “Rape Me” (later changed to “Waite Me”). Most of what Cobain sang cannot be deciphered, and many of his lyrics that can be deciphered have no apparent meaning. Whether he knew it or not, his lyrics were Zen koans, counter-rational sayings such as “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Such words do not make sense because (in the absence of revelation) reality itself makes no sense. Words are merely mantras—sounds without sense—to be chanted or shouted.

Cobain committed suicide because Nothingness as the ultimate reality does nothing positive. It cannot provide joy to the world, let alone meaning or hope for the mess in one’s life. Its only consequence is to inspire people to seek an exit from the world—Nirvana. A culture of music does not flourish in the soil of nihilism. Cobain’s gift as a musi­cian blossomed because he had inherited a unique tradition of music.

Music seems a natural, perhaps even essential, part of life to the Western mind because it has been an integral part of traditional wor­ship and education. For example, Oxford and Cambridge universities have played pivotal roles in shaping the second millennium. However, a person who has never visited these cities may not know that they are cities of churches and chapels. The chapel is the most important building in traditional colleges and a pipe organ is often the center­piece of a chapel. That is not the case in every culture.

Turkmenistan is the latest country to put restrictions on music: on state holidays, in broadcasts by television channels, at cultural events organized by the state, in places of mass assembly, and at wed­dings and celebrations organized by the public. Nations such as Saudi Arabia have had restrictions on music for a long time. In Iran and Afghanistan, women cannot sing on the radio, let alone on television or in person before mixed audiences. In post-Saddam Iraq, radical Muslims have assassinated sellers of music CDs. Mosques do not have keyboards, organs, pianos, orchestras, or worship bands because according to traditional Islam, music is haraam or illegitimate.

These cultures see Western music as inextricably mixed with immoral debauchery. For them, musicians such as Kurt Cobain are undesirable role models. Indeed, on the cover of his album Nevermind, Buddhist monks in Asia developed sophisticated philosophies, psychology, rituals, and psycho-technologies to try to escape life and its sufferings. They perfected techniques such as Vipasana* to silence not just their tongues but also their thoughts. Buddhism originated in India and prior to its disappearance enjoyed powerful political patronage for centuries. It built such massive monasteries that Buddhist art is a cherished aspect of our national heritage. Yet, Buddhism left no discernible musical tradition or instrument in India. No Buddhist monk started a band such as Nirvana, because in Buddhism salvation is not a heaven filled with music. As a pessimistic philosophy of silence it could not produce music of hope and joy. Buddhism could not celebrate existence because it saw suffering as the essence of life. Some forms of modern Buddhism have embraced music, partially because of the efforts of Western converts, such as Kurt Cobain, who grafted the Western tradition of religious music into the Buddhist faith.

To say that music is a new phenomenon in Buddhist temples is not to suggest that pre-Buddhist Tibet or China had no music. Music is intrinsic to the universe and to human nature even if some worldviews, including Darwinism, do not understand, recognize, or promote it. China’s fertility cults and sexual rites involved choirs of boys and girls singing alternately and together to symbolize Yin and Yang dualism as early as 2000 BC. A thousand years prior to that, the worshippers in Sumero-Mesapotamia used music in their temple rituals.

The musical ragas of Hindu magical rituals have survived for thirty-five hundred years. Most of the Vedas are hymns and chants. The Vedic priests understood sound as well as anyone else in the world and developed a highly complex system of chanting, even if Hindu monks and priests did not develop music into the complex medium that Western music became. Thankfully this is changing now. Bollywood has played a great role in inspiring some Hindu ashrams to develop great music. It has also raised the standard of Qawwali, which began as a part of Sufi tradition: but is now loved by Hindus as well as by Muslims—including in Pakistan.

WRITING MUSIC INTO THE WEST’S DNA

St. Augustine, the author of the six-volume On Music, was a key figure in inserting music into Western education and worldview. His first five volumes are technical and could have been written by a Greek philosopher. But Augustine was most excited about his sixth book, which gives a biblical philosophy of music. Music is, of course, inte­gral to the Bible, in which the longest book is Psalms. The last psalm, for example, asks creation to praise the Lord with the trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, strings, pipe, and cymbals.

