Why Christianity Won

The often quoted historical reason why the new religion called Christianity succeeded is that its adherents showed such deep commitment and a steady unwavering love for each other. Even, when confronted with the spectacle of their brethren being torn apart by wild beasts for public entertainment, they did not deny their faith, (though they often kept it completely secret until they too were discovered.) Such victims of persecution openly held their ground and did not renounce Christ. Though they had to meet in secret, and to all intents and purposes became a secret society - the merits of Christian teaching and the truth of a gospel of divine, even miraculously ever present help and promise of salvation spread and took hold too fast for the persecutions to continue indefinitely. The Roman empire eventually was forced to capitulate to Christianity or face total collapse.

I don't dispute this, but when I have been taught this it always seems to have put spin on the issue to further the purpose of modern organised churches. There is that famous argument of a pastor visiting a church member who had not been attending services lately.. that the pastor took a coal from the fireplace, which cooled and went out, then replaced it and it began to glow again. The story goes that the service the next Sunday had another attendee. I ask,.. If the merit in the church is only the company, and they're all going to burn -why jump back in?

All secret societies work on exactly the same principle. Some could call it the old boy network. Can this be the reason Christianity thrived when numerous other societies fell by the wayside?

The mystery cults in the Graeco-Roman era thrived because of the new lines of thought from the philosophy of the day. The state religion existed to keep the order in the state and made no guarantees as to the personal salvation of the individual, especially in regard to the weight of guilty conscience, or sin. The mystery religions sought in the old religions imagery and metaphor for their teachings of salvation by patron saviour gods. Finding one's place amongst these alternatives to the strict and entrenched Jewish influences, they had gone in the complete opposite direction to the concept of a national religion.

Christianity provided everything for the "gentile" world that the Jews and the mystery cults could not provide. They had an inherited scriptural canon, they had ample mechanisms for atonement and propitiation for sin, as well as a clearly defined definition in the scripture of precisely what (a) sin was. They made the brotherhood of the Christian collective, Israel, a nation state of equals, whether male or female, free or bond, etc. Without burdening the individual with the whole gamut of Jewish tradition,.. which was always the largest hindrance to Jewish mission work. They had a clearly defined saviour in the person of Jesus Christ. Moreover It is the personality of Jesus and his teachings that made the most difference. Nothing had ever matched Christ before or has since. Saviour gods before had been vaguely defined ethereal, even mythical personalities with no clear teachings on the efficacy of any belief in them. Christ's words spread like wildfire because he was a believable saviour. Later, emperors had declared their own divinity in a last ditch attempt at resurrecting a mystery cult around the state, but compared to Jesus Christ, these attempts were obvious and laughable, requiring no more than lip service and a little extra taxation. Even in the face of such a "minor" compromise (in the opinion of roman law enforcement) Christians, so enamoured and devoted to Jesus, would not deny Christ and refused to accept the emperor as a god.

Though the Jews had survived as a self-segregating community, free from outside influence or corruption because of its strict code. The satellites of god fearing non-Jews were ready in every way to hear the teachings of the early Christian missionaries. The idea many people have today, that somehow these people were primitive and uneducated,.. that these religious ideas were preying upon the superstitious is painting Christianity in a poor light. Although the Holy Trinity are all-powerful Gods that can free individuals from the superstition of astrological determinism - Christianity did not preach that God over-rides these baleful influences. Quite the opposite. Many mystery religions used this device to attract initiates under the wings of the deity, perhaps a mechanism for contributions for prayers by the priesthood. Christianity, especially in Jesus own teachings teaches the superstition has no merit.

Those who flocked into the cults in order to protect their superstitious selves from the planets were taught in Christianity that no such power exists,.. and this perhaps did not work in Christ's favour in the superstitious individual, who would have seen Jesus as a risk. The superstitions preyed upon by the cults offering an alternative to expensive divination and magic, were they to realise they shouldn't be superstitious - would have gladly accepted the doctrine of Christianity that was more in line with the impetus of the greek philosophy, rather than the oriental ideas of astrology that muddied the waters. Christianity was all in all, for the level minded - and as modern at that was in the face of near universal panic and superstition - gained it much favour amongst the empire.

The reason the religion of Jesus Christ succeeded, was the personality of Jesus. The love seen in his disciples is merely a reflection of the emulation of Jesus Christ, and the love for the truth of his teachings. Jesus Christ, as the seed of Israel, the Son of David, The Messiah - The shifting of a physical relationship amongst the Jewish tribes called Israel, to the spiritual kingdom of Jesus' elect as the true Israel, was anathema to the Jews,.. but clearly understood by everyone who had lived in those states with a failing national religion and the growing mystery religions. - It was in essence, the identity of the believer in (spiritual) true Israel, (the kingdom of God and body of Christ) that succeeded. NB read that back. 'Identity of the believer' Not the body or the collective, but that the individual had a place in the body, and the identity he had within it was something to live up to, sometimes as a slave if need be, but always as a son of God.

Source - "The Mystery Religions and Early Christianity" by S. Angus Dover Publications, Inc. New York

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