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What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? The Positive Impact of Christianity in History

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We live in a cynical age in which only one prejudice is tolerated--anti-Christian bigotry. Yet despite the unbridled slanders and attacks against the faith, one powerful truth is undeniable: if Christ had never been born, nearly every facet of human life would be much more miserable than it is today. Arranged topically and presenting compelling, little-known historical facts, "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" clearly demonstrates that an enormous array of benefits to humankind--from economics to art to government, science to civil liberties, morality to health, and beyond--would never have occurred had Jesus Christ not lived.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

D. James Kennedy

90 books22 followers
Dr. D. James Kennedy entered the presence of his Savior, Jesus Christ, on September 5, 2007. He served for 47 years as Senior Minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which for 15 years was the fastest growing Presbyterian Church in America. In 2005, Dr. Kennedy was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He founded four ministries: Evangelism Explosion International, Coral Ridge Ministries, Knox Theological Seminary, and Westminster Academy.

Dr. Kennedy is the author of more than 65 books, including Evangelism Explosion, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, and Lord of All. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tampa, a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary, a Master of Theology from Chicago Graduate School of Theology, and a Ph.D. from New York University.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Mrs. Anne Kennedy, and his daughter, Mrs. Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy.

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5 stars
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132 (36%)
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63 (17%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,358 reviews454 followers
Shelved as 'stricken'
July 14, 2014
We live in a cynical age in which only one prejudice is tolerated--anti-Christian bigotry.

Oh, Really? It's easier for a convicted white felon male to get a job than a black male with no criminal record, gay people enjoy virtually no legal protections to their long-term relationships, natives still live in grinding poverty, the disabled are routinely denied even the most simple accommodations, anti-Muslim prejudice is at an all time high, and a majority of US voters wouldn't elect an atheist to any position, regardless of other considerations, but Christians are feeling put-upon? I think Jesus would be appalled to see modern Christians putting themselves ahead of the poor, the ill, the infirm, and the imprisoned. I think I can safely give this book a miss.
Profile Image for Calle.
117 reviews16 followers
August 4, 2015
This could have been an interesting book, about the good things that came out of Christianity. But instead of being an honest examination of history, the book distorts and misrepresents reality.

Kennedy has written a long list of things that are allegedly a result of Jesus Christ, including hospitals, science, education, justice, representative government, benevolence and charity. While some of the things have been practiced by Christians, that doesn't mean that those things would not have existed if Jesus hadn't been born. There's no way to know how world history would have turned out if Christianity hadn't been in power. One thing from the list no doubt comes from Christianity: The condemnation of homosexuals, which Kennedy lists as something good.

In Chapter 5, it becomes clear that Kennedy wants an American Christian theocracy. He completely misrepresents what secularism means, saying that a secular state, being neutral to religion, is in fact "hostile" to religion. This is an absurd statement. A secular state is neutral, allowing all religious beliefs. In a theocracy on the other hand - which seems to be Kennedy's utopia - alternative religions are at the mercy of the dominating religion.

Apparently, America was founded as a free country because it was founded by Christians, although Kennedy does not explain how come the countries, such as England, where these people came from, were not free, although they were also Christian. Towards the end of the book Kennedy tries to explain away all the crimes of the church, such as the Inquisition, by saying that the people responsible weren't true Christians. It's a very convenient explanation, but despite this, Kennedy seems to hold all atheists guilty by association with a handful of atheists who did bad things, and the best example he comes up with is Hitler, who, according to himself, was a Christian. The same type of double reasoning goes for the rest of the book; apparently all good things that happened during the last 2000 years were thanks to Christians, and all bad things were caused by others, atheists or false Christians.

Kennedy is also opposed to all science that is not compatible with the Bible, most notably the theory of evolution, which in his opinion is wrong, because the bible doesn't say it's true.

