Early Christianity, politics and war

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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12 Comments

  1. February 18, 2019

    Revelation 13:1, 2 show clearly that all human governments of today, represented as a wild beast with 7 heads and 10 horns, received their authority/ power from the symbolic dragon, that is, Satan the Devil. ( Revelation 12:9) As such, True Christians have a right to choose not to vote. They take no part in deciding who gets in power to come under Satan’s control. But True Christians pay taxes since God allows human governments to exist to keep order and provide useful services to their citizens. Eg: Food, Education, Health, Protection etc. True Christians benefit from these services too. Romans 13:6, 7. The time is coming though when God will use His heavenly Government (2 Timothy 4:18) to destroy all human governments as Daniel 2:44 clearly reveals. ( Kingdoms = Governments) God’s Government alone will then rule the entire earth.

  2. Janice
    November 13, 2018

    This was a very good article. I loved it! Just a point I didn’t agree with or the implication that Jesus was the Almighty God. Other than that it was GREAT! I’m going to refer others back to the article to read whenever I can!

  3. Politically Neutral
    September 13, 2012

    I agree with this article whole-heartedly. The Bible, Jesus teachings about being NO part of the world and his Kingdom being NO part of the world and his refusing to be made King plus secular history of the early Christians way of life shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christians were not supposed to get involved in politics. Jesus also predicted that after his apostles died that there would be a great apostasy that would set in and ruin Christianity. So, that means that many so-called Christians would do things that would not go along with his original teachings later in time. We are in that later time. People can rationalize all they want to. The proof is undeniable: Christians are to stay out of politics. The Bible also says that God loves and accepts people of all races. So being nationalistic, which politics leads to, is also against the teachings of Jesus. And at Daniel 2:444 it clearly states that God is going to crush all the kingdoms of the world in the future and establish his own government on earth. We are supposed to pay taxes and follow governmental laws as long as they do not interfere with our worship of God, but, God comes first. That is why the early Christians were thrown in the arenas with wild animals. They would not vote, join the army or worship false gods. As Jesus said, when asked about paying taxes: “Pay Caesar’s things to Caesar, but, God’ things to God. ( Look at Mark 12:17 and Matt 22:21). Lastly, Jesus said that the world would hate you because you are NO part of the world. Ask yourself a question: How can a Christian say they are no part of the world and get involved in worldly politics?( John 15:19)

  4. Lizavier4Jesus
    April 5, 2011

    Aretha Gordon, I did not even read all of your message but I believe that you have a fair message to readers of DNO, if they are willing to take heed.

    The first thing that we must realize is that early Christians were much more sensitive to the wisdom and revelation of God’s Holy Spirit in their situations of existence. But as someone commented before me, Satan was already ruling the world even before Jesus sent His Holy Spirit, who would build His Church through His chosen servants.

    Imagine that Satan was bold enough to approach Jesus, to make a deal with him, that if Jesus would worship him, he would give to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, which he claimed belonged to him–how foolish! But how much more is Satan able to create havoc in the minds of human beings. Unfortunately, man’s foolish pride and arrogance cause him to think that he is untouchable from Satan’s deception and his plan to steal, kill and destroy.

    It is obvious that when God’s Holy Spirit took over through His chosen people, Satan would strive to come into greater power and influence, because his desire is to cause the world to worship him. And yes, because of the rebelious mentality against God, in the mind of mankind, from the very beginning, Satan is indeed receiving his glory.

    Today those who claim to be Christians are simply practicing what I heard a pastor described as “religeousity and churchianity” I describe this concept as one without any ideas of God’s Holy Spirit.

    In other words God is not about religion, and the majority of so-called Christians today are simply following the Golden Rules of religion–the laws of human wisdom and philosophy–and the people who gather in the building to do those rules have no idea who God is; for they do not know Him, by their faith, and the wisdom and revelations of His Holy Spirit. And yet Jesus prayed saying: “And this is Eternal Life, that they know You, the One True God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”. John 17: 3

    If you try to advise people that they should undergo the Spiritual Birth so as to enter into the Life of Love and to pratice the Ways of God–the attitude and conducts of His Person, the Son, who is Jesus Christ, they will shove you off, with all sorts of verbal insults. But that is not unusual, as Satan has tried to have the world under his full control.

    However Jesus tells Nicodemus: You must be born again! He told His disciples: “It is the Spirit that gives Life, the flesh profits nothing, the words that I speak are Spirit and they are Life” John 6: 63

    All I need to show myself, the reason I know that is true, is to remember my son, from the first minute he came into this world. Today he is 30 years old. Well did he not have to be born, to grow and develop into an adult of 30 years. And since Jesus said the human body without the Spirit is nothing. Does that not tell me that God has made provisions for me to become alive–to be born– in the Spirit, that I might undergo spiritual growth as well?

    Well yes, I was born again, and I am now experiencing spiritual growth. I have never understood politics, I hate the subject, I have never voted in an election, I will never vote in an election. I hate war and I love to love. For God saw my substance, being yet unformed,——- the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:16

    I am saying that the situations of this world is as God saw it long before it was formed. Man’s disobedience and their rebelious nature is the reason why the world is not what it should be. But God knows His plans for mankind and those plans will become completely established, at His time.

