The History of Christianity #65
Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is Matthew 7:21 which reads: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Martin Luther. He said: “Faith is a living and unshakable confidence. A belief in God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Christian Life” (Part 2) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
It was mostly out of this rank and file that legends and writings arose with a very different tone from that of Justin and the other Christian scholars. Foremost among these writings are some of the Apocryphal Gospels and some of the Acts of various apostles and of the Virgin. This includes the Acts of Peter, the Epistle of Jesus to King Abgar, the correspondence between Mary and Ignatius of Antioch, the Gospel of Bartholomew, and many others. The miraculous plays a central role in these writings, even to the point of the ridiculous. Thus, for instance, in one of the Apocryphal Gospels, young Jesus amuses himself by breaking the water jars of his playmates and throwing the pieces into a well. When the other boys burst into tears, saying that their parents will punish them for having broken the jars, Jesus orders the water to return the broken jars and these come up unscathed. Or, when Jesus wishes to be atop a tree, he does not climb like other boys. He simply orders the tree to bend down to him, sits on it, and tells the tree to return to its original position.
However, this naive credulity should not lead one to underestimate those common Christians. A comparison of their theology with that of more cultured Christians does not always favor the latter. Thus, for instance, the active, sovereign, and just God who is depicted in many of these apocryphal writings is closer to the God of scripture than is the ineffable and distant One of Clement of Alexandria. Furthermore, while the great apologists made every effort to prove to the authorities that their faith was not opposed to imperial policies, there are indications that some common Christians were well aware that there was an unavoidable clash between the goals of the empire and the divine purpose. When one of these Christians was taken before imperial authorities, we are told that he refused to acknowledge the authority of the emperor, and declared that Christ was “my Lord, the emperor over all kings and all nations.” Finally, while some of the more cultured Christians tended to spiritualize Christian hope, in the faith of the common people there was still the vision of a Kingdom that would supplant the present order, of a new Jerusalem where God would wipe away the tears of those who were suffering under the social order of the empire.
Next time, we will look at Christian Worship in Christian Life.