The Enlightenment is often looked at as a time in history when we as a civilization moved past religious ideologies and practices and into new modern discoveries.
But looking at history, it is revealed that many modern advances and thoughts that we still hold today have their very root in Christianity.
If we look at the values of today’s western societies, it is impossible to not see the groundwork laid out for us in the Bible.
When looking at modern civilization, what do people often think of as the strongest influence that shaped today’s society?
Would people say things like science, art, and music, or point towards famous philosophers? Or would they point towards the Bible and our faith’s influence on these very things?
The truth is, without Christianity the world would not be the one we know today.
But how exactly did Christianity change the modern world? How did it play into the Age of Enlightenment, the “revolution in human knowledge” as some would call it?
To see how much Christianity truly influenced our modern world, we must look at how it shaped the roots of early modernism.
The Age of Enlightenment was a period of time typically thought of between 1715 and 1789 where participants learned and philosophized on the concepts of intellect, science, and government freedoms.
As time went on, these thoughts would lead to distrust of both monarchies and the Church as a system, even leading to both the French and American Revolutionary Wars.
But even with society’s pull from the Church and its doctrine, the values of Christ’s teachings and our faith still shaped many teachings of the Enlightenment Age.
This can be seen in many areas of modern western culture, including the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, both written during this age.
The Declaration of Independence itself reads as such:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The United States of America would be born from the very thoughts that the Enlightenment idealized: that all men were created equal, and are born with the rights of freedom, life, and the pursuit of happiness.
However, what history texts gloss over is that the founding fathers knew that these rights only came from God.
They understood that we are free because we are free in Him. This truth is written into the very document that these men used to declare their freedom from those they felt oppressed them.
When establishing a constitution for this new country, the influence of these men’s faith can still be seen, even if it is not always explicitly expressed.
This is what some would argue was the real enlightenment, where we moved from religious ideals to modern ideas of equality, but this is not the case.
We see in Christ’s example where he treated the poor, weak, and oppressed with kindness. Jew, Greek, slave, and the free were all equal in His eyes. Everyone is a child of God who has been set free through the gift of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
These enlightened concepts of life, equality, and liberty came from the example of Jesus Himself.
The truth is, so many of modern society’s values only make sense when viewed from a Christian perspective.
Putting others first, protecting life, treating others as your equals and loving them as your brother or sister are not philosophical ideals, but Christian.
Doing these things does not benefit us, we do not gain anything from it, but we as a society know that it is the right thing to do because we are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
The Age of Enlightenment was an era of many advances in science, government, and philosophy.
It even brought about the revolution that would shape our country, but without Christianity, we would be nowhere.
The very principles that shaped our country are the same principles laid out by Christ in the Gospels, that all men are equal, and all men deserve freedom.