Tag Archives: early church history

Buildings of Worship

Milan Cathedral, Italy

Milan Cathedral, Italy

SPLENDOUR IN WORSHIP. To the ancient simplicity there now succeeded a taste for religious pageantry, the natural associate of ease and opulence in a superstitious age. The notion began to prevail that in order to captivate the multitude, Christianity needed to be surrounded with pomp and presented under images of sense. The example of Constantine gave a powerful impulse to this movement. In his new capital on the Bosphorus, in Antioch, Jerusalem and other places, he erected churches which emulated in their magnificence the grandest of the heathen temples. . . Did it never occur to the good bishops of the age of Constantine that all this outward glory, however it might harmonise with the character and purpose of the Old Dispensation, is foreign, if not wholly repugnant, to the spirit of the New? So far from being able to serve God better in their glittering temples than did the early Christians in their simple unconsecrated buildings, the allurements of sense which they took so much pains to accumulate, were the very means to obstruct and render more difficult that worship in spirit and in truth which is alone acceptable unto Him. — Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pgs 237-238.

Even today, magnificent churches span the globe. Unparalleled in opulence and splendor, these churches have become not just a testament to the immense wealth the church has amassed, but they have become normative for every religious sect. Many today still believe that they can worship God better in bigger buildings decorated in costly materials and crafted with the most intricate and ostentatious architecture. What they fail to realize is that church buildings have become the biggest idol in the hearts of religious leadership and their followers. Just as these elaborate buildings interfered with the purity of worship in Constantine’s day, so it is today. Churches have become places of religious showmanship, rooted in elaborate orations and music aimed at getting religion’s followers to let loose of their pocketbooks.

We must understand that church buildings have nothing to do with God. They are a mutation of paganism with early Christianity; an invention of Constantine’s own theological devices.  Early Christians had no designated “churches” of worship. Pagan temples were converted to “churches” in order to bring the masses together to congregate into one place so that they could be monitored and controlled by clergy. This is exactly what many churches of all denominations do today. They monitor and control those that enter through their doors and use the tactics I elaborate on in my book, Religion’s Cell, to bring about thought reform to the specific institution’s ideals and dogmas.

There is nothing wrong with meeting in a building in this day and age to worship. There is everything wrong with the way in which organized religion wield’s it’s power and control over people in order to control and manipulate them once they enter into the “church building.” Real Christianity is missing in many of today’s religions due to corruption. . . it has turned into a system of showmanship and of amassing wealth instead of a system of purity rooted in helping the poor, the fatherless and the widow in need.

Maintenance of the Clergy

TAT CoverDuring the early days of Christianity, church leaders all worked and provided for themselves and their families. Offerings were never taken for the maintenance of clergy. The offerings were always distributed to the poor and needy, the widows and orphans, the captives. The corruption, of men taking for themselves from the offerings, didn’t happen until the third century. It was shortly after they started taking a portion of the offerings that they then began to EXACT the monies for their office. God never commanded us, nor showed us by his example, that those who shared the gospel should be partakers of any earthly goods of others. As a matter of fact, scripture tells us that they are not to take from the people (see my book, The Truth About Tithing)!  Jesus was a carpenter by trade. Paul was a tentmaker. Other Apostles were fishermen. None of his disciples lived off the offerings they received that were given to help the poor. This corruption, of men living off the backs of the poor through their forced tithes and/or giving, has to be one of the grossest and most blatant misuses of the position of ‘Pastor.’ Many passages have been twisted or overlooked in order to propagate this lie and, my book, The Truth About Tithing, exposes them.  Here’s what early church history tells us:

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Early Church History to the Death of Constantine

by Edward Backhouse, 1906

MAINTENANCE OF THE CLERGY. We have seen how, in her days of pristine simplicity, the ministers of the Church supported themselves by their own labour. The free-will offerings of the congregation were at first appropriated to the use of the sick and the poor, of orphans, widows and captives. By degrees a portion of the weekly contributions was set apart for the maintenance of the presbyters [pastors].  At a latter period, in some churches a three-fold, in others a four-fold, division was adopted; one share, in the latter case, being appropriated to the bishop, another to the rest of the clergy, a third to the church building and service, and the remainder to the poor. [Notice how the sick, poor, orphans, widows and captives who once received 100% of the offerings are now relegated to only one portion of them. They are the ones that need it the most!]

