Dominion — Book Review

  • Similarly to women’s rights, the idea that human beings inherently had rights because they were human was a Christian invention. This is a foundational principle for what is considered good law, justice and governance today. None of this existed prior to the Christian religion. This included the right to practice religion freely. “We are fortunate to enjoy the rare happiness of living in a republic where every person’s liberty to judge for himself is respected, everyone is permitted to worship God according to his own mind, and nothing is thought dearer or sweeter than freedom.” Human life was cheap in the ancient world and Christianity, more than any other influence, has acted to add value to human life and individual liberty.
  • Scientific progress was driven by a Christian viewpoint that the world was real, unlike the eastern view that much was an illusion. The rational pursuit to understand God’s creation was a driving force behind much discovery. This idea is addressed here, but is not fully developed.
  • Slavery was the norm in the ancient world, the Biblical world and the NT teachings didn’t abolish slavery, but taught a different way for its followers. Slaves were not to be treated differently. Teaching about this and other human rights led Christians to lead the way to eventually eliminate slavery from their cultures. It still exists in societies that do not hold to this Christian heritage. “To target it (slavery) for abolition was to endow society itself with the character of a pilgrim, bound upon a continuous journey, away from sinfulness towards the light. It was to cast slavery as a burden, long borne by fallen humanity, but which, by the grace of God, might one day loose from its shoulders, and fall from off its back, and begin to tumble.” Christian abolitionists like Benjamin and Sarah Lay and William Wilberforce were willing to stand against the tide of the world to see this changed.
  • Protestant and Catholic missions were not driven by the profits of colonization, but rather by the call of the Gospel and the Great Commission. They brought not only the Good News, but also the same culture-transforming views of liberty, human and women’s rights that helped transform the societies they encounter. For a more complete documentation of this, I recommend Robert Woodberry’s excellent paper, The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.
  • Generally, Christianity brought not just the hope of Christ to a world in need, but a hope for a better tomorrow. A belief that history would allow for progress in areas like justice and peace was a uniquely Christian idea. Christians believed in eternal life, but they also believed in the ability of people to be transformed on this earth by the power of God working in them. “Repeatedly, though . . . it was Christianity that . . . provided the colonized and the enslaved with the surest voice. The paradox was profound. No other conquerors, carving out empires for themselves, had done so as the servants of a man tortured to death on the orders of a colonial official. No other conquerors . . . had installed . . . an emblem of power so deeply ambivalent as to render problematic the very notion of power.”

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Chad Hensley grew up in the great state of Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma where he received a BA in English Literature in 1993.

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