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Entries in Pelikan (1)

Monday
Feb042013

That new-fangled religion

In the years following the death and resurrection of Christ, as Christians began to come to grips with what had happened, and as the Scriptures were being recorded and gathered, there was, naturally, a lot of conflict from those opposed to Christianity.  It was not just the Jews who objected to this new way; pagan religious forces also objected to what what appeared to be new and unproven.

Jaroslav Pelikan, in his book The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, talks about the fact that one of the hurdles Christianity had to overcome was its newness:

It was also part of the campaign to prove the superiority of Christian doctrine on the grounds of its antiquity. Antiquity was widely regarded in pagan thought as lending authority to a system of thought or belief...

Because the Christian message was based not simply on some timeless truth, but on historical events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus under Pontius Pilate, it appeared to be discredited as an innovation.

I could not help but see the irony in this compared to today.  Now, we consider that which is from antiquity as being outmoded our obsolete.  We tend to be suspicious of that which is old, and assume that the new is better.

Truly, there are those who wonder if there were any real Christians before Calvin and Luther, or worse, before Billy Graham or D.L. Moody.  We may turn our noses up at identifying with the historical church, but soak ourselves in pop culture, thinking it more enlightened.

Christianity was at one time suspect based on the very thing which we attribute as a vitrue: being innovative. Pelikan's observations certainly had me thinking.