Beyond Bosch: The Early Church and the Christendom Shift

by Alan Kreider

Abstract: David Bosch’s Transforming Mission describes the history of the theology of mission in six paradigms. This article studies Bosch’s treatment of the early church in his second (Greek patristic) and third (medieval Roman Catholic) paradigms. It finds a major transformation of mission, resulting from the advent of Christendom, in the middle of Bosch’s second paradigm. It traces this transformation in eight categories of mission. In light of changes in each of these, it proposes a major paradigm shift, which transformed Christian mission fundamentally, in the fourth century. The history of Christian mission should be therefore thought of in three paradigms: pre-Christendom; Christendom; and post-Christendom.

David Bosch’s Transforming Mission1 is a great book. Its scope is comprehensive; it is, as Lesslie Newbigin put it, a summa missiologica. It is in three parts. Part 1, which reflects Bosch’s deeply committed study of the New Testament, develops Bosch’s first paradigm – “the apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity.” Part 3, which deals with the contemporary world, explores his sixth paradigm - “an emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm”.2

Between Bosch’s Parts 1 and 3, between the New Testament and the contemporary world lies Part 2, “Historical Paradigms of Mission,” with which I shall be dealing in this paper. In Part 2 Bosch proposes four epochs in the history of mission, each of which has its own characteristic “paradigm”: the missionary paradigm of the Eastern Church, which he calls “the Greek patristic period” (190); the medieval Roman Catholic missionary paradigm; the Protestant (Reformation) paradigm; and the modern Enlightenment paradigm. Bosch acknowledges Hans Küng as originator of this sequence of paradigms. He also recognizes (188) that there are other ways of subdividing the history of the church. He refers appreciatively to James P. Martin, who in 1987 proposed a three-epoch periodization: “pre-critical” (“vitalist,” including Küng’s Eastern, Roman, and Reformation paradigms); “critical” or “mechanical” (the Enlightenment); and “post-critical” (holistic and ecumenical).3

In this paper I will evaluate Bosch’s treatment of the early church, which he deals with in his second and third historical paradigms. Having assessed Bosch’s chapters on the early church, I propose to join James Martin in suggesting a three-paradigm approach to the history of mission.

Summary of Bosch’s Second and Third Paradigms

David Bosch’s Paradigm 2, “the Greek Patristic period,” extends from the late first to the sixth century. In it, Bosch observes, the Christians in the Roman empire had begun to accommodate themselves to life in the world. They were an illegal religion (religio illicita), and hence were liable to periodic bouts of persecution. But their conduct was exemplary, as a result of which they continued to grow even without the apparent active involvement of missionaries. Bosch’s main interest is theological. He traces the developing theology of the Eastern church as it distanced itself from the realistic apocalyptic expectations of primitive Christianity, and as it proceeded to chart its course through the varied options offered by the Hellenistic religious environment. Bosch honors the decisions that the Orthodox theologians of late Antiquity made, and salutes them for developing theology as a rigorous intellectual discipline. Mission, according to the Orthodox tradition, emanates from the life of the Church as a “sign, symbol and sacrament of the divine” (212). And the heartbeat of mission – mission’s very core – is worship, the Orthodox liturgy. Bosch quotes the twentieth-century theologian Karl Rose: “The light of mercy that shines in the liturgy should act as [the] center of attraction to those who still live in the darkness of paganism” (207). He states what he finds to be limitations in the Orthodox tradition - uncritical inculturation, nationalism, and abandonment of the eschatological urgency of primitive Christianity. But ultimately, Bosch expresses deep respect for the Eastern missionary paradigm, finding at its heart God’s love incarnate; he therefore chooses John 3.16 is its quintessential missional text.

Paradigm 3, in Bosch’s scheme, is “the medieval Roman Catholic missionary paradigm.” For Bosch the Middle Ages extend from approximately 600 to 1500. But Bosch finds the roots of the Roman paradigm beginning earlier than that, with Augustine of Hippo (d 430) (215). Augustine led the Western church theologically as it shifted the focus from Christ’s incarnation to his Cross and began to emphasize predestination and original sin. The alliance of the Church with the Roman state, begun under the emperor Constantine I early in the fourth century, offered new possibilities for the church in its mission. Augustine was concerned for the spiritual formation of new Christians; but he accorded highest urgency to baptism, which incorporated them sacramentally into the church within which alone there was salvation. For some years Augustine resisted the compulsion of pagans or heretics, but through hard experience he overcame these hesitations (Ep 93). Augustine thus provided precedents, and a theology, which led to a Western missionary paradigm in which Christians for the first time justified warfare, declared Crusades, and launched “waves of forced conversions” across central and northern Europe (226).

Nevertheless, Bosch argues, there was throughout the Catholic Middle Ages another missionary model – that of the monks who by their arduous labors and exemplary life did much to spread the Christian message. And there were some monks, especially in the Celtic traditions, whose commitments to itinerant mission led to remarkable exploits. Bosch is critical in his assessment of the Medieval Roman Catholic tradition, as is evident in his choosing Luke 14.23 (“Compel them to come in”) as the paradigm’s characteristic biblical text. But he is charitable in his assessment of the decisions which the Roman Catholic Christians made. In thinking about the conversion of the emperor Constantine, he joins Lesslie Newbigin in asking, “Could any other choice have been made?” And he judges that the decisions that emanated from this were logical and inevitable (237). Further, he notes that the Roman Catholics have since Vatican II been willing to change – and I would observe that this is evidenced by the fact that it was Orbis Books, a distinguished Roman Catholic press, that published Transforming Mission.

Bosch, in these historical chapters, proceeds with an unruffled authority. His survey demonstrates both theological acumen and Christian charity. The breadth of his survey does not allow him to make specialist assessments of the various periods, but he has incorporated the work of recognized authorities. I find these chapters attractive, and there is much in them that I agree with.

Difficulties with Bosch’s Paradigms

I would like, however, to discuss three difficulties that I have with his treatment of the early church in these two paradigms.

Difficulty 1: It is misleading to speak about the church of the period 100-600 A.D. as “the Eastern [or Greek] Church.” Bosch does this repeatedly. He refers to “the Greek Patristic period” (190) and to “the Greek theology of the early centuries” (210). Bosch shows discomfort with this characterization (203), but it gives a certain ecumenical shape to his project: the early centuries are Orthodox; the medieval are Catholic; the early modern period is Protestant. This is tidy. But I am not happy with it, for two reasons.

