I recently came across the view that Christianity hinders our social progress. I would suggest that history demonstrates that the opposite is the case. Christians have long been at the forefront of social progress in Britain. Let me explain …
By 1850 rural Britain had been transformed in the workshop of the world, but at the heart of many cities terrible slums grew up along with the corresponding poverty. Many Christians contributed to bettering the lives of their fellow man, with some of the more notable being:
- William and Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army, sharing the Christian message and providing food, clothing, shelter and employment training
- Alcohol blighted many families and the Temperance Movement opened coffee houses and alcohol free centres for workmen and their families
- Lord Shaftsbury guided bills through Parliament to reduce working hours and protect women and children in the workplace
- Thomas and Syrie Barnado opened up children’s homes in London and specialised in caring for those with disabilities
- William Wilberforce campaigned hard to outlaw slavery in the UK
- Elisabeth Fry transformed conditions in Newgate prison
- George Muller who at the end of his life, was running five orphanages for over 2000 children on prayer and faith alone – he and his staff never asked for money
In fact, nearly three-quarters of all charity organisations in the late nineteenth century were run by evangelical Christians.
What drove these people on? The Bible clearly teaches that humanity is made in the image of God. As such every human being has dignity and value because we have our creator’s mark – we are given to love, have a sense of justice, appreciate art and beauty and have the ability to show compassion. The common view in society is that the rich, famous, powerful or successful are the important people. The Bible teaches us that everyone is important as we are all made in the image of God.
We are not overgrown animals that have somehow managed to get the edge on other species – as evolution would teach. Would the above people have worked as hard for the poor and downtrodden if their view of man was based on survival of the fittest? I doubt it very much.