Over the past year, I’ve written some things that have gotten me into trouble with a lot of religious people. One one level, I feel sorry that I have to offend so many people, especially people that I love and respect. On another level, I feel a sense of righteous indignation (at least I hope it’s righteous indignation and not something else) that what passes for Christianity today in the Western world is so far from what Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Church had in mind.
The quotes below cover the period of the first two centuries of Christian history. As far as I know, no respected historian disputes what you are about to read. As you read these quotes, I’d like for you to ask yourself a question. Which is more likely? That the early Church closest in time to the lives of Jesus and the Apostles, started out in error but then gradually came to the truth around the time of Constantine–or the other way around?
The Early Church and the World, Professor C. J. Cadoux writes: “Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least [161-180 C.E.], no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism.”
“Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” (On the Road to Civilization A World History, A. K. Heckel and J. G. Sigman, 1937, pp. 237-8)
The Encyclopedia of Religion states: “The early church fathers, including Tertullian and Origen, affirmed that Christians were constrained from taking human life, a principle that prevented them from participating in the Roman army.”
In his book, E.w. Barnes’ careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.The Rise of Christianity (London, 1947), E. W. Barnes, p. 333.
The book ‘The Early Christian Attitude to War’ says: “Inasmuch as they [Jesus teachings] ruled out as illicit all use of violence and injury against others, clearly implied [was] the illegitimacy of participation in war . . . The early Christians took Jesus at his word, and understood his inculcation of gentleness and non-resistance in their literal sense. They closely identified their religion with peace; they strongly condemned war for the bloodshed which it involved.”
“They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire. . . . it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.” History of Christianity (New York, 1891), Edward Gibbon, pp. 162, 163.
“The behavior of the [early] Christians was very different from that of the Romans. . . . Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers,” Our World Through the Ages.
And ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ by Edward Gibbon, states: “[Early Christians] refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. . . . It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers.”
The Catholic Herald of London stated: “The first Christians . . . took Jesus at His word and refused to be conscripted into the Roman army even if the penalty was death. Would the whole of history have been different if the Church had stuck to its original stand? . . . If the churches of today could come out with a joint condemnation of war . . . , which would mean that every member would be bound in conscience to be, like the Christians, a conscientious objector, peace might indeed be assured. But we know that this will never happen.”
“Zealous Christians did not serve in the armed forces or accept political offices.”– World History, The Story of Mans Achievements (River Forest, Ill; 1962) Habberton, Roth and Spears, p. 117.
“While among Romans it was considered the highest honor to possess the privileges of Roman citizenship, the Christians announced that they were citizens of heaven. They shrank from public office and military service.” Persecution of the Christians in Gaul, A.D. 177 by F.F.G. Guizot, former prime minister of France, Vol. III of The Great Events by Famous Historians (New York; 1905), Rossiter Johnson, ed, p. 246.
“The Christians were strangers and pilgrims in the world around them; their citizenship was in heaven; the kingdom to which they looked was not of this world. The consequent want of interest in public affairs came thus from the outset to be a noticeable feature in Christianity. Christianity and the Roman Government.” (London; 1925), E. G. Hardy, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, p. 39.
“The emperors disliked Christianity because it seemed unpatriotic and un-Roman.” The Course of Civilization, Volume One, (New York; 1961), p. 144.
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