First of all, it is inaccurate. The Christianity of the early centuries was indeed a phenomenon in the Hellenistic world, and the liturgical language, even of Christians in Rome up to the middle of the third century, was Greek. But there were growing communities of Christians in the Empire whose primary language was Latin. Bosch cites the leader of one of these communities, Cyprian of Carthage, in his treatment of the Eastern Church (201); this would have astonished Cyprian! Tertullian, the greatest Latin-speaking theologian before Augustine, lived and wrote a half century before Cyprian. The striking thing about the Christianity of this period was how itinerant it was; in Gaul Greek-speaking Christians who had been born in Asia Minor mingled with local Gaulois whose mother tongue was Latin. Christians were amazingly itinerant, and were conscious, not of being Eastern or Western but of being Christian – “resident aliens.” This sense of commonality extended well beyond the reign of Constantine. In the course of the centuries great controversies about doctrine and jurisdiction arose, which later split the Church into Eastern and Western bodies whose languages were Greek and Latin. But this had not happened by the centuries that Bosch is dealing with in his treatment of the early church.

Second, I find it unfair to label the early centuries “Eastern” and the medieval period “Roman Catholic.” By this labeling Bosch ascribes eirenic, incarnational qualities to the Eastern church, typified by John 3.16; whereas he attributes compulsion to the Roman church. But across the centuries the Greek-speaking Eastern Christians were every bit as given to arm-twisting and head-bashing as their Latin-speaking Western brothers. “Compel them to come in” well describes the missionary activities of Greek-speaking John of Ephesus, who bludgeoned eighty thousand reluctant inhabitants of Asia Minor into the Christian fold in the 540s.4 It was the emperor Justinian, Constantinople-based, who in 529 introduced legislation which made Christianity the religion of all the empire’s inhabitants, and who sealed this by making infant baptism compulsory (Codex Iustinianus 1.11.10). Compulsion is not a Catholic phenomenon or a Western phenomenon; it is a Christendom phenomenon. If we insist upon a six-paradigm survey of Christian mission, Scottish missiologist Andrew Walls’ scheme is sounder: his second “age” is “Hellenistic-Roman.”5

Difficulty 2: Bosch’s treatment of the early centuries of the church is not that of a historian, who draws from the sources; it is that of a theologian, who reads other theologians and retrojects their thinking backwards. A sample of Bosch’s theological preoccupation is his treatment of the missionary paradigm of the Eastern Church, in which he devotes five pages – a fifth of the chapter – to contemporary Orthodox theologians; on these pages he does not mention a single ancient Christian writer. These pages can inform us about Orthodox contributions to ecumenical theology of mission today, but they can mislead us about the missionary genius of early Christianity. Let me give two examples.6

First, liturgy as a means of mission. Bosch, reading twentieth-century Orthodox writers, appreciates the importance that these writers place upon the liturgy as a tool in evangelization. “Nonbelievers are invited to attend and observe” in these services, which the Orthodox tradition regards as “the main form of witness and mission” (195, also 207-208). This no doubt represents late twentieth-century situations in which people from other Christian traditions are attracted to Orthodoxy; it does not, however, reflect the pre-Christendom church. Many years ago liturgical theologian Dom Gregory Dix observed:

The apostolic and primitive church regarded all Christian worship, and especially the eucharist, as a highly private activity, and rigidly excluded all strangers from taking any part in it whatsoever, and even from attendance at the eucharist. Christian worship was intensely corporate, but it was not public . . . It was a highly exclusive thing, whose original setting is entirely domestic and private.7

The sources are clear on this: only the baptized and those being prepared for baptism (the catechumens) could be admitted to the first part of the Lord’s Day services – the service of the Word (readings and sermon); and only the baptized could be admitted to the second part – the service of the Eucharist (prayers and communion). A deacon was stationed at the door of the church to keep the outsiders out!8 This approach seems counter-intuitive: how does a church grow rapidly if it excludes inquirers until they have gone through a rigorous regimen of catechesis and initiation? In my writing I have struggled with this, and have concluded that worship – the liturgy - was indeed central to the growth of the early church, but for reasons very different from that stated by Bosch. The liturgy was central because it edified and formed Christians and Christian communities who were free in Christ and fascinating to outsiders.9 To be sure, in the early years of Christendom worship services came to be missionary in intent: Christian leaders hoped that the sheer splendor of the gold and jewels in the buildings, the rhetorical eloquence of the sermons, and the magnificence of the ritual would move the non-baptized to request baptism. The leaders facilitated this approach by lowering the hurdles to becoming a catechumen – children were often made catechumens at birth.10 But soon this was no longer necessary. In Christendom, from the sixth century onwards, infant baptism was normal practice and everyone was by law Christian, so the missionary quality of the liturgy no longer mattered.

Second, the centrality of doctrine. Bosch (195) correctly observes the pre-eminent value that the Eastern Church gave to “definitive statements of faith.” In the New Testament, he notes, there was an emphasis upon God’s participation in saving events in history, which “the Greeks” superceded by emphasizing correct statements about God. Bosch illustrates this shift of focus by contrasting the Sermon on the Mount with the Nicene Creed; the former is concerned with conduct, the latter is concerned with metaphysics. This is indeed striking. But Bosch does not address the question of how and when the church moved from ethics to dogmatics. Was the church of the early centuries as preoccupied with ontology as the theologians of Nicaea? Was the Sermon on the Mount a peripheral concern in the missionary activity of the pre-Nicene church?

Bosch does not help us here, but the early church sources can. Justin, a teacher from Palestine who was martyred in Rome in 165, in his first Apology summarized the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, and then commented (16): “Those who are found not living as he [Christ] taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips.” Athenagoras, writing a quarter of a century later in Athens, responded to a frequent question: “What are the teachings on which we are brought up? ‘I say to you, love them who curse you, pray for them who persecuted you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven’ . . . In our ranks . . . you could find common men, artisans, and old women who, if they cannot establish by reasoned discourse the usefulness of their teaching, show by deed the usefulness of the exercise of their will. For they do not rehearse words but show forth good deeds; when struck they do not strike back” (Legatio 11). The earlier church, Greek as well as Roman, emphasized the missionary attractiveness of transformed lives; and Jesus’ teaching indicated what these transformed lives should look like. Nowhere does a pre-Christendom writer say that the Sermon on the Mount is unimportant, or that ordinary Christians cannot live its teachings.11 In pre-Christendom non-Christians were not attracted by glorious liturgy or by superbly crafted theology; they were rather drawn to faith in Christ by means of Christians and Christian communities who, because Jesus’ teachings were a living reality in their midst, were free, intriguing, attractive.

