MILLENIALS AND STRESS

13 02 2013

One of the basic principles of Bridgebuilders is the need to  be continually and realistically exegeting the culture.  Scott McKnight provides this important insight.

Millennials and Stress
By scotmcknight

Parents and pastors, friends and co-workers… this deserves our attention.

Stress levels for Americans have taken a decidedly downward turn across the USA — except for young adults, whose stress is higher than the national norm, says a survey to be released Thursday.

Those ages 18-33 — the Millennial generation — are plenty stressed, and it’s not letting up: 39% say their stress has increased in the past year; 52% say stress has kept them awake at night in the past month. And more than any other age group, they report being told by a health care provider that they have either depression or an anxiety disorder.

The online survey of 2,020 U.S. adults 18 and older, conducted in August by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, has been taking the stress pulse of Americans since 2007.

On a 10-point scale, where 1 means “little or no stress” and 10 means “a great deal of stress,” the 2012 average is 4.9.

But for Millennials, it’s 5.4.

“Younger people do tend to be more stressed than older people do. It may be they are more willing to admit to it. It may be a phase of life. They just don’t know where they’re going in life,” says Mike Hais of Arcadia, Calif., a market researcher and co-author of two books on that generation, including 2011′s Millennial Momentum.

But for this group, there is more cause for worry, Hais says.

“Millennials are growing up at a tough time. They were sheltered in many ways, with a lot of high expectations for what they should achieve. Individual failure is difficult to accept when confronted with a sense you’re an important person and expected to achieve. Even though, in most instances, it’s not their fault — the economy collapsed just as many of them were getting out of college and coming of age — that does lead to a greater sense of stress,” he says.

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THE URGENCY OF OUR COMMISSION

16 11 2012

BY STEVE DUNN

In our current round of Bridgebuilders Seminars and in presentations about the Bridgebuilders Principles, we have been sharing some disturbing news that goes to the heart of  renewing our passion for evangelism and making more and better disciples.

As a follow-up, I’d like to share some graphs that summarize the recent findings of the Pew Research Center.

Shawn Anderson in his blog living dangerously has some counsel for us based on these observations:

1. Realize that we are the seekers, not the religiously unaffiliated. Jesus told his followers to “go”. Instead of building a church building with the notion that “they will come” to us, we need to actively and intentionally go to our communities.

2. Target young people. The younger generations are the ones with the largest percentage of religiously unaffiliated. They will also dictate the future of the church. Therefore, we need to intentionally seek to develop relationships with them.

3. Communicate the love of Jesus. If we share the love of Jesus by serving others with no strings attached and by being transparent with them, it will show them that we are more concerned with their souls than money, rules and politics.





JAMES NORED ON THE GOSPEL AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

2 06 2011

This an excellent post from James Nored on his Missional Outreach Network blog.  I urge you to subscribe.

James Nored

The Gospel Spreads through Social Networking – Lessons from Jesus & the Early Church

I am not opposed to “advertising” for the church, particularly if it is tied to offering to meet a felt need in the community. But the most powerful form of “advertising” is the sharing of the gospel person to person through social networking. Today, obviously, we have tremendous online social networking tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that we need to utilize to reach the lost. But even without these tools, the early church grew from a small band of disciples in the first century to an Empire-wide force in the 4th century through person-to-person, “social networking.”

 

Jesus was certainly shaped by his social connections, and his ministry was launched through social networking connections. On a divine level, he was sent by the Father to the earth, and he was conceived through the Holy Spirit. The Father was well pleased at his baptism, and the Spirit descended upon him at this time (Matt. 3:13-17). On a human level, Jesus was raised by parents that sought to be obedient to God (Luke 1:21-40), and he followed the ministry of his relative, John the Baptist, preaching this same message: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).[1] While his mother, brothers, and sisters were at times skeptical of his messianic claims, after his death and resurrection his mother Mary and his brothers were present at Pentecost, and his brother James became a foundational figure in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14; 15:13; 21:17).

