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April 12: Five Reasons for the Victory of the Early Christian Church

Vision Viewpoint, Christian radio program and ministry of Reformation Hope Church in Hartford, WI, continues its series in examining the five reasons Christianity triumphed at the decline of the Roman Empire, and why it will continue to triumph against all opposition it faces.

Edward Gibbon, in his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the still famous classic work of the history of the Roman Empire, noted in his famous chapter fifteen of that great historical work that Christianity was responsible for "erecting the triumphant banner" of its faith on the ruins of the empire itself. The empire could not defeat the Christian church.

Gibbon believed there were five singular reasons for that great victory of the early church. We have spoken of one of these on yesterday’s broadcast of the Vision Viewpoint Christian radio program. There is yet another one we can address. The Christian faith (Gibbon uses more technical terminology and calls it "monotheism" – the concept of a singular God) brought a worldview that in turn brought about the revolutionary concept of the unity of the Godhead and the fact that there is one God manifested in three distinct persons. This was a revolutionary notion in that era, and still is today. A unified worldview comes as a result of this concept – in fact, our word "universe" refers to the unifying theme of there being a singular purpose to all the world around, and beyond.

Of course, this is a Christian worldview. Gibbon knew that the Christian faith prevailed because it brought such a view to a world that was divided culturally among hundreds of idolatrous and competing religions, and different cultural ethics as a result of those religious beliefs. He noted, however, that Christianity brought an "anchor of hope" and a faith in Jesus Christ that gave hope to the millions that had no more to live for than the next meal on their plates. The vast majority of the people in the Roman Empire had nothing – they were either abject slaves, peasants, or conquered peoples, having little more to life than to eek out a meager existence. The Christian faith provided an "anchor" – we’re told in the Bible that hope is such an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. It brings us within the veil – the veil referring to the Old Testament, and the veil that was torn when Christ died on the cross, and direct access to the Father was made. At the moment of Christ’s death, men were able to come unto God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

This was and is a revolutionary concept: the idea that mankind could find something beyond this world, other than some vague concept of some deity or power or some force or cosmic principle – things that give men no hope in this life. The Christian faith presented a personal God, and presented the fact that men are made in His image. Because of our sins, we have turned our backs on Him, but with the Christian faith, men are given cause for turning unto God in repentance.

The Christian faith gave a liveliness and hopefulness in a despairing world, and Gibbon noted that fact. The Christian faith also brought the laws of God – a code of morality and universal absolutes that made sense in the daily affairs of life. All that the Christian faith produced brought the hope that is an anchor to the soul, as rooted in the personal walk of the Christian with his Lord. Christianity offered a personal Lord and a powerful worldview for looking at life.

A simple Gospel, a life-changing Gospel that calls forth the power of the Lord and the change of heart, provided by God’s grace, and which gives a strength to the soul that ennobles as well as enables the heart to believe. As a result, the temples of the ancient world were emptied. Not because someone lay siege to them with sword or chariot, but because men preferred and turned about from their sins and idolatrous hearts and filled the lowly churches each Lord’s Day Sunday to hear the Word of the Lord that changed their lives. It was that presence of faith that impressed the great agnostic historian – not a Christian himself – Edward Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Vision Viewpoint is a ministry of Reformation Hope Church in Hartford, WI. The Christian radio program will continue its series this week in looking at Gibbon’s reasons for the prevail of Christianity at the decline of the Roman Empire.

Comments

  1. The Druid
    May 11th, 2012 | 2:42 am

    The repeated concept of Three Persons working in concert, inseperatable, undefeatable, and both invisible / visible…. to bring both creation and salvation both to people and nations is revolutionary and powrful.

    May His new work find both victory and a new shong among the Saints today as those of Gibon’s story.

    For our King,

    The Druid

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