No doubt christians have done good in caring for the poor and sick, etcetera, but Kenendy doesn't even try to give a balanced and truthful look at the facts. After reading the book, it's clear that Kennedy is one of two things; either he is a bad researcher (and if you look at the footnotes, most of them are secondary sources, and as I mentioned, some outrageous claims aren't backed up by sources at all) who believes what he's writing, or he's a liar, lying on purpose and twisting the facts to argue his case. Instead of an honest account of Church history, this is a book full of distorted facts and lies, preaching to the choir, and a means for Kennedy to voice his personal political opinions.
Profile Image for Heather Denigan.
169 reviews12 followers
February 14, 2014
I read "What if Jesus Had Never Been Born" in my early teens (if I remember rightly) and I believe it has proved one of the most formative books in developing my faith. Kennedy shows the sweeping influence of Christianity over culture. Jesus didn't come to spray paint the world; He came in like a tidal wave or a forest fire, clearing out the trash and underbrush and leaving behind the enduring and healthy.

I've never forgotten Kennedy's description of the crassness found in the ancient, ruined city of Pompeii. Or the huge abortuary of Roman babies.

While C.S. Lewis and Saint Augustine and the Westminster Shorter Catechism have done more to supply my mental furniture (in fact Lewis built me a whole observatory), Kennedy helped sweep the room.

Profile Image for David Nixon.
6 reviews
August 17, 2012
Despite its blasphemous suggesting title, this book was packed with little known facts of Jesus influence beyond the gospels.
Profile Image for Glenn.
35 reviews2 followers
October 3, 2015
This is a must read as to the impact of Christ and Christianity on the world.
Profile Image for Justin.
122 reviews27 followers
November 26, 2016
Such a wonderful read! How truly ignorant we Christians are on just how much the teachings of Jesus Christ has changed the world. How much good the christian church introduced to the world. From hospitals, hospices, medicine, nursing, the sciences, law, individual rights, capitalism and free markets, property rights, music and the arts, the preservation of classical works.... on and on. The author makes a point just how dark this world would've remained had Jesus never been born, such a relevant topic given that we are now in the Christmas/advent season.

I recommend this book and another book like it by Alvin Schmidt "How Christiantiy Changed the world" to all believers. We need to know just how much of a good impact Christiantiy has made, and still can make. Books like these can truly remind to live out the mandates of scripture.

The only downside I would offer is that they're both 20 years plus so the modern things they mention are out of date. Younger readers may not understand. Ironically the modern concerns they mention restarting the darkness in the culture have grown significantly here in 2016. Which is why I think we need to read this book to know that Christians can again be redeeming agents in a now post christian culture. We aren't heading forward by abandoning our Judeo Christian heritage, we're savagely going back to pre-christian classical times. Christianity literally flipped a dark world over via the light of Christ. We can do it again!
Profile Image for Mel.
508 reviews
November 5, 2015
The book begins with the history of how human life had little to no value, the infanticide, sacrifices, and the cruel treatment towards the elderly.
The chapters cover everything from civilization changes, value of life, helping the poor, government with Christian foundation, civil liberties, science, work ethic, sex and family, healing the sick, art, music, literature, the negative history and when restraints are removed.
Pg. 89 Many people view Christianity as an impediment to the continuation of their "freedom" to sin. But they have transformed liberty into license, and in the worst form of licentiousness, they don't want anybody speaking against that or in any way restraining them. Hence, the modern hedonist views Christianity as repressive and not liberating.
pg. 189 People are not improved by atheism unless they so define that as abandoning a twisted form of Christianity that isn't Christianity at all!
pg. 205 Despite all the good the Church has done and continues to do, we're reminded ad nauseum about the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch-hunts - as if they are the sum total of the Christian record in history.
(Ironically this was just mentioned in the media and so found it to be very ironic the timing and all). Interestingly enough the witch hunts were stopped by two Christian men. But to that story there's more than we may ever know.
The book was a very thought provoking and well written. I would highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Esther Louw.
53 reviews1 follower
October 14, 2021
70% of this book of fantastic but unfortunately the other 30% is misinformation and far-right politics. For example, when attempting to make the case that the Christian contribution to music is superior to every other the author notes that had Jesus never been born European music would sound like middle eastern music - as if that would be a terrible thing. On the topic of music the author also incorrectly states that European music is derived from Jewish music and that Roman and Greek music was inferior. In actuality, European music directly descends from ancient Greek and Babylonian music. These are just a few examples of the errors scattered throughout the book.
Profile Image for Joanna M..
6 reviews3 followers
January 23, 2012
While this author seems to have had some somewhat valid points brewing while writing this book, his writing comes across as scattered and illogical, causing him to lose whatever validity he may have possessed to begin with. Unfortunately, I highly recommend not reading this book.
32 reviews
February 28, 2022
Although some interesting viewpoints were presented, it was really just 250 pages of biased and very preachy evangelical non-sense. He railed against all the targets of his day (1994) and how the world was going to hell in a hand basket...well, I suppose it is. It has been doing so since the dawn of recorded history. It seems that those of us who have a few miles on us view the past in some nostalgic way that filters out the crap that was going on when we were the young troublemakers.