In the circular issued by the synod of Antioch against Paul [of Samosata], . . . and the Apostolical Constitutions say, “Let the young be diligent in their business, so as to have enough for their own support and to bestow on the needy. For we ourselves besides our attention to the word of the Gospel, do not neglect our inferior employments. Some of us are fishermen, some tentmakers, some husbandmen; for none of those who are dedicated to God ought to be idle.” We have seen in Cyprian’s lamentation over the state of the Church, that the pursuit of trade was not unknown to the African clergy, and was indeed too eagerly followed by some. The council of Elvira forbids the bishops and clergy to be itinerant merchants, but permits them to trade within the province. They were however on no account to exact usury. Even so late as A.D. 398, the fourth Council of Carthage directs that “clergymen, however learned they may be in the divine word, should provide themselves with food and clothing by some handicraft or agricultural labour, but not to the hindrance of their office in the Church; and that such as were strong enough to labour should be instructed in some handicraft and in letters.”

Chrysostom also, about the same time, has described the country clergy around Antioch: “Their language was not Greek but Syriac. They were engaged in agriculture at one time following the plough, at another taking their turn in the pulpit; at one time hedging or cutting thorns with a bill hook, at another sowing the seed of the word; being able to boast of a very small modicum of worldly learning, but yet fairly acquainted with the Holy Scriptures.” “The bishops and presbyters of those early days,” observes Hatch, “kept banks, practised medicine, wrought as silversmiths, tended sheep, or sold their goods in open market. They were like the second generation of non-juring bishops a century and a half ago, or like the early preachers of the Wesleyan Methodists. They were men of the world, taking part in the ordinary business of life. The point about which the Christian communities were anxious was, not that their officers should cease to trade, but that in this as in other respects they should be ensamples to the flock. The chief existing enactments of early councils on the point are, that bishops are not to huckster their goods from market to market, nor are they to use their position to buy cheaper and sell dearer than other people.”

But this liberty was not suffered to continue. The Church had now become subject to the State. It is true we find Theodosius at the end of the fourth century exempting the inferior clergy from the trading tax, provided their mercantile transactions were kept within bounds; but this immunity being abused, all clerical persons whatsoever were by a law of Valentinian III. (A.D. 425-455), interdicted from trade.
The practice of taking fees for the services of the Church, a practice utterly unknown in her days of purity, was not admitted without opposition. In Spain, at the beginning of the fourth century, it had become a common custom to drop a piece of money into the font or box as a gratuity for the rite of baptism. The
Council of Elvira prohibits this custom, assigning this cogent reason, “Lest it be thought that the priest gives for money what he has freely received.”  In the same spirit, at a much later period, the Council in Trullo forbids the clergy to receive any thing from the communicants at the Lord s table, because “the grace of God is not an article of merchandise, nor is the sanctification of the spirit to be bought with money.”  In like manner Jerome declares it to be unlawful to take a fee for performing the burial service. — Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pgs 233-235.

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According to Backhouse, the third and fourth centuries were where the origin of tithing developed. Iranaeus, Origen and Cyprian began planting the seeds toward tithing by teaching that tithes were similar to ‘first fruits.’ Cyprian even taught that, “on the ground that the tribe of Levi was supported by tithes in order that it might be devoted entirely to the Lord’s service, claims the same inheritance for the Christian clergy, who receive as it were tithes, that they may not depart from the altar (Backhouse).” By equating the office of Bishop and presbyter with the Levite Priest that served in the Temple, it allowed them to also add to the position the same honor, reverence and holiness of the position that the Priest in the Temple held. This also instilled a “fear” of going against the “man of God.” Does any of this sound familiar? Of course it does. Presbyters, Bishops and Priests (or whatever other term used for leadership) attained for themselves a holiness and reverence that was never given them by God. They stole these honors through craftiness in order to benefit and reap personal gain.

