Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ten Marks Of The Early Church

The Point, Prison Fellowship's blog, seeks to examine and discuss various issues of the day from a Christian worldview perspective. It's a component of Chuck Colson's ministry and a great complement to his BreakPoint Commentaries. Today there was a posting entitled "Ten Marks of the Early Church," which were drawn from pastor David Fairchild's website where he quoted the list from the work of "Rodney Stark and other sociologists."

Note that mark 3 of the Early Church is "They were against abortion and infanticide." The important note here is that the Christian life and witness of the early Church resulted relatively quickly in a Christian Empire that outlawed many of the evils of the day, including abortion, infanticide, homosexuality, adultery, etc. and enshrined biblical moral values within the laws of many Christian nations. These laws survived for about fifteen centuries and served Western civilization well.

Until, of course, this past century, when the collapse of traditional Christian morality paved the way for the resurgence of these past evils. I wonder, in God's eyes, who will bear the greatest judgment for this resurgence...the pagans or the Christians?

David Fairchild [who has a link to interesting San Diego kaleochurch] says,
Let’s prayerfully think through these values and match them to the witness of our own churches.
He concludes his posting with a challenge suited to all Christians,
Whenever Christians pick up the values of the Gospel and begin living them out in our city we are on the one hand vilified for our values and at the same time oddly attractive in ways that often confound our most vocal opponents. If we experience neither vilification nor attraction what qualities of our life are missing which mark Kingdom citizens through history?
Christians in Canada, take note. It may not be too late to turn the tide back to God and to a saner society. We must acknowledge our sins, repent thoroughly of them and turn our hearts to God. We can make a start by stopping the killing of innocent children in our land. If we're not prepared to turn our attention wholeheartedly to that first basic task, how do we expect God to take us seriously? Is that really too much to ask?

The ten marks appear below.

• 1- They refused to attend bloodthirsty entertainment. They wouldn't go to gladiatorial events because they believed it defiled humans who were created in the image of God. This made them appear to be anti-social. Tertullian and Augustine both write about these events in a negative light.

• 2- They did not serve in the military to support Caesar's wars of conquest, which made them appear weak.

• 3- They were against abortion and infanticide. In this culture, both were considered acceptable. To throw your baby out on the dung heap if you didn't want it was not taboo.

• 4- They empowered women by showing their value and dignity in places of learning and service which had previously been exclusively for men. Christians held women in high regard and treasured them rather than viewing them as just a step above expendable children and servants.

• 5- They were against sex outside of marriage. This fidelity was considered odd and against culture. Sex was viewed as nothing more than a desire like eating or sleeping. Christians held a high view of the bed and kept it pure and would not engage in sex outside of marriage.

• 6- They were against homosexual relationships. This was odd in a time when same sex practice was not frowned upon.

• 7- They were exceptionally generous with their resources. They shared what they had with one another and welcomed others in with a hospitality that was unparalleled.

• 8- They were radically for the poor. In a time when the poor and downtrodden were viewed as getting what they deserved, they were aggressively committed to loving and serving people in the margins of society.

• 9- They mixed races and social classes in ways that were unseen in their gatherings, and for it they were considered scandalous.

• 10- They believed only Christ was the way to salvation. This was in a time when everyone had a god and could believe something entirely different and it was totally acceptable to be polytheists and pluralistic. Christians dared claim that Jesus was the only way and refused to bend to other gods.


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