14 Sep 2008

Early Christians Relied on Reason to Spread the Faith

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For those who missed it two weeks ago: I explained that I will limit my Jesus-talk to Sundays. But my faith really does influence my overall world view, and so I do think these posts are just as pertinent as the agnostic economic ones. However, in the interest of not scaring away potential readers (who are going to hell), I only do this once a week.


One of the interesting things about Acts of the Apostles is that the early Christians used reason to persuade others (particularly Jews) that Jesus was the Messiah. And I’m not just using that word to offend Randians; my New King James translation has the verb all over the place. In one of my favorite Bible passages, Acts 18:24-28, we read:

24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Wow that’s awesome. I can easily relate to this, because it’s analogous to seeing, say, an op ed writer who is a solid free market person and quotes Adam Smith etc. appropriately. But because the guy hasn’t read Mises and Rothbard, he is limited. Then I take him aside and have a word about anarcho-capitalism, and turn the guy loose. His work now greatly helps those who believe in individual liberty for moral reasons, even though his readers couldn’t last 10 seconds in a debate with Paul Krugman.

Unfortunately, the excerpt above uses the verbs “refute” and “show.” But there are plenty of places where “reason” is used explicitly. E.g. Acts 19:8-10 says:

8 And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Finally, I should remind everyone that Paul is Saul, who persecuted Christians before he literally had a coming to Jesus talk on the road to Damascus. This is no coincidence; only a devout Jew could have reasoned in the synagogues the way Paul later would, and only someone who had unwittingly persecuted the Lord of the Universe could have been as bold as Paul later was.

So when people ask, “Why does God let bad things happen?” we see one bit of shed light: If Saul hadn’t persecuted innocent people, billions may never have heard of the gospel. The people Saul persecuted would gladly have endorsed God’s plan for them, if they saw the long-term implications.

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