The idea had acquired a yet stronger hold in men’s minds by the time of the Apostolical Constitutions where they later added, “As the Levites, who attended upon the tabernacle (in all things a type of the Church), partook of the gifts, offerings, first-fruits, tithes, sacrifices and oblations, so you, O bishops, are, to your people, priests and Levites, ministering to the Holy Tabernacle, the Holy Catholic Church, ye who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and bloodless sacrifices through Jesus, the great High Priest. . . . Oblations and tithes belong to Christ and to those who minister to Him. Tenths of salvation are the first letter of the name of Jesus. (Backhouse)”

By deceiving the people into believing that priests, presbyters and bishops were similar to Levite priests that served in the Temple, it allowed the Catholic clergy an avenue into people’s pocketbooks. This one corruption has proliferated down through history and has become so massive, that it has allowed uneducated and self-serving men to enter into the ranks of pastoral leadership while earning salaries that rival many large corporations.

It’s time for clergy to earn their own livings and provide for their own families. Offerings should be dedicated 100% to the poor and needy and not divided between administrative expenses, employee expenses, building expenses, expense accounts for pastors and, pastoral salaries. Christians everywhere should be angry at having their finances siphoned by religious institutions that coerce or force giving and/or tithing through fear of judgment or cursing from God. There is nothing wrong with giving, but there is everything wrong with giving under duress or threat of punishment. Many churches use tithing as a means to determine one’s Christian character and, as a prerequisite for serving in the church!  Some churches, like the one I was involved in, would not help you if you were in desperate need of help, if you did not tithe! Tithing was used as a weapon against the poor and needy — the very ones that God COMMANDED we take care of — because they could not afford to tithe.  Yet, when the truth is brought to light regarding this lie about maintaining clergy, many will fight against it and, against the one that points out the corruption. Remember, I didn’t invent this truth, I am just pointing out what has already been pointed out by someone else. Maintenance of the clergy is the biggest ponzy scheme this side of heaven. We had better wise up to this lie of the church and start requiring clergy to get a job and support themselves. Imagine how many poor could be helped just with the savings in clergy salaries?

Christianity before Constantine

church historyEarly church history is full of examples of Christianity that parallel today’s Christianity and its leaders. Sometimes there is no need to elaborate because the truth speaks for itself. The following excerpt by Eusebius in the latter second century speaks volumes of what complacency and prosperity does to Christians. This, sadly, is what we see today as well. Nothing has changed.

Eusebius has left a description of the Church on the eve of the persecution, by which it may be seen how ill-prepared were the professors of Christianity to withstand so tremendous a shock. After telling us that many places of trust, and even governments of Provinces, were in the hands of Christians, who enjoyed entire freedom of speech and action on the subject of their religion, and almost boasted of this liberty; and after dilating “the multitudes who in every city crowded together for worship, not in the old buildings, but in new and spacious churches,”  he confesses that “the unwonted ease and honour they had enjoyed had robbed them of faith and love.” “We envied and reviled one another: we assailed one another with words as if with actual darts and spears, which indeed we were almost ready to take up. Rulers inveighed against rulers, and people rose up against people; hypocrisy and dissimulation abounded. The divine judgment, which usually proceeds with a lenient hand, began by little and little to afflict us; but, as if destitute of all sensibility, we were not prompt to propitiate God, some even acting as though they thought He took no account of their conduct. Some who ought to have been our shepherds, abandoning the law of piety, were only anxious to acquire lordship over the rest.”

Handling Opposing Beliefs

oppositionOne of the most important lessons one can learn in life is how to handle a person with an opposing view or belief.  Church history is fraught with opposing belief systems and examples of how they were handled. Usually, they ended with one side castigating, shaming and shunning the opposition, or, the murder of the opponent.  Sadly, not much has changed today. When it comes to opposition of beliefs, there seems to be no room for logic or reasoning. Religious dogmas and doctrines aren’t open for logical and rational discussion. Even outside religion, people will not give those they disagree with the “benefit of the doubt” and reason with them respectfully and with grace. They do not know how to “agree to disagree.”  Instead, they attack in anger that eventually leads to name calling and vitriol, and, public slandering.  Why is that? One would think that with all the advancements in technology, the advent of the internet and, access to information, that people today would be better educated and better able to reason with others. Sadly, this is not the case across all religious denominations. No matter the culture, religious beliefs trump sound reasoning and logic and lead to war. What we see today is not only religious wars, but, we also see individuals pitted against each other! They take to the internet and use their words to defame and discredit and shame those who disagree. They have left off sound reasoning coupled with respect and grace and love toward those who disagree with them.  So, is there a way to handle an opposing belief without going to the place of anger and attack? Yes! Let’s look at an example from around 232 A.D. of how any and all opposition SHOULD be handled. I have, thus far, found no other example like this and was simply impressed by this man’s love and grace. When faced with the opportunity to attack this man, he extended nothing but good words about him. THAT is unheard of in today’s culture.

