Myth #1 - “Galileo was a hero of science, harassed by the Christian church for his scientific beliefs.”
The story is that Galileo stood against the church, was tortured, condemned as a heretic, and wasted away in a prison. But here is the real story. Western Europeans got their idea of the universe from Aristotle, who pictured the earth at the center. This was no compliment to the earth because that was considered the lowest place in the universe. The Christian church largely accepted Galileo's conclusions even though his ideas clashed with Aristotle's beliefs. The important point to notice is that Galileo opposed Aristotle, not the Bible. A major part of the church intellectuals were on his side, while the clearest opposition to him came from secular individuals. Galileo put out a book which mocked the pope and got himself in trouble. He was detained but was given his own rooms and servants. He was allowed to return to his own home with his pensions from the church intact. He had been condemned not because the Bible conflicted with observation but because he differed with the church over what authority should be used to interpret it. Christianity was not opposed to science. In fact, it was the basis of modern science because it did not deify creation itself (allowing people to investigate it), it emphasized dominion involving the growth of technology (it was OK to harness nature), it recognized reason in God's creation (the world would be rational and understandable), and it trusted in God's covenantal faithfulness (suggesting there were laws governing the world).
Myth #2 - "Charles Darwin came up with a theory of evolution which has replaced the Christian view of creation."
Myth #3 - "Christianity has encouraged exploitation and destruction of the environment."
Supposedly, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt for ruining the environment. But the idea that nature exists for us to use comes from Aristotle, not the Bible. The Bible teaches that things were not made for us; they were made by and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16). The apostle Paul says created things reveal to us the very Godhead. Environmental exploitation is not a particularly modern phenomenon, nor is it a unique feature of Western culture. Neolithic and Bronze Age people deforested much of northern
Many church fathers and medieval theologians taught that Christians have a duty of responsible stewardship toward creation. They noted that the Bible's authors emphasize human beings are dependent creatures, not masters of everything. The Mosaic covenant forbade the exploitation of natural resources to extinction (Deuteronomy 22:6-7) and not even warfare justified deforestation (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). Animals and the land are included in both the weekly and seventh year Sabbath. Later, Martin Luther claimed that our mistreatment of animals will have eternal significance for which we will have to give account. In
Myth #4 - “Christian missionaries have oppressed native cultures.”
The unfair picture is of idealized natives who are exploited and forced to convert by Christian missionaries as part of Western colonialism. However, it was Darwinism that suggested there was a division between “higher” and “lower” races. Christian missionaries believed that native peoples were made in God’s image and thus treated natives often with more respect that national governments and fellow citizens of the area. Church opposition to slavery began shortly after the systematic enslavement of the
Myth #5 - “Christians feared and suppressed anything about the human body.”
True Christian teaching, based on the Incarnation, says the physical body will be resurrected, hardly an attitude of disgust toward our physicality. Genesis says the body, not the spirit, was created first. The Greeks were patriarchal, but Christianity shows no favoritism for males since both had the image of God. Recent scholarship has shown that the medieval period, often said to be obsessed with the sinfulness of the flesh, actually established areas of female power. During the Reformation, celibacy was rejected as the highest ideal. Equal rights for wives in divorce cases were legally enforced in
Myth #6 - “Christians persecuted witches throughout Europe and America.”
First, the number of witchcraft persecutions has often been highly exaggerated, and we now know that the Inquisition tended to moderate rather than incite them. Recent estimates put the number of executions at 150-300 people per year throughout all Europe and