A Facebook conversation–was Christianity spread by the sword?

Yesterday I responded to an acquaintance’s Facebook post of an article explaining why Jews don’t believe in Jesus; that article can be found here.   Without addressing that article point by point, I simple wrote that many Jews do believe in Jesus, and included Romans 11:17,18 (“we were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.”) to show that Paul, a Messianic Jew, recognized Israel’s foundational position relative to the Ekklesia/Church.  

One of  my acquaintance’s other Facebook friends responded to me, and rather than focusing on biblical and interpretational differences, instead wanted me to address if my “chosen religion” was spread without the sword.  Here is the interchange (at least so far):

Joseph:  Kurt “J.”, I have a question how much of your chosen religion was spread without the sword? How successful was it, when simply asked if it was something people were interested in not at the threat of death?

Kurt:  Honestly Joseph, very little. Far, Far more protestant evangelical christian “heretics” than Jews were put to death, for example, by the Catholic Church and their willing accomplices over the centuries. Let me ask you: Can you give me an example of an evangelical Christian putting anyone to death?

Joseph’s 2nd post was rather lengthy, and so I have broken it into smaller pieces to address it:

Joseph:  Kurt I am not asking your evangalical (sic) issues, you’re sidestepping. How many people from Paul of Tarsus to 1945 believed in Jesus due to a sword. I did not ask protestant vs. jews in prosecution. And I highly doubt protestants would win that… as well.

Kurt:  I am what I am; I’m not Catholic, I’m simply a believer in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah.  I can’t address what the Catholic Church does or did in the past, just as individual white people today can’t answer for what members of their race might have done to blacks when slavery existed.  I ask you again, cite an example of a protestant, evangelical Christian forcing anyone to convert at the point of a sword?  And certainly if you come up with an example, it must be admitted that it is by far the exception rather than the rule.  On the other hand, think about Islam; from its founding it has been violent and oppressive to all, including its own women.  Its been about 1-1/2 centuries or so since the Roman Church has engaged in or encouraged violence on its behalf.  There is good reason to hope that that chapter is over.

Joseph:  I consider someone a christian whether they are bad or good. Evangelical is something born as of late and has not been through the experience of 1900 odd years.

Kurt:  I guess you can call whoever you want a Christian.  The only definition I know is a biblical one:  a follower of Yeshua who has had their sins wiped away by the blood of the Lamb, and is eternally grateful.  The term “Evangelical” is simply descriptive of one’s disposition to the message of the Bible–they want to share it.  Christians from the beginning have been “Evangelical.”   The 12 disciples/apostles were evangelical and 11 were put to death for their zeal in sharing the message.

Joseph:  How many peaceful conversions happened without threat? How many jews would believe had it not been forced down their throat? How many non jews?

Kurt J:  Tens of millions, hundreds of millions, almost uncountable.  Think about the growth of the church in communist China since 1949.  At that point there were at most a few million believers; today there are in excess of 50 million by all accounts.  Were they forced at the point of the gun to convert?  On the contrary, at great personal cost they followed Christ.  I suggest you find a Messianic Jew and ask if their belief was forced down their throat.  The home “small” group I attend is led by a Jew–I know his testimony; he came out of the “hippie” movement; no one forced him to believe.  On the other hand, there were consequences from his friends who didn’t want him to follow Jesus.

Joseph:  As you already admitted Kurt Christianity did not spread much or you said “very little” without the sword.

Kurt J:  I said that because I didn’t want to come across as naive; certainly there have been cases of those who have called themselves followers of Christ who have not acted as Christ taught.  Did Christ teach “the way of the sword?”  Quite the opposite–he said “all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matt 26:52)  Again, as a contrast, consider Mohammad–all throughout the Qur’an and Haddith we see violence and forced conversion taught and practiced.

Joseph:  Today Evangelicals something else that is very powerful that the sword accomplishes as well. Fear and guilt. You’ve got the fear of being in hell, without loved ones, being broke, sick, not “saved”.

Kurt: If someone were sick and you knew of the cure, what would be the loving thing to do?  Or starving, and you had food?  Fear and guilt?  Seriously, that’s what you’re worried about from Christians?  Perhaps the Holy Spirit has been speaking to you, but you don’t want to surrender to Him.  You’re free to ignore Him; God has given us freewill; God is a gentleman.  But you must live with the consequences.  I implore you to surrender to His grace and mercy and discover the reason you exist.

Joseph:  See Kurt you don’t use the sword right now, that ended in the 1940’s, but you’ve got 1900 years of momentum. On top of this look at how many people are leaving christianity now that there is no fear. Y’know how many latin catholics/pentecostals/nondenom are reverting back to judaism because they are no longer threatened? Thousands, which far exceeds messianic converts.

Kurt:  I haven’t studied that, and I