Things change and Christianity needs to change as well, meeting the needs of the people as their needs change. He lamented that small children have no moral background whatsoever. He fails then to tie that into the breakup of the family, which he thinks is the problem of utmost importance. Instead of trying to redefine the family or work with people to understand the problem as he sees it, he just looks back at a time when divorce was a real no-no.

It met my expectations. I started this once before and couldn't get through the BS, but this time I was reading it to try and gain a better understanding of the perverse logic employed by the everyday evangelical. No everything with Christianity is bad, and as a philosophy, it is really quite good for the most part, if you can get rid of the supernatural stuff, which is what I have done.

Unless you have similar motives to mine, I would not read the book.
Profile Image for Meg.
142 reviews
February 11, 2012
A fascinating look at Christianity and it's effect through the centuries.
Profile Image for Nathan Albright.
4,417 reviews98 followers
February 23, 2017
This book was not quite what I expected it to be. I expected, and would have preferred, a book that gave a general positive defense of Christianity as a whole [1], perhaps with a hint of counterfactual history, and to be sure, this book had some of those elements. This book, although short at around 250 pages, would have benefited in addition by subtraction, or at least in going in a different direction, since throughout the book it is apparent that not only does the author laudably wish to defend Christianity from its detractors but specifically wishes to promote an unbiblical and often uncharitable Calvinist worldview that is far less laudable [2]. At many times this book moves from an excellent defense of Christianity which I support to a far less acceptable promotion of Calvinism, and so this book is not nearly as worthwhile as I thought it would be upon beginning it. To be sure, those among my acquaintances who enjoy reading encomiums of Calvinism, but I have enough books to read that I would prefer not to waste my time in such efforts if I had not already committed myself to reading it as I had done in this case.

This book is made of sixteen relatively short chapters that average around fifteen pages apiece and they cover a wide range of topics, including: an overview of Christ's impact on world history, Christianity's impact on the value of human life, science, economics, sex nd the family, health and medicine, morality, and arts and music, Christianity's contribution to helping the poor, education, and civil liberties, Christianity's impact on the founding of the United States, accounts of lives changed by Jesus Christ, some negative aspects of Christianity in history, what happens when Christian restraints are removed, and how Christians can fulfill our purpose in the twenty-first century, something we are not doing very well at present. Even when the author acknowledges the sins of Christianity, he does so in a way that attacks secularists, in comparing the deaths due to Christianity over the entire course of its history against the deaths due to Communism and Fascism in the twentieth century. Even where, as in this case, the author manages to be correct, his attitude can be rather injudicious, lacking in compassion and subtlety, and showing himself to be an all too typical polemical Calvinist. It is unfortunate that the author himself harms the worth of this book rather than helps it as he would want to do.

Ultimately, this is a book that could have been great and ends up rather more mixed. The achievements in this book are largely due to the positive effect of God's ways on human society, ways that are so obvious that a case can be made for them even by such an author as this. This is a book that would have been far better written by someone who was not interested in promoting a sectarian view of Christianity and was more interested in defending Christianity as a whole. Then again, for whatever reason this was a book urged by the publisher, who for some reason did not see the author's perspective as potentially alienating the a large amount of the book's target audience. This sort of tone-deafness is not too surprising given that the book was published in the 1990's, given the fact that Calvinists are still nominated for major offices and regularly make gaffes because they do not realize how offensive their worldview strikes other people, even those who are devoted and public Christians.