Why are these physical instruments able to make music? Augustine saw that the scientific basis or essence of music lies in mathematical “numbers” or scores at the core of creation. Since music is mathe­matical, Augustine argued, it must be rational, eternal, unchangeable, meaningful, and objective—it consists of mathematical harmony. We cannot make a musical sound from just any string. To get a precise note, a string has to have a specific length, thickness, and tension. This implies that the Creator has encoded music into the structure of the universe. This insight was not new. It had been noted by Pythagoras (570-490 BC), whose school Plato attended before starting his Academy.

Augustine promoted this “pagan” insight because the Bible presented a view of creation that explained why matter could make music.

Augustine taught that while this musical code is “bodily” (physi­cal), it is made and enjoyed by the soul. For example, the book of Job deals with the problem of inexplicable suffering. In it God himself tells Job of the connection between music and creation: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? . . . when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

The Bible taught that a sovereign Creator (rather than a pantheon of deities with conflicting agendas) governs the universe for his glory. He is powerful enough to save men like Job from their troubles. This teaching helped develop the Western belief of a cosmos: an orderly universe where every tension and conflict will ultimately be resolved, just as after a period of inexplicable suffering Job was greatly blessed.

This belief in the Creator as a compassionate Savior became an underlying factor of the West’s classical music and its tradition of tension and resolution. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, Western musicians shared their civilization’s assumption that the uni­verse was cosmos rather than chaos. They composed consonance and concord even when they experienced dissonance and discord. That is not to suggest that classical music did not express the full range of human emotions. It did. A bereaved composer would write a tragic piece; someone abandoned by his love would express his desolation. But such outpourings of a broken heart were understood as snapshots of real life. Given the cultural power of the biblical worldview, no one thought of them as Kurt Cobain did, as evidence of the breakdown of cosmic order or the nonexistence of order in the universe.

In the novel The Silmarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien gives us a beautiful, fictional exposition of the Augustinian perspective on the relation­ship of music, creation, the fall (evil), and redemption. Tolkien’s Middle-earth experienced much more suffering than the Buddha’s India. Tolkien’s “earth” was to be captured, corrupted, and virtually controlled by evil. Suffering was real, brutal, and awful. Yet the Bible taught Tolkien that the Almighty Creator, who was also a compas­sionate Redeemer, was loving enough and powerful enough to redeem the earth from the greatest possible mess, sin, and suffering. This helped Tolkien to celebrate creation, both in its origin as well as in its ultimate destiny:

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only part of the mind of Iluvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony. . . .

Then Iluvatar said to them: “Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music.”

Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Iluvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.

Prior to becoming a follower of Christ, Augustine had been a professor of Greek philosophy. He knew that although music was encoded into the structure of the physical universe, being finite, it could never provide ultimate meaning to life.** Therefore, he reasoned that to be meaningful, music had to be integrated into the ultimate aim of human life, which was to love God and one’s neighbors. To love one’s neighbor is to “always mind” his welfare.

Over the centuries, the influence of Augustine’s biblical philoso­phy of music kept growing. Originally, church music was dominated by monophonic plainsong, a single line of melody as in the Gregorian chant. Roman Catholic churches began to develop polyphonic music. This style, which combines several differing voice parts simultaneously, began to flourish at Notre Dame (Paris) by the eleventh century. That development in Christian worship laid the foundation for the entire spectrum of Western classical music, religious and secular.***

In the tenth century AD, Augustine’s biblical philosophy of music inspired a group of Benedictine monks to build the world’s largest pipe organ in the cathedral of Winchester, England. The organ required seventy men and twenty-six bellows to supply wind to its four hundred pipes. Technologically, the pipe organ was the world’s most advanced machine until the invention of the mechanical clock. Europe’s organs stood as emblems of the West’s unique desire and ability to use the arts, science, and technology for the glory of God as well as for the relief of humanity’s suffering and toil.

Augustine’s biblical philosophy of music was an important tribu­tary that contributed to the river of mechanical arts that began to flow out of Christian monasteries and churches. This tradition used technology to worship God and to love one’s neighbors.


* Yoga attempts to control breathing in its quest to realize self. Vipasana observes breathing as a means of silencing one’s mind to experience that there is no self or soul inside us but only Nothingness, Emptiness, Void, Shoonyta or Selflessness.

