The church is irrelevant. It’s clearly corrupt. The church offers nothing of value to the world. These are fairly common sentiments. But have you ever heard anything positive about the church in the media? Can it be that bad? What do you actually know about the church? Actually, what’s the point of the church- or, what is it?
There’s a number of things the church, through its people, has offered the world:
- Aid and Charity. For thousands of years churches have started, funded and run orphanages, homes for the sick and dying, food kitchens and many other forms of aid and charity for the poor and needy. Think of organisations such as St Vincent de Paul’s, Salvation Army, Brotherhood of St Laurence, World Vision. In fact, 4 of the top 5 Australian Charities are Christian organisations- and the 5th biggest, The Red Cross, was founded by a devoted Christian named Jean Henri Dunant. And what about the abolition of slavery which Christians fought tooth and nail to eradicate under the leadership of William Wilberforce?
- The Gregorian Calendar– used worldwide, was developed by Catholic astronomers.
- Scientific Advancement. The towering figures of modern science, Galileo, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage, Gregor Mendell, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, James Clerk-Maxwell were all theists and most Christian.
- Social Activists and Reformers. Devout Christians such as William Wilberforce, Desmond Tutu, St Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa have literally changed the world for the better for millions of people.
- Theology and Philosophy. The intellectual history and tradition of the church is one of flourishing and advancement. Leading thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Ignatius, Barth, and Kierkegaard, have shaped the intellectual landscape of the Western world.
- Law and Jurisprudence. “Legal principles such as “good faith”, reciprocity of rights, equality before the law, international law, trial by jury, habeas corpus and the obligation to prove an offence beyond a reasonable doubt are all fruits of Catholic civilisation and jurisprudence.”
- Education and the University System. Many of the major Universities of Europe, including Oxford and Cambridge, for instance, were founded my monks.
- Art and Architecture. Think Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bernini; and in architecture think Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, High Renaissance.
- Language and Literature. Latin, central to the church’s writings, is the most widely used alphabet system in the world. And think of the contribution to literature by Tyndale, Dante, John Bunyan, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Dostoevsky, John Milton, Solzhenitsyn and Flannery O ‘Conner.
- Music. a monk named Guido invented musical/staff notation. Imagine music developing without this? The hymn, oratorio, opera were nurtured within the church and artists such as Haydn, Bach, Handel were devout Christians.
But in fact, all of this pales into insignificance when compared to the greatest thing the church has given the world: Jesus. Actually, it was Jesus who gave the church to the world so that his life, truth, love and ministry could go on.
Over the next several weeks at NightChurch we will seek to answer the question as to what is the point of the church with a focus on:
The Message of Jesus
The Mission of Jesus
A New Community
Source for some material: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/2011/05/06/what-the-church-has-given-the-world/