[1] See, for example:












[2] See, for example:





145 reviews1 follower
March 11, 2017
"What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? The Positive Impact of Christianity in History" by Dr. James Kennedy is a very worthwhile and comprehensive book. It looks at many different issues within history and how Christianity improved them for the better. For example, for the first time, children and women were honoured as equals to men, as were the elderly. Christians were the first to help the poor and provided education to everyone. Christians brought slavery to an end and minimalised cannibalism as a practice.

Christians created the first true universities and hospitals and set a foundation for religious freedoms and fundamental human rights. Christians led the charge in science in creating the scientific method. Christianity made a positive impact on economies and in building on the Jewish model of the family unit as holding together society. Christians led the way in healing the sick and in civilizing barbarians (most of the world, at some point). And finally, Christianity has impacted art, architecture, literature and music in massive ways, especially in the West.

This book doesn't ignore the evils of some who called/call themselves Christians. But it does prove that the world would be a much more evil place without Christ Jesus. All because Christianity recognises that mankind are sacred creatures made in the image of God. And this alone gives us incredible value and purpose.

Elements of "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" are very American-centric, which is fine. But I would've liked to see more of a global approach. Highly recommended reading for both Christians and non-Christians.

1 review
February 7, 2023
Short reason why I gave it 1 star- The book has a good title however I feel that it is way longer than it should and ends up being boring. This book relates to many world events that would have changed with out Jesus and while good, I think that they are inaccurate in the way that Jesus would have changed them.

I read this book in school and while I agree with some points, I disagree with many. In this book, it claims that things like education and charity would not exist with out Jesus’ brith. While I know that Jesus brith had a great impact on our lives, I don’t think that his life specifically would impact the lives of the unbelievers. I think that Jesus’ real impact can be seen in our religion and not much other than that because God’s spirt had already been apon this earth.

I know nonbelievers who attend college, donate, and condemn evil. In my opinion, this means that life would be much the same as it is if Jesus had never been born however our walk of faith would much change.
Profile Image for Michael Kelley.
143 reviews18 followers
May 18, 2022
Very good history of Christianity

Kennedy and Newcombe have done a great job elucidating how Christianity has changed the world over the past 2000 years. Jesus says in Revelation "Behold, I am making all things new," and when you take the time to reflect on the pre-Christian world, he really has and is still doing today! I would recommend this book to every Christian, especially for encouragement and to prevent on from getting tunnel vision from the 24/7 media that makes it seem like things are so bad. However, I disagreed with the authors position on tenure; I believe tenure is a great necessity for the cultural mandate. Sure, there are some wackos who end up with tenure and they end up quite the vocal minority. However, without tenure, Christian professors in secular institutions would never be safe; even non-Christian professors like Jordan Peterson would not be safe. Tenure doesn't just protect fringe wackos, but also solid Christians too.
Profile Image for Adam Calvert.
Author 1 book36 followers
August 9, 2016
On the one hand, I would say this is a truly great contribution to the idea that Christianity has a place in transforming the world for good - not in a “social gospel” sense but in the sense that the gospel truly transforms the lives of individuals who then use the grace given them to transform society.

The book was published in 1994 to answer the simple question, “What if Jesus had never been born?” For all the animosity that is out there toward Christianity and how it’s been a disservice to the world, there is much to be seen and understood from this book as it provides ample evidence to the contrary.

In the introduction the book posits the problem: “We live in an age in which only one prejudice is tolerated -- anti-Christian bigotry. … Today, the only group you can hold up to public mockery is Christians. … But the truth is: Had Jesus never been born, this world would be far more miserable than it is.”

Chapter one gives an overview of the book.

Chapter two shows that it was Christianity that elevated the value of human life (or maybe better stated - re-elevated it to what it was originally created to be). It is the Christian faith that gives dignity and meaning to every human, whether in or outside the womb, whether fully functioning at maximum health or suffering some debilitating disease or harm brought on by the fall.

Chapter three concentrated on Christianity being the major driving force in history to helping the poor through charitable acts of mercy.

Chapter four showed that the rise of education was due to Christianity’s influence on every culture to which it came. When written language was there, they would translate the Scripture into that language. When it wasn’t there, Christians would help develop a written language and then translate the Scripture into the language. And everywhere the Scriptures were translated, schools were built to further grow people in, above all, the knowledge of God’s Word.

