Guest Opinion: PARTA Bus sign inspires local pastor to imagine a world without Christianity

Pastor Kent. G. Wartick

Dear Editor,

Recently I was walking to one of my classes at Kent State University when I saw a PARTA bus with a sign proclaiming, “Imagine a World Without Religion.” As I walked up the hill, I did start to imagine a world without religion. Since I am a Christian, I particularly thought of a world without Christianity.

I imagined a world that was very primitive, since Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253), a Franciscan bishop and first chancellor of Oxford, first proposed the inductive scientific method. After that, little matters since that method is the basis of all true scientific discoveries. But we could mention another Franciscan monk, William of Ockham, 1280-1349, who contributed a principle that we now call “Ockham’s razor,” which is often stated as, “the simplest explanation is usually correct.” God in his complexity is also ultimate simplicity, so it follows that the creator God would leave a rather simple world as evidence of his creative power and genius.

That is not to mention Copernicus, who stated what is implicit in the Bible: namely, a heliocentric model of the galaxy. Galileo, who first used a telescope; Blaise Pascal, who pioneered the science of probability; Johannes Kepler who coined the phrase “Thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” who studied nature in order to uncover the laws of God; Isaac Newton, who discovered the law of gravity and invented calculus.

I imagined a world starving because Gregor Mendel, a monk from Moravia who is considered the father of genetics, did not make his discoveries in that field. Without his discoveries, millions would be starving without the selective breeding of cattle, the genetic improvements on crops like rice and so on.

I imagined a world full of people dying of diseases we now know are preventable thanks to Louis Pasteur, whose research led to the processes of pasteurization and sterilization and numerous vaccines.

Remember George Washington Carver? His research in peanuts led to over 300 byproducts—can anybody say “peanut butter”?—and on sweet potatoes led to over 100 byproducts. His 1939 Roosevelt Medal award read, in part, “To a scientist humbly seeking the guidance of God. . . .”

Imagine a world without those famous first responders to disaster, the Red Cross, since a Christian named Henry Dunant founded it. There would be no nurses either, since Florence Nightingale was no doubt moved by the compassion of her Christian faith.

Imagine all the homeless and hungry that would not be fed and housed by the Salvation Army, as well as the many local homeless shelters, many of which are church-sponsored.

I imagined a world where human life had little to no value, since Christianity has valued all human life from conception to natural death.

I imagined a very dull and quiet world, since the arts were so strongly influenced by Christians such as Guido of Arezzo, an 11th century monk, who contributed to the development of music notation, lines and spaces, and the “Do-Re-Mi” method of teaching music. He did this so that “our servants may sing at the tops of their voices the wonders of your deeds, absolve the sins from their stained lips.” That is to say nothing of Bach or Handel, Charles Wesley or of Debra Zesch of Hillsong or the late Rich Mullins of “Our God is an Awesome God” fame. In art, can we forget Michelangelo, Raphael or Rembrandt?

I imagined a world without universities, since the monasteries were the preservers of knowledge during the Dark Ages and became the places of teaching. Wittenberg, Germany was one of those places where the Reformation began.

I imaged a world without equality and without liberty and justice for all, since those, too, are biblical, Christian values.

I imagined a world in which slavery was endorsed and souls were traded like cattle, since the movement against slavery was largely a Christian movement—see the movie “Amazing Grace” and study the life of William Wilberforce, for example.

Yes, Christians are imperfect people-sinners—and have done many shameful things. Christianity as a religion has often failed its Lord, and as an institution, has committed its share of atrocities and sins. Do not judge the master by the followers—only he is perfect. Yet without the transforming power of God the Holy Spirit, the power of his word and sacraments, how much worse the world would be! How much more impoverished and hopeless our lives would be! How desperate, despairing, and empty our world would be.

I didn’t have to imagine too much, though. Just look at the results of godless communism, where the buildings are have the same gray dullness, and hopelessness is drowned in alcohol, suicide and multiple abortions.

Imagine a world where music, creativity and personal expression are banned and you end up with a world where religious police and tyrants like the Taliban, and worse, run with no concept of salvation or love in Jesus Christ, or a creating God who gives creative gifts to people.

Imagine a world where babies are killed if they are not wanted by their parents, and you end up with a world where abortion is on demand, with pills like RU-496. The elderly are “euthanized”—murdered—because they become too great a burden. Then you have the empty classrooms, empty homes and empty hearts that fill even American society today.

I don’t have to imagine very much. I see in reality the lives not transformed; the people who have rejected him; those who have not yet met him. I can only pray for you who still do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior and point you to his cross, the unique sign of God’s love for us. In the light of our cross, he gives meaning and purpose to our lives. He gives the certainty of the eternal punishment in hell for those who reject him and eternal life for those who receive him. I am eternally grateful that I am one that was transformed. I don’t have to imagine life without heaven or hell—I know they are both very real. And I am thankful to the one true God for the certainty of life in heaven in his presence after my mortal body wears out. He has set me free to think not in the blind and closed perceptions of the godless world, but to “put on the mind of Christ” and see things from an entirely new perspective, enlightened by his spirit and his word.

I imagined a world without “religion.” The world I imagined, sadly, sounds too much like the world today. Christianity has sadly surrendered its power, its voice and its values to secular values.

And I called out to my Lord, “Lord, have mercy on us.”

For further reference, please see the book “How Christianity Changed the World” by Dr. Alvin Schmidt, Zondervan, 2004, or the Rose Publishing pamphlet “What Christianity Has Done for the World.” I would also recommend “The Truth Behind the New Atheism” by David Marshall (Eugene Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), for answers to challenges to Christianity by the “new atheists”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Kent G. Wartick is a guest columnist and pastor of the Faith Lutheran Church