Difficulty 3: Bosch’s paradigms are theological (his subtitle is Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission), but not practical; and so he overlooks the fundamental paradigm shift in Christianity’s first millennium – the Christendom Shift.12

Historically midway through his “Missionary Paradigm of the Eastern Church” something astonishing happened – the Roman Emperor Constantine I declared that he was a Christian. It took several centuries before the changes resulting this event became solidified. But these changes were far-reaching, leading to the advent of the Christian civilization which in the West has been called Christendom. Nothing, I believe, changed missionary practice and theology more than this. Bosch is of course aware of the impact of Constantine’s conversion; he notes that after the Edict of Milan, which in 312 offered Christianity legal status alongside other religions in the empire, “the situation was to change dramatically” (202). This led to a compromise between the Church and the Emperor whereby “the emperor was to rule in ‘time’ and Christ in ‘eternity.’” Bosch obviously regretted this (222).

But I do not think that Bosch came to terms with the advent of Christendom and its consequences for mission. Bosch mentioned Christendom briefly (274-275); and, as we have just noted, he saw that Constantine’s reign changed the situation “dramatically.” But, from his perspective, it was not a change dramatic enough to constitute a paradigm shift in mission. I beg to disagree. Bosch’s title indicates that his concern is with Transforming Mission. I believe that there is nothing more transforming of mission – missional thought and missional praxis - than the coming of Christendom in both West and East. Christendom sought to subject all areas of human experience to the Lordship of Christ.13 In this it had varied success, but it entailed things that I find troubling missionally: a marriage between Christianity and state power, Christianity and compulsion, and Christianity and conventional values. I shall discuss the missional implications of the coming of Christendom under eight categories.

First, however, a word about Constantine himself. In 312, early in his career, on the eve of a decisive battle, Constantine had a vision - he saw a cross of light, with the inscription “Conquer By This.” The emperor, deeply moved, ordered a cross to be constructed. “A spear, overlaid with gold,” was made into a cross by attaching a transverse bar, on top of which was a wreath of gold and precious stones containing the chi rho (Christogram); hanging from the cross-bar was an embroidered cloth laden with precious stones. The emperor henceforth used this cross as a “safeguard in all engagements with his enemies” (Eusebius, Vita Constantini [VC] 1.29, 31). What progress for the cross! From an instrument of the empire’s scornful violence which killed a provincial Jew accused of being a revolutionary, to a gesture by powerless Christians to invoke spiritual power for divine protection in danger (“sign of the passion” – Apostolic Tradition 42a), to a gold-bedecked statement of the emperor’s adherence to Christianity – the cross has come a long way. After his dream, Constantine did not immediately become a Christian.14 Nevertheless, Constantine acted to benefit Christianity. Not only did he end persecution; he showered privileges upon Christian clergy; made Sunday a legal holiday for all; presided at the ecumenical council at Nicaea; built elaborate church buildings, one of which he decorated with “purest gold” so that its interior would “glitter as it were with rays of light” (VC 3.36).15 Further, he admitted bishops to his table, even though they were “mean in their attire and outward appearance” (VC 1.42). Later, when the bishops had learned to dress more appropriately, he admitted them again.

Not one of the bishops was wanting at the imperial banquet, the circumstances of which were splendid beyond description. Detachments of the bodyguard and other troops surrounded the entrance of the palace with drawn swords, and through the midst of these the men of God proceeded without fear into the innermost of the imperial apartments, in which some were the emperor’s own companions at table . . . One might have thought that a picture of Christ’s kingdom was thus shadowed forth . . . (VC 3.15)

Christianity had found a home – at court. Here was as graphic an expression as one could imagine of the transforming of mission. Here, in stark relief, was evidence of a massive paradigm shift. Of course, not everything changed overnight in the church’s approach to mission; it took a century or more for the effects of this transformation to be worked out. In the 360s, in Asia Minor, Basil of Caesarea was still attempting to train his baptismal candidates so they would be “conformed to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ like wax to the mould” (On Baptism 1.2.10). But in this Basil was conservative, maintaining traditional emphases in a world that was changing. For a corner was being turned, a paradigm was shifting. I find it helpful to think of this shift – the “Christendom shift” - using language of inculturation (which Bosch discusses on pp 447ff). Bosch refers his readers to Andrew Walls, who proposes two principles necessary for the insertion of Christianity in any culture: the “indigenizing principle” - the gospel must express itself in forms and language native to a society; and the “pilgrim principle” – the gospel will express universal values which challenge any society.16 Christians have always struggled to balance these two principles. In pre-Christendom the Christians may have tended – by external pressure or habit – to overstress the “pilgrim principle”; in Christendom Christians may have been too confident in their “indigenizing,” thereby losing the sense of being distinctive.

Let us consider these two missionary paradigms – “Pre-Christendom” and “Christendom” – in terms of eight categories.

THE CHRISTENDOM PARADIGM SHIFT: MISSION

  PRE-CHRISTENDOM CHRISTENDOM

1. Vantage point: The Christendom shift moved the perspective of Christians from the margins of society to its center. In Pre-Christendom, before Constantine, Christianity was a religio illicita, an illegal superstition which could result in harassment by neighbors or persecution by the imperial authorities. Christianity was socially inclusive (women as well as men, educated and uneducated, poor and wealthy), but it rarely appealed to those at the apex of society – aristocratic males. When aristocrats came to faith, they, like Cyprian, at times gave up wealth and power to become free as Christians (Ad Donatum 3).17 The Christians were excluded from centers of power, so they developed decentralized forms of life; their communities met in domestic settings (domus ecclesiae). They saw the world, read the Bible and did theology, not from the top or the center, but from the margins. In pre-Christendom, a convert went “from ordinary citizen to fanatical member of a group that . . . deviates from the norms of the wider society.”18

In Christendom, Christians came to occupy central positions in society. Constantine’s banquet for the bishops showed this happening. Christians were no longer deviant. Indeed, Christianity had become the religion of the imperial establishment. Converting to Christianity now meant being “won over to the norms that society at large upholds.”19 So the aristocratic males began to join the church, whose values and traditions they proceeded to alter to conform to the values which their class had long espoused. The imperial governor Ambrose, unlike Cyprian, did not change fundamentally upon his baptism; instead, he proceeded to write a Christian equivalent of the “Duties” (De Officiis) of Cicero, to indicate how Christian clergy and literate laity should behave.20 An “aristocratization” of the Christian world ensued.21 Acts of worship were now public, taking place in basilicas rather than houses.22 Christian now saw the world and interpreted the Bible and did theology, not from the margins but from the center.

