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"Christianity has changed the entire world." It sounds like a platitude, until Alvin Schmidt reveals the many specific ways this is true, unpacking them in great detail and providing plenty of examples and proof. This isn't just another clever book that shows hidden connections where they don't actually exist; it's a very Christian history of the ways Christian thought and doctrine have made the world a better place.
Under the Influence starts where it should: with the redemptive work of Christ Himself. Without that, Schmidt wisely acknowledges, the changes brought by the religion bearing His name would be meaningless. From there, he looks at everything from the sanctification of human life, to the founding of the Red Cross, to the effect of Christianity on science and literature.
As much apologetics as history, Schmidt's book does a brilliant job of demonstrating how all things have been made new through Jesus Christ, and how the Church really has been a force for good in the world. Now titled How Christianity Changed the World, this is an eminently readable treatise regarding a topic that has been given especial attention by pagans and secularists of all stripes in the last two or three decades; Schmidt's defense of the faith is a refreshingly intelligent and historically grounded refutation of often absurd accusations made against God's people.
It's interesting how much Christianity has done in areas concerning which liberals like to accuse Christians of injustice. Women's rights, for instance, only became of central importance once Christian doctrine made it clear that there was no hierarchy between the sexes in the sense many cultures believed and practiced. Even labor rights were largely acquired through the work and ideas of Christians.
Not only is this first-rate history, Under the Influence is one of the most encouraging books a Christian could read, especially in in our "post-Christian" age when Christianity is often portrayed as a villain. Schmidt's book should be read by all Christians, both as a guide for more ably defending the faith against attacks, and as a devotional of sorts reminding us that God is in control of all things and guiding history to His own ends and for His own purposes.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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