Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bring on the atheists!

Among the particular features that distinguished Christianity from traditional “pagan” religious practice and from the many other new religious movements of the time was the firm insistence that there is only one “true and living God,” and the demand that its adherents had to drop all worship of any other deity. Arguably, early Christianity represented not simply belief in one particular deity among many but, actually, in some respects a different kind of religion.… [E]arly Christianity was so different that many Roman-era people recoiled from Christian beliefs and practices, accusing Christians of rank impiety and even atheism.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, pages 37–38

Monday, March 27, 2017

Consider the cost

Indeed, in light of the social and, increasingly, the political consequences of being a Christian in these early centuries, one might well wonder that the movement grew and why people became Christians. But, obviously, those who did so under those circumstances had strong reasons. There must have been things about early Christianity that made it worthwhile to become an adherent in spite of social harassment and potential prosecution. So, not only was early Christianity different in some key respects, but also participation in Christian faith must have offered things that attracted converts and compensated for the considerable social costs incurred in becoming an adherent.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, page 35

<idle musing>
Obviously not a bunch of snowflakes. Jesus said to count the cost, and they did. Would that we were as diligent in our pursuit of God as they were...
</idle musing>

And this is discipleship?

Instead of serious discipleship we have virtual fan clubs revolving around the mega-church leader. Seldom is worship an encounter with the awesome God; it has become an occasion for cheap thrills and continuous festivity dubiously called ‘praise and worship’.—Simon Chan, target-“_blank”> Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, page 9

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Thought for a rainy Sunday afternoon

If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.—Evagrius the Solitary (of Pontus)

Friday, March 24, 2017

It's just a little request

Indeed, despite all the alleged stupidities of Christians, Celsus expressed a willingness to tolerate them, if only they would honor the gods and follow the polytheistic customs that everyone else, excepting, of course, Jews, affirmed. By their refusal to do so, Celsus contended, Christians, questioned the validity of the gods upon which the social and political order rested and so were guilty of impiety and, at least impolicitly, of promoting sedition. If masses of people followed the Christians in their madness, Celsus declared, this would provoke the wrath of the gods and the social and political order would fall into anarchy and chaos.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, page 31–32

<idle musing>
He's not asking for much, is he? Just compromise a little bit and we'll accept you—even though you are a bit strange. But, to compromise on that one point is to destroy the entire foundation of Christianity.
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A clear and present danger

[W]hatever the particular offences that prompted the actions against various foreign cults in Rome, none of them constituted a threat to the worship of the traditional deities, New cults were typically seen as additions to the cafeteria of deities and religious groups of the Roman world. Not even Jews were such a threat. For, although there were Jewish texts of the time that expressed disdain for the pagan gods, there is no indication that Roman-era Jews actually attempted seriously to persuade the non-Jewish population to abandon their deities. That Jews themselves typically abstained from worshipping the gods was viewed by pagans as an ethnic peculiarity. But early Christianity—because it was programmatically transethnic in its appeal, and more aggressive in attacking what it called “idolatry”—was a new and more serious danger.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, page 25

<idle musings>
Well, there are no worries that the church will upset the current culture, are there? The church is too busy endorsing the current radical individualism, nationalism, and materialism to be a prophetic witness and represent any danger to the current regime(s). Maybe I should rename this post Not a Clear and Present Danger : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why Demetrius the silver smith was right (Acts 19)

Those Christians who withdrew from worshipping the gods obviously ceased sacrificing to them and ceased frequenting their temples, and that had economic consequences for various people. In addition to gifts made to the temples, for example, as thanks for a god granting a petition, there were local craftsmen who sold various items to those who frequented the temples, such as miniature images of the gods and ex voto objects, which were items purchased and then given to the temple to express thanks for favors from the gods. Then there also were others who raised and sold sacrificial animals on license from temple authorities, and still others who produced food for these animals. In short, the ancient temples represented a significant sphere of economic activity, and so any denunciation of the gods, any withdrawal from their worship, or even the threat or prospect of this would have been seen as threatening to the many with vested interests in the various components of the operations of temples.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, page 24

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Economic interests

Furthermore, it is interesting to note Pliny’s claims that there were numerous Christians in Pontus at that point in various towns and villages, and that the growth of Christianity was having a markedly negative effect on the institutions devoted to the traditional deities and the economic activities associated with them. Of course, Pliny may have been exaggerating a bit. But it seems to me quite plausible that the social and economic effects of Christian withdrawal from the worship of the gods, or simply the fear of such effects, may have been at least one cause for the denunciation of Christians to Pliny and likely to other local officials.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, pages 23–24

<idle musing>
Nothing like a hit to the pocketbook to get your attention. . .
</idle musing>