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Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization Hardcover – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Western civilization is becoming increasingly pluralistic, secularized, and biblically illiterate. Many people today have little sense of how their lives have benefited from Christianity’s influence, often viewing the church with hostility or resentment.

Under the Influence is a topically arranged Christian history for Christians and non-Christians. Grounded in solid research and written in a popular style, this book is both a helpful apologetic tool in talking with unbelievers and a source of evidence for why Christianity deserves credit for many of the humane, social, scientific, and cultural advances in the Western world in the last 2,000 years. Photographs and timelines enhance each chapter.

Some unrecognized contributions of Christianity include: * Bringing sanctity to human life by opposing the Greco-Roman practices of abortion, infanticide, child abandonment, and suicide * Raising the level of sexual morality and giving dignity to family life * Giving freedom and dignity to women * First founding hospitals in the 4th century * Originating universities and higher education * Bringing dignity and honor to labor * Spawning and developing modern science * First condemning slavery and inspiring its abolition * Producing major contributions to art, architecture, music, and literature

About the Author

Alvin J. Schmidt [Ph.D., University of Nebraska) retired in 1999 as professor of sociology at Illinois College. He has contributed to numerous journals and is the author of several books. He lives in Jacksonville, IL.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310236371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310236375
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #878,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alvin J. Schmidt (PhD, University of Nebraska) retired in 1999 as professor of sociology at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where he still lives. He is the author of several books, including The Great Divide: The Failure of Islam and the Triumph of the West, and served as a consulting editor for Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Eric Bierker on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book on the whole. Scholarly yet accessible, author Dr. Alvin J. Schmidt, has taken on a huge topic and done it justice.
Broad in its scope, the book intentionally creates a panoramic view describing Western Cultures dependence on Christian pre-suppositions and practice for its development. Through real-life historically verified stories and instances, the "Good News" is convincingly shown to have been truly good.
One cannot read Tacitus's description of early Christians experiences in the Roman Empire which Dr. Schmidt cites without gasping in wonder at their fervent faith: "Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt to serve as nightly illumination". The lesson: Christians who don't live for this world should be the best at transforming it for the better (as the Church did with ancient Rome).
In the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes "All things were created by him and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." To see Christ incarnated in human lives and institutions is the major achievement of "Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization" (a clever title that "transforms" the common term of "Under the Influence" from a drunk driving inference to a highly persuasive and winsome connotation.)
In reading this book, I sensed Dr. Schmidt's strong "Sociological" perspective (he is a retired Sociology professor). Sociologists are trained to see the "whole" of issues (i.e. society).
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bill Muehlenberg VINE VOICE on November 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In this well-documented volume of over 400 pages, Schmidt marshals the evidence for the transforming power of the Christian faith. He shows how Jesus has the power to transform men, who in turn are able to transform society. And on every level, that is exactly what has happened. Several specific examples can be mentioned.
In spite the claims of some today that Christianity oppresses women, the historical record shows just the opposite. Women were oppressed in almost every culture prior to the coming of Christianity. By elevating sexual morality, and by conferring upon women a much higher status, the Christian religion revolutionised the place and prestige of women.
The way Jesus treated women was in stark contrast to the surrounding culture. In Roman law a man's wife and children were little more than slaves, often treated like animals. Women had no property rights and faced severe social restrictions. Jesus of course changed all that. The way he treated the Samaritan woman was one remarkable example. And this was not lost on the early disciples. We know from the New Testament documents that many women exercised various leadership roles in the early church. Indeed, during this period Christian women actually outnumbered Christian men.
Admittedly there were some anomalies later in the church's history, when chauvinistic and anti-feminine views were allowed to re-enter parts of the church. But such aberrations must not detract from the truly revolutionary elevation of the status of women achieved by Christianity.
Consider also the issue of health care. Prior to Christianity, the Greeks and Romans had little or no interest in the poor, the sick and the dying. But the early Christians, following the example of their master, ministered to the needs of the whole person.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By rodboomboom HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Schmidt adequately looks at the various cultural segemets that Christianity has shaped over the centures.
Broad in his sweep, he looks at people transformed, sanctity of human life, sexual morality, view of women, charity/compassion, hospitals and health care, education, labor and economic freedom, science, liberty and justice, slavery, art and architecture, music, literature, and holidays and words.
This is an excellent commentary on the deconstruction of history to write Christian influence out. Especially revealing to most in our times would likely be in area of science. Kepler, Copernicus, etc. were all adamant Christians. Contemporary writers like to portray the church as hostile to their scientific discoveries. However, as Schmidt points out, not all of the church held this view. That's the side of the story they don't tell, but Schmidt does.
Fascinating reading. Well documented and written. Reader will glean much insight from this worthy book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Clare Chu on June 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Under the Influence is an overview of Western Civilization from the first century onwards with an emphasis on bringing in the aspects of history and culture as influenced by Christianity. As such, it is indispensible for home schoolers as well as for students who want a complete picture of the development of our civilization. This is because most modern textbooks do not mention the spiritual aspects of history. Mention of God, Christianity, and prayer are erased from the textbooks. If you were to read the original writings of people such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver and many others, you'll find that they have a deep abiding faith in God. Lord Kelvin: "If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to the belief in God." Sir Isaac Newton: "God governs the world invisibly, and he has commanded us to worship him, and no other God... he has revived Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who has gone into the heavens to receive and prepare a place for us, and ... will at length return and reign over us...till he has raised up and judged all the dead." Musicians such as Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Mendelssohn composed to the Glory of God. Beethoven: "I have no friend. I must live by myself. I know, however, that God is nearer to me than others; I go without fear to Him."
Areas covered: Morality, Women's Rights, Charity, Hospitals, Health Care, Education, Labor and Economics, Science, Politics, Art, Music, Literature. Very comprehensive and leads to further study.
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