Monday, April 20, 2009

The Incredible Nature of Christianity

"It is incredible that Christ rose in the flesh and with His flesh ascended into heaven. It is incredible that the world believed so incredible a thing. And it is incredible that a few obscure men, of no standing and no education, should have been able so effectively to persuade the whole world, including the learned"
~St. Augustine, The City of God (XXII.5)

It is, when you stop and think about it, quite incredible.

How are we to account for the spread of Christianity if Christianity, as some may argue, is merely one really persuasive story that millions have been duped into believing? Especially, why would the early Christians face persecution and death for the faith, if it was all just a lie? Why would countless others have even believed the message of the early Christians, which was clearly far-fetched? Wouldn't it have been better to have crafted a leader who was not born in the trough of animal food, did not ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, who did not die a humiliating death on the cross? Or that the roots of the faith sprang up in the well-to-do, real learned people of the times and not those who fled in fear at times of trouble?

Just some food for thought.

6 comments:

....meow.... said...

i shared the link to this blog post on facebook...hope you don't mind. :)

kat b.

Ryan Rallanka, SJ said...

of course not =p

Mark said...

My concern about the questions is that one need only point to Islam to show a much more rapid growth around the world to disprove the assertion as demonstrably true based on success. I think you Jesuits would refer to it as the fallacy of large numbers.

Ryan Rallanka, SJ said...

I don't know very much about the history of Islam, so I don't have anything to offer with respect to its growth. The point of the post is to consider how people came to believe in Christianity to begin with, considering that its tenets were very radical at the time the faith was forming.

1) Belief in Jesus as the Son of God. That the Word became flesh. Clearly, this would have been seen as heretical. Muslims have a belief in Jesus, but they believe him to be one prophet among many, not to be God incarnate. This is why in the Gospels, the scribes and pharisees question who Jesus thinks he is to say that he is the Son of God.

2) That God incarnate through Jesus died a humiliating death on the cross and rose from the dead, and promised new and everlasting life to its believers. He was not the Messiah that the people had originally envisioned.

There is something inherently supernatural with the Christian faith when it comes to its specific belief in Christ. Despite the negative publicity that Islam gets in the media present day, there is a lot about the faith that makes a lot of sense to me, and I can see how people would have come into this faith.

So, I am not making the jump that large numbers of believers = truth about the Christian faith. Rather, one it makes one consider how the early church was able to flourish despite persecutions and radical tenets of belief.

Anonymous said...

W/Regard to the comparison w/Islam. There is, as the author of this blog exlaims, a big difference in the way it spread quickly. Christianity was a way, very much opposite of what one would expect a "leader" or a "Messiah" would manifest itself. Early, pure, Christianity was spread through word, and through Spirit. Spiritual Experiences. Martyrdom was not in fighting but not fighting. The early groups were a poor, collective bunch, believing in a totally humiliating Messiah that did anything BUT save Israel.
That this sort of following would develop as a result of Good and Spirit and Humility is astonishing. There was no interest in conversion in so far as nation/state/kingdom. Just people. It was not until Rome took over that things changed to the more non Christian- Conquer and convert and all that stuff. My wife is Muslim. I hate to say it, but Islam was spread through some degree of force. It brought law where law was needed. So, in a sense it was readily accepted because of the lawless nature of the area at the time. It also occured during the Dark Ages. Islam offered a period of Enlightenment as Rome Rotted from within. The subsequent spread of Christianity to Europe in the Dark ages is nothing short of Miraculous because of Charlemagne. Read about how "from the Rot of Rome and the subsequent brutality of Visgoths, Barbarians, and Lombards, could come-Gregorian Chants, Cathedrals, Orders that practiced true Christianity as opposed to Roman Catholicism" etc.

Mark said...

Anonymous seems to have bought the Muslim propaganda hook, line and sinker. Islam did not bring 'law' where there was none, but rather, introduced slavery, child rape and murder into areas which had in previous centuries been relatively peaceful.

The spread of Catholicism throughout Europe happened long before the so-called 'dark ages' (itself a pejorative intended to obscure the truth about the Middle Ages). While there were advances in science and the arts in the regions occupied by the Saracens, this proved to be the exception to the rule, as can be measured by the advance of those sciences in subsequent years. While the Islamic lands have remained stuck in the 13th century, Christian nations have advanced in peace and prosperity-for the most part, while those living in Muslim lands live in constant fear of torture and death.