Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The influence of Jesus Christ on mankind (Part II)

In twenty years Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear. - Voltaire

Voltaire threw this direct challenge at the heart of Christianity in Western Europe during the Renaissance era. The Renaissance was the age of 'enlightenment' - it was supposedly that time when humanity threw aside superstition and backward thinking and replaced them with reason and free thinking. Voltaire, writer and philosopher, was one of the pioneers of the Renaissance, and he was no fan of Christ. So convinced was he of the effect of the Renaissance on Christianity that he made a bold prediction of Christianity's extinction in no more than 'twenty years'.

Unfortunately, Voltaire's prediction did not come true. The Bible itself inspired the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 which in turn printed more copies of the Bible. Jesus' words were now translated in many languages, printed in greater numbers and distributed all over the world.

Christ in arts

Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper'
Some of the most famous paintings in the history of arts were made under the influence of Jesus Christ. Famous artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Boticelli all depicted Christ in their paintings. Depictions of Jesus in arts surged, especially during the Renaissance era.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890), a pioneer of post-Impressionist painting, was probably the most influential artist of all time. He wrote in a letter that Jesus Christ was the ultimate artist.

Van Gogh's Pieta
Christ alone, of all the philosophers, magicians, etc., has affirmed eternal life as the most important certainty, the infinity of time, the futility of death, the necessity and purpose of serenity and devotion. He lived serenely, as an artist greater than all other artists, scorning marble and clay and paint, working in the living flesh. In other words, this peerless artist, scarcely conceivable with the blunt instrument of our modern, nervous and obtuse brains, made neither statues nor paintings nor books. He maintained in no uncertain terms that he made…living men, immortals. - Vincent Van Gogh

Music composers often wrote music based on the themes of the Bible, especially on Jesus. One such composer was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) who wrote the 'Requiem Mass in D minor'.

American composer Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) was another musician moved by Biblical themes. His "The Chichester Psalms" are famous for incorporating the Psalms of David as songs of peace.

A whole genre of Spiritual music, mainly Blues and Negro Spirituals, was created for Jesus by the African community enslaved in American. This genre would later give birth to 'Rock n roll' music in the 50s popularized by Elvis Presley, a gospel singer himself.

One of the most famous and influential musicians of our times is Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a Bob Dylan. Dylan is an American musician, singer and song-writer.
Bob Dylan

Probably the most thought provoking song-writers of his time, Dylan wrote the following lyrics.

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Dylan would recall after his coming to Christ in 1978:

“Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Bob, why are you resisting me?' I said, 'I'm not resisting You!' He said, 'You gonna follow Me?' I said, 'I've never thought about that before!' He said, 'When you're not following Me. you're resisting Me.”

His lyrics from then onward, especially in 1979's 'Slow Train Coming', would frequently refer to his transformation due to Christ.

Country singing icon Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003) was known for his outspoken belief in Jesus as his savior. Before he became a country music sensation, Cash was first and foremost a gospel singer. He produced songs for a movie on Jesus called 'The Gospel Road' and wrote a novel on the apostle Paul called 'The Man in White'.

He said,

The Master of Life's been good to me. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where other saw oblivion. He Has given new purpose to live for, new services to render and old wounds to heal. Life and love go on, let the music play.

Christ in Motion Pictures

A scene from 'Ben Hur'
Movies on Jesus such as 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', 'Ben Hur', and 'Passion of the Christ', are landmark achievements in the art of motion pictures. The Charlton Heston starrer 'Ben Hur' (1959) holds the record for most Academy Awards won (eleven) by a motion picture. 'The Passion of the Christ' (2004) is perhaps the most controversial movie, alongside 'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988), to be made about Jesus Christ.

Movies about Jesus continue to be made even today, the most recent being 'Son of God'. Many directors have made their own Jesus films, each with their own thoughts and ideas. For example, Pier Pasolini made a movie showing Jesus as an uncompromising champion of the poor and the oppressed.

