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How Christianity Lost Sight of Its Original Purpose
19
vice of God" (p. 655). He con–
tinued: ""First, as regards the
practice of perfection, a man is
required to remove from him–
self whatever may hinder his af–
fections from tending wholly to
God .... Such hindrances
are .... First, the attachment
to external goods, which is re–
moved by a vow of poverty; sec–
ondly, the concupiscence of
sensible pleasures, chief among
which are sexual pleasures, and
these are removed by the vow of
continence ..." (p. 659).
A Remarkable Transformation
Long before Augustine and
Aquinas got around to writing
their weighty tomes, the estab–
lished Christian church had lost
whatever little resemblance it
had borne to the early church
of Paul and the Apostles. The
Sermon on the Mount had
given way to the Nicene Creed.
Christian communities period–
ically became more agitated
over tortuous and involved dog–
mas on the identity of God and
largely ignored the simpler
teachings of the man from
Nazareth. The Messianic hope
of a world under the rule of
Jesus Christ had been aban–
doned in favor of a gospel of
otherworldly escape.
Christianity had triumphed
as the state religion of the Ro–
man Empire, but the question
of who had really been con–
verted to what still remained.
As Edward Gibbon put it: "'The
victors themselves were in–
sensibly subdued by the arts of
their vanquished rivals." About
all that visible Christianity had
in common with Jesus Christ
was the use of His name. The
revolutionary impact of His
teaching had long since van–
ished into the mists of pagan
philosophy.
In effect, the established
Christian churches have
adopted a totally different pos–
ture from the one intended by
Jesus Christ. The long-term ef–
fects are still with us to this
day. And the implications for
society have been tragic, to say
the least.
Perhaps Frederick C. Grant
(a leading Protestant theolo–
gian) best sums up why this has
become the fundamental di–
lemma of modern religion: "As
G.
K.
Chesterton said, 'Chris–
tianity has not failed - it has
never been tried.' And this is
the tragedy, that a gospel
meant for the healing of the na–
tions accepted a lesser role and
became only one more of 'the
world's great religions;' leaving
Hatred, War, Greed, Hunger,
and Misery still the permanent
rulers of mankind"
(Roman
Hellenism and the New Testa–
ment,
p. 171 ).