** Augustine’s intellectual mentor, Plato, believed that epistemologically no finite particular can make sense without an infinite reference point.

*** Augustine did not have much influence over the Eastern Church and that may be one reason why its music did not develop much beyond the chant.


The Impact of Godly Men on Culture: John Wesley, Martin Luther

This is an excerpt from a book that really points out the impact of Godly men on many persons and facets of life just assumed to be the way they are for no reason. For instance, the impact of John Wesley is immeasurable:

  • Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville, TN: Thoomas Nelson, 2011), 270-271, 272.

A further fruit of Wesley’s work were the conversions of William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, and others, and the development of what is called the Clapham Sect. This was a group of devout evan­gelicals who lived around Clapham Common, southeast of London. This community of Christians included businessmen, bankers, politi­cians, colonial governors, and members of Parliament, whose cease­less, sacrificial labors benefited millions of their fellows at home and abroad–especially in Africa and India.

Restoration of the authority of the Bible in the English world amounted to a civilization finding its soul. Writings of a number of literary men and women give evidence of their recovering a biblical perspective. Poets such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Lord Tennyson, and later Rudyard Kipling and John Masefield; nov­elists like Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, the Brontë sisters, Robert Louis Stevenson — all these and others owed much to the purging and ennobling influence of the biblical revival.

To the degree their writings were shaped by the Bible’s worldview, they held in check [temperred] the logical consequences of the Enlightenment’s rejection of of revelation…

[….]

The following improvements came in a direct line of descent from the Wesleyan revival. First was the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of the industrial workers in England. Then came fac­tory schools, ragged schools, the humanizing of the prison system, the reform of the penal code, the forming of the Salvation Army, the Religious Tract Society, the Pastoral Aid Society, the London City Mission, Müller’s Homes, Fegan’s Homes, the National Children’s Home and Orphanages, the forming of evening classes and polytech­nics, Agnes Weston’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Rest, YMCAs, Barnardo’s Homes, the NSPCC, the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, the Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the list goes on.

Ninety-nine out of a hundred people behind these movements were Christians. All these movements grew out of the revival of bibli­cal spirituality, the result of John Wesley and his associates opening up the Bible that led to the Great Awakening of hearts, minds, con­sciences, and wills.


This is not to suggest that everyone was fully Biblical in this worldview, or that no other belief system shaped their mind-set.

Which brings me to the impact of the marriage relationship as it applies to Western Culture, and the impact the Reformation had, yes, even on the marriage relationship:


  • Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville, TN: Thoomas Nelson, 2011), 283-291.

ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND THE EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN

[p. 283>] Rodney Stark, in his authoritative study The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History, discusses the rise of Christianity in its early pagan Greco-Roman setting. Among other things, he explores the impact of the Bible’s commands concerning adultery, rape, murder, divorce, love for wives, care for widows, and so forth, on womanhood in general. The following is from a section entitled “Wives, Widows, and Brides”:

First of all, a major aspect of women’s improved status in the Christian subculture is that Christians did not condone female infanticide . . . the more favorable Christian view of women is also demonstrated in their condemnation of divorce, incest, marital infidelity, and polygamy. As Fox put it, “fidelity, without divorce, was expected of every Christian.” . . . Like pagans, early Christians prized female chastity, but unlike pagans, they rejected the double standard that gave pagan men so much sexual license. Christian men were urged to remain virgins until marriage, and extramarital sex was condemned as adultery. Chadwick noted that Christianity “regarded unchastity in a husband as no less serious a breach of loy­alty and trust than unfaithfulness in a wife.”

Stark pointed out that Christian widows enjoyed substantial advantages over pagan widows, who faced great social pressure to [p. 284>] remarry. Augustus Caesar, for example, fined widows who failed to remarry within two years. When a widow remarried, she lost all her inheritance—it became the property of her new husband. In contrast, the New Testament required Christians to respect and care for wid­ows. Well-to-do Christian widows kept their husbands’ estates, and the church sustained the poorer ones, giving them a choice whether or not to remarry.

