A Study in Origin, Thought, and Action
Synopsis: This chapter examines Roman imperial pressure and the persecution that triggered wide‐ranging dispersion and movement in Christianity. Persecution induced habits of vigilance, and ascetic witness against wealth and power. Tertullian (d c.240) describes the refining effects of persecution and repression on Christian spiritual life and new forms of Christian social organization. Christians pioneered voluntary and philanthropic ethics, and promoted mutual support and encouragement. As a vernacular movement Christianity spread to Scotland, northern England, and Iceland. Semi‐urban Arabs of the trade routes converted, though Christianity failed to take root in the Arab heartland proper. Augustine assessed the historical challenge facing Christianity after the fall of the empire, and his achievement, the chapter argues, transformed classical historiography from its deterministic pessimism into a choice‐driven, morally‐transparent enterprise. The chapter contends that a corresponding Augustinian revolution in thought would help place the searchlight on provincial diversity and cultural variety of rising World Christianity.
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