Recently I have been reading a historical study by Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity. A sociologist of religion, Stark investigated the success of the early Christian movement, which, starting from a few thousand followers, grew to encompass half of the population of the Roman Empire in three centuries. In the midst of a hostile environment, the Christians simply acted on their beliefs. Going against the majority culture, they treated slaves as human beings, often liberating them, and elevated women to positions of leadership. When an epidemic hit their towns, they stayed behind to nurse the sick. They refused to participate in such common practices as abortion and infanticide. They responded to persecution as martyrs, not as terrorists. And when Roman social networks disintegrated, the church stepped in. Even one of their pagan critics had to acknowledge that early Christians loved their neighbors “as if they were our own family.”
– Yancey, Phillip
as quoted by Brown, Steve; Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad At You; Howard Books; New York, copyright 2012; Kindle Edition; Location 2411
No longer “martyrs” – that is witneeses – to God’s unique intervention in history in Christ’s incarnation, life death and resurrection, we become satisfied customers who offer testimonials to how much a personal relationship with Jesus has improved our life. In this pragmatic and therapeutic context, it makes little sense to talk about Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life ” (John 14:6) apart from whom there is no salvation. We would rather commend Christ as someone whom we have found personally helpful and meaningful as we encounter life’s challenges.
– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 53-54
While the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, the assimilation of the church to the world silences its witness.
– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p.16
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out the absurdity of those who doubt the historicity of the New Testament. In a remark biting with sarcasm against modern-day intellectuals, Scalia stated exactly what we’ve been saying regarding the motives of the New Testament writers. Namely, since the New Testament writers had nothing to gain and everything to lose, we ought to believe what they say about the Resurrection. Scalia declared “It is not irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses who had nothing to gain…The [worldly] wise do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. So everything from Easter morning to the Ascension had to be made up by the groveling enthusiasts as part of their plan to get themselves martyred”
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 293