Christians also expressed their respect for women by raising the age of marriage. Roman law established twelve as the minimum age at which girls could marry. But the law was nothing more than a rec­ommendation. It carried no penalties and was routinely ignored. The best available studies show that in the Roman Empire the pagans’ daughters were three times more likely than Christians to marry before they were thirteen. By age eleven, 10 percent were wed. Nearly half (44 percent) of the pagan girls were married off by the time they were fourteen, compared with 20 percent of the Christians. In con­trast, nearly half (48 percent) of the Christian females did not marry before they were eighteen.

Stark reported that in 1955, French historian Durry published his findings that Roman marriages involving child brides were con­summated even if the bride had not achieved puberty. Durry thought that this was not the norm. However, substantial literary evidence has since emerged that consummation of these marriages was taken for granted. Pagan writers like Plutarch called this custom cruel and con­trary to nature because it filled girls with hatred and fear. Christians, in contrast, could delay their daughters’ marriages because the New Testament gave them different moral standards—the same standard for men and women. The Bible’s sexual ethic gave Christian girls the time to grow up and become better wives and mothers.

SEX AND MARRIAGE

Rome’s classical culture did not see sex merely as secular pleasure. Like the Tantric sects in India, many Roman temples were packed with prostitutes—female as well as male. An 1889 study found that [p. 285>] quite a few married women of high-ranking families in the Roman Empire had “asked to have their names entered amongst the public prostitutes, in order that they might not be punished for adultery.”

Adultery was a crime with serious consequences because it was an economic offense, taking another man’s property (wife) —not because it was a matter of sexual impurity, a disruption of the holy union of husband and wife or a violation ‘of sacred vows. In fact, extramarital sex with a temple prostitute was considered a purifying, god-pleasing, religious event, if not the very means of Gnostic enlightenment. Even today, many Hindu gurus and Yoga teachers have sex with their female and male devotees on the pretext of “purifying chakras”—the psychic centers in one’s body.

Religious and aristocratic promotion of extramarital sex had colossal consequences. Easy availability of sex without commitment took away men’s motivation to be married. Dislike for marriage had become evident as early as 131 BC, when the Roman censor Quintus Metellus Macedonicus proposed that marriage must be made manda­tory. Too many men preferred to remain single, leading the censor to concede: “If we could get on without a wife . . . we would all avoid that annoyance.”

Metellus continued, however, stating that men needed to take into account the long-term welfare of the state: “But since nature has ordained that we can neither live very comfortably with them nor at all without them, we must take thought for our lasting well-being rather than for the pleasure of the moment.” More than a century later, Augustus Caesar quoted this passage to the Senate to justify his own legislation on behalf of marriage. The need was obvious, the argu­ment was compelling, but the legislation was not greeted with any greater enthusiasm the second time around. Historian Beryl Rawson wrote: ” [O]ne theme that recurs in Latin literature is that wives are difficult and therefore men do not care much for marriage.”

Another cumulative result of promiscuity, child marriage, mis­treatment of women, divorce, and fear of marriage was that Rome’s pagan population began to decline during the final years of the empire. Unwed mothers and insecure wives (who feared divorce) [p. 286>] chose abortion and infanticide even if their natural instincts were for nurture and care. Toward the end of the second century AD, Minucius Felix charged in Octavius that religious mythology encouraged mur­der through infanticide and abortion:

I see your newly born sons exposed by you to wild beasts and birds of prey, or cruelly strangled to death. There are also women among you who, by taking certain drugs, destroy the beginnings of the future human being while it is still in the womb and are guilty of infanti­cide before they are mothers. These practices have certainly come down to you from your gods.

The long-term consequence of prostitution, permissiveness, sin­gleness, divorce, abortion, infanticide, and decline of population was that Roman towns began to shrink in numbers and size. Eventually the empire had to depend on a constant influx of “barbarian” set­tlers. As early as the second century, Marcus Aurelius had to draft slaves and gladiators and hire Germans and Scythians in order to fill the ranks of the army. Consequently, Rome became vulnerable. The main challenge to this depressing trend came from the Church, which followed the biblical injunction to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Compared to the pagans, the Christians’ commitment to marriage resulted in more secure women and a higher fertility rate. Likewise, Christian opposition to infanticide and abortion resulted in a lower mortality rate. Together the Christian population naturally grew faster than that of Rome’s pagans. Christians’ choices in favor of sexual purity, stable marriage, and care for children, orphans, and widows aided civilization but were not caused by concerns for civilization. Their motive was to please God by obeying his Word.

