Were the Early Christians Unblemished??

July 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

I want to give you a quick answer up front to the question posed in the title above.  The answer is absolutely not. Let’s use the following quote from Harvey Cox in his book the Future of Faith as a starting point for this post.

Recent discoveries about the first three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus shed a bright new light on a series of old enigmas. They help clarify how Christianity deteriorated from a movement generated by faith and hope into a religious empire demarcated by prescribed doctrines and ruled by a priestly elite. They trace how a loose network of local congregations, with varied forms of leadership, congealed into a rigid class structure with a privileged clerical caste at the top ruling over an increasingly disenfranchised laity on the bottom. They help explain why women, who played such a vital leadership role in the earliest days, were pushed to the underside and the edges. These discoveries suggest that Christianity was not fated to develop as it did, that what happened was not simply a natural process like a tiny acorn growing into a mighty oak. A different historical trajectory was possible, and this has significant implications for the future.

Some of my posts coming up it might look like I am trying to put all the mistakes of the church onto Constantine but as quoted above much of it actually took place before that fateful event at Nicene in the fourth century.  When humans are involved in any structure or event they tend to pollute it innocence. This actually started happening to the Christian church even before it became a State religion. As mentioned a privileged clerical cast arose who tried to take over the many varied local congregation even in the early church.  Some were successful; some were not. One example of humans polluting the innocence of the church was the fact that they pushed out women as significant part of church leadership because that is how the empire treated them. Women were to be considered property of men and not leaders of an institution. How could they then be leaders of a religious colony? Knowing about the past is vital not to return to it, but to learn from it, from both its mistakes and its successes. Even the early church had its mistakes as well as its successes. It is important that we recognize that fact if we are to learn from those early Christians going forward in a new church paradigm…

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