Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Justin M: Romans, Christians, and Rituals

Justin Martyr continues to distinguish between secular Roman religion versus Christianity, which they claim is atheistic.

Jupiter, the chief of their gods, had many children.  They are all worshiped, but they are also all dead.  Jupiter is an immoral man who rapes women and sleeps around.  These gods are just arrogant men who asserted their authority among the people.

Christians who live near God in holiness and virtue are the ones who will live with him in his Kingdom.  Justin uses the word "deified" but I think that is a bad word choice or translation.  Christ's followers are not Christ nor do they become Christ.  They are glorified, however.  People who live apart from Christ, who live the life of Jupiter, will suffer an eternity in hell.

Greeks and Romans may have words of wisdom, some even true, but Christians speak differently.  They speak the truth because they know the truth.  They do not serve the dead deities or waste their resources on libations and blood offerings.  They do not revel as a form of worship.  They do not sacrifice victims. 

Jupiter lusts for women, has to be rescued, and even got in trouble because of a concubine.  Justin pities those who worship such a god.  Our proper God made all men and women, values them all, and needs no rescuing.

As for the pagan orgies, Christians stand in stark contrast.  They marry specifically to have childfen.  If they are not married, they live in celibacy or continence.  Today, doctors will call the inability to control the need to use the bathroom as incontinence.  In the ancient world, that was the same thing to describe someone who had frequent sex outside of marriage.  Christians can hold their fluids.

They do not rely on magic either.  Christ's works are not illusions but really did happen in history and are still happening.

I read this article from Conrad Mbewe about why the Charismatic forms of Christianity thrive in Africa.  Pagan African religion has all society on tiers.  The highest tier is the gods.  Then, there are angels and demons.  Next are dead ancestors and spirits.  Lowest are the people on the earth.  The lowest people could not access the gods.  If they needed a god, they needed to talk to a deceased relative.  If they wanted good things, they would have to perform some ritual.  If they needed to get bad luck off of their backs, they needed to do more rituals to satisfy the demon causing it.  When Charismatic believers contextualized their message to the Africans, they simply changed the gods to God, they still live on earth, and they still have to appease him with rituals and wonders.  They have to speak in tongues to have standing with God.  Many do not know the God of the Scriptures.

People, this is not Christianity.  This is your generic pagan religion that the Greeks and Romans used.  Any place where you have to go through a mediator to get to Christ does not teach Christianity, no matter how Christian the names or good the deeds.  Christ is the mediator and the only one that God accepts.  And he performed all the rituals necessary for us to know God.  If we do good things, it is because of him, not to get to him.  If we had to rely on penance and alms and tongue-speaking and feeding the poor, we could never be assured of our standing with God.  Thankfully, the Bible teaches something completely different, the grace of Christ, our only mediator to God who is God, and Christ's works that give us holiness.

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