Thursday, April 05, 2012

How Christianity Wins

Christians do not accomplish the mission of Christ by having the loudest voices, the best political machinery, the catchiest tunes, the funnest games, the slickest evangelistic presentations, or the most relevant lifestyles. Christianity wins simply by the blessing of God as she faithfully obeys his Word. I was reminded of that by reading this paragraph in Paul Stephenson's biography of Constantine. Drawing on the research of Rodney Stark, Stephenson writes that, in stark contrast to paganism,

Christianity offered a new vision, where both abortion and infanticide were forbidden, and virginity before marriage was prescribed. Christians discouraged marriage below a certain age and banned consummation of a marriage between a man and a child bride, such that the average age of marriage for Christian women became twenty, whereas for pagan women it was twelve. One must add that the rate of reproduction among pagans was very low: men favoured birth control..., indulged in homosexual sex, took concubines and patronized both male and female prostitutes, who in turn favoured various methods of birth control and abortion when necessary. All of these practices were forbidden to Christians, as most were to Jews. Roman men who converted to Christianity were obliged to have vaginal intercourse with their wives, and if pregnancy resulted, were obliged to have a child and raise it, regardless of its sex. Moreover, a Christian woman would have a community to support any resistance she offered to the directives of a pagan husband to do otherwise. As a consequence of this moral code the Christian population reproduced far more effectively than other Romans, and there were rapidly far more Christian women than pagan women, as a proportion of their communities.(Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor, 40-1)

We live in days reminiscent of, though certainly not identical to, the early church in the West, and these early believers have much to teach us about how to be faithful.

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