Christianity obtained much growth from the great moral force of its central beliefs and values. Their message was one of salvation through the crucified and risen Lord. "Through this man," said Paul in 13:38, "forgiveness is proclaimed to you." In Peter's speeches, this forgiveness was confined to forgiving the Jews for crucifying Jesus. For Paul it included much more: "You are freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses" (13: 39). In other words, the requirements of the law to be circumcised, to sacrifice in the temple, to keep the food laws of the Jewish people did not offer freedom but slavery. But in Christ the person is freed from the false requirements that do not bring life and is ushered into the new life in Christ. Additionally, in a society where many suffered crisis Christians successfully responded to the challenges of social chaos precipitated by poverty, disease, famine, and social chaos and thus singling itself out as the only movement to deal effectively with the large scale social problems of the Roman Empire. The Christian church possessed the organizational structures to carry out its mission along with the reli...
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...ion of marriage and opposition to divorce. Roman men held marriage in low estate, he observes, and even when they did marry produced few children. The church encouraged Christian women to marry pagan husbands--including senators--thus allowing Christianity to penetrate Roman high society through the conversion of spouses and children.
In short, Stark finds that Christians prospered the old-fashioned way: by providing a better, happier and more secure way of life. When epidemics struck, the indifferent pagan gods were of no avail. Nor was Roman medicine. But Christians survived in greater numbers than their pagan neighbors because they had both faith in a loving God and extensive social services that cared for the sick, the poor and widows. In the end, Stark concludes, Christians "revitalized" the Roman Empire because they manifest a demanding God who cares.
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