During the first millennium AD, the Roman Catholic Church was the greatest force for the emancipation of women. In the beginning of the second millennium, however, the “cult of Virgin Mary” and [p. 287>] the idea of earning salvation through religiosity led to an unbiblical exaltation of celibacy. The idea of “salvation by works” often leads to denial of comforts—certain foods, drinks, sleep, sex, marriage, etc. This mind-set—the denial of pleasure and the achievement of righteousness by pious works—caused people to view sex, marriage, family, and economically productive labor (necessary to sustain a family) as concessions for the spiritually inferior. The renunciation of marriage and the pleasures (and responsibilities) of family life were held up as pious virtues. Celibacy became public proof of spiritual superiority. Joining a monastery became the surest way to heaven. This spiritual pride led to gross prejudice against women.

For example, the popular Hammer Against the Witches (AD 1487) seduced Inquisitors to think that women were sexually .insatiable hyenas and a constant danger to men and their society. Tantric sexual permissiveness resulted in similar reactions in mainstream Hinduism—exaltation of asceticism and celibacy (Brahmacharya) with a degrading view of women as temptresses. The Hindu reaction went further than European exaltation of celibacy by considering physical matter, the human body, and sex as inherently evil, in con­trast to spirit, which was good. For example, Swami Sivananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society and a pioneer of the modern guru movement, wrote statements such as:

Sex-pleasure is the most devitalizing and demoralizing of pleasures. Sexual pleasure is no pleasure at all. It is a mental delusion. It is false, utterly worthless, and extremely harmful.

Thankfully for the West, the sixteenth-century Reformation began restoring biblical norms for sexual mores. Reformers like Martin Luther argued that, according to God’s Word, sex and marriage were a means to holiness. The family, not the monastery, was the divinely ordained school of character. Acclaimed author and historian Roland [p. 288>] Bainton wrote: “Luther who got married to testify to his faith . . . did more than any other person to determine the tone of German [and Protestant] domestic relations for the next four centuries.” Luther’s home in Wittenberg became the first Christian vicarage after centu­ries. The biblical norms for family life that Luther taught remained virtually unchallenged until the end of the twentieth century.

Martin Luther’s attack on the Catholic idea of celibacy and his advocacy of the biblical idea of marriage did more to promote the Reformation than his attack on indulgences. He taught that accord­ing to the Bible some individuals are called to a celibate life. However, God’s normal plan for human beings is marriage. The doctrine that marriage is spiritually inferior or undesirable is “teaching of the demons.” Luther taught that the family, not the monastery, is God’s school of character; celibacy has become the devil’s trap to lure priests and monks into sin.

Initially, from 1517 to 1521, to ordinary Europeans the Reformation appeared as a matter of theological disputes between experts. Ordinary people woke up to it when priests began to marry as a result of Luther’s little book The Babylonian Captivity. Luther argued that the laws of men could not annul the command of God to marry. God ordained marriage for men before sin entered the world. Sex was a part of the material world that the Creator declared “very good.” Luther noted that the Scripture informs us: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ In other words, God made Eve for Adam. She is good and necessary for him—a perfect gift planned by divine wisdom. God made only one woman for a man—the two of them to “become one flesh.”

Luther followed up his iconoclastic book with an Address to the Nobility. This presented the practical rationale for priests (not monks) to marry: A priest had to have a housekeeper; to put a man and a woman together was like bringing fire to straw and expecting nothing to happen. The unchaste chastity in the Church needed to be brought to an end. Priests had to be set free to marry. The natural, divinely ordained sexual drive needed to be recognized as a necessary, good, and honorable impulse.

[p. 289>] Luther—a monk—was still hiding in the castle of Wartburg to avoid being burned as a heretic, when three priests affirmed the right­ness of his teaching by getting married. Archbishop Albert of Mainz arrested them. Luther sent a stern protest. Albert decided to consult the University of Wittenberg. Luther’s senior colleague and a highly respected scholar, Andreas Carlstadt, answered the bishop’s query by writing a book against celibacy. He concluded that, according to the Bible, a priest not only might marry but that he must marry and father a family. In place of obligatory celibacy, Carlstadt substituted obliga­tory matrimony and paternity. He went on to confirm his Bible study by setting a personal example. He got married.

