Just in case you have forgotten or were never told, the Church of Jesus Christ has positively influenced critical aspects of Western civilisation. Today I highlight just one, the Church's contribution to foundational principles in law.
The fundamental legal tenet of equality under the law was arguably born out of a dispute between an Emperor and a Bishop in the 4th century of this era.
Emperor Theodosius the Great, a professing Christian, was so incensed that some folk in Thessalonica rioted in AD 390 that he had some 7,000 of them killed, among them some innocent persons.
Bishop Ambrose of Milan (the same area where the Emperor resided) denounced the Emperor's action and told him to repent of the massacre. The Emperor, no doubt basking in his status as absolute monarch, refused to repent and Ambrose excommunicated him. However after about a month the Emperor prostrated himself and confessed his sin in the Bishop's cathedral.
For Ambrose, no one, not even a monarch was above the law.
Fast-forward to Britain in the 13th century where King John was persuaded beyond his 'divine right of Kings' mentality to sign the Magna Carta (the Large Charter) in 1215. The charter granted, among other things, that justice could no longer be sold or denied to freemen; no one would be imprisoned without a trial; and (let all modern politicians hear this) taxes could not be levied without representation.
The motive forces behind the Charter were clergymen led by the brave Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton with whom Pope Innocent III was displeased. Let no modern historian overlook the section of the Charter's preamble which showed the Charter's wellspring as "...reverence for God...for the honour of God...and the reform of our realm, on the advice of our reverend [Church] fathers..."
Four centuries later in 1644 Scotland, the radical Presbyterian clergyman Samuel Rutherford wrote his bombshell of a book Lex Rex which prompted the charge of high treason against him. As the late Evangelical Philosopher Francis Schaeffer said, "Lex Rex means law is King-a phrase that was absolutely earthshaking. Prior to that it had been rex lex, the king is law. In Lex Rex he wrote that the law and no one else is king. Therefore, the heads of government are under the law, not a law unto themselves." (A Christian Manifesto, p 32)
French jurist Rene Cassin is one of the great names in the modern struggle for human rights. He drew up the first draft of the Universal Declaration and, according to lawyer and Philosopher John Warwick Montgomery "locates its ideological roots in the Ten Commandments..." (Human Rights & Human Dignity, p 30. See Cassin's essay "From the Ten Commandments to the Rights of Man" in Of Law and Man: Essays in Honor of Haim H Cohn, edited by Shlomo Shoham, pages 13-25). Lebanese Christian intellectual Charles Malik was a very influential member of the Third Committee which revised the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What has the Church done for society? Read, remember and show respect. Ignorance and amnesia can be indictable.
More anon, if they oblige.