Dionysius was born about 200 A.D. He was one of two of the most brilliant pupils of Origen and became Bishop of Alexandria in due time. He lived during a time when Christians were being persecuted off and on. Not only this, but the bishops and presbyters were also fighting amongst themselves to gain pre-eminence and control within the Christian communities. Dionysius exemplifies true Christ-like conduct toward opposition. This is something that I have not witnessed with today’s Christianity yet. Nothing would thrill my soul more than to see this attitude extended to all. The root of this type of behavior is evidently LOVE toward his fellow man. Let’s look at this amazing example:

An Egyptian bishop, named Nepos, taught that a millennium of sensual indulgence on the earth was to be looked for. His error survived him, and Dionysius undertook to write a refutation of it. In his treatise, however, instead of denouncing its author, he speaks of him with reverence and affection. “Not only do I in many things agree with Nepos; I loved him, both for his faith and industry, his knowledge of the Scriptures, and his careful attention to psalmody by which many are still delighted. I reverence him also, because he is gone to his rest. But the truth is to be loved and honoured above all.”

Besides undertaking to answer in writing the erroneous opinions of Nepos, he held an oral disputation with Coracion, the chief leader in the heresy, and his adherents. In his conduct on this occasion he has left a remarkable example of the manner in which Christian disputants ought to behave towards one another. “When I was at Arsinoe,” he writes, “I called together the presbyters and teachers, with those of the brethren who desired to be present, and proposed we should examine the doctrine together. They entrenched themselves in Nepo’s book as in an impregnable fortress. I sat with them three whole days from morning till evening, endeavouring to refute his arguments. I was greatly pleased to observe the constancy, sincerity, teachableness and intelligence of the brethren, the moderation of the questions and doubts that were advanced, and the mutual concessions which were made. We studiously avoided insisting upon our own preconceived opinions, however correct they might appear to be. We did not attempt to evade objections, but endeavoured as far as possible to keep to the point. When reason required it, we were not ashamed to change our opinions, but received sincerely, and with a good conscience, opening our hearts towards God, whatever was established by the Holy Scriptures. In the end, Coracion, in the hearing of all the brethren, confessed himself convinced by the arguments advanced, and declared he would no longer promulgate the erroneous doctrine.”

What a testimony this is! No arguing and screaming. No imposition of dogmas and beliefs! Just respectful, logically sound reasoning ensued, allowing for Coracion to save face and retain his integrity!  Dionysius made sure that his opponent’s character, honor and integrity remained intact. He did not defame and slander. He did not publicly humiliate and castigate. If only people would love others THIS MUCH to do the same in areas of dispute! We certainly can apply this example to not just religious disputes, but all disputes. What a marvelous example God has left us of one of his children. Thousands of years later, Dionysius’s example still shines through with the light of Christ. My hope is that through his testimony, others will endeavor to emulate his behavior in handling those that disagree with us. Don’t take to being offended by opposition. Use it to show love and respect toward your fellow man. How you act in times of opposition speaks loudly of your TRUE Christian character. Let’s not give place to division and learn to genuinely love others enough to respect them and love them, even when we disagree with them.

Christians and Military Service

militaryOne of the many areas of concern for Christians is whether or not God is okay with them serving in the military. I remember when my oldest son, at the young age of 14, became enamored with the military. His whole desire was to serve his country in the armed services as soon as he was old enough to enlist. However, when he became of age and expressed this earnest desire to preachers and church leaders, they did all they could to discourage him from joining the military. One preacher even went so far as to have a church service where he made a former military man (because he enlisted after the preacher told him not to many years prior) apologize publicly for being in the military as if it was a huge shame to have done so, and a dishonor to God! This preacher gave the congregation the impression that this soldier had dishonored and disobeyed God.  This wasn’t a dishonor to God. What happened was the man did not listen to the preacher. It’s all about control here. How sad that this man was made to feel that his years of service and sacrifice were not pleasing to God and that God could not use him because of it.

