Friday, December 17, 2004

Christianity and Historic Norms

Matt has an interesting blog discussing the attacks upon Christmas. I must say that I agree with most of his thoughts. I do disagree with the off hand idea that we should let the pagans have Christmas. It seems to be against the principle of being salt in the world, but that is not the main point of Matt’s thoughts. He is saying that we should make sure Christ is our savior and lord before getting caught up in making sure people say Merry Christmas. Good advice.

However, I will be quibbling with his opening lines. Again, it is not the main point at all, but it is a point that caught my attention. He states that America is returning the historical norm, and becoming antagonistic to Christianity. I disagree that the historical norm is countries being antagonistic to Christianity.

Yes, the first 3 centuries were persecution after persecution. However after Constantine there are at least 3 more of peace and a government protective of Christianity. In fact, during this time the Church received great creeds and weeded out heresy from among her own boarders. Then in the 7th century Mohammed and Islam begin to persecute those who live under their rule. Yet, this is hardly the majority of the Christian world. America is also not reverting to Islam, so I think that example does not fit into the idea of historical norms.

Even during the Middle Ages when the Pope put to death Jan Huss and others for proclaiming the gospel, it hardly qualifies as countries being hostile to the gospel. At best a few centuries could be added to list of times of persecution. Even during this time, John Wycliff survived under a country that did not care to persecute those who preached the gospel. The Reformation broke out and many places were protective of Christianity. Luther was added by the local lords. So were many Swiss cities. Heidelberg Germany and the Elector Fredrick III protected true Christianity. England and Scotland went through brief persecutions, but came to embrace the gospel. America, as admitted, was founded on Christian principles. Even when examining Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (admittedly I have an abridged edition) the martyrs go from Rome in the 400’s to the Spanish Inquisition of the 1200’s. It seems that at best the historical norm is 50-50. Persecution is by no means necessary. Yes, Christ promises us that. We should not be surprised by it. Yet, he also promises us that the gospel preached will not return void. Countries have often been made receptive to Christianity by the pure proclamation of it. While, I agree that America is turning its back on Christianity, I do not think we need see it as inevitable, nor as a historical norm. If the church does her job, the culture will follow.