Shadow of the Third Century, a Revaluation of Christianity

By Alvin Boyd Kuhn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
WISDOM IS MUTE

The people of the Church, says the historian, more especially after the persecutions had ceased, could relax from the high tension of witnessing for God in the heroic spirit of martyrdom. The Christian could live a normal life and, without the spur of the challenge of consummate sacrifice, his high-pitched consecrations could be deflated, from sheer want of incentive. He was left to sink back into an acceptance of and by the world and a compromise with its spirit, terms and obligations.

"In other words the mystic struggle which primitive Christianity undertook against life had ended in complete defeat. In fact the Church accepted and acquiesced in it, and was content to transform the ideal which contains the very essence of the primitive faith and indeed constituted her own raison d'etre into a theme for pious meditation."

Her own numerous converts, while giving her success and power, were themselves a large factor in her spiritual defeat. For these people were let into the Church too hastily prepared and were for that reason less capable of keeping in check the basic force of the ordinary lowlevel sensual nature of average man, the formidable antagonist of true religion.

So, avers Guignebert, the "triumph of Christianity," culminating in the fifth century with the silencing of Paganism was, when regarded from a deeper point of view, "a triumph in appearance only." Indeed, so far from Christianity having changed and conquered the Roman Empire, it was the Empire that absorbed Christianity, is this astute critic's verdict.

"Far from having transformed the Graeco-Roman world, Christianity was really absorbed by it and applied to its own atavistic needs and customs in the whole domain of both mind and body."

After some centuries the Church was to learn that the stolid mass mind and its staunch rock of collective feelings, its fixed habitudes,

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