Many preachers, in the cult I came out of, taught that if a person joined the military, they would be contaminated by ungodly living and vices that would make them useless to God. This is what they expressed to my son. Really? Is God that SMALL that HE is not powerful enough to bring about good from the life of a sinner if such a thing should occur? Is every person that joins the military without self-restraint or morals? (That’s basically what they are saying about those who do join.)  Who is MAN to decide who God can or cannot use for his purposes? God did not give preachers the authority to control the lives of others with their opinions and doctrines. God gave the Holy Spirit to individuals to guide them, not church leaders.  Sometimes, people forget that.

This issue of serving in the military has been an ongoing issue from the beginning with Christians. As a result, many zealous Christians, thinking they were standing for God, brought shame, reproach and harm upon those who served with them.

During the early centuries, Christian leaders did everything they could to discourage believers from enlisting just as they do today in some religious sects. They even went so far as to instruct new believers who were already serving to abandon their service. Why? Did not King David fight many wars? Did not Saul fight many wars? Did not the early Jews fight wars to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem or to conquer Canaan? Was God angry with them for doing so? Because they were kings and leaders, did it exempt them in some way from God’s anger or from being a dishonor to God?  Does serving a non-Christian King give one the right to refuse to be called into service even though God is the one who determines those in authority and commands us to honor them? Does serving a Christian King make fighting and serving okay? Did not God command the Jews and Kings to wipe out entire people’s? If so, then why would God be against military service, especially in time of war?

Sadly, the reasons given to Christians for not serving in the military, have been fabricated and twisted by religious leaders in order to control them. It has nothing to do with God. It has to do with control. When church leaders were telling my son that it was not God’s will for him or anyone else to serve, what right did they have to say such a thing?  Think about this: If God puts it on the heart of a man or woman to serve their country, who are these religious leaders to tell them it is not God’s will for them? God has given his spirit to each individual to guide them in performing his will in their life. For a religious leader to tell others what God’s will is for them is a usurping of the Holy Spirit’s position in the life of a believer! In the end, this type of teaching about serving in the military will only bring the same consequences that it brought the early Christians. Let’s see how it affected one early Christian and those he served with in the military. My words are in brackets in these passages and all bolded emphasis is mine.

“Do we believe it lawful for a human oath to be superadded to one divine? for a man to come under promise to another master besides Christ, and to abjure father and mother and all nearest kinsfolk whom even the law has commanded us to honour and love next to God Himself? Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? Shall the son of peace take part in the battle, when it does not become him even to sue at law? [These are all excuses religious leaders gave early Christians to keep them out of military service.] . . . If faith comes later and finds any pre-occupied with military service their case is different; and yet when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed, there must be either an immediate abandonment of the service, which has been the course with many, [God does not command this] or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God; or last of all, that same fate must be endured for Him which non-combatant citizens are ready to accept.”

In the same tract he relates an instance of refusal, not indeed to enter the army, but to wear the laurel wreath of victory. The bounty of the Emperors was being dispensed in the camp; the soldiers were approaching crowned with laurel; some of them were Christians. “One, more steadfast than his brethren (who imagined that they could serve two masters), his head alone uncovered, the useless crown in his hand, was nobly conspicuous. [This is what many Christian zealots do. They are “nobly conspicuous” drawing attention to how separated, righteous, noble and holy they are in comparison to others.] He was presently marked out, and all began to jeer him while at a distance, and to gnash upon him when he came near. [For the Christian, this treatment is worn as a crown of honor, showing others how noble he is to take persecution for his faith, not realizing that he is just being foolish in bringing persecution unnecessarily upon himself.] The murmur was wafted to the tribune, as the soldier was leaving the ranks. The tribune stopped him. ‘Why do you not wear your crown like the rest?’ ‘I have no freedom to do so,’ [Must be a religious, unspoken rule.] he answered. Being pressed for his reason he confessed, ‘I am a Christian.’ The case was considered by the officers and voted upon, and it being decided to remit the judgment to a higher tribunal, the offender was conducted to the prefects. Immediately he put off his heavy cloak, loosed his military sandals, gave up his sword, and dropped the laurel crown from his hand. [He is so prideful that he is willingly to throw down his life?] He was taken to prison, where,” adds Tertullian, “he awaits the white crown of martyrdom. [What about his family? He certainly is not thinking about them! That’s pretty self-centered. What is the reason he is going to die? What is the cause?  Pride.]  Adverse judgments,” continues the writer, “have been passed upon his conduct, as if he were headstrong and rash and too eager to die [Ya think?], because, in being called to account about a mere matter of attire, he brought trouble on the bearers of the Christian name; — he forsooth alone brave among so many soldier-brethren, he alone a Christian! [He wasn’t the only Christian. He was the only one brazen enough to be so foolish and, too proud to retract his words and humble himself.] So they murmured and were alarmed because the peace and immunity they had so long enjoyed was endangered.” [He endangered the safety of other Christians because of his attitude and foolishness.]