2. Attraction: The Christendom shift buttressed Christianity’s appeal with imposing incentives, thereby changing the nature of the appeal. In Pre-Christendom, non-Christians were attracted by the counter-cultural freedom, justice and joy of the Christians. People who were attracted to Christianity faced imposing disincentives. Some of these were imposed by the wider society. Christians encountered harassment and ostracism from their non-Christian neighbors; at times they faced execution. The Christian church also imposed its own disincentives to cheap conversion; its lengthy catechetical program helped ensure that converts were genuine.23 Nevertheless, despite these disincentives, people persisted in becoming Christian at an astonishing rate.24 Why did people join? Time and again, the testimony was the same – people were attracted to Christianity because Christians were attractive. Origen stated, “The churches of God which have been taught by Christ, when compared with the assemblies of the people where they live, are ‘as lights in the world.’” (Contra Celsum, 3.29). Justin reported that people’s hesitations were overcome “by observing the consistent lives of their neighbors, or noting the strange patience of their injured acquaintances, or experiencing the way they did business with them” (Justin, 1 Apol 16). So Christian leaders attempted to equip the Christians to be attractively distinctive. Their catechesis aimed to form Christians whose lives “may shine with virtue, not before each other [only], but also before the Gentiles so they may imitate them and become Christians” (Canons of Hippolytus 19). Their sermons sought to keep the believers to their commitments to attractive deviance (see 2 Clement 13). As one pre-Christendom apologist summed it up, “we [Christians] do not preach great things, but we live them” (Minucius Felix, Octavius, 38.6).

In Christendom, the disincentives to conversion were replaced by incentives. People became Christians for many reasons, but not least because it was the Emperor’s religion. Christianity now provided access to professional advancement. It did not take long before people were complaining, in a way they never did in pre-Christendom, of “the scandalous hypocrisy of those who crept into the Church, and assumed the name and character of Christians” (VC 4.54). People of social eminence and economic power became Christian and then told their underlings that it would be to their advantage to convert. Augustine characterized a typical candidate for baptism in early fifth-century Hippo as a socially-inferior person who seeks “to derive some benefit from men whom he thinks he could not otherwise please, or to escape some injury at the hands of men whose displeasure or enmity he dreads” (First Baptismal Instruction 5.9). In post-Christendom, people at times still became Christian because of the believers’ attractive qualities, but the biggest disincentive to conversion was now often the Christians themselves. As Augustine noted in one of his sermons (15.6), “When someone is pressing him [a pagan] to believe, he will answer, ‘Do you want me to be like that so-and-so and the other?’” Non-Christians now resisted conversion on moral grounds. The Christendom church’s ultimate answer was force.

3. Power. The Christendom shift moved the Church’s reliance from divine to human power. In Pre-Christendom the Christians had very little power. Gradually, as time passed, the movement came to have some friends, especially women, at the imperial court. And the attractiveness of Christians and their communities led some locally prominent citizens (decurions) to join the church. But even these knew that they, in a crisis, might lose their lives. Perhaps because they had little political power, pre-Christendom Christians are recorded as relying upon God’s power.25 Tertullian noted that people were drawn to Christianity because of the magnalia (miraculous happenings) that occurred in their meetings (To His Wife 2.7). Origen reported people came to faith “in spite of themselves, some spirit having turned their mind suddenly from hating the gospel to dying for it by means of a vision by day or night” (Contra Celsum 1.46). Exorcisms were at the heart of the catechetical procedures by which Christians prepared candidates for baptism.26 Everett Ferguson has concluded that “an important factor in the Christian success in the Roman world was the promise which it made of deliverance from demons.”27

After the Christendom shift the exorcisms continued, and in preparations for baptism these became ever more dramatic and terrifying.28 Miracles were reported in association with relics of saints, and also on the edges of Christendom, where “holy men” lived and where missionaries, such as Martin of Tours, encountered opposition. But in Christendom’s heartlands, where Christians had power, miracles were now a thing of the past. As Ambrose commented in Milan, “In the beginning there were signs for the sake of unbelievers; but for us who live in the time of the Church’s full growth the truth is to be grasped, not by signs, but by faith” (De Sacramentis 2.15). God’s power was now experienced in more predictable, institutional ways.

4. Sanctions: The Christendom shift changed Christianity from a voluntary movement to a compulsory institution. In pre-Christendom believers came to faith and baptism despite formidable disincentives. In a world where fate, demons and social conventions kept people in bondage, they saw their conversion as an assertion of freedom. As Justin observed, “At our first birth we were born of necessity without our knowledge,” but in baptism the Christians had been reborn through their “free choice and knowledge . . .” (1 Apol 61). Cyprian gave as one of the fundamental principles of the North African church that “The liberty of believing or not believing is placed in free choice” (Ad Quirinum 3.52). Therefore, Christianity was incompatible with force or compulsion, for the God whom the Christians worshipped did not work “by violent means . . . but by means of persuasion” (Irenaeus, Adv Haer 5.1.1). The Christian church was growing rapidly, but it was growing freely, voluntarily, as an invitation to a rich and adventurous life, from the bottom up.