Luther was delighted by Carlstadt’s bold decision. He was uncom­fortable, however, with Carlstadt’s proposal that even monks should marry. Luther felt that the case for monks, like him, was different from that of priests. Monks had taken voluntary vows to remain celibate. It would be wrong to break those vows. That raised a new question: Did God enjoin the vows of celibacy? Luther’s answer helped create the modern concept of marriage as well as the modern politico-economic world.

The question forced Luther to go back to the Scriptures. He found the monk’s vow against marrying unscriptural and in conflict with charity and liberty. He sent his theses back to the university: “Marriage is good, virginity is better, but liberty is best” From the Bible Luther concluded that monastic vows rested on false and arrogant assumptions that celibate Christians had a special calling or vocation, to observe the counsels of perfection, which were superior to ordinary Christians who obey ordinary moral laws. Luther’s revolutionary conclusion is known as the “priesthood of all believers.”

Luther’s exposition of the Bible began to empty out monaster­ies. His exposition became the basic theological factor that enabled Protestant nations to develop economically faster than Catholic countries and to build egalitarian democracies. The family is a civili­zation’s primary engine for economic growth. If a man has no family, he might plant crops, but he is unlikely to plant and nurture trees and develop fields for coming generations. He might dig a cave or hew a [p. 290>] tree house, but he is unlikely to build a home for his grandchildren. The family motivates parents to plan, earn, sacrifice, save, and invest for future generations—for their physical as well as social welfare.

This “priesthood of all believers” negated a priest’s vocation as superior. Luther taught the cobbler was as important as the priest. All vocations had to be honored equally. Each had to be undertaken diligently as a service to God. This biblical priesthood of all believers challenged Europe’s class distinctions. It birthed the modern demo­cratic equality of all citizens—rich or poor, educated or illiterate, old or young, male or female. Luther planted seeds in Europe that yielded their best harvest in America.

On January 10, 1529, Luther preached on the second chapter of the gospel of John. The passage recounts Jesus’ miracle of turn­ing water into wine at a wedding in Cana at his widowed mother’s request. Luther encapsulated the intrinsic goodness of marriage, the priesthood of all believers, the equal value of every vocation, and the family as the school of character:

There are three estates: marriage, virginity, and widowhood. They are all good. None is to be despised. The virgin is not to be esteemed above the widow, nor the widow above the wife, anymore than the tailor is to be esteemed above the butcher. There is no estate to which the Devil is so opposed as to marriage. The clergy have not wanted to be bothered with work and worry. They have been afraid of a nag­ging wife, disobedient children, difficult relatives, or the dying pig or a cow. They want to lie abed until the sun shines through the window. Our ancestors knew this and would say, “Dear child, be a priest or a nun and have a good time.” I have heard married people say to monks, “You have it easy, but when we get up we do not know where to find our bread.” Marriage is a heavy cross because so many couples quarrel. It is the grace of God when they agree. The Holy Spirit declares there are three wonders: when brothers agree, when neighbors love each other, and when a man and a wife are at one. When I see a pair like that, I am glad as if I were in a garden of roses. It is rare.

[p. 291>] Radical feminists were not the first to see marriage as a “heavy cross”—a burden or slavery. Luther said marriage was slavery for men as much as for women. That is precisely why many men in pagan Rome preferred not to marry but to seek extramarital or homosexual relationships. Christianity made marriage harder for men by requir­ing that husbands remain faithful, committed, and loving to the same woman—no matter what—”until death do us part.” When a husband is forbidden extramarital affairs, taking a second wife, or divorcing a difficult wife; when he is not allowed to hate or be harsh with her; when he is required to love and honor his wife; then his wife is empowered. She has the security to seek for her dignity and rights.

Marriage brings out the worst in both husbands and wives. They must choose whether to stay in that school of character or to drop out. The Bible made divorce difficult because one does not learn much by quitting a challenging school. The only way to make monogamy work is to value love above pleasure, to pursue holiness and humility rather than power and personal fulfillment, to find grace to repent rather than condemn, to learn sacrifice and patience in place of indulgence and gratification. The modern world was created by countless couples who did just that. In working to preserve their marriages and provide for their children, they invested in the future of civilization itself.


