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Without Saint Paul, Would We Have Christianity?
Saint Paul, the Intellectual
Applying Logic to Religion
It is said that around the year 58 A.D., before Saint Paul ever went to Rome, he wrote a long, twenty to thirty page letter to the Romans. Paul, bent on spreading Christianity to the non-Jewish world, had been to Greece and very much wanted also to go to Rome.
At this time, the Roman Empire ruled most of Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Paul, a Jew, had grown up in Roman-occupied territory. He came from a small community well known for its intellectuals and fine schools. Paul was a member of the Jewish elite, a highly educated pharisee. Converted to Christianity by a vision of Jesus, Paul had stopped persecuting Christians and instead dedicated the rest of his life to preaching, especially to the people who were not Jewish, called Gentiles.
In his letter, or epistle, to the Romans in advance of his arrival there, Paul built a logical foundation for his beliefs. He reasoned that it was fair to assume all mankind always knew that God existed, but that many people decided to glorify worldly things instead of God.
Paul was sensitive to the fact that most Romans would view him as a member of an ethnic minority consisting of Jews who had a reputation for being very religious, but insular and not receptive to outsiders. Thus, Paul told the Romans that they, and everyone else in the world, could become equal to good Jews, if they obeyed the laws God gave the Jews.
Paul reasoned that there's one God for Jews and Gentiles alike, and that all people are sinners but capable of being justified through faith. Paul contrasted the law, given by God to govern the lives of the Jews, to the faith, given by God to justify all humanity.
Paul seemed to say that just as Adam's disobedience brought sin, requiring Mosaic law, which defined many sinful deeds, so Jesus' sacrifice brought forgiveness, requiring faith, which is more powerful than Mosaic law.
Paul states that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life."
Always using logic, Paul suggests that our bodies are sinful in their desires, but our minds still can serve God and be good. He contrasts flesh with spirit, saying the world of flesh ends in death, but spirit brings life with God.
Paul noted the reality of his times, that Israelis didn't all believe in Christ. He observed that some Gentiles did believe. Paul felt strongly that all people should believe.
Criticizing Israel as a nation for not believing primarily in Christianity, Paul nevertheless praised Israel for its past history of great faith and worshiping God. He hoped more Israelis would become Christians.
Paul preached kindness toward all, even one's enemies. He preached peacefulness toward everyone.
Paul was not a rebel. He believed in obeying society's laws and respecting those in authority. The law, he said, coincided with the principle of loving one's neighbor as oneself.
Paul concluded that just about anything a person did, while having faith in God, would not be sinful, except when it caused trouble for others.
Don't please yourself, but instead please your neighbor, Paul taught.
In closing his epistle to the Romans, Paul said goodbye by telling them of other people from Israel, Greece, and surrounding areas who were good Christians, including the secretary, Tertius, who took dictation from Paul to write down this letter to the Romans.
Paul traveled greatly, and mentioned in parting the trips he would be making to Spain, then back to Jerusalem, and later up to Rome.
Whether the letter to the Romans is taken as good practical advice, even for non-believers, or whether it is taken as the word of God spoken through a saint, Paul's philosophical essay in the form of an epistle is food for thought for anyone grappling with the meaning of life, or just trying to find peace and happiness.
How Christianity Spread
The Official Religion of the Empire
Mohammed accepted Christianity and incorporated it into Islam. Between Islam and Christianity, about two thirds of the world have followed the teachings of Jesus. More than half the world are Christians. What caused this spread of Christianity?
Saints Peter and Paul both are said to have died in Rome in the First Century. Jews and Christians lived in Rome during the Second and Third Centuries. In the Fourth Century, Constantine became Emperor. He believed in Christianity. A new church was built on "Vatican Hill" in Rome.
The Council of Nicaea took place during Constantine's rule in 325. Hundreds of Christian bishops gathered together and established the basic foundation of Christian faith, the Holy Trinity, in which God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God in the form of the Holy Spirit all formed important concepts of Christianity. The bishops, who'd arrived in Nicaea from all over the Roman Empire, had defined Christianity for the world, perhaps not fully realizing it at the time (see http://www.unrv.com/culture/spread-christianity.php).
Constantine died in 337, but Christianity, at first considered a "cult," became the standard of morality and human behavior for the entire Roman Empire, which spread across all of the territory that today is known as Europe, plus eastward across land that now goes by the name of Turkey and Greece, and southward into Israel and Syria, even Egypt and all the Middle East.
Later, Russia would adopt Christianity and much of Northern Africa. Imperialist France, Spain, and England would spread Christianity across the oceans and all over the world. It all grew out of the Roman Empire.
Christian Colonial Establishments
Christianity and Colonization
When European countries began to cross the oceans to the Americas and colonize North and South America as well as the Australian continent and parts of Africa, they took with them the Christian religions of Europe implanted into those nations in ancient times by the Romans.
But the missionaries helped spread imperialism, which is out of favor with modern people. The concepts and teachings of Jesus and followers such as Saint Paul undoubtedly are noble and good. But because of the alignment of missionaries with the monetary goals of imperialist European governments, Christianity as part of colonization has brought a bad connotation to religion and evangelism.
Modernly, evangelists operating in foreign nations generally do so with a separation of church and state, which is part of the political philosophy of today's Western nations. Therefore, in spreading Christianity today, missionaries and evangelists are not acting on behalf of governments. But in the time of colonization they were an "arm" of the European forces who wiped out and "converted" native peoples to the religion of Europe.
In the gospels, Jesus was a peaceful person, spreading religion only on a personal basis to those whom he encountered. Jesus himself was ahead of his time in thinking, because he advocated the separation of church and state, a concept at odds with the attitudes of European rulers greedy for colonization and exploitation, and willing to use any device or tool to achieve their aim of conquest and domination.
But in the gospels Jesus warned that people should "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's." Therefore, the religion of Christianity is a good thing, but what is true all too often through history and even to this very day, is that religion has been abused and misused to further worldly domination and tyranny.