Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Thought for the day: Christianity a prosperity religion?

Parts of the Christian blogsphere are abuzz with a new book that sounds like a must read. It is Niall Ferguson's book  Civilisation: The West and the Rest (Allen Lane, 2011). There was a Sunday Times review of this book by Dominic Lawson (former editor of the Daily Tory Telegraph) at the end of Feb. Dominic's review contains some thought-provoking comments such as this quote from a Chinese scholar who came to a proper realisation of what has led to the success in the West, to date:

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. But in the past 20 years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity. That is why the West has been 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 doubts about this.

Ferguson refuses to take this comment at face value and decides to do his own empirical research (focussed on China). What he discovers is striking:

The most entrepreneurial city in China, Wenzhou, where the free market is given full rein and where the state's influence is minimal, is also home to almost 1,400 churches -- half a century after Chairman Mao boasted it was "religion-free". One of its most successful business leaders, Hamping Zhang, argues that an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows they will be honest in their dealings with him. (Emphasis added)

All of which is simply to say, while we in the West we are doing our best to destroy our wonderful Christian heritage, the Chinese, are coming round to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful. And what's more the astounding growth in China seems to give credence to the widely held view that with Christianity comes blessing. Which therefore leads me to ask, is it time that we Evangelicals reconsidered their claim that Christianity is not a prosperity religion?

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