— Edward Backhouse, Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pgs 111-113.

What this tidbit of history shows us is that a soldier, thinking he was serving God by refusing to wear the victor’s crown of laurel, ended up being a reproach to other Christians and endangered their safety as a result. Did he think that God would be against wearing the laurel? Seriously? Sounds like a bit of SELF-righteousness and pride to me.  Little behaviors and attitudes such as this are the cause of persecutions for Christians. What many do not realize is that sometimes, there are those that are brainwashed into believing things that God did not say and, by example in scripture, did not require of anyone. How many Christians bring upon the name of Christ a stench because they are over zealous in their rules, self-righteousness and separation?  You have to be really good at twisting scripture to convince someone that wearing a victor’s crown is wrong because you are a Christian. You have to be really stupid to die for that belief. Could this young man simply have “put his foot in his mouth” and then was just too proud to retract it?

It takes some genuine humility and unconditional love toward those who are not Christian, to truly behave the way God would want and, to be the example to them that God would want. This soldier could have spared his life if he would have just humbly put the crown on his head and apologized. Humility and unconditional love of others will cause a person to look to the benefit of others and do all they can to not be a rock of offense to them. If you are not sure about some rule or doctrine, humble yourself until you can do some research on it! Don’t be as foolish as this soldier was.

Before we take to drawing a battle line in the sand regarding service in any area, think about the perception you are giving off to others. Is it offensive? Are you, by your actions and words, letting others know loudly and clearly that you are holier and more righteous than they are because of your faith? Will this perception bring any of them to Christ or, turn them away? (Just remember that there are non-Christians that have more ethics and morality than some Christians.) This attitude is repugnant to others and gives off an air of judgmentalism. Many Christians, like this lone soldier of the first century, will be persecuted because they bring it upon themselves through foolish attitudes, thinking and behavior.

This early Christian wasn’t refusing to serve, he was refusing to wear the victor’s wreath upon his head – something that is no offense to God! Is serving in the military wrong for the Christian? No. If God leads you to do so, then do it.  It doesn’t matter what church leaders say about it. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, not men. Clothe yourself in humility and unconditional love and you will never be a rock of offense to others, bringing reproach upon yourself or God, whether in the military or not. What some Christians forget is that soldiers sacrifice their lives and families so that they can enjoy safety and freedom. How repugnant for those who now serve, or have served, to say that God is against it and that they will be a bad influence on a Christian that decides to enlist and serve. It’s not the service that makes the difference with God. It’s the thoughts and intents of the heart. For religious leaders in the cult I came out of to imply that everyone who joins the military will be corrupted and be of no use to God, is also implying at the same time, that those already in are corrupt and have no moral foundations! By default, they judge those in the military as a whole, paint them with a broad brush, and then they themselves complain when they get judged by unbelievers and painted with the same broad brush. The only difference is that Christians call it “persecution.” That certainly sounds more “noble,” doesn’t it?

Service in the military does not corrupt people — poor character, lack of ethics, lack of morality, PRIDE, love of money, self-centeredness, a thirst for power and control of others, loving conditionally instead of unconditionally — these are what corrupt people.

A Heathen Perspective

judgmentOf those who wrote during the first two centuries the most noted was Celsus, an Epicurean, whose treatise, entitled The Word of Truth, written about A.D. 160, is known to us only by the refutation which nearly a century afterwards it drew from the learned pen of Origen.