The synoptic gospels seem to portray Jesus calling the disciples out of nowhere and without any prior connections; however, the gospel of John makes it clear that Jesus used social networking as he made this call, beginning with Andrew, one of John the Baptist’s followers, and then spreading through Andrew’s family and friends (Jn. 1:40-42).[2] Jesus of course also worked through other social structures of his day to spread the gospel, including the rabbinical schools, the synagogues, and agrarian society. Galilee, where Jesus grew up, also would have provided Jesus with various points of connection, serving as a physical hub connecting him to all sorts of people, including fishermen, farmers, tradesmen, artisans, tax collectors, and others.[3]

The early Christians followed Christ, sought to be like him, and took up his call to be fishers of people seriously. Moreover, missiologist Eckhard J. Schnabel asserts that the early Christians followed Christ’s life and mission even on the strategy level, for “they confessed Jesus not only as Messiah but also as Kyrios: his behavior was the model and the standard for their own behavior.” [4] An examination of the early Church’s outreach strategy shows that the Church followed Jesus’ model of social networking.

On Pentecost, the number of Jesus’ followers who were gathered together was a mere 120 people. Yet, as the Spirit of God was poured out and Peter preached the gospel message, more than 3000 responded (Acts 2:1-41). While the apostles and other evangelists would play a key role in the spread of the gospel, increasingly the gospel would be spread by these ordinary Christians through their own social circles.

The structure of the book of Acts is made up of radiating people-group circles, with the command to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This rate of the transmission of the gospel through social networks would increase as persecution broke out against the Church and “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).

As has long been noted, the physical and social structures of the world of the early Church made networking possible on a grander scale. The Roman roads connected cities around the Empire, and those at Pentecost and those scattered by persecution were able to quickly take the gospel to their old or newly developed social networks. The common Greek language provided not only understandability, but a common way of thinking and a reference point for those sharing the gospel. The Diaspora assisted in the message transmission, with the synagogues serving as nodes or distribution hubs, connecting missionaries like Paul to family, friends, and a vast network of people who already believed in God and were looking for a Messiah. And as Paul goes through the household codes in his letters to Christians and draws out the implications for the gospel, he repeatedly encourages his readers to reach out to outsiders, make the most of every conversation, and impact every social stratum which they occupy for Christ (Col. 3:18-4:6).[5]

 

As noted above, while the gospel message spread through apostles, evangelists, and missionary bishops, it spread primarily through ordinary Christians. Unlike the public evangelism of the “full time” evangelists, this “ordinary evangelism” would have worked primarily through social circles. This is the very type of evangelism on display in Origen’s response to Celsus, who charged that Christians spread their beliefs in women’s quarters, leather shops, and laundries.[6]
In its beginnings, it appears that Christianity was largely a movement amongst the lower class, Jews, women, and agrarian society in Palestine, but it soon became a movement that encompassed Gentiles, men and women, the educated, and urbanites across the Roman Empire.[7] While there were many sociological, religious, and political reasons for this, social networking played a major role in the numerical growth and demographic shift of Christians in the first three centuries.

How can we use social networking today to share the gospel and start a new movement for Christ?


 

[1] Jesus’ connection to John the Baptist undoubtedly helped him tremendously in launching his ministry, a concept that is both testified to in the gospels (John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus) and by social construction theory. The authors of Palestine in the Time of Jesus state that kinship was the primary social domain of ancient Mediterranean societies, followed by political structures and associations. K. C. Hanson and Douglas E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 20.

 

[2] “Instead of immediately leaving one’s everyday work place and following without hesitation, [in John] there is networking with kin and friends in the villages.” See Dennis C. Duling, “The Jesus Movement and Social Network Analysis: (Part Ii. The Social Network).” Biblical Theology Bulletin (2000). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-94331533.html (accessed 5-14-09).

 

[3] See Hanson and Oakman, 99-129. See also Dennis C. Duling, “The Jesus Movement and Social Network Analysis (Part I: The Spatial Network),” Biblical Theology Bulletin (1999). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-94332368.html (accessed 5-21-09).

 

[4] Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, vol. 2 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 1544.

[5] For a summary of the conditions that favored the spread of Christianity, including the Roman roads and common language, see Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 579-80. In regards to the Diaspora, Stark writes, “In all the major centers of the empire were substantial settlements of Diasporan Jews who were accustomed to receiving teachers from Jerusalem. Moreover, the missionaries were likely to have family and friendship connections within at least some of the Diasporan communities. Indeed, if Paul is a typical example, the missionaries were themselves Hellenized Jews.” See Stark, 62.

