Listening In Preview: Jeremiah Johnston

NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: What would the world be like if Jesus had never come?

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Jeremiah Johnston is an associate professor of early Christianity at Houston Baptist University. He’s spent a lot of time researching that question and says we don’t have to imagine a world without Christianity.

We’ve already seen it.

EICHER: In this week’s Listening In, host Warren Smith talks to Jeremiah Johnston about how Christ and his church changed the world. Let’s listen now to an excerpt of their conversation.

WARREN SMITH, HOST: But one of the things that you say about the world before Christianity was that there was no humanitarian aid in the ancient world. I guess I’d never really thought about that, but that’s true.

JEREMIAH JOHNSTON, GUEST: And that’s why it was so fun to research this because I had to start somewhere and it just seemed logical for me when I read the book of Galatians and I see that Jesus, when he came, the Scripture says that he came in the fullness of time. Well, what does that exactly mean? And what did the world look like when Jesus came on the scene? What was it like for his incarnation? And when we begin to study that world, a point that you made in the earlier question, we actually can see it very factually what the world was like before Jesus, before the Christian movement. And we see very quickly, Warren, I can say this unequivocally as a historian, not through my eyes of faith, but through my historian eyes, the world was literally hell on earth. Poverty, sickness, premature death, domestic violence, economic injustice, slavery, political corruptions. These were the givens of life. And then you look at what was missing. There was no concept as you just said, of social justice, of charity. Now I always say this because I have a lot of ongoing conversations with atheists. I’m not saying that no one in the ancient world was charitable, but there was nothing systemic, there was nothing ongoing. There was no worldview ethic before the Christian church that caused you to take care of people who are not of your own community or your culture who were hurting. And so these concepts obviously come out of equality, justice, mercy, educating people in that, protecting the weak and the marginalized. These things that we take today as amenities and societal givens. Today, we have no idea that they find their, literally their footing, in the cut and thrust of the early Christian movement.

(Photo/Jeremiah Johnston)

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