Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday cometh...

It is Friday and I need it. I was up at six this morning to get ready for the President's Prayer breakfast. It was early, but man did I look good in my suit and tie. Sometimes you just have to praise God for even things as simple as Friday. Praise Him.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hated or Loved by the State?

This is a brief paper I wrote for my Church History I class. The assignment was to evaluate whether it would be better for Christianity to be persecuted by the state and opposed by prevailing culture OR to be accepted by the prevailing culture and given special priveleges by the government. We were forced to "fall off the log" and take a position, so I took one which I thought the majority of my class would disagree with. I don't truly know my concrete position on this issue but enjoyed the rhetoric I employed nonetheless. Enjoy.

Tertullian is quoted as saying that, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Tertullian is no doubt correct, for the persecution that the Early Church endured allowed it to flourish at an alarming pace. Yet Tertullian is also correct when he states that this type of persecution is the "seed of the church." What is brought forth from persecution is an environment which is less physically hostile to Christianity and even has the ability to aid the Christian effort. If the Church continued to endure a state of persecution it would remain merely a seed and never reach the full glory which God has destined for His people. The Church cannot exist in a perpetual state of persecution and therefore the Church is more effectual when the prevailing culture accepts it.

Clearly a persecuted Church has its advantages. The reality is that intense persecution often develops deeply entrenched faith. There is no room for indecision when one is faced with either denying his Lord or being torn apart by wild animals. The lines become clearly drawn: either you are on the side of light or the side of darkness. Due to the faithfulness of thousands of Christians facing death throughout the centuries many have beheld the power of God and been converted by such testimony. Where the Church is persecuted, it also flourishes.
Yet certainly a Church which is consistently persecuted runs the risk of extinction. Perhaps the reason this has never been a threat is because as the Church increases under persecution it eventually becomes quantitatively powerful. Cultural tolerance therefore appears to be the inevitable outcome following intense persecution. Eventually the Church becomes just too numerous to be violently opposed!

If cultural acceptance is the natural outflow of persecution then this result must have its benefits. The people no longer have to fear physical threats. A Church accepted can use its influence to transform a secular culture. Yet unfortunately there is a greater possibility for corruption and abuse. A person not faced with the pressure of denying Christ or accepting death is able to be less concerned about ethical matters and faithfulness because there is no immediate risk of martyrdom.

Ultimately, persecution is only able to remain temporary and therefore we must look to an accepted Church as the preferable option of the two. While the venality of the Church is therefore magnified this is by no means a sovereign decree that corruption will eventually seep into the Church. God has chosen to use the Church as His primary method for both the proclamation of the Gospel and the maturation of believers. Is it not reasonable to conclude that God is not going to allow His Church to be extinguished? If the Church falls to the deception of power God will remedy the situation. The Reformation is a clear historical event which points us to this reality. While the finer points of the Reformation are debatable, it is evident that God used Martin Luther to begin a cleansing of corruption from the Lord’s Bride.

Rather than focusing on the plausibility of extortion becoming a reality within the Church, it would do well to note that when the Church is related to the governing powers it has the ability to spread its influence through a wider variety of mediums. The Church Father Cyril used his position to politik in favor of orthodox theology and influenced the christological direction that the Church underwent. Persecution aids in weeding out the lukewarm but ultimately gives way to an ecclesiological formation that is accepted by the prevailing culture. The goal should not be to bring persecution in order to inspire devotion but rather to properly use the authority and relations which the Church maintains in a culture which is, at the very least, tolerating.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

So sorry!

For all of you who faithfully read my blog (yes, all...three, four?) I will not be posting until September the 15th. Currently Jen and I are in the process of moving into our apartment and our internet service will not be activated until the 15th. But don't worry, I will return soon! I miss blogging already...