Published in 1852, Henry Roger’s book, The Eclipse of Faith, imagines what it would be like if Jesus Christ were erased from history. He imagines going into a library and finding no trace of the life and words of Jesus. No Golden Rule. No Good Samaritan. No Prodigal Son. Pages of law books that had formerly protected women, children, and the poor are blank. Alarmed he looks into volumes of art history. Paintings like Raphael’s “The Transfiguration” and da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” are missing. He thinks of the great poems of Milton, Dante, Wordsworth, and Tennyson, but he finds only empty pages. It hits him that if Christ were erased from history great works of philanthropy and missions would cease – hospitals, schools, orphanages, and missionaries. If Christ were erased from history like a great hand erasing chalk writing from a blackboard, the effects would be devastating.
A Newsweek poll agreed with Henry Roger’s assessment. If there had been no Jesus…
- 61% believe there would be less kindness
- 47% believe there would be more war
- 63% believe there would be less charity
- 58% believe there would be less tolerance
- 59% believe there would be less personal happiness
But Jesus never intended to be only a great moral teacher. He never intended to be just a flavoring for Western Civilization.
Yes, it is possible to have a cultural benefit if some people know and follow the Golden Rule at least part of the time. Jesus undoubtedly has influenced law, art, and literature. But in recognizing the profound influence of Jesus, we must ask ourselves the bigger questions. Did Jesus die for our sins? Is Jesus Lord?
The skeptic may complain that unkindness, war, greed, intolerance, and unhappiness still exist and ask, “What has Jesus really done?” But in answering the bigger questions, we have a reply. We need to go beyond the lip service of Jesus as a cultural influence to Jesus as Lord. The more profoundly Jesus transforms us, the more our world will change. We must confess that this world is not yet as Jesus would have it to be. But to erase Jesus is to erase hope.
It’s possible to enjoy the cultural benefits of a world influenced by Jesus. But Christ’s greatest gift is received when we trust and obey. It would be devastating if Christ were not. But it would also be devastating to our life and eternity, if Christ’s we’re not.