Arts & Culture & At Work

How Has the Christian Worldview Influenced the West?

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Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle. Below are a few highlights of that conversation, which you can watch in full here.

How has the Christian worldview influenced the West?

I think historically you can make a strong argument that—forget maybe the last hundred years—you can go back to the last thousand years, and almost everything that’s been done in western civilization—new schools, education, hospitals, jobs, great art, music—was all done by Christian believers who understood the call on their lives. They take the gifts that God has given them, and through their work bring shalom to the communities that God called them to serve.

The result of that is what we have with the success of the western civilization. Christianity built western civilization. Everyone else will tell you that’s not true, but when you really look at the facts, it’s undeniable. Look at some of the stuff that Rodney Stark writes. You cannot make a claim that Christianity has not had an impact.

One of the things we argue in Set Free is the importance of religious freedom and the whole first amendment. This comes out of what the scripture says. The first person to write anything about religious liberty—ever—was one of the church fathers in 200 AD. He was the first one to put the words “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” into that context. You can try to write it out of history if you want, but it’s just not possible. 

Western civilization is the most prosperous, successful civilization ever because of Christianity—nothing else.

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Why is culture important, and should a Christian try to influence it?

Culture is like the introduction to a book—a lot of people skip it. What do you miss when you skip the introduction? You really miss the key factors to help you understand what’s going on. I think that’s what’s important about culture. 

We need to be observers of culture. We need to be able to understand what’s going on and be able to change it. 

I don’t think we say “All culture is good culture.” I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe most of the culture is bad culture. So how do we make an argument to change the culture from A to B? I think we need to be able to do that. You’ve got to understand where we are. 

I’ve seen things written of late with the tendency to just go put our head in the sand, go become a monk, etc. I just don’t believe that’s the answer, I don’t believe that’s what we’re called to do. It’s hard to be salt and light when no one can see what you’re doing. 

So I think what we have to do is understand what the culture is, understand the effect that it has on people, and then we have to understand that the only counter influence to the culture is Christ. He’s the transformer of culture. So how do we let him use us to do that? That’s tough, that’s heavy lifting, but that’s where we need to be. 

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Where do you think Christianity is headed globally?

Well, obviously the center of Christianity is moving to Africa and China. I think that’s without exception. Does Christianity still have a role to play in the United States? I think it does. 

I think a lot more Christians in the United States are scared to say anything. I know with what’s happened to me recently, I have to confess that I’m much more open now with people. I just don’t care [about being scared], about telling people that Jesus received death for their sins. It’s surprising how many people I tell—I mean, you can tell very quickly [if they’re interested].

But the other thing that’s been very interesting is how many people want to know more about it. “Tell me more. How can you feel this way given the circumstances?”

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

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