In the fourth century, this situation gradually changed. Basil of Caesarea, writing in Cappadocia in the 360s, was deeply committed to a pre-Christendom approach: “One must not use human advantages in preaching the gospel, lest the grace of God be obscured thereby” (Moralia, 70.26). But by the last decades of the century, these views were out of fashion with powerful Christians, who found ways to make Christianity compulsory. These ways, according to Ramsay MacMullen, were typically “laws, monks, and landowners.”29 The laws of 380 and 392 deprived “heretical” Christians and pagans of the freedom to worship in public (Codex Theodosianus 16.10.2; 16.1.2). As Augustine noted approvingly, “For long Christians did not dare answer a pagan; now, thank God, it is a crime to remain a pagan” (Enarr in Ps 88). Churchmen worked together with provincial governors to despoil pagan temples and shrines. The role of the monks is less familiar. Bosch commented (233), rightly, on the contribution of monks in spreading the gospel throughout Europe, sometimes by their active preaching and often by the “missionary dimension” of their common life. At their best the monks were also committed to spiritual disciplines of repentance, reconciliation and hospitality, “taking on the non-violent identity of Jesus.”30 But the monks also, especially in the East, provided shock troops for de-paganization.31 The role of landowners in converting their peasants is unsurprising. When they were motivated to do so, they could require peasants to present themselves for baptism – or else. “If such a proprietor became a Christian,” Augustine commented, “no one would remain a pagan” (Enarr in Ps 54.13). A final way of making Christianity compulsory, which MacMullen didn’t mention and which Bosch ignored, was infant baptism. In pre-Christendom this had been an exceptional practice, even in Christian homes, but in the fifth century a “baptismal revolution” made it the norm; and the infants had no choice.32 In Christendom the sanctions had shifted. Instead of non-Christians overcoming disincentives to become Christian, now non-Christians had to overcome tremendous pressure if they wished to be pagan or Jewish. In the Christianized countries of Europe, few of them did so. Christianity, which had been a voluntary assertion of freedom, had become a compulsory inevitability. The church, in Christendom, grew from top down.

5. Inculturation: The Christendom shift caused Christianity to be at home in society, so that it lost the capacity to make a distinctive contribution to society. In pre-Christendom, especially in the first and second centuries, the word that Christians habitually used to describe themselves was “resident aliens” (paroikoi). Christians were conscious of being at home, but not fully at home, wherever they lived: “Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign” (Ep Diognetus 5). To maintain this sense of distinctiveness in the midst of a larger society, the churches developed careful pre-baptismal catecheses. These catecheses, which could last for several years, imparted to the apprentice Christians the narratives of the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, the ethics and folkways of the Christian community. An experienced Christian who served as sponsor (or godparent) accompanied the baptismal candidate at these teaching sessions.33 By these means, new Christians were equipped to join a church which was attempting to inculturate the faith with fidelity – being at home in society (the “indigenizing principle”) while remaining true to Christianity’s distinctive convictions (the “pilgrim principle”). Christians constantly weighed which practices and symbols of the wider society they could appropriate and Christianize, and which they must repudiate. Some of their decisions were fascinating. For example, they adopted the refrigerium, the funerary meal, to celebrate the anniversaries of the death of the Christians, despite its associations with paganism and overindulgence.34

In Christendom, as the church grew even more rapidly and began to infiltrate the imperial elite, “indigenizing” tendencies were heightened, and the “pilgrim principle” came under strain. Roman aristocrats were understandably uncomfortable with the centuries-old customs and traditions of Christianity. Augustine, late in the fourth century, met this uneasiness in Volusian, a Roman administrator in North Africa who was exploring Christianity. Volusian informed Augustine that “the preaching and doctrine [of Christ] were not adaptable to the customs of the state.” Augustine corrected his correspondent. The teachings of Jesus that alarmed Volusian referred only to “the interior dispositions of the heart,” and not to political behavior, which could be guided by “a sort of kindly harshness.” A Roman aristocrat could safely become a Christian without having to challenge the values of his class (Augustine, Epp 136-137). Augustine’s exchange with Volusian illustrates the process of “aristocratization” that was taking place throughout the Christian church in the century after Constantine. At point after point, Christian leaders smoothed off the angularities of the Christian tradition – so that Christianity could fit neatly into a society which would be dominated by its traditional elite who were now presenting themselves for baptism. Fourth-century teaching for baptismal candidates concentrated, not on how to live the teachings of Jesus, but on how to avoid the errors of heresy.35 Literature began to appear to guide the behavior of the Christianized aristocrats. Bishop Ambrose of Milan in the 380s wrote De Officiis (Of the Duties), a Christian appropriation of the similarly-titled work by the pagan Cicero, to make the church intelligible to the elite and to claim the elite’s territory as its own.36 At this time and in this way the just war theory entered Christian history. The just war theory, like Ambrose’s De Officiis, was an exercise in inculturation. It was an expression of Christianity’s indigenization into the world of the imperial elite, whose discomfort was allayed by a softening and interiorizing of Jesus’ “love your enemies” teaching. Elite values - traditional Roman values - now dominated public life.37 And the Christians were ceasing to be “pilgrims”; in the medieval West Christians were known, not as resident aliens (paroikoi) but as “residents” (parochiani).

6. Role of Jesus: The Christendom shift transformed the role of Jesus in the church – from the Good Shepherd who was teacher of all Christians, to the exalted Lord whose teaching was applicable to a minority of “perfect” Christians. In pre-Christendom Christian iconography depicted Jesus as the Good Shepherd, healer and teacher. This accorded with a central theme in early Christianity – the life-giving power of Jesus’ teaching. In North Africa around 250, Bishop Cyprian called Jesus “the Lord, the teacher of our life and master of eternal salvation” who provided “divine commands” and “precepts of heaven” which were to guide all believers (On Works and Alms 7).

In Christendom, as Bosch rightly observed (202), Christians “underexposed” Christ’s humanness and depicted him “in terms reminiscent of the emperor cult.” Jesus the Good Shepherd, healer and teacher disappeared; in his place came Christ the pantokrator (ruler of all), exalted, dressed as an emperor, with the imperial nimbus around his head. A sample of this comes from the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, neatly poised culturally between East and West. Its visual climax, the apse mosaic, depicts Christ, resplendent in gold and jewels; under him, carrying the chalice and paten for the eucharist, are emperor Justinian and empress Theodora.38 This Christ is not one of us; the Arian controversy had shown the “orthodox” that it was necessary to de-emphasize Christ’s humanity and to highlight his divinity – so that his teaching could be appropriated, and his example could be imitated, only by special, ascetic Christians.39 So a new, dual-level, Christian ethic appeared, which had its roots in previous centuries, but in Christendom came to full flower.40 Eusebius of Caesarea expressed it concisely in the 330s:

Two ways of living were thus given by the law of Christ to his Church. The one is above nature, and beyond common human living; it admits not marriage, child-bearing, property nor possession of wealth, but wholly and permanently separate from the common customary life of mankind, it devotes itself to the service of God along in its wealth of heavenly love . . .Such is the perfect form of the Christian life. And the other more humble, more human, permits men to join in pure nuptials and to produce children, to undertake government, to give orders to soldiers fighting for right . . . [This is] a kind of secondary grade of piety . . . (Demonstratio Evangelica 1.8.29b-30b)

Ambrose, in his De Officiis, picked up the same theme, not to depreciate his lay readers, but to give them a clear sense of the possible. It was, he argued, only the “perfect” celibates who were to “love our enemies, and pray for those that falsely accuse and persecute us” (1.36-37, 129, 175-177). The exalted Christ could do this; so, with difficulty, could the clergy who would be perfect. But such behavior was not possible, and not desirable, for the ordinary Christian aristocrat who was to love his neighbor (if not his enemy) by defending cities and administering estates. If Christ was not the role model for the Christians, who then was? According to Ambrose it was the patriarchs. In the De Officiis he pointed to a succession of Old Testament role models – but not to Jesus, who, in a world where everyone was Christian, was a model for religious professionals.

