The New Testament, instead of being the cause of demeaning of women, was the cause of liberating women. Just one verse in Galatians, “There is neither male nor female,” has set half of the world free. It took some time for this truth to sink in, and it might not be finished yet, but any advances society has made regarding the equality of women can be attributed to this one verse.  But as great as those advances are, they truly pale in comparison to the advances that Christianity brought in the elevation and development of children. Nothing has improved the status of children in the world more than Christianity. William Barclay notes correctly that under the Roman law of “patria potestas” (“the father’s power”), “A Roman father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves; he could make them work in his fields, even in chains; he could take the law into his own hands, for the law was in his own hands, and he could punish as he liked; he could even inflict the death penalty on his child. Further, the power of the Roman father extended over the child’s whole life, so long as the father lived. A Roman son never came of age.”

James M. Boice points out, “There was also the matter of child repudiation, leading to exposure of the newborn. When a baby was born, it was placed before its father. If the father stooped and lifted the child, the child was accepted and was raised as his. If he turned away, the child was rejected and was literally discarded. Such rejected children were either left to die or were picked up by those who trafficked in infants. These people raised children to be slaves or to stock the brothels. One Roman father wrote to his wife from Alexandria: ‘If—good luck to you!—you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.’ Against such pagan cruelty, the new relations of parents to children and children to parents brought by the Christian gospel stand forth like sunshine after a dismal storm.”

Although infanticide was a common practice in the ancient Mediterranean world, it fell out of favor, largely due to the influence of Christianity.[1] The connection between child sacrifice scorned in the Old Testament and the modern practice of abortion has led every state to pass laws making abortion at certain stages of pregnancy illegal.  According to many conservative views, there is no difference between abortion and infanticide. They both end a human life. This was Tertullian’s view in the early years of Christianity. He wrote, in the “Apology,” of the acceptable practice of infanticide in the Roman Empire. But, speaking for Christians, he writes, “To us, to whom homicide has been once for all forbidden, it is not permitted to break up even what has been conceived in the womb, while as yet the blood is being drawn (from the parent body) for human life. Prevention of birth is premature murder, and it makes no difference whether it is a life already born that one snatches away or a life in the act of being born that one destroys; that which is to be a human being is also human; the whole fruit is already actually present in the seed.”[2]

[1] Grenz, Stanley J., and Jay T. Smith. 2003. In Pocket Dictionary of Ethics, 60. The IVP Pocket Reference Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Stott, John. 2018. The Preacher’s Notebook: The Collected Quotes, Illustrations, and Prayers of John Stott. Edited by Mark Meynell. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.