In the midst of the high octane culture wars of the last ten years, Christians have been labelled all sorts of things: intolerant, bigoted, arrogant, narrow, dogmatic, just to name a few.
But, one noteworthy word stands out. Christians have been labelled haters. Despite the fact that Christians are to be known by their love (John 13:35), it seems the world often associates us with hate.
A couple observations are worth noting about this phenomenon. First, this sort of accusation against Christians is, at its core, a moral objection. Rather than the standard historical or logical objections often leveled against the faith, this one is fundamentally about ethics. It is claiming that Christian behavior violates some moral standard that all should follow.
In other words, the claim isn’t merely that Christianity is false, but that Christianity is bad.
…But there is a second observation to be made, namely that such accusations are far from new. It’s easy in the heat of the current cultural moment to think that our situation is unique. No Christians have ever faced what we face, we might think.
But, that’s simply not the case. Christians in the early centuries faced precisely the same accusations, and often much worse. Let me offer just two examples: Pliny the Younger and Emperor Nero.
…Of course, the earliest Christians were as monotheistic as their Jewish predecessors and quite unwilling to play along with the standard religious practices of Greco-Roman culture. For Roman rulers trying to keep the peace, Christian intolerance of other gods was a perennial frustration.
Pliny the Younger, Roman governor of Bythinia (writing c.111-113), expressed his frustration over the fact that Christians would not “invoke the gods.” In a letter to emperor Trajan, he lamented their “stubborness and unyielding obstinancy.” In other words, he was angry over their intolerance.
Why was Pliny so bothered? Because the influence of the Christians had caused the pagan temples to be “deserted” and thus “very few purchasers could be found” for the sacrificial animals.
In other words, they were losing money.
To fix the problem, Pliny decided to force Christians to worship the pagan gods and curse Christ, and if they refused they were put to death. He says, “As I am informed that people who are really Christians cannot possibly be made to do any of those things.”
It is interesting to note that Pliny, while torturing these Christians, acknowledged their high moral standards: “[Christians] bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.”
Apparently, intolerance of the Roman gods was enough of a reason to kill Christians, despite their holy lives. Read More»
Michael J. Kruger | “When Were Christians First Regarded as Intolerant “Haters”?” | January 17, 2023
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