Voltaire again

After seeing the numerous ways Christ has impacted every sphere of life around us, it is difficult to take Voltaire seriously. Today, Jesus is as influential as never before. His words are quoted frequently, often heralding revolutionary changes wherever they are uttered, and his personality still endears to many.

As we move on to part three we will come to know why Christ's words, as evident from its transforming nature, should be heeded and not ignored.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The influence of Jesus Christ on mankind (Part I)

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.- H.G. Wells, British Historian and Novelist

Little did anyone know in the time of Christ that this man would single-handedly change the course of human history. Many skeptics argue that the impact of Jesus - no doubt a great man - is often exaggerated by his followers. One of the skeptic's claims is that it was Paul, not Jesus, who is largely responsible for the spread of Christianity. This claim itself comes under doubt once we find the meaning of the word 'influence'. Surely Paul had a burning motive - or rather an 'engine' - that propelled him to spread the Gospel all over Europe and Asia Minor. Paul's engine was none other than Jesus Christ as is evident from his letters to the first century churches. He says to the church in Galatia,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

The non-violent movement

So how did Christ influence the world? After he lived his earthly life Christ introduced radical principals by which his followers lived. In Europe, the Roman empire severely cracked down on the disciples of Christ because of the refusal of Christians to bow down and worship Caesar. They were hacked down, burned, scourged, crucified, beheaded and thrown to the lions. But the Christians did not retaliate. History has it that the Christians, despite suffering greatly under the empire, actually helped their Roman and Greek neighbors in times of trouble. The Romans were astonished at this non-violent behavior from Christians.

Leo Tolstoy
In 1894, Leo Tolstoy - famed author (War and Peace, Anna Karenina) - wrote a book called 'The Kingdom of God Is Within You'. In this book Tolstoy underlined the non-violent principles of Jesus Christ and it's effectiveness. He gave his book to a certain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an Indian lawyer living in South Africa, who used it to fight the British Empire. Gandhi's non-violent resistance left the British shell-shocked and eventually India became independent as a result of his commitment to the passive resistance method.

Later. in 1960s, Martin Luther King would adopt similar means in his campaign for racial equality in the United States. He said, "Christ showed me the way, Gandhi showed me the method."

Causes of the oppressed

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

These were the words Jesus spoke at the time of his ministry. Before Christ came, it was considered normal to abuse human rights, to violate agreements between each other, to bully the weakling and show utter ruthlessness. The Roman Empire stood for everything of the twisted nature of mankind, it was a glorified celebration of the fall of man. Then in 1st century Anno Domini, a man called Jesus was born into a poor family of Roman occupied Palestine. This man, a Jew, challenged the very notion of Empire by feeding the hungry, healing the sick and giving sight to the blind. This man promoted compassion, charity, humanitarianism, universal brotherhood and, above all, love for all. These qualities were all but nonexistent during the reign of Caesar, but after the ascension of Christ they spread like wildfire.

William Wilberforce
As time went on and the message of Christ spread further and further, human morality seemed to have evolved as is evident in the fabric of history. Slavery, considered normal in many parts of the world, began to be despised. William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), an Englishman and a devout follower of Christ, started an intense political campaign to rid the British Isles of slavery. Taking inspiration from Jesus' undying determination, Wilberforce, after scores of failures, finally succeeded in abolishing slavery. The United States of America would follow suit.

Today, there are countless numbers of organizations like Amnesty International and the One Campaign dedicated to social justice and humanitarianism around the world. Thanks to Jesus, bullying the weak is no longer considered normal by a large portion of humanity. Thanks to Jesus, there is such a thing called social justice.


"I believe only and alone in the service of Jesus Christ. In him is all refuge and solace." - Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German Astronomer

The field of science has been no less touched by the hand of Jesus Christ. Pioneers and visionaries such as Isaac Newton, Galileo and Leonardo Da Vinci had felt the influence of Christ on their works. Many scientists today have felt the truth of Christ in their research and discoveries.

As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) German-born physicist