7. Worship: the Christendom shift transformed worship from humble gatherings which edified Christians to grand assemblies which attempted to evangelize outsiders. In pre-Christendom churches worship services were generally small in scale, domestic in setting, rhetorically unpolished, ritually unimpressive and restricted to Christians. Their aim was not to impress the masses; it was rather to worship God, equip ping the Christians as individuals and communities to live their faith attractively. To this end, worship fed them with spiritual food, from the word and table, necessary to sustain them as they followed Jesus in a dangerous world.

In Christendom, Christian services still attempted to worship God, but their social function changed. They became public, glorious in ornately decorated basilicas. Attendance was at times compulsory, with some people irritated at being forced to be there, others eager to be entertained. People misbehaved; in Syria the deacons circulated to ensure that the people would not “whisper, nor slumber, nor laugh, nor nod” (Apostolic Constitutions 2.57). Worship, like the buildings, was designed to move the congregation emotionally, to give them an overwhelming experience of God who was being revealed to them in the awe-inspiring rituals.41 In Christendom’s early years the services attempted to attract unbaptized catechumens to submit their names for baptism. As means of evangelizing those present, the services employed gifted rhetorical preachers, grand liturgies, and symbolism and artifacts which were society’s highest indicators of value – gold, jewels, and imperial imagery. Johannes Quasten has noted that “more and more the liturgy changed shape from the simple celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as it had been celebrated in the houses of the first Christians, to a court ceremonial, to a royal reception.”42

In pre-Christendom, worship was for Christians, to prepare them to live in evangelical attractiveness; in Christendom, worship was aimed at the half-committed and the uncommitted, to dazzle and convert the reluctant masses.

8. Missional style: the Christendom shift altered the focus of the church from mission to maintenance, except on the fringes of the “Christian” territories. In pre-Christendom mission was central to the identity of the church. This is something about which the early Christians wrote very little. But one can see this in the topics which the Christians dealt with in their writings. A significant proportion of early Christian writings were “apologies”, showing that they took their pagan and Jewish neighbors seriously and were working to find ways to converse with them. Another sample of mission at the heart of the identity of the early Christians is an odd document, coming from North Africa in the late 240s. In a collection of 120 precepts to guide the church in Carthage, Cyprian included the following: “that we must labor not with words, but with deeds”; “that the Holy Spirit has frequently appeared in fire”; “that widows and orphans ought to be protected” (Ad Quirinum 3.96, 101, 113). Nowhere among the 120 precepts did he admonish the faithful to evangelize. And yet the church was growing rapidly because Christians were living attractively, alert to the concerns of their non-Christian neighbors, and “chattering” unselfconsciously to them about their faith. And they were doing these things so naturally that they didn’t need Cyprian to lecture them to do so.

In Christendom it ceased to be natural to be missionary. The church grew, aided by imperial favor and legislation, until by the sixth century it came to include all inhabitants of the empire. Those who held out against conversion were bludgeoned into conformity. A law of emperor Justinian of 529 symbolized the end of this process, and also indicated the difficulties which it had faced. This law observed that some people, who had been baptized, “have been found possessed by the error of unholy and abominable pagans and doing those things which move the Benevolent God to wrath.” Some people were even teaching “the insanity of the unholy pagans” to others, thereby “destroy[ing] the instructed persons’ souls”. These people were to be subject to “vengeance proper to their convicted sins.” Anyone who had not yet been baptized was to approach the churches, “along with their wives and children and all the household belonging to them,” to be taught and baptized; their children of a young age were all to be baptized immediately. Anyone who resisted this shall was not to be allowed to own property, but was to be “abandoned in poverty” besides being subjected to unspecified “appropriate penalties.”43 This was a form of mission! No longer did Christians have to take the pagan and Jewish options seriously, for force had won the argument.44 So Christians could devote their literary talents to defining orthodoxy and to defaming the heterodox. By imperial law, which made everyone an orthodox Christian, mission was unnecessary.

But even in Christendom, mission kept intruding. Pastorally astute people were aware that many people had been lightly Christianized – poorly catechized, scarcely converted. Baptized Christians continued to engage in subterranean pagan practices, which they combined with attendance at Mass. A churchful of people was also certain to contain a large number of “depraved persons” (Augustine, First Catechetical Instruction 7.12). So there was always the case for “inner mission”, to revive the ardor of the faithless “faithful”. And then there was mission on the frontiers of the Christian world – there, where Christians met pagans, missionary encounter could still take place, which might be genuine, or might (alas) lead to conversion by conquest.45

Reflections on the Christendom Shift

These then are eight categories that I contend constitute a paradigm shift in mission in the fourth century – the “Christendom Shift.” This schematization, like any attempt to bring conceptual clarity to historical change, is too neat. It overlooks anticipations, such as the many signs of growing respectability in the churches of the third century.46 On the other hand, it also ignores the ways in which examples of early radicalism continued to occur a century and a half after Constantine; for example, the “Alexandrine Sinodos,” a fifth-century Coptic church order, stipulated that a soldier shall be admitted as a catechumen “only if leaves that [military] occupation.”47 Historical change is always untidy.

Nevertheless, in missiological terms it seems to me that “the Christendom Shift” is important. Of Bosch’s six paradigms, three - the Eastern, Roman Catholic and Reformation (Protestant) paradigms - have more in common with each other than they do with pre-Christendom; or four, if one includes the “Enlightenment” paradigm, whose worldview was profoundly shaped by Christendom. In each of our eight categories of mission, the Eastern, Roman Catholic, Reformation and Enlightenment paradigms are strikingly similar to each other, and markedly different from the church that preceded Constantine. If I am right in this, the most profound paradigm shift occurred in the fourth century. That, the century which brought the early church to a conclusion and ushered in Christendom, is the century of Transforming Mission.