Chapter five gave an overview on the affect Christianity had on the founding of America.

Chapter six demonstrated Christianity’s influence on civil liberties.

Chapter seven showed the great impact Christianity has had on the advance of science (contrary to what secular media and public government schools might otherwise advocate).

Chapter eight dealt with the influence Christianity had on economics, capitalism, and the free enterprise (specifically Protestant Christianity, although the reader might be interested to see Rodney Stark’s book, The Victory of Reason for a view showing Christianity in general rather than specifically Protestant Christianity providing the framework for capitalism)

Chapter nine demonstrated the impact Christianity has had on the sacredness of sex and the high regard for family.

Chapter ten gave a remarkable account of the history of hospitals due to Christianity’s foundation to the amazing work of health and medicine.

Chapter eleven showed the impact Christianity has had on morality in general.

Chapter twelve showed the influence Christianity has had on the fine arts (although, as the authors point out this has certainly been waning for a while now).

Chapter thirteen told of the many lives changed for the better because of the Christian faith.

Chapter fourteen went over some of the mistakes the “Church” had made over the years, but then also showed that the number of people hurt or killed by Christianity (or more accurately so-called Christianity) completely and utterly pale in comparison to the number of people hurt or killed by alternative philosophies.

Chapter fifteen explored a little of counter-Christian philosophies and what the world would look like - and indeed does look like - when Christian restraints are removed.

Chapter sixteen is a concluding chapter and a call to action.

And I must certainly reiterate what I stated above - that this book is indeed a great contribution to the subject of what Christianity has done, can do, and should do in impacting the world.

But to be completely honest, I have to say that this book is not the best read. The style goes back and forth between polemic, rhetoric, sermon-esque, and middle school textbook. It also makes great claims (whether historical, research based, or otherwise) without citing sources. When it does cite sources they tend to be only secondary at best.

Of course with such a wide range of topics I wouldn’t expect them to be able to cite many primary sources. But the reader does have to go into the book with the assumption that the secondary sources are truly reliable. As a matter of personal opinion, I trust the authors and assume they’ve done their homework. So I have no reason to doubt the reliability of the secondary sources they cite. Nonetheless, secondary sources will not be that convincing for the more scholarly minded.

In conclusion: as a book for Christians to read to help them have a better understanding for what Christianity has done for mankind, and even give them a broad-scope range of talking points with their casual unbelieving friends, this would be a great book! But as a resource for those who are more academically minded and can spot non-sequiturs in a heartbeat (whether believer or unbeliever), I probably wouldn’t recommend it. That’s not to say that I don’t agree with the conclusions made in the book. I just don’t know that unbelievers will be that impressed because of the style and presentation of the material.

Still, it was and is and should be an encouragement to believers to see that Christ’s work in His first advent was truly only the beginning of His ministry (see Acts 1:1). And the Holy Spirit has greatly built on the ministry down through the ages by means of using the corporate body of Christ - the church (Eph. 3:20-21)
Profile Image for Nicholas Lewis.
175 reviews8 followers
July 3, 2019
Dr. James Kennedy's book is an exciting and intriguing topic that showcases the depth of Jesus' influence in the history of the world. If ever anyone doubted about the great strides in civilization due to the work of Jesus Christ, this book surely puts away all that doubt.
238 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2020
Lots of good information but ran through things very quick at times, that is, made a statement and moved on. Felt it did get better later in the book but just was not a book that I just had to get back to keep reading.
January 8, 2022
Book is outstanding!

An intellectually honest overview of Christianity’s impact on history and culture. I learned a great deal and know that a world without Christianity is a world I don’t want to live in.
6 reviews
March 11, 2023
A most excellent overview

Christ's life changed the world. Most of us in Western civilization have little appreciation for the benefits we enjoy because Christ came into the world. In our time and in the time to come, Christ will be there.
May 8, 2020
The mostly positive influence of Christianity on humanity

This book gives good summary of how Christianity facilitated growth of today’s social institutions in the Western world as well as its negative influences on humanity over 2000 years. Well researched and written.
9 reviews
July 16, 2021
very good concept, though i think at times it could have focused more on what the Lord did THROUGH people instead of what PEOPLE did
Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews

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