The Reformers saw it as a “cult,” since there was no biblical basis for praying to Mary or for assuming that she had remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth. There is biblical evidence that she had normal marital relations and children with her husband (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19).

Can Someone Be Glad for God’s Non-Existence?

  • May I say that as our country was more religious, free speech was always understood well. Today, as society becomes more secular/atheistic… students need safe spaces to have a place to display their infantilization and routinely shut down dissenting ideas/speech. Religion (esp. the Judeo-Christian faith) creates courage in character expressed in community… secularism/atheism creates selfish ideals of a reality lived in a bubble. Even Richard Dawkins (famed atheist) said this of Christianity: “I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.” 

After someone posted this meme, a person said:

  • “Amen! There is no God!”

(He meant no Christian God specifically as it is a predominately Christian Facebook group).

Now, I realize the original poster of the meme was not aware that this cuts both ways… and the atheist was merely pointing this out humorously. But this serves as a lesson EVEN FOR ATHEISTS.

So I replied:

I don’t know how someone could say “amen” to there not being a Judeo-Christian God? When comparing it to other worldview (say, pantheism, panentheism, finite godism, polytheism, etc), they have done almost zip for their respective societies.

Healthcare (nurses, hospitals, and is still the largest healthcare provider in the world), tackling the illiteracy problems as well as drunkeness (for instance the YMCA and Salvation ARMY and AA), education (all the leading universities like: Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Princeton, Cambridge, and Westminster, etc… were founded as seminaries — so-to-speak — same goes for the medieval universities: University of Bologna, Oxford, University of Paris, etc.), languages unified in many nations across the globe by missionaries (Bengali is one example, other indigenous languages were preserved by [one example] William Carey, who because he unified the languages in India… the government formed for the first time a language that could include the general population in being involved), Historian Alvin Schmidt points out how the spread of Christianity and Christian influence on government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy (which is still practiced in some Muslim nations today); prohibiting the burning alive of widows in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education of all children in a number of European countries.

Etc., etc., etc….

There was also strong influence from Christian ideas and influential Christians in the formulation of the Magna Carta in England (1215) and of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787) in the United States. These are three of the most significant documents in the history of governments on the earth, and all three show the marks of significant Christian influence in the foundational ideas of how governments should function.

This is important because….

The World Forum on Democracy reports that in 1950 there were 22 democracies accounting for 31% of the world population and a further 21 states with restricted democratic practices, accounting for 11.9% of the globe’s population. Since the turn of the century, electoral democracies now represent 120 of the 192 existing countries and constitute 58.2% of the world’s population.

The impact of this Christian founded nation and Christians on Democracy and the ending of slavery for the first time in world history is nothing short of miraculous.

What have non-God [atheistic worldview] type governments done????????

They have done in one century what all of the worlds religions could not accomplish in the previous 19-centuries… kill a record number of people.

[Yes, that includes the newest and most deadly religion in the stats — Islam. Out of all the religious wars in written world history… Islam claims almost 2/3rds of them. But this can be expected from it’s founder who slit the throats of men, women, and children.]

THREE Books To Read:

✦ How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity, by Rodney Stark;
✦ How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin Schmidt;
✦ The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi.

The above was my quick response on Facebook… here is another great short list from Life Coach for Coach:

  1. Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages.
  2. Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages. In addition, most of the world’s greatest universities were started for Christian purposes.
  3. Literacy and education for the masses.
  4. Capitalism and free enterprise.
  5. Representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment.
  6. The separation of political powers.
  7. Civil liberties.
  8. The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times.
  9. Modern science.
  10. The discovery of the New World by Columbus.
  11. The elevation of women.
  12. Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic.
  13. Higher standards of justice.
  14. The elevation of common man.
  15. The condemnation of adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions. This has helped to preserve the human race, and it has spared many from heartache.
  16. High regard for human life.
  17. The civilizing of many barbarian and primitive cultures.
  18. The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages.
  19. Greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art.
  20. The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel.

[And Twenty-One:]

The eternal salvation of countless souls.

The last one mentioned, the salvation of souls, is the primary goal of the spread of Christianity. All the other benefits listed are basically just by-products of what Christianity has often brought when applied to daily living.

When Jesus Christ took upon Himself the form of a man, He imbued mankind with dignity and inherent value that had never been dreamed of before. Whatever Jesus touched or whatever He did transformed that aspect of human life.

