Three Bombshells and Christian Impact

By John H Morgan   December 31, 2014

Three times in my life I have discovered research whose conclusions were so earth-shattering to me that they were conceptual bombshells. Their conclusions are revolutionary or can be to those who can apply them. I just recently discovered number three but here is a summary of all three.

The first bombshell was the theory of human capability discovered by Elliott Jaques called Requisite Organization. It explains why there are leaders who are capable of leading at different levels as well as why some cannot lead at certain levels. It defines and explains the various levels of leadership capability through human capability to think at higher levels of abstraction in problem solving and that higher levels of abstract problem solving also correspond to greater lengths of time horizon in problem solving. In other words, a person of greater leadership capability has a higher ability to solve more complex problems. They conceive of the problem and solution in more abstract concepts and see the solution steps over a longer period of time into the future. The most effective leaders have thinking capabilities that fit the demands that the problems present in their leadership roles. Those whose capabilities are lower than what is needed become overwhelmed with their roles. Those whose capabilities are higher than what is needed become bored with their roles. People are most fulfilled when their work roles fit the sweet spot of their mental capabilities as well as a couple of other factors, like character, desire and knowledge.

This theoretical model has been used for a whole system of management that is employed in many multi-national corporations and was used to reorganize the promotion of officers in the U.S. Army from post-Vietnam until now. The value of the model is that it helps organizational leaders place the right people in the right roles as well as seek the right roles for themselves. It also helps us understand high level leaders. I did research in the theory on high level historic leaders for my doctoral dissertation. I analyzed the levels of abstract thinking and time horizons revealed in some key communications by Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King, jr. and Jesus. The result was that each one had a time horizon in their communications of 100 years plus. Jesus’ was much further out than that. Compare that to the time horizon of the average working adult which is less than two years. Leaders and non-leaders are not the same thing.

The second bombshell was the historical research of Rodney Stark that demonstrates that democracy, capitalism and science were born once and only once in history in the context of the Christian worldview in Europe and America. This is a huge proposition that Stark has been defending with detailed historical evidence and references through years of research and many academic publications and books. Stark’s discoveries demonstrate the fallacy of the secular academic narrative that Christianity has been a force of darkness on cultural development. He sheds light on how secular academia has fully adhered to the polemics of the anti-Christian voices from Voltaire and Rousseau to the modern Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Stark gives point by point proof of the fallacies of the anti-Christian voices who have promoted stories about the suppression of science by Christianity, the false narrative that democracy was the product of Greek thought and the Enlightenment and the false stories about the motives and methods of the Crusades.

The result is astounding to those who have been given the secular academic Kool-Aid and inspiring to those who believe that the Gospel provides redemption not only for the individual but also for human culture.

The third bombshell is the discovery by Robert Woodberry through the research that he conducted for his Ph.D., then through a research grant of half a million dollars from the Templeton Foundation with which he employed fifty researches at the University of Texas, and through what has now been over fourteen years of robust research, historical study and statistical analysis. He discovered another truth that totally shatters the secular academic narrative about the emergence of democracy around the world. He discovered that the most prevalent and powerful factor that correlates to the emergence of democracy around the world has been evangelical missionary activity. The work of evangelical missionaries created the systems of thinking about human equality as well as literacy, education, publishing and organization for social change that empowered people around the world who were living under colonialism or tyrannical systems to work toward more democratic self-governance. Christianity has been the key factor even in places where there were not high rates of conversion because Christianity introduced the literacy and education of the masses as well as the kind of organizational thinking to create non-violent social change. Most of the native leaders of national movements against colonialism were educated in Christian mission schools.

This research does not rest alone on anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal stories can be easily cherry picked to skew biased views. This is one of the most robust and statistically cross tested research projects one can find. However, one of the anecdotal examples is that of UK Baptist missionaries John and Alice Harris who served in the Belgian Congo in the early 1900s. Congo was a colony whose people were forced to labor in the production of rubber from rubber trees. Those who resisted were beaten, burned, castrated and had their limbs cut off. The Harrises photographed the abuses and travelled throughout the UK and America showing and communicating the abuses. Their work led to the largest international protest movement since the abolition of slavery. The Harrises were simply living out the ethic of human equality that is taught in the Bible and by Jesus and by the Apostle Paul. That ethic took root because it was planted by Christian missionaries.

One other example comes from Woodberry’s research trip to West Africa in 2001. Woodberry traveled to Togo and went to the University of Togo campus library. What he found was a shockingly small collection of books that was smaller than his own personal library. The most recent encyclopedia was from 1977. The campus bookstore didn’t even sell books. When he asked a student where they buy their books the reply was that they don’t. They copied by hand what their professors dictated to them from their books. In contrast Woodberry travelled to Ghana where the university had many books and they even had a printing press that published the works of local scholars. What was the difference? During the colonial era British evangelical missionaries in Ghana had established whole systems of schools and printing presses for the education of the masses. But France, the colonial power over Togo, greatly restricted missionaries and only allowed the education of the few elites who could serve their colonial purposes. This was the trend of the colonial powers until they were challenged by the Christian missionaries. So today Ghana has a flourishing educational system and Togo does not.

Woodberry’s findings were published in the prestigious American Political Science Review in May of 2012 in an article titled, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” A summary of the Woodberry’s findings were also published in an article in Christianity Today from January 28, 2014 titled, “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries,” by Andrea Palpant Dilley.

This third bombshell is still taking time for me to process. I readily accepted Stark’s research about the historic role of Christianity in the emergence of democracy, capitalism and science because I had been familiar enough with the history of Europe and America and the history of philosophy and political thought. This one is a new and fresh insight that is affirming, motivating and inspiring. It helps those of us who believe that Christianity and its Gospel of Christ are transformative at the personal level and the cultural level to see some of the tangible historic evidences of it. Most of those missionaries who went out over the past hundred years to Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceana were not targeting cultural transformation. They were just loving people as Christ would. However they sowed thousands of seeds of truth and grace that sprouted into positive social transformations. Those transformations have given more people higher degrees of political freedom and material prosperity than ever imagined.

I see a unity to these three bombshells. Those Christian leaders who have a high capacity and calling to change the world can be encouraged that the four great social contributions of Christianity, which are the Gospel, democracy, capitalism and science, are consistent, requisite and symbiotic and they change the world. They are intellectually consistent with the same core beliefs that create a worldview. They are requisite, meaning they are all required, to redeem culture. The absence of one will denigrate the others. And they are symbiotic. They feed and feed off one another for mutual impact to redeem lives and culture. The Gospel is certainly the beginning point and the central truth to it all and from it come the others. Christian leaders can lead from the high place of an integrated vision of God’s plan for people, communities and nations.

All Christians who serve faithfully in a church or a Christian ministry or mission somewhere in the world can know that their work not only has eternal rewards through saved souls, it also changes the world.