[6] Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 208-09.

 

[7] Stark’s entire work, The Rise of Christianity, lays out these reasons and others for Christianity’s growth in the early centuries. Stark.

 





EVANGELISM WITHOUT DISCIPLESHIP

4 03 2011

Evangelism without Discipleship
Posted on February 28, 2011 by Dr. Tom Cocklereece

My readers know that I am passionate about disciple-making and it pains me when other Christian leaders accuse proponents of full discipleship of being less than zealous of penetrating lostness by saturation evangelism. I am just as zealous of evangelism as I am about the teaching part of the Great Commission. However, I am also against what I call “Constantinian evangelism” which is evangelism without discipleship. Allow me to explain.

CONSTANTINE’S CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY

Chi-Rho Symbol

In the spring of A.D. 311, Constantine and his force of about 40,000 troops marched toward Rome to confront the more numerous forces of Maxentius. In the evening Constantine saw a vision in the sky which was described as a bright cross with the words “By this sign conquer.” According to Constantine’s account, Jesus Christ told him in a dream to take the cross into battle as his standard. Constantine reportedly had his commander to mark every soldier’s shield with the Chi-Rho symbol- thought to be an early Christian sign identifying allegiance to Christ (Christianity Today).

CONSTANTINE SET THE STAGE FOR EVANGELISM WITHOUT DISCIPLESHIP

Constantine

Stories continue to circulate that Constantine supposedly marched his army through a river for a ritual mass conversion to Christianity or gave them a sprinkling baptism as they marched under a bridge. There is scant evidence that such a mass conversion event occurred. It is well documented in history that Constantine himself remained a superficial Christian at best during the rest of his life. The standard practice of that day for new converts to Christianity was a rigid discipleship course lasting up to three years followed by baptism. Constantine refused any such course of training and even refused baptism until he was close to death.

By his victory at the Milvian Bridge using the Chi-Rho symbol, many soldiers likely adopted the mark in a superstitious way. They accepted the symbol of Christianity while never seeking to really know the Savior Jesus Christ. Thus began what might be called “Constantinian evangelism” or evangelism without discipleship. Constantine may have instituted mass conversion of his military by the use of an indoctrination prayer:

Constantine’s Army Prayer
Emperor Constantine ca 320

We know Thou art God alone;
we recognize in Thee our king.
We call on Thee for aid.
From thee we receive victory,
through thee we are made greater than our enemies.

We recognize thy grace in present blessings
and hope on Thee for the future.
We all beseech Thee, we implore Thee
to preserve our king Constantine
and his pious sons safe and victorious to the end or our days.

In A.D. 303 it was illegal for a soldier in the Roman army to be a Christian; by 416 it was mandatory for a soldier to be a Christian (Adventist Review). The possible use of a prayer for either mass conversion (which converts no no one) or represents compulsory religious conversion by the state should send chills down the spiritual spine of any evangelical Christian. However, it does raise the question for evangelicals: “Do we use what is known as “the sinner’s prayer” in a similar manner?

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” The Sinner’s Prayer

Certainly evangelicals do not approve of or use the sinner’s prayer for state compulsory or mass conversion but the focus on evangelism and baptisms without an equal focus on discipleship raises concern.

INVESTING IN EVANGELISM FUTURES

Process Discipleship

I am not a proponent of a several year discipleship process before one is accepted as a genuine Christian. However, if only by default, many evangelical Christian leaders today may have unintentionally accepted a powerless form of Christianity—evangelism and conversion without discipleship, i.e. Constantinian evangelism. I am for all evangelistic efforts PLUS discipleship.

Discussions rage about the decline of evangelical churches and much of it centers on the need for more evangelism. However, undiscipled Christians are often poor evangelists. Consider that an original document is printed and then successive photo copies are made from copies of the original. Eventually the document will be unreadable. Undiscipled Christians may be like the illustration and fail to make new disciples. On the other hand, good discipleship of new Christians is an investment into future evangelism and real church growth.

Good discipleship of new Christians is an investment into future evangelism and real church growth.

It is time for the evangelical church to return to making disciples as the Great Commission commands—baptizing AND teaching. Church leaders should connect all discipleship ministries in an intentional process as well as cultivate a church culture where people are motivated to follow through in the growth process. The process must include missional opportunities that encourage hands-on ministry experience. Churches that do this are revitalizing their ability to do effective evangelism, as they create needed sustainability.

