The Mission and Faith of Christopher Columbus
It was early in the morning on this day in 1492 that Columbus stepped from his command post on the Santa Maria into a tiny boat. A few yards from the shore, he plunged into the shallow water and went ashore on a tiny island of the Bahamian archipelago and wept tears of joy. He lifted his head toward Heaven and cried out in thanksgiving to God in the words of the traditional dawn-watch canticle: "Blessed be the light of day, and the Holy Cross we say; and the Lord of Verity, and the Holy Trinity. Blessed be the light of day, and He who sends the dark away."
Columbus was one of the greatest seamen in the history of the world. Any competent sailor could have reached America by sailing west long enough, but it's unlikely that any others could have found their way back to Spain or could have returned to the same island on later voyages.
Columbus had great moral and physical courage. Again and again he faced mutinous sailors, armed rebels, frightful storms, and fighting Indians.
Christopher Columbus had a mystic belief that God intended him to sail the Atlantic Ocean in order to spread Christianity. He said his prayers several times daily. Columbus wrote what he called a Book of Prophecies, which is a compilation of passages Columbus selected from the Bible which he believed were pertinent to his mission of discovery. What a person believes is what determines his interpretation of life and history and inspires his vision and purpose in life. Columbus's own writings prove that he believed that God revealed His plan for the world in the Bible, the infallible Word of God. Columbus believed that he was obeying the mission God staked out for his life when he set sail west across the Atlantic Ocean.
Columbus's voyage to America ranks among history's most important events. It led to lasting contacts between Europe and America, and it opened new windows. To few men in modern history does the world as we know it owe so great a debt as to Christopher Columbus.
The Myth about Christopher Columbus
One of the famous lines written by the songwriter Ira Gershwin is "They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round." You can call that poetic license for a musical comedy, but it's important to know that that line is a lie, and it's unfortunate that it appears in many school textbooks. Christopher Columbus and his contemporaries knew very well that the earth was round. Medieval science had been built on the precise studies of Greek scholars, and every educated person of Columbus's time knew that the earth is round. Not only had the ancient Greeks discovered that the earth is round, but the philosopher Eratostenes accurately calculated the earth's circumference in the third century before Christ. Medieval scholars debated such details as the earth's size and how big are the oceans, but no serious scholar believed the earth to be flat. The great medieval religious scholars, such as the Venerable Bede, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas, added to the Greeks' knowledge with their own calculations.
The myth that people of the 15th century believed that the earth was flat was popularized by 19th century atheists in order to use science in their war against religion. What better way to discredit religion than to attribute an obviously false idea to religious people! This myth can be traced directly to two very influential 19th century books: History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science by John William Draper (a physician) published in 1874 and History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White (the first president of Cornell University) published in 1896. Both men used the flat-earth myth to help spread their arguments against religion. These books started the false and dangerous ideology that there is a war between science and religion, and that science is the only source of truth. The flat-earth myth did not appear in schoolbooks before 1870, but nearly all textbooks included it after 1880.
The attempt to make Columbus into a hero of the battle between science and religion is particularly ridiculous. Columbus was a deeply committed Christian whose own writings prove that his desire to carry the message of Jesus Christ to faraway lands was the primary motivation of his historic voyage to the New World.
Phyllis Schlafly Radio Script, October 9, 2000
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