Of course, Christendom was in many respects admirable. The Holy Spirit continued to be active in the church, and saints and scholars, missionaries and artists from the Christendom centuries have bequeathed a rich legacy to subsequent Christians. Furthermore, there were things which the pre-Christendom church hadn’t worked out. The theological issues which preoccupied (too greatly?) the fourth- and fifth-century church were lurking in the third century, and they needed to be addressed.

Nevertheless I, like James P. Martin, propose that we think not of six but of three historical paradigms of mission: “pre-Christendom;” “Christendom”; “post-Christendom.”48 The first two of these I have discussed in some detail. The third Christians are exploring in many countries in the West as Christendom’s institutions and assumptions stagger on or disintegrate.

This threefold succession of paradigms works, in a rough and ready way, for the United States and Western Europe. In the United States theologians debate whether America’s Christendom era is over.49 In most countries in Europe the issue is more clear-cut; there theologians have begun to write books about Mission after Christendom50 and to develop a distinctive style of church life and evangelization for the post-Christendom era. The pre-Christendom church, they are discovering, can be a resource and conversation partner for them as they find their way through uncharted territory.51

In other parts of the world, outside of historic Christendom territories, the threefold pre-Christendom/Christendom/post-Christendom paradigms can also be useful. Churches in many countries were founded by Western missionaries, who imported Christendom assumptions and institutions as an integral part of the gospel. Increasingly the leaders of these churches are finding that they must listen anew to their own cultures, and to the pastoral realities that they face – their churches are suffering from nominalism, and their people are unattractive, demonstrating a lack of Christian integrity at work, and their life and worship are unappealing to young people. People in these churches often find that pre-Christendom is fascinating. For them, pre-Christendom patterns can provide a means of critiquing the Christendom practices and assumptions that are weighing their churches down, and can point ways forward toward a hopeful future.

There are other churches - throughout history and today - for which Christendom has never had relevance. I think of the Churches of the East (called “Nestorian” by outsiders), which had remarkable success in evangelizing central and east Asia in the first millennium, and which demonstrate that a tradition can be simultaneously non-Christendom and liturgical.52 I think also of the many churches around the world today which have sprung spontaneously to life within the past half century. These churches have not been shaped primarily by the West. The pre-Christendom, Christendom and post-Christendom paradigms do not apply to them. Indeed, Christendom is of little interest to them - their life experience is close to that of the primitive church.53 But when they learn about the pre-Christendom church, their interest perks up. They say, “That’s just like us!” Or, “That’s really useful to us!”54 Despite this fascination with the early church, these churches may be tempted to make decisions about mission and inculturation that are very similar to those which fourth-century Christians made. For them, a study of the Christendom shift can be prophetic, a source of sobriety and caution.55

Whatever the situation, whether in the West, or the Christendom-affected global church, or the new churches of the world, I find that the early, pre-Christendom churches speak with freshness and hope. In the last section of his book, David Bosch writes of “the emergence of a postmodern paradigm.” Although Bosch does not say so, I believe that this is also implicitly a “post-Christendom” paradigm. Many of Bosch’s insights will be useful in equipping Christians for life in this peculiar, fascinating, wonderful era in which Christians are less and less encumbered with power. So also, if we have an ear to hear, will be the insights of the early Christians who lived before the “Christendom shift.”

This article was first published as Alan Kreider, ‘Beyond Bosch: The Early Church and the Christendom Shift’, Mission Focus: Annual Review Volume 11 Supplement (2003), 158-177. It was also published as Alan Kreider, ‘Beyond Bosch: The Early Church and the Christendom Shift’ International Bulletin of Missionary Research 29.2 (2005): 59-68.

1 David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991).

2 Cf. Wilbert R. Shenk, “Recasting Theology of Mission: Impulses from the Non-Western World,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 25:3 (July 2001), 98-107.

3 James P. Martin, “Toward a Post-Critical Paradigm,” New Testament Studies, 33 (1987), 370-385.

4 Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 66-67.

5 Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), 18-20.

6 A third example has to do with Bosch’s treatment of eschatology. On the one hand Bosch sees eschatology as definitional, as a way of differentiating his second paradigm from his first (“the apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity”). I find that Bosch, in the area of eschatology as well as in the other two areas that I cite, retrojects later theology into the early centuries. And yet he hedges his bets; on page 198 he observes that a realistic eschatology including chiliasm, bodily resurrection, and the reign of the saints with Christ “was upheld by those Christians who formed the solid body of the church and contributed the majority of its martyrs”, which I think can be borne out by the sources. I therefore find his second paradigm to incoherent. If it is to be resuscitated, the area of eschatology needs emergency treatment.

7 Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, rev ed (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1945), 16, 35.

8 Testamentum Domini, 1.36.

9 Alan Kreider, Worship and Evangelism in Pre-Christendom, Alcuin/GROW Joint Liturgical Studies 32 (Cambridge, England: Grove Books, 1995), 8-9.

10 A prime example would be Augustine of Hippo. See his Confessions 1.11.17.

11 Karlmann Beyschlag, “Zur Geschichte der Bergpredigt in der alten Kirche,” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, 74 (1977), 297.

12 In his Post-Christendom, Stuart Murray devotes chapter 4 to “the Christendom shift” (Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 2004).

13 For a description of the characteristics of Christendom, see Alan Kreider, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999), 91-98.

14 Kreider, Change of Conversion, chap. 4; H.A. Drake, Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), 419-420.

15 Upon Conversion, Constantine decided to “patronize the church using the full panoply of imperial wealth and wealth-based propaganda” (Dominic Janes, God and Gold in Late Antiquity [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998], 113).

16 Walls, Missionary Movement, 7-9.

17 For a discussion of the downward mobility evident in Cyprian’s conversion, see Kreider, Change of Conversion, 7-9.

18 Wayne A. Meeks, The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 21.

19 Ibid.

20 Ivor J. Davidson, “Staging the Church? Theology as Theater,” Journal of Early Christian Studies, 8.3 (2000), 413-451.

21 Michele Renee Salzman, The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002), 219.

22 In the fourth and fifth centuries, Christian worship services remained – in keeping with long-established traditions – private, i.e., open solely to the baptized (the Eucharist) and the catechumens and baptized (the service of the Word). But, as a result of the devaluation of the catechumenate and the dissemination of infant baptism, the majority of the populace now qualified for admission to services. Hence my statement that Christian worship in Christendom had become public.