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QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT

1. When Jesus commands his church to make disciples, to what degree does the responsibility belong to the church and to what degree is it the individual Christian’s responsibility?
2. Do you think that some evangelists use “the sinner’s prayer” as Constantine may have used “Constantine’s Army Prayer?”
3. What process does your church use to make disciples?
4. Does your church focus on evangelism without a viable plan for discipling new believers?
5. Does your church take a passive laissez-faire approach to discipling new Christians?
6. How may your church improve the discipleship process?

Simple Discipleship Blessings!

Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist

The Simple Discipleship blog is read by Christian leaders in over 66 countries. Pray for this ministry as God has enlarged our territory!

________________________

Simple Discipleship: How to Make Disciples in the 21st Century was published and released by Church Smart Resources in November 2009. It is not a self-published book. To learn more about Simple Discipleship and to order the book, follow the link below:

http://www.simplediscipleship.com

——————–

Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC

Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist





THE GNOSTICS – THEN AND NOW

9 01 2011

Gnosticism is not a specific heretical movement in church history, but rather a broad umbrella term categorizing a loose collection of false beliefs.

Questions concerning the origins of Gnosticism are still unsolved. Some think Gnosticism originated as a heresy that diverted from orthodox Christian teaching, while others see the movement as an independent, non-Christian movement stemming from paganism.

What does it mean?

Everett Ferguson breaks down the diverse teachings of Gnosticism into eight categories:

  • A preoccupation with the problem of evil
  • A sense of alienation from the world
  • A desire for special and intimate knowledge of the secrets of the universe
  • A psychological (body and soul) and ethical (good and evil) dualism
  • A cosmology wherein all beings are derivative from the first, originating principle
  • A hierarchical anthropology of different classes of human beings with fixed destinies
  • A radically realized eschatology that denied the resurrection of the dead
  • A variety of ethical implications ranging from libertinism and asceticism

The Gnostic teaching on salvation was not based on Christ. Instead, “The content of the Gnostic gospel was an attempt to rouse the soul from its sleep-walking condition and to make it aware of the high destiny to which it is called.”

“The body is meaningless”

Some New Testament books contain corrective teachings to the Gnosticism that challenged Christianity. For instance, the spiritual elite at Corinth seemed to pride themselves on a special spiritual knowledge or mystical experience. They also questioned the resurrection and believed the body to be meaningless (which had profound moral consequences—such as promiscuous sexual behavior).

At Colossae, believers observed special ascetic practices by keeping ceremonies from the Jewish calendar and worshipped intermediate angelic powers. These proclivities illustrate two of the main tenets of Gnostic thought.

Jesus is above all

The Apostle Paul challenged the Gnostic heresies with a robust Christology. His solution to the false views of the body, the resurrection, and morality was to point them to the supremacy of Christ in his incarnation, life, death, and victorious resurrection.

The Gnostic teaching on salvation was not based on Christ.

Gnosticism was composed of such a broad variety of beliefs and teachings that it was challenged by many of the early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, and others.

Gnosticism Today

The broad teachings of the Gnostic movement comprise a surprising similarity with much of the New Age Movement today. But the best reason to be acquainted with Gnosticism is the popularity of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The DaVinci Code, in which much information from the Gnostic gospels is appealed to as factual truth. Some Christians, upon reading Brown’s book, find their faith shaken by the stories that oppose the teachings of Christianity. Those who find their faith weakened can look both to Scripture and church history for a refutation of the false teachings of Gnosticism.

This is from the excellent web log THE RESURGENCE and is written by Justin Holmcomb.  Check out the site for articles on apologetics.





BROKENNESS

28 12 2010

“In every generation, the people who have found God have been those who have come to the end of themselves. Recognizing their hopelessness, they have been ready to throw themselves on the mercy and grace of a forgiving God.”–A. W. Tozer





PAUL AT MARS HILL – CULTURAL APOLOGETICS

15 12 2010

Athens at the time of Paul was a city that in many ways lived in the past. It had ceased to have much economic importance. The school of Alexandria surpassed it in many ways. Still, however, the great Parthenon towered over the center of the city on the great rock of the Acropolis covered with the wonderful friezes that now are the prizes of world-class museums.

