Enemies: Without and Within

In 01 Essential Background on 2012/06/12 at 11:11 AM

In the Acts of the Apostles 2, Luke mentions that at Pentecost there were present “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians…. 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The three thousand returned to their homelands, the “turf” of the Early Church Fathers.

From the pagan secular historian, Pliny, we learn that Christianity “has spread through villages and country, till the temples are emptied of worshippers.”  Later, the former pagan, Tertullian, would write: “Men cry out that the state is beset, that the Christians are in their fields, in their forts, in their islands, They mourn the loss now every level  is going over to this sect.”

The state desired peace everywhere and wanted no change, wishing to have jurisdiction and be the final authority in every aspect of the body politics.  The Roman state came to view Christianity as a threat to the unity of the state.  Christians were seen as innovators and every innovation upon the established paganism was rigidly repressed.  Conversion to or propagation of Christianity or any other non-state religion was considered an offense against order.

The Christians were now standing outside the Roman culture.  The Roman culture was in moral decline. The Empire had all but abandoned the institution of marriage and the family.  Divorce was common, as were abortion and contraception.  Active homosexuality had become a norm for urban pagans. Capital punishment was used as genocide against the poor, and many lives were ended by euthanasia and suicide.

The Christian was at first thought to be and treated as a kind of Jew, but soon his unique commitment to his Faith became clear.  Throughout persecutions the Christians stood their ground as followers of Christ.

In 325 AD, a little less than three centuries after Pentecost being a Christian was no longer a crime against the state, but Christianity had become the religion of the empire.

But now, the enemy within rose.  This, however, was not unprecedented.  Christ had been delivered to His enemies by those from within.  Now, the Church had to deal with heretical ideas born within its bosom and those cradled in it.


All are variations on a theme: denials of or attacks on the Incarnation.

DOCETISM = Jesus only seemed to be man.

GNOSTICISM = “Inside” information.

DONATISM = Apostacy unforgivable.

MANICHEANISM = They saw matter as opposed to spirit. (A Gnostic synthesis of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism)

ARIANISM = Denied that Jesus was God.

NESTORIANISM = Asserted that Jesus was two distinct persons

MONOPHYSITISM = Asserted Jesus only has one nature, divine

MONOTHELITISM = Asserted Jesus only had one will.

PELAGIANISM = Denied original sin

Then as now, it is the failure of those within that provides opportunities for enemies who are without. The enemies will do the bloody work of crucifixion, but the greater evil is done by those who have had the Faith and lost it and are anxious to ease their conscience by destroying the root of morality.

Arianism is considered one of those heresies that dies, meaning that its invented doctrines are no longer believed in. However, the effects on society survive. In the West, Arianism led to thinking of Christ as only a good man. In the East, Arianism vanished with the tsunami of Islamic conquerors.

Today, it is harder to deal with heresy because of modern manʼs inability to understand how any society would regard religion as a matter of life and death.

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