Amongst the charges which Celsus brings against Christianity, are the absurd conduct of those who preached it and the vulgar character of those to whom it was preached. Underneath his words, often false and unjust, there lies a profound homage to the truth, the more valuable because it is involuntary. He describes the preachers: “There are many nameless persons who in the most facile manner act as if they were inspired. They go through the cities, declaiming within the temples and outside the temples, and through the armies, everywhere attracting attention. They declare, I am God; I am the Son of God; or, I am the Divine Spirit. I have come because the world is perishing, and you, O men, are perishing for your iniquities. But I want to save you; and you shall see me return with heavenly power. Blessed is he who now does me reverence. On all the rest I will send down eternal fire, both on cities and countries. Those who know not the punishments which await them shall repent and grieve in vain; but those who are faithful to me I will preserve eternally. To these promises they add strange and unintelligible words which every fool and imposter may apply to serve his own purposes.” — Edward Backhouse, Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pages 108-109

Celsus was a heathen philosopher that was not for the Christians. As a matter of fact, he employed his abilities in warning people against them. His perception of them was that they gave off a holier-than-thou spirit that was judgmental. They were isolating themselves and their families and giving off a very unfriendly attitude.  Most Christians refused to participate in any of the outside activities of their time once they were converted.  It made the heathen feel like they were wicked and evil influences even if they were just as moral or ethical as the Christian.  It led them to believe that Christians thought something was wrong with THEM – a very offensive attitude. There were many Christians at this time that had exemplary conduct morally and ethically; and yet, forgot the most important directive that has ever been given – Love your neighbor as yourself.  Ostracizing themselves and their families from non-Christians and worldy activities that they once particpated in, was not showing love and allowing love to draw them to Christ.  Even back then, many Christians were so caught up in the rules of separation and holy living that they could not see how this behavior was perceived as offensive.  Backhouse talks about their unwillingness to “show themselves friendly” to the heathen people.  They forgot they lived amongst heathen that had the ability to pick up on these offensive attitudes of self-righteousness and judgmentalism that emanated from them. This attitude only exacerbated the other things that the heathen did not like about them.  Another reason they did not like Christians was that there were those that were serving their own purposes and bringing to fruition their own agendas as mentioned in the quote above. Another reason  for the animosity was that they did not worship the heathen gods. Even though the latter was considered a bad thing, it could have been overlooked if only the Christians reputation had not been tarnished by the perceptions of unfriendliness, self-righteousness and judgmentalism. There was a large number of Christians that did not unconditionally love heathen people, did not show themselves friendly as Christ did, and did not allow non-believers to come to know Christ at  their own pace; accepting them as they were and allowing God to do the work. Instead, they were forcing their beliefs upon the people through threatenings of eternal damnation. As a result of this, there were many bogus charges levied against the early Christians that were preposterous.  These preposterous accusations followed Christians everywhere they went as a result! This eventually led to the Christian being heavily persecuted for not worshiping the heathen gods; which was the legal way of taking them out of the picture. Many countless Christians lost their lives as a result.

When I read the above passages, it reminded me of the Balaam Phenomenon that I wrote about in my book and on this blog. What Celsus saw happening with Christian pastors then, is the similar to what we see today. Many of them were usurping the position of a god. They were paying themselves undue homage and claiming and authority they did not have. They usurped the Holy Spirit’s position in the lives of the people and had the audacity to tell people what God’s will was for them instead of letting the Holy Spirit guide them. They were furthering and bringing to pass their own agendas at the expense of others. And, as Celsus said so well, “they add strange and unintelligible words which every fool and imposter may apply to serve his own purposes.” In other words, they were twisting the truth to further their agendas. Add to this the many grievous words heralded against them regarding hell if they did not repent and get saved. Truly, if the unconditional love of God and his unconditional acceptance of sinners was the theme of every Christian’s message and actions,surely the persecutions would have been much less.

What we can learn from this bit of history from a heathen’s perspective, is that not much has changed. People do not like to be made to feel like they are “less than” anyone else. They do not like to deal with those that think they are “above” them and look at others with an air of arrogance, self-righteousness and judgmentalism. This type of conduct will always bring about persecution. It did then, and will today. Because of the those that give off a stench of being holier-than-thou and, separate themselves from the world – being perceived as unfriendly –  the majority will bear the brunt of the labeling that will take place against them. If Christians undergo persecution today, it will be because of the same issues that plagued them back then and throughout history.