Christians: Rebels Deserving Death (Schaeffer)

 Although I have read several books by Francis Schaeffer, I haven’t read one of his more popular ones called How Should We Then Live?  I’m around the halfway point and so far I’m enjoying it.  Right near the beginning, Schaeffer talked about Roman persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the church.  I like how he explained it; there are lessons here for Christians today!

“Rome was cruel, and its cruelty can perhaps be best pictured by the events which took place in the arena in Rome itself.  People seated above the arena floor watched gladiator contests and Christians thrown to the beasts.  Let us not forget why the Christians were killed.  They were not killed because they worshiped Jesus.  Various religions covered the whole Roman world.  One such was the cult of Mithras, a popular Persian form of Zoroastrianism which had reached Rome by 67 B.C.  Nobody cared who worshiped whom so long as the worshiper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar.  The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels.  This was especially so after their growing rejection by the Jewish synagogues lost for them the immunity granted to the Jews since Julius Caesar’s time.”

“We may express the nature of their rebellion in two ways, both of which are true.  First, we can say they worshiped Jesus as God and they worshiped the infinite-personal God only.  The Caesars would not tolerate this worshiping of the one God only.  It was counted as treason.  Thus their worship became a special threat to the unity of the state during the third century and during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), when people of the higher classes began to become Christians in larger numbers.  If they had worshiped Jesus and Caesar, they would have gone unharmed, but they rejected all forms of syncretism.  They worshiped the God who had revealed himself in the Old Testament, through Christ, and in the New Testament which had gradually been written.  And they worshiped him as the only God.  They allowed no mixture: All other gods were seen as false gods.”

“We can also express in a second way why the Christians were killed: No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions.  The Christians had that absolute in God’s revelation.  Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted as enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to beasts.”

Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? p.25-6.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

5 thoughts on “Christians: Rebels Deserving Death (Schaeffer)”

  1. My first introduction to F.S. was his video series of that book, which my Pastor introduced me to in Sunday school. Growing up in the late 60’s seeing him with his Swiss lederhosen, long hair and beard, the rebel in me connected with him. I then listened to the great lectures by Jerram Barr available for free at Covenant Seminary about FS’s life and his starting L’abri. My wife and I just came back from our 5th L’abri conference held in Rochester Minnesota.
    If you haven’t seen the video series I’d encourage you to.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. During the summer months they will frequently have a series of friday evening lectures. I, my wife and our Pastor will frequently take the 2.5 hr trip up. If you notify the Rochester L’abri of your email they will notify you of the lectures. They are held at what seems to be a house lost in time. I remember the first time going to it and thinking of stepping out of the closet into the land of Narnia, seriously you would have to see for yourself. You go up this very steep, winding road with trees all around and then at the top of the hill is the house, with a beautiful view of the city of Rochester.


Comments are closed.