Many are familiar with the 1946 film classic It’s a Wonderful Life, wherein the character played by Jimmy Stewart gets a chance to see what life would be like had he never been born. The main point of the film is that each person’s life has an impact on everybody else’s life. Had they never been born, there would be gaping holes left by their absence. Jesus has had an enormous impact—more than anybody else—in history. Had he never come, the hole would be a canyon about the size of a continent.

Another great (downloadable in PDF or .DOC) can be found at Journey of Cross and Quill. Here is one paragraph as an example of the excellent post:

Schmidt quotes Lynn White, historian of medieval science, as saying “From the thirteenth century onward into the eighteenth every major scientist, in effect, explained his motivations in religious terms” (222). William Occam (1280-1349) had a great influence on the development of modern science. His concept known as “Occam’s Razor” was the scientific principle that states that what can be done or explained with the fewest assumptions should be used. It is the principle of parsimony. As was common with almost all medieval natural philosophers, Occam did not confine himself to scientific matters and wrote two theological treatises, one dealing with the Lord’s Supper and the other with the body of Christ, both of which had a tremendous impact on Martin Luther’s thinking (Schmidt 222). Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), while a great artist and painter was also a scientific genius who analyzed and theorized in the areas of botany, optics, physics, hydraulics, and aeronautics. However, his greatest benefit to science was in the study of physiology in which he produced meticulous drawings of the human body (Schmidt 223). Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) followed in Da Vinci’s footsteps. In his famous work, De humani corpis fabrica (Fabric of the Human Body), published in 1543, he corrects over two hundred errors in Galen’s physiological writings. (Galen was a Greek physician of the second century) The errors were largely found by dissecting cadavers (Schmidt 223). The branch of genetics flourished under the work of Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884), an Augustinian monk, who after studying Darwin’s theory of evolution rejected it (Schmidt 224). In the field of astronomy great advances were made under devout Christian men Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo. In physics we encounter Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), Blaise Pascal (1623-62), Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), Georg Simon Ohm (1787-1854), Andre Ampere (1775-1836), Michael Faraday (1791-1867), and William Thompson Kelvin (1824-1907). These men held to a strong Christian faith as evidenced by their writings. Before he died, Kepler was asked by an attending Lutheran pastor where he placed his faith. Kepler replied, “Solely and alone in the work of our redeemer Jesus Christ.” Kepler, who only tried “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” died with the Christian faith planted firmly in his mind and heart. His epitaph, penned four months before his death stated:

I used to measure the heavens,

Now I must measure the earth.

Though sky-bound was my spirit,

My earthly body rests here (Schmidt 230).


A Few Lectures


Rodney Stark on the Dennis Prager Show:

A LONG lecture by historian Alvin Schmidt:

Vishal Mangalwadi on the Bible’s Influence of India (1st video) and the West (2nd):

The Book That Made Your World ~ Serious Saturday

This presentation by Vishal Mangalwadi is based on his book, “The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization.” The description of the book is as follows:

Whether you’re an avid student of the Bible or a skeptic of its relevance, The Book That Made Your World will transform your perception of its influence on virtually every facet of Western civilization.

Indian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi reveals the personal motivation that fueled his own study of the Bible and systematically illustrates how its precepts became the framework for societal structure throughout the last millennium.  From politics and science, to academia and technology, the Bible’s sacred copy became the key that unlocked the Western mind.

Through Mangalwadi’s wide-ranging and fascinating investigation, you’ll discover:

  • What triggered the West’s passion for scientific, medical, and technological advancement
  • How the biblical notion of human dignity informs the West’s social structure and how it intersects with other worldviews
  • How the Bible created a fertile ground for women to find social and economic empowerment
  • How the Bible has uniquely equipped the West to cultivate compassion, human rights, prosperity, and strong families
  • The role of the Bible in the transformation of education
  • How the modern literary notion of a hero has been shaped by the Bible’s archetypal protagonist

Journey with Mangalwadi as he examines the origins of a civilization’s greatness and the misguided beliefs that threaten to unravel its progress.  Learn how the Bible transformed the social, political, and religious institutions that have sustained Western culture for the past millennium, and discover how secular corruption endangers the stability and longevity of Western civilization.