Posted by: sean | April 16, 2008

Origen: a.d. 248

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 444
The existence of many kingdoms would have been a hindrance to the spread of the doctrine of Jesus throughout the entire world…This was because of the need for men everywhere to engage in war and fight on behalf of their native country–which was the case before the times of Augustus…How, then, was it possible for the gospel doctrine of peace to prevail throughout the world? For it does not permit men to take vengeance even upon their enemies. It was only possible because, at the coming of Jesus, a milder spirit had been everywhere introduced into the conduct of things.

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 467
The statement is false “that in the days of Jesus, others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state and became his followers.” For neither Celsus, nor those who think like him, are able to point out any act on the part of Christians that hints of rebellion. In fact, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death. So it could not have derived its existence in such a way from the Jews. For they were permitted to take up arms in defense of the members of their families and to slay their enemies. Yet, Christ nowhere teaches that it is right for his own disciples to offer violence to anyone, no matter how wicked. For he did not consider it to be in accord with his laws to allow the killing of any individual whomever. For his laws were derived from a divine source. Indeed, if the Christians truly owed their origin to a rebellion, they would not have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character. For their laws do not allow them on any occasion to resist their persecutors, even when it was their fate to be slain as sheep.

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, pp. 467-468
Christians were taught not to avenge themselves upon their enemies…They would not have made war (although capable) even if they had received authority to do so. For they have obtained this reward from God: that he has always warred on their behalf. On certain occasions, he has restrained those who rose up against them and desired to destroy them…On special occasions, some have endured death for the sake of Christianity, and those individuals can be easily numbered. However, God has not permitted the whole nation [of Christians] to be exterminated.

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 558
To those who inquire of us from where we come, or who is our founder, we reply that we have come agreeably to the counsels of Jesus. We have cut down our hostile, insolent, and wearisome swords into plowshares. We have converted into pruning hooks the spears that were formerly used in war. For we no longer take up “sword against nation,” nor do we “learn war any more.” That is because we have become children of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader.

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 617-618, 621
Celsus [a critic of Christianity] adds…”How could God command the Israelites through Moses to gather wealth, to extend their dominion, to fill the earth, to put their enemies of every age to the sword, and to destroy them utterly?…For, on the other hand, his Son, the man of Nazareth, promulgated laws quite opposed to these. He declared that no one can come to the Father who loves power, riches, or glory. Jesus said that to anyone who has given them one blow, they should offer to receive another, So is it Moses or Jesus who taught falsely? When the Father sent Jesus, did he forget the commands that he had given Moses? Or did he change his mind, condemn his own laws, and send forth a messenger with opposite instructions?…

[In reply to this Origen states,] We would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with the calling of the Gentiles and with their subjection to the Roman government. On the other hand, it would be impossible for the Jews to preserve their civil economy unchanged if they were to embrace the gospel. For Christians could not slay their enemies. Nor could they condemn those who had broken the law to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands….In the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war upon their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or otherwise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilty of similar crimes, would have been to subject them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them. For, in that case, their very laws would restrain them and prevent them from resisting the enemy. Yet, that same providence that of old gave the Law, and has now given the gospel of Jesus Christ, has destroyed their city and their temple, not wishing the Jewish state to continue any longer…However, this providence has extended the Christian religion day by day, so that it is now preached everywhere with boldness. And this is in spite of the numerous obstacles that oppose the spread of Christ’s teaching in the world. However, since it was the purpose of God that the nations should receive the benefits of Christ’s teaching, all th edevices of men against Christians have been brought to nothing. For the more that kings, rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more Christians have increased in number and grown in strength.

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 666
[Celsus further says,] You surely do not say that if (in compliance with your wish) the Romans were to neglect their customary duties to gods and men, and were to worship the Most High,….that he would come down and fight for them, so that they would not need any other help than his. For this same God…promised of old this and much more to those who served him. Yet, see in what way he has helped the Jews and you! Instead of being masters of the whole world, the Jews are left with not so much as a patch of ground or a home.

[Origen replied,] What would happen if, instead of only a relatively few persons believing (as at the present), the entire empire of Rome believed? They would pray to the Word, who of old said to the Hebrews, when they were pursued by the Egyptians, “The Lord will fight for you, and you will hold your peace.” And if all the Romans united in prayer with one accord, they would be able to put to flight far more enemies than those who were defeated by the prayer of Moses…However, he had made the fulfillment of his promises dependent on certain conditions–namely, that they would observe and live according to his law…But if all the Romans embraced the Christian faith (according to the supposition of Celsus), they would overcome their enemies when they prayed. Or rather, they would not war at all. For they would be guarded by that divine power that promised to save five entire cities for the sake of fifty righteous persons. Men of God are assuredly the salt of the earth. They preserve the order of the world. And society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted…When God gives to the Tempter permission to persecute us, then we suffer persecution. And when God wishes us to be free from suffering–even in the middle of a world that hates us–we enjoy a wonderful peace, trusting in the protection of him who said, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 667-668
In the next place, Celsus urges us “to help the king with all our might, to labor with him in the maintenance of justice, and to fight for him. Or if he demands it, to fight under him or lead an army along with him.” To this, our answer is that we do give help to kings when needed. But this is, so to speak, a divine help, “putting on the whole armor of God.” And we do this in obedience to the commandment of the apostle: “I exhort, therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men; for kings, and for all who are in authority.” So the more anyone excels in godliness, the more effective the help is that he renders to kings. This is a greater help than what is given by soldiers who go forth to fight and kill as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who demand us to bear arms for the commonwealth and to slay men, we reply: “Do not those who are priests at certain shrines…keep their hands free from blood, so that they may offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods with unstained hands that are free from human blood? Even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests and ministers of God, keeping their haands pure. For they wrestle in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously. They pray that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed.

Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. Those demons also lead persons to violate their oaths and to disturb the peace. Accordingly, in this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs when we join self-denying exercises to our righteous prayers and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures and not to be led away by them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army–an army of godliness–by offering our prayers to God. And if Celsus would have us “lead armies in defense our country,” let him know that we do this too. And we do not do it for the purpose of being seen by men or for vainglory. For in secret, and in our own hearts, our prayers ascend on behalf of our fellow-citizens, as from priests. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being. And they promote to a divine and heavenly city those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy.

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