23 Apostolic Tradition 16-20.

24 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 6. Cf Bosch, Transforming, 200, who says, contrary to all the evidence: “for a while, the church had to forfeit its opportunity for rapid growth; it devoted its time and energy to finding clarity on crucial theological issues and to consolidating internally.”

25 James A. Kelhoffer, Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 112 (Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2000, 310-339.

26 Apostolic Tradition 20; cf Cyprian, Ad Donatum 5.

27 Everett Ferguson, Demonology of the Early Christian World, Symposium Series 12 (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1984), 129. For a similar assessment, see Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity (London: Thames and Hudson, 1971), 55.

28 Thomas M. Finn, “It Happened One Saturday Night: Ritual and Conversion in Augustine’s North Africa,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 58.4 (1990), 592.

29 MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism, 67.

30 Lawrence R. Hennessey, “The Mimesis of Agape in Early Christian Monasticism,” in John Petruccione, ed., Nova et Vetera (Washington, DC, Catholic University of America Press, 1998), 147.

31 W.H.C. Frend, “Monks and the end of Greco-Roman paganism in Syria and Egypt,” Cristianesimo nella Storia 11 (1990), 460-484.

32 David F. Wright, “Augustine and the Transformation of Baptism,” in Alan Kreider, ed., The Origins of Christendom in the West (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2001), 287-312; Paul F. Bradshaw, Early Christian Worship: A Basic Introduction to Ideas and Practice (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996), chap 5, “From Adult to Infant Baptism.” Bosch (219) mentioned the way in which, in the centuries following Augustine, “the actual performance of the baptismal rite often tended to become more important than the individual’s personal appropriation of the faith,” which could be a discreet allusion to infant baptism.

33 Kreider, Worship and Evangelism in Pre-Christendom, 13-25.

34 Jeff W. Childers, “Refrigerium,” in Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, rev ed (New York: Garland, 1997), II, 275-276.

35 Everett Ferguson, “Catechesis and Initiation,” in Kreider, ed., Origins of Christendom, 229-268.

36 Neil B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 255.

37 Peter Brown, Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of the Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), chap. 2.

38 For comment, see Janes, God and Gold, 114-115.

39 George H. Williams, “Christology and Church-State Relations in the Fourth Century,” Church History, 20.3 (1951), 12.

40 This can go back to the “two ways” tradition, which is rooted in Psalm 1 and expressed in the Didache; in the third century, intimations of what would become the dominant Christendom tradition are found in inter alia in Origen (Hom on Numbers 25.4; Contra Celsum, 8.21-23).

41 Edmund Bishop, “Observations on the Liturgy of Narsai,” appendix to R.H. Connolly, ed., The Liturgical Homilies of Narsai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), 88-93; J.G. Davies, “The Introduction of the Numinous into the Liturgy: an Historical Note,” Studia Liturgica 8 (1971-1972), 216-223.

42 Johannes Quasten, “Mysterium Tremendum: Eucharistische Frömmigkeitsauffassungen des vierten Jahrhunderts,” in A. Mayr, J. Quasten, and B. Neunheuser, eds., Vom Christlichen Mysterium: Gesammelte Arbeiten Zum Gedächtnis von Odo Casel OSB (Düsseldorf: Patmos Verlag, 1951), 74; see also Theodor Klauser, A Short History of the Western Liturgy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 59ff.

43 Codex Iustinianus 1.11.10, of 529, in P.R. Coleman-Norton, Roman State and Christian Church (London: SPCK, 1966), III, 1048-1050.

44 Bosch comments (193), by the fourth century “a Celsus was now by definition unthinkable.” Not so; in the fourth century there were still eminent pagan thinkers – Libanius, Themistius, Symmachus; and in the 380s there were still vibrant and attractive Jewish communities, such as that in Antioch (Wayne Meeks and Robert Wilken, Jews and Christians in Antioch in the First Four Centuries of the Common Era. Society of Biblical Literature, Sources for Biblical Study 13 (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1978). That the literary evidence of these non-Christian alternatives has scarcely survived says much about the Christendom tradition of book-burning.

45 Richard Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe: From Paganism to Christianity, 371-1386 A.D. (London: HarperCollins 1997).

46 Wolfgang Wischmeyer, Von Golgotha zum Ponte Molle: Studien zur Sozialgeschichte der Kirche im dritten Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1992), passim; idem, “The Sociology of Pre-Constantine Christianity,” in Kreider, The Origins of Christendom, 121-152.

47 George W. Horner, ed, The Statutes of the Apostles, or, Canones Ecclesiastici (London: Williams and Norgate, 1904), 208. For the way that the fourth-century church changed its teaching on warfare, see Alan Kreider, “Military Service in the Church Orders,” Journal of Religious Ethics, 31.3 (December 2003), 415-442.

48 Martin, “Toward a Post-Critical Paradigm.”

49 Cf John Bolt and Richard A. Muller, “Does the Church Today Need a New ‘Mission Paradigm’?” Calvin Theological Journal, 31 (1996), 196-208; Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society (Downer's Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996); Stanley Hauerwas, After Christendom? (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991).

50 Murray, Post-Christendom; David Smith, Mission After Christendom (London: Darton Longman & Todd, 2002).

51 David Smith (Mission After Christendom, 124) states: “the further Christendom recedes in our rear-view mirrors, the more relevant the experience of the fathers of the church will be found to be.”

52 Samuel Hugh Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia, I, Beginnings to 1500 (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992); S.P. Brock, “The ‘Nestorian’ Church: A Lamentable Misnomer,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 78 (1996), 23-35.

53 Andrew Walls, “Eusebius Tries Again: Reconceiving the Study of Christian History,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research,” 24.3 (July 2000), 106: in parts of Africa “second-century Christianity (and third-century, and even first-century) can still be witnessed and shared in.”

54 Sri Lankan evangelist and missiologist Vinoth Ramachandra concludes his book The Recovery of Mission (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1996), 282: “Through humble conversation with the early Christians we shall perhaps discover resources that equip us to face the challenges of interaction with the worldviews and ideologies of our world at the end of the twentieth century, and to bear witness to Jesus Christ with integrity and radicalness.” For the use that a gifted Ghanaian theologian is making of the early Christian writers in dialogue with contemporary African societies, see Kwame Bediako, Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and in Modern Africa (Oxford: Regnum Books, 1992).

55 Cf. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).