There are several miracles in the saga of the rise and survival of Christianity. One is the resurrection of Jesus Christ and another the resurrection and survival of the church after persecution after persecution and meddling by the irrelevant, irresponsible, self centered, dishonest and of course the despotic – that is from both the outside and the inside. I sometimes have to wonder which the greater miracle in the history of Christianity. Psalms 37:11 and Matthew 5:5 comforted the meek, but blood of the bold Apostles and courageous martyrs flowed everywhere for centuries.
The Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, and per lesson 3, showed the strength of the Holy Spirit in motivating ordinary men without any other significant birthright of wealth and political influence to preach the new covenant of Christ. This was done so well that the Pharisee element of the ‘Jerusalem church’ collaborating for all intent and purpose with the Romans had to resort to terror and annihilation as the basic strategy to preserve both of their ill constructed heritages. The word spread in accordance with Acts 1:1-8 indeed worldwide. Of course as in lesson 3 the ‘Good News’ was not always spread as an engineered event as it was a flight for survival with the quasi exiled in Samaria and Rome appealing there to the Gentiles and the approachable Jews for converts and strength in numbers. The enemy became a safer haven and more fertile ground than the homeland of Christianity. That home was pillaged in 70 A.D. and the Promised Land was plowed under over the graves of a half million in 135 AD. Eusebius and Josephus write extensively on the persecutions and the heroes of the church.
Somehow, as discussed in lesson 6, the church survived the first fifty through one hundred years to struggle through the bureaucratic process of development of government and liturgy as reported in subsequent lessons. That took a thousand years to mature and yet it was throughout chaotic and resulted in the schism of 1054. One wonders if the term ‘Bible based’ vs. ‘man made’ was ever used to resolve the disputes that took another thousand years to be somewhat repaired – a work still in progress. Time passes and ecumenical councils challenged politics, pagan heritage, and heresy doctrine and cult scripture in 1st through 4th centuries BCE to do the impossible and define (canon) scripture as we know it today. Yet archeologists today have unearthed the discarded heretic gospels and the same debates continue anew. I find it truly inspiring that the tireless efforts of untold heroes and several scholars managed to stabilize the word so that 2 Timothy 3:16 survived as hallowed text and may well prevail another thousand years. Others shall I say ‘less devoted to Christianity’ must be so worried or their frenzied fanatics would not be so furiously implemented with flawed word and bombs.
Although not a point of the lessons in this history course, the libraries containing the sacred texts, as originals they may have been each in its own time and place, were burned and dismantled right along with the temples and the devoted readers and scribes. Today the ‘church’ is questioned in part because it can not produce tangible proof of Moses’ notes or Solomon’s decrees or Aramaic clay tablets of the preaching of Jesus Christ. Today the lawyers seem to have instilled in modern society the necessity for “proof” while they toil to invent ‘lawyer speak’ and strategies that seems to challenge any statement as some how vague and vulnerable to question. Can anything be proven, or is faith and spirit indeed the rock that Peter used as a foundation for the church; capable of prevailing and withstanding any force brought against it for two thousand years?
Once the legislators of this country were educated as historians and now the majority is lawyers. Which seem to have accomplished and which seem to have demolished?
Indeed if anything at all is proven by the history of the Christian Church, it is that ‘the word’ is indeed stronger than the sword and ‘the truth’ is an impregnable defense against all false prophets. ‘The way’ was cluttered with potholes but the philosophy and the essence of Christianity prevailed. One would hope the young would appreciate the lessons of history forwarded by historians rather than listen to the flawed arguments of a self indulging lawyer. Let the pendulum swing to return reverence to the historian and respect those he reports on so that history will indeed avoid repetition, but instead be the rock upon which wisdom, progress and meaningful accomplishment worthy of our inherited image of His creation mirroring His Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:26); for historians and ministers are today’s apostles of Acts 1:7-8.
Great course – well done and appreciated.
Rev. Nick Federspiel
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