Christianity’s Contributions: Life protected (Part 2)

Our last blog focused on the protection of life due to Christianity’s influence on culture, namely abortion.  Let’s continue and examine how life was protected regarding the issue of infanticide, or the killing of newborn infants.

The disposal of deformed and weak newborns was infamously universal in the Greco-Roman culture.  Sadly, it was commonplace in other parts of the world as well: India, China, Japan, Brazil, parts of Africa, North America and South America all had this detestable practice.  Amazingly, Rome had it codified into law.

The Roman law in the Twelve Tables stated “deformed infants shall be killed.”  This government had decided that no weak or disabled infants were allowed to live, thereby undermining the strength of the whole empire.

The low value of human life spilled over into the practice of child sacrifice.  This was so common that the Roman historian Plutarch says the  Carthaginians “offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor  people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs… meanwhile the mothers stood by without a tear or moan.”  This chilling passage reveals the depth of depravity that the culture had reached–people were so inured to killing infants and children that it didn’t faze them in the least.

Thankfully, God worked through the Christian church to change the culture in Rome, and eventually through other cultures as well.  Besides the command from God to Moses and the Israelites to safeguard life by not murdering (Exodus 20:13), The Didache stated plainly, “You shall not commit infanticide.”  Written from 85-110 AD, this was a teaching book for people new to Christianity.

As the Church grew, comprising about 10% of the Roman empire by 313 AD, it’s influence grew as well.  Not only did the Emperor Constantine legalize the faith with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, but other rulers started to use biblical principles in their laws, to the protection of newborn infants.  In 374 AD, the Emperor Valentinian, a Christian himself, outlawed the practice of infanticide in the Roman empire.  Thankfully God was using the Church to speak truth to people for salvation in Christ, and the Church had influenced the government for the saving of newborn children.

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