Tag Archives: morals

A Different Kind Of Faith — Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

The uniqueness of Christianity sets it apart from other world religions. At times, believers have received ill treatment ranging from simple ridicule to outright persecution. In the first century, Christianity appeared as a faith different from anything the Roman Empire had ever seen. Although many differences emerge upon close examination, Christians differed from their religious neighbors in three significant areas: their worship of one God, the promotion of morals, and religious practice.

Exclusive Worship of One God. Christians differed sharply from their pagan neighbors in worshiping only one God at the exclusion of all others. The Romans had no problem with Christians worshipping God as long as they paid respect to the gods of Rome. Pagans saw early Christians’ refusal to do so as both bizarre and intolerable. Christians acquired the reputation of being seditious, divisive, and dangerous to the well-being of the empire.

The Romans tolerated Jew’s insistence upon worshipping Yahweh alone because of the antiquity of the Jewish faith. As a recent development with no ties to any particular ethnicity or nation (Gal. 3:28b), Christian beliefs found little sympathy. The Romans saw the exclusive worship of one God as unprecedented and unjustifiable.

Promotion of Morals and Ethics. Christianity is not merely a religion of theological tenets and beliefs but prescribes distinctive ethical teachings. The typical person in the ancient world made little if any connection between religion and morals—this was the domain of philosophy. The religious were interested in placating the gods and warding off unwanted attention from vengeful spirits. Christianity offered a moral and ethical system of belief designed to imitate God’s holiness and righteousness (Eph. 5:1-14). Indeed, ancient religion had little interest in emulating the gods, whose behavior was often deplorable if not criminal.

Religious Practice. Religious activities made up a significant part of the fabric of daily life. Christianity differed from paganism in that it had no altar, sacrifices, depictions of God, shrines or temples, or priesthood (at least, not how pagans understood them; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Pet. 2:5). Temples could often be found in the heart of the city, and shrines and altars could be seen throughout (e.g., Acts 17:16). Rome expected its citizens to worship the gods, which Christians in good conscience could not do.

With an abundance of opportunities for showing the necessary reverence to the gods, Christians must have had a difficult time navigating society. In the modern world, concealing one’s Christian faith is relatively simple; in the Roman Empire, such a thing would have been almost impossible. Living out the faithful Christian life was not only a matter of choice but of consistency. New Testament writers commended the perseverance of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:2-7) and the Ephesians (Rev. 2:2-3) for their resolute faith under challenging circumstances.

The behavior of the early Christians must have left their neighbors befuddled. The disdain and even hostility of the Romans toward early believers is proof of the distinctiveness of the Christian faith. It differed from both the traditional religions of the classical world and the mystery cults. In spite of the consequences they suffered for their faith, Christians lived their lives as a “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9). They weathered the efforts other others in their day to compromise their distinctiveness and conform to popular attitudes toward religion. They serve as a model for those today who still seek to imitate Christ and bring the light of life to a darkened world (2 Cor. 4:6-11).

Dewayne is a minister at the New York Ave. Church of Christ in Arlington, TX. He serves as a staff writer for Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.

Editor’s Page, May/June 2013 Issue – David R. Pharr

Since death comes to all men, regardless of nationality, color, education or rank, every thoughtful person knows that, even at best, he cannot stay here very long…With the exceptions of Enoch and Elijah, the mortality rate has been the same the world over – one death per person.

Gus Nichols, 1973

 

What stand does your congregation take in regard to various moral issues that are at the forefront of American society?  Yes, I am confident that those who read this – preachers, elders, strong members – know and believe what the Bible teaches relative to abortion, homosexual conduct, gay marriage, drugs and alcohol, racism, divorce, living together outside of marriage, etc.  But the question is how firmly and how specifically is the truth being taught on such matters?  And, how confident are we that attendees and the community around us know we hold an unwavering position?

The world (and maybe some in the church) does not consider it “politically correct” to be dogmatically against things that have become acceptable to society.  The pernicious bullying tactics of the gay rights movement, for an example, seek to label any who oppose their perversions as being backward, bigoted, and hateful.  The front cover of the April 8 issue of Time magazine says:  “Gay Marriage Already Won.  The Supreme Court hasn’t made up its mind – but America has.”  Though we are persuaded that the majority of Americans do not favor gay marriage, it appears media and political bullies are being successful in suppressing opposition.  Schools teach toleration in respect to the feelings of gays, but are intolerant toward those who want to uphold their Christian convictions.  Some religious leaders have openly endorsed sodomy (though they would be offended by the frank use of the term).  The AARP website features a link favorable to gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgenders (LGBT).  Situation comedies on TV portray everything turning out well for those who pursue the homosexual lifestyle.  Major retail corporations give financial support to so-called gay rights organizations.

We expect that older and mature Christians have their minds settled on this and other moral issues.  We have to be concerned, however, with what philosophies have been impressed into the minds of rising generations.  Public schools will not uphold righteousness.  It seems obvious that movies, TV, music, and the internet are the dominant forces for shaping American concepts of right and wrong.  In a culture of ever loosening standards we cannot expect children and youth to learn godly conviction by associations with their peers.  It must begin with parents.  And the church as a God-given mandate to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering [great patience] and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

As the above text continues, some “will not endure sound doctrine.”  When the church takes a bold stand there will be people offended.  Some visitors will not come back.  There might be members who decide to leave.  The church may get a reputation of backwardness and bigotry.  There may be charges of “hate speech” and lawsuits.  We can even imagine protesters marching in front of our buildings.  Eventually the tax free status of churches may be taken away from those who insist on biblical morality.

Certainly our opposition should not be hateful, but it must be frank.  It is one thing to say in general that we agree with Bible teaching.  It is more to the point to present actual texts, to give the sense of what they say, and to declare that is wherein we stand.