    It is not strange, what the world has become, because God spoke about those situations through His prophets. One thing that I know Jesus said is that, His Good News must be spoken all over the world, and then the end of this worldly system will come to an end–not the world will come to an end as idiots, foolish, stupid, and ignorant people believe; for we live in a world without end.

    Jesus also told His disciples another thing to cause us to become aware of the approaching hour of His return. He said: “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and took them all away. So also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24: 37-39

    Yes, God is planning to establish perfection in this world, but He will have to get rid of imperfection. Just like the flood of Noahs days, so will the wrath of God be on those who think they are mighty and great men of this world, going about conformed to the habits of this worldly system. And they will not know, until God’s wrath has overwhelmed them.

    And unless the days were shortened for the sake of God’s elect, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, the days will be shortened.

    • James
      April 5, 2011

      Onward Christian Soldiers marching……..

  5. LawieBawie
    April 5, 2011

    Our God is a God of war!! It may sound like blasphemy but it is the truth. Numerous time it is cited in the bible where he supported the armies of Israel is they went into battle, even causing the sun to stand still at one point so that the soldiers of Israel could have light by which to defeat their foe.

  6. Democratic lover
    April 5, 2011

    the followers of Jesus are not the christian church we know today. The Roman Catholic church in its quest for power hijacked the faith of Jesus. It enslaved, killed and colonised.

  7. Concerned Citizen
    April 5, 2011

    Thanks for the facts there. But again we have to understand that the early Christians were either converted Jews, Greeks or even Romans. The system of government was Rome. These early Christians were and would not be allowed to be part of this government system. But again looking at Joseph in the old testament he was not Egyptian yet he was in a high position. Daniel also had a high position. I understand that part of scripture that the system is corrupted in fact everything is corrupted, the education system when you look at it closely its huge persecution for Christians. Are we going to say that our government system is Babylonian and we are not going to participate? or we should not get involved in the election process? These are hard questions to answer honestly we just need to pray ask for discernment the discussions can continue but so much to say…..

    • Louie
      February 19, 2017

      God directed ancient Israel to use warfare to take possession of the land that he himself designated as their inheritance and to execute people whose depraved practices and defiance of the true God caused Jehovah to view them as being no longer fit to live. (Deut. 7:1, 2, 5; 9:5; Lev. 18:24, 25) Nevertheless, mercy was shown to Rahab and to the Gibeonites because they demonstrated faith in Jehovah. (Josh. 2:9-13; 9:24-27) In the Law covenant God laid down rules for warfare that he would approve, stipulating exemptions and the manner in which this warfare was to be carried out. Such were truly holy wars of Jehovah. That is not true of the carnal warfare of any nation today.

      • Louie
        February 19, 2017

        With the establishing of the Christian congregation, a new situation came into existence. Christians are not under the Mosaic Law. Christ’s followers were to make disciples of people of all nations; so worshipers of the true God would in time be found in all those nations. However, what is the motive of those na

  8. Concerned Citizen
    April 5, 2011

    This is a good article to stimulate discussion. But does the bible really say anything about us participating in politics? With respect to war one can argue that one can kill in self defense although as the writer wrote many of these wars were organized and aided by religions. (i would advise dno readers to do some reading). Although religion and politics has sometimes had disastrous consequences when they fall at the wrong hands i believe that oftentimes we separate church from our normal lives. We should do everything to please God at all times whether its politics or any other life’s activity. If we do not apply Godly principles in politics or if our leaders do not fear God we will always be in trouble. Ultimately if we say no Christians shall run for political positions and ungodly people take these positions, What is going to happen to society? Just think about it.

    • Non align
      April 5, 2011

      I believe in the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I am also no stranger to historical facts and I fully understand the rational for Aretha’s article. The bible acknowledges Satan as the ruler of this world and Jesus declares that we should render Caesar things to Caesar and God things to God. Furthermore Jesus stresses that his kingdom is no part of this world, and advises us to honour God our father and love our neighbours as our selves.
      Early Christians did not kill, nor partake in worldly pleasures. They obeyed and followed the principles of christianity as modelled by Jesus then his appostles, but they paid their taxes and were very valuable worker in their communities. Because of they being “no part of the world” they were severely persecuted especially by Emperor Diocletian. The Edict of Milan by Constantine gave freedom of worship to all religion hereby tolerance to christianity. This move by Constantine was mainly to stabilize the declining empire and to strengthen his political career. The Council of Nicea outlawed other forms of Christianity that were not supportive of Rome as heresery and made Nicene christianity as the true faith and Rome the center of worship, but Constantine call on all christians and non-christians to worship the sun and other false gods.
      Conserquently, the ways of the ungodly world crept into the bossom of Christianity and Romanized it. Today we still live in a Romanized world of Christianity that surely doesn’t have the ambiance of Christ coming Kingdom. Most of the attrocities of this world has been committed in the name of Christianity; the crusades, the enslavement of the Africans, colonization, You name them!

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