If it dazzles the eye still with its beauty in its nearly ruined state, imagine how it must have appeared to Paul when it was still in one piece. Though looted many times, pagan benefactors who honored the classical period had also filled Athens with temples, theaters, and art work to honor the intellectual gifts of Greece to Rome. The marketplace was still there and if it was less busy than before one could still remember that here Socrates had begun philosophy. The type of Athenian porches (stoa) that had given their name to the Stoic school could still be enjoyed to beat the heat.

The Academy still carried on its mission, even if it had little to do with the actual teachings of Plato, a short walk away and on the walk one could remember the teachings of Aristotle. In between the great Acropolis and the marketplace stood a small hill which the ancient Athenians called the Areopagus. It had served from deepest antiquity as an Athenian court. On the hill of the Areopagus, the archons, the members of the court, met and even under the democracy they retained some power especially over murder and sacrilege cases. By the time of Paul, it was a favorite meeting place for intellectuals where the judgments were more over ideas than men. So Saint Paul would have walked through the marketplace where philosophy was born to the hill where religious judgments had traditionally been made in the shadow of the greatest temple of the religion of Homer and of Delphi. Athens was still symbolically one the great centers of ancient paganism and as a symbol had no equal for it contained great icons of both pagan religion and pagan philosophy. The Areopagus, Mar’s Hill to the Romans, stood right in the center of the life of Athens.

Like Socrates, who was also accused of worshipping strange gods, Paul is brought to the Areopagus. Some question whether the site of Paul’s sermon would have been the literal hill of the ancient Areopagus as opposed to a meeting of the council of Areopagus , though the hill is marked as the site by the modern Greeks with a plaque containing Paul’s message. In any case, case Luke uses the literary symbolism well. The physically unimpressive Paul was to stand before the Athenians as a symbol of the new and greater philosophy.

Paul’s message is deceptively simple. Rhetorically, he uses the same technique that worked so well in his debates with the Jews. Paul will divide his audience winning the majority by implicitly attacking unpopular but still numerous minority opinions. In the case of the Jews, Paul divided the Pharisees from the Sadducees by appealing to his common doctrinal beliefs with the Pharisees. Here he will split the neo-Platonists and the Stoics from the Epicureans by appealing to his common ground with the neo-Platonists and the Stoics against the Epicureans. He was spectacularly successful.

Paganism and pagan philosophy never recovered from Paul’s message. When Paul begins his sermon by saying that he perceives that the men of Athens are very religious he is placing a wedge between the popular religion of Delphi and the religion of the persons on Mars Hill. Paul decries the idols in the city of Athens. Since Luke intentionally points out that Stoics and Epicureans are present, and Paul will quote a Stoic poet Aratus, the reader can be sure Paul knows that the Stoics are not idol worshipers. In fact, Luke is at pains to show Paul’s erudition as he also has the Apostle quote Epimenides, a sage of the sixth century. So at the very start of the speech, the compromise with Delphi is exposed and used by Paul to make a point. No Epicurean or Stoic believes in idols, but over their shoulders looms the great temple of Athena and all around them is a city given over to the worship of objects made of matter.

Philosophy has allowed the city to continue full of idols. The common people are permitted to continue in their gross ignorance to the benefit of the establishment. Through fear and through hope for gain, philosophy has allowed herself to become co-opted by evil. Christianity as presented by Saint Paul does not need this compromise. The great thinkers and the common church goers will have the same beliefs. There will not be a God of the philosophers that is distinct and hidden, in fear, from the person who kneels at the Christian alter.

Paul then mentions that he has “found” an alter with an inscription to an “unknown god.” In all probability Paul has seen one of many alters to unknown gods and has made the perfectly logical move that an alter to unknown gods is also an alter to an unknown god! The unknown gods in Greek thought are those that are propitiated in order not to accidentally miss a local or obscure divinity and so bring down divine wrath. It is not so much a god that anyone is looking for but one about which the locals might be ignorant. This is a point that Paul makes when he says that what they once worshipped in ignorance, he will now proclaim to them openly. This openness of proclamation is also an attack on the Gnostics who hide their gospel from public view.

Paul then points out that the true God cannot live in any temple made by humans and that no human could ever serve him. This was an obvious philosophical truth. If there is a God, then no temple can hold Him. He also creates all things and provides a basis of unity for all men who are His children. Paul is establishing points of agreement between his gospel and some of the philosophies of the Greco-Roman world. There is nothing in this sermon thus far that would have offended or even educated a good neo-Platonist or Stoic. Paul’s statement that the God is “creator” might have been controversial if it were understood as Paul meant it, but both Plato and the Stoic philosophers demonstrate that they would use language of “creation” even if they did not believe in a literal first moment in time or creation out of nothing.

Paul’s discussion that men are called to seek God with the hope of finding Him has Socratic echoes. Paul recognizes that there is a quest for the Divine and does not believe that this quest can be ended by any human effort. Instead this knowledge will come as a product of divine revelation an idea that Plato seemingly allows for in construction of the liver in Timaeus. Four centuries of interaction with philosophy had now proven beyond a doubt to the Greco-Romans on Mars Hill, man is not only political, not only desires to know, but he is also religious. Man wishes to know God. Paul has not found God, but God has found Him.

At this point, Paul has utterly separated himself from the Epicurean philosophers. They cannot accept his religiosity. He will increase that gap by quoting from the Stoic sage Aratus who says that in the god, “we live and move and have our being.” Any neo-Platonist present also can accept what is being said since, as we have seen, neo-Platonism has been deeply influenced by Stoicism.

Paul’s call for a day of judgment also can be understood as being compatible with Stoic teaching. The Stoic cycle that ends in fire could easily be perceived as a day of doom for this present existence. However, Paul then presents the offense of the gospel to the persons on Mars Hill. He states that a man will judge the world and that this man can be known to be divine by the fact that God has raised him from the dead.

At this point the Epicureans can have nothing but mockery for Paul, but the Stoics also are also unable to move forward. Their atomist view of the soul makes any idea of the personal survival of any individual after death difficult though until the conflagration perhaps the good souls may survive for a time. From the return to the Divine Fire no man or soul can survive. As a result, Paul’s placing the man Jesus as the judge at the day of doom is incompatible with Stoic doctrine. They cannot accept Paul’s teaching.

The philosophical integrity of the Athenians saved some of them from missing Paul’s message. Paul argued well and many wanted to hear more of his message. In this sense, they were the pagan equivalents of the Berean Jews who sought out the truth of Paul’s message in the Sacred. The main group well positioned to hear Paul would have been the neo-Platonists. These thinkers could allow for the personal survival of a human soul for all eternity. (Phaedo) They had access to creationist language in Timaeus. They had a notion of a final judgment in the Republic’s myth of Er. The unity of humankind was not foreign to them.

What did they lack? They had not concept of the God becoming man and then providing a way for man to become like God. The idea of the Incarnation linked to theosis (man becoming like God) was exciting. That the divine Creator should “appoint a man” to judge the world at the Day of Doom and by doing so raise this man to divinity was beyond novel. In many ways, the Christology that lies behind this part of Paul’s remarks, uniting the Divine logos with man forever is the answer to the dilemma of Plato’s Cave. It is no shock that at least some of the persons on Mars Hill came to faith quickly. In the conversion of Dionysus the Areopagite, we see the model of the Christian Greco-Roman world to come.

Persecutions lasted for three hundred years, but the faith continued to spread. It was particularly successful in attracting tough minded and rhetorically skillful defenders. Christianity was bubbling with ideas, some heretical, and some not. It had the intellectual and moral energy that paganism and philosophy had lost. As a result, it began to attract the first rate intellects of the day. More and more frequently, Christian bishops would make spectacular advances in theology appropriating the philosophical language and techniques of the pagans to their own ends. These dazzling intellectual structures, the formulation of the two natures of Christ and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, would become the basis for Western and Eastern Christian thought.

In the face of this accomplishment, Constantine the Great become convinced that only Christianity could preserve his Empire. Though inconsistent in his practice of the faith, after all there were no Christian emperors to serve as role models, he established a Christian foundation for an Eastern Roman Empire that would preserve learning, philosophy, and faith for one thousand years, eventually passing these riches on to the Islamic Empire and the West.

This post is from the blog SCRIPTORUM which is sponsored by the Torrey Honors Institute. It is written by John Mark Reynolds.