What the Early Christians Believed About War

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A second element of the faith tradition of Christianity, with rare exceptions, is a plan of salvation or redemption. That is to say, the believers in the church picture themselves as in a plight from which they need rescue. For whatever reason , they have been distanced from God and need to be saved. The agent of that redemption is Jesus Christ. It is possible that through the centuries the vast majority of believers have not used the term essence to describe the central focus of their faith. The term is itself of Greek origin and thus represents only one part of the tradition, one element in the terms that have gone into making up Christianity.

Essence refers to those qualities that give something its identity and are at the centre of what makes that thing different from everything else. To Greek philosophers it meant something intrinsic to and inherent in a thing or category of things, which gave it its character and thus separated it from everything of different character. Thus, Jesus Christ belongs to the essential character of Christianity and gives it a unique identity. If most people are not concerned with defining the essence of Christianity, in practice they must come to terms with what the word essence implies.

Whether they are engaged in being saved or redeemed on the one hand, or thinking and speaking about that redemption, its agent, and its meaning on the other, they are concentrating on the essence of their experience. Those who have concentrated from within the faith tradition have also helped to give it its identity. It is not possible to speak of the essence of a historical tradition without referring to how its ideal qualities have been discussed through the ages.

Yet one can take up the separate subjects of essence and identity in sequence, being always aware of how they interrelate. Article Media. Info Print Print.

Baker Academic Early Church Collection (22 vols.)

Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction The church and its history The essence and identity of Christianity Historical views of the essence Early views Medieval and Reformation views Modern views The question of Christian identity The history of Christianity The primitive church The relation of the early church to late Judaism The relation of the early church to the career and intentions of Jesus The Gentile mission and St.

Sullivan Paul A.

War and military participation

Crow Martin E. Marty Bernard J. McGinn …See All Contributors.

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The church and its history The essence and identity of Christianity At its most basic, Christianity is the faith tradition that focuses on the figure of Jesus Christ. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. I have seen it in my own life. The works of novelists such as Toews and Rudy Wiebe challenge Mennonites to reconsider the ways in which the stories we tell about ourselves may prevent us from recognizing violence in our midst.

While it is not difficult to find early texts that repudiate killing in various circumstances, [29] I know of none that repudiates non-lethal violence. Used in the New Testament to describe people, crowds, winds, and waves, bia can carry connotations of violence, strength, and force, depending on the context. What we more often find in many early Christian texts is a renunciation not of violence p er se but of anger.

Many extant early Christian texts demonstrate the influence of this line of thinking.


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We find this idea expressed in early texts like Di dache 3. Using this logic, Christians could—and did—justify committing acts of violence, so long as they acted not out of anger but out of a loving desire to correct. In fact, the use of force was thought necessary in the exercise of discipline. At least this is what the churchman Origen assumes in a homily he preached to the Christians who gathered daily in Caesarea Maritima around the year It is necessary that you a sinner, attended by God, taste something more bitter so that once disciplined, you may be saved.

And just as when you, punishing a slave or a son, you do not want simply to torment him, rather your goal is to convert him by pains, so God, too, disciplines by the pains from sufferings those who have not been converted to the Word, who have not been cured. In a provocative study of Christian violence in late antiquity i. Certainly the norms of late Roman secular society allowed for many situations in which physical violence was thought to be entirely appropriate.

A certain degree of usually nonlethal violence helped to enforce asymmetrical power relationships. Those in authority were expected to use disciplinary beating to control the behavior of those under their command. Masters could beat their slaves or servants, teachers their students, fathers their children.

noforsiode.tk Where did one draw the line between deadly violence and corrective discipline? Does it matter if the early Christians were pacifists? I have argued that it matters that we tell the story of the early Church as honestly as possible. By identifying the Constantinian shift as a decisive breaking point in the history of the early church, we minimize the ways in which the potential for violence in all human relationships has continually plagued Christians from the first century to the present day.

By letting go of an idealized image of a golden age that never was, Mennonite pacifist Christians may be better equipped to name, acknowledge, and overcome temptations to violence in all its forms. There was no draft. They were not pacifist in the sense of asking Nero to call off the superpower struggle against the Parthians. But they were nonviolent. They saw in the passion and death of their Lord the model of divine-human virtue to place over against other visions of human prospering.

Doing without dominion was not for them a second-best alternative to glory; it was the way to participate in the victory of redemption.


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    If we wanted to, could we actually withdraw or flee from, hide from those powers? If so, how and to where? Press, , Theodore J. Long, ed. John D.

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    Translations of De Corona are based on those of S. Thelwall in Ante-Nicen e F a t h ers 3, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. And by this discipline he was known as a Christian and he shone forth. Press, ; , 11, The s ac r ame ntu m oath of the m iles dei soldier of god was a competing and more extreme version, an inversion and a rejection of the oaths of loyalty to the Emperor and his ministers, with their offices, honors, and symbols of power Freed from complexity, guilt and confusion could be washed away….

    Knopf, Numerous studies have traced the influence of Stoic and Platonic thought in particular on the New Testament authors, especially Paul. See St o icis m in Ea rly Christi a nity , ed. See Clayton N. Jefford, ed. Press, The full homily repays a close reading. See Origen, Hom ili e s o n Jer em i ah a n d 1 Kings 28, trans.