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How Christianity Conquered Rome, Part 1

June 3, 2008

Without a doubt, one of the most significant turn of events in the history of the West is Christianity’s rise to dominance in the Roman Empire from its humble beginnings in the Judean countryside. Those who hold to a high view of God’s sovereignty will rightly attribute this fact to the working of the Spirit of God through the church to fulfill the Great Commission and establish the Kingdom of Christ throughout the world. Granting this explanation as the ultimate cause behind the rise of Christianity, it is instructive to ask further questions regarding how the early Christians went about spreading their new faith and conquering Roman paganism. How did they do it? The early church historian, Eusebius, points out for us one cause of Christianity’s rise in number of converts and cultural influence. During a plague of the early fourth century in Caesarea, Eusebius says,

…the evidence of the Christians’ zeal and piety was made clear to all the pagans. For example, they alone in such a catastrophic state of affairs gave practical evidence of their sympathy and philanthropy by works. All day long some of them would diligently persevere in performing the last offices for the dying and burying them (for there were countless numbers, and no one to look after them). While others [ie. Christians] gathered together in a single assemblage all who were afflicted by famine throughout the whole city, and would distribute bread to them all. When this became known, people glorified the God of the Christians, and, convinced by the deeds themselves, confessed the Christians alone were truly pious and God-fearing.
– From Ecclesiastical History 9.8.13-14

According to Eusebius, it was acts of charity performed by Christians that aided along the advance of the Christian gospel. I don’t think we should assume that Eusebius intended to emphasize social justice to the exclusion of the actual preaching of the gospel. However, his point still stands that the involvement of Christians in social justice ministry revealed the lie of paganism and confirmed the truth of Christianity. Let us do the same.

Stay tuned for more. I plan to give further evidence for this point in a future post.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2008 12:25 pm

    Oh, I love this subject! Great idea, Matt.

    But some might say that Christianity’s conquering of Rome soon led to Rome’s capture of Christianity. Might be an interesting angle to explore.

  2. Matthew Crawford permalink
    June 5, 2008 7:45 pm

    Great question, Adam. I hope to comment on this topic in a later post. Stay tuned!

  3. rob permalink
    December 31, 2010 3:42 am

    rome didnt capture Christianity thats more ignorant talk from protestants as cleay laid out in the prophecies of the scriptures the rightful authority is peter’s succesors and the seat would be set finally in rome until the second coming. All future branches out are imposters

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  1. Eusebius’ History of the Christian Church | Reason To Stand

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