Time Magazine published a special edition in April 2012. The cover read “The 100 Most Influential People of All Time”. It was global, pluralistic and offended almost no one. Joel Stein wrote, “If you’re a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew or a Zoroastrian, you have no reason to get upset. I’m hoping, however, that no Scientologists see this.”
To say that Jesus Christ should make the top 100 is a given. The ball dropping in Times Square will soon flash 2016, reminding us that we still date time after him. But should Jesus top the list as “The Most Influencial Person of All Time”?
Scientists would likely choose Newton, Galileo, Darwin or Einstein. But we must ask, “How did science come about in the first place?” It rose in medieval Europe; not Asia, nor the Middle East, nor Africa, nor the Americas. Many societies developed alchemy, but only in Europe did alchemy turn into chemistry. Only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy. Why?
The most important victory in history, was the victory of reason which occurred within Christianity. Dr. Rodney Stark clarifies in his book The Victory of Reason,
“While other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth. . . from the early days, the church fathers taught that reason was the supreme gift from God and the means to progressively increase their understanding of scripture and revelation. Consequently, Christianity was oriented to the future, while other major religions asserted the superiority of the past. . . Encouraged by Scholastics and embodied in the great medieval universities founded by the church, faith in the power of reason infused western culture, stimulating the pursuit of science and the evolution of democratic theory and practice.”
Alfred North Whitehead, co-author with Bertrand Russell in the landmark Principia Methematica admitted to his distinguished, yet shocked, audience at Harvard in 1925, “faith in the possibility of science. . . [was] derived from medieval [Christian] theology.”
However, can we really say Jesus stands out on top if we look at His influence from a global perspective? China, a secular country of over 1 billion people, has been committed to a communist and atheistic ideology for several generations. Yet consider a recent statement by, Zhao Xiao, one of China’s leading scholars.
“One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.” (Aikman, David. 2003. Jesus in Beijing. Regnery. 2003. p.5)
Zhao Xiao later confesses, “I thought I could never believe in God, because I am an economist.”¹ He now attends a Christian house church in China. Currently China is a hot-bed of church growth and some scholars estimate there are nearly 100 million Christians in the underground church.
A book co-authored by an atheist and a Roman Catholic (The Economists’s John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge) titled God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World records,
“Almost everywhere you look, from the suburbs of Dallas to the slums of Sao Paulo to the back streets of Bradford, you can see religion returning to public life. . . One poll in 2006 – fifteen years after the fall of the Soviet regime — discovered that 84 percent of the Russian population believed in God while only 16 percent considered themselves athiests. [Even] Mikhail Gorbachev has shown signs he is a Christian.”
Jesus Christ continues to change cultures and individuals. I see this reflected on college campuses. I’ve only been a campus minister for 20 years, but more students than ever are attending our events and seeking answers about Jesus. Time magazine may never call Jesus “The Most Influential Person of All Time” but the evidence continues to accumulate.
This Christmas I pray more and more people discover what over 3 billion followers profess about Jesus. He is Immanuel — God with us!
¹ (Micklethwait and Wooldridge, God is Back. Penguin Press, 2009. p18)