In “The Air We Breathe,” Glen Scrivener reveals how deeply Christianity has influenced Western culture

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In “The Air We Breathe,” Glen Scrivener reveals how deeply Christianity has influenced Western culture

August 18, 2022 - Steve Yount

Famous ruins of the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy, during sunrise. © twindesigner /stock.adobe.com

Famous ruins of the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy, during sunrise. © twindesigner /stock.adobe.com

Although our increasingly secular world may not accept Christ, his influence is everywhere, as if it’s in The Air We Breathe.

That’s the title of Glen Scrivener’s insightful and well-written book, subtitled How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality.

“Jesus Christ, and especially his gruesome death, has towered above Western civilization,” Scrivener writes.

Jesus turned the values of the ancient world upside down, and his revolutionary teaching celebrated many of the virtues we hold most dear today.

“The beating heart of the church’s ethic is love—a trait that floods the New Testament and early Christian writing, yet is barely mentioned in the classical virtue lists,” Scrivener writes. “Philosophers such as Plato or Cicero considered the foundational virtues to be wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation—traits well suited to the army barracks.”

Scrivener, who leads a ministry based in England, notes how the ancient Greeks and Romans discarded “defective” children like so much rubbish, exposing them to the elements so they would die. The Roman citizen also felt free to exploit women and children to satisfy his sexual desires.

And the concept of justice? It had an entirely different meaning in ancient times than it does today.

After one of the slaves in a Roman senator’s household killed him in AD 61, all four hundred of his slaves—men, women, and children—had to suffer the ultimate punishment: crucifixion.

“It symbolised degradation, worthlessness, unremitting torture and unredeemed loss,” Scrivener writes.

Yet today, the cross has an entirely different meaning—the possibility of salvation because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

“The way we see the cross has been revolutionised because the cross has revolutionised the way we see,” Scrivener writes.

Why Christians should read this book

The Air We Breathe will broaden their personal perspective and give them new tools in sharing their faith.

The big takeaway

Just like we take the air we breathe for granted, we fail to realize the influence Christianity has had on Western Civilization.

In their own words

“God and human rights are inseparably linked.”

“If natural selection means the survival of the fittest and the sacrifice of the weakest, Christianity is about the sacrifice of the Fittest (Jesus Christ) for the survival of the weakest (us).”

“Whatever else we learn from the examples of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, it ought to be obvious that modern science was invented nowhere else but among devout Christians in a devoutly Christian age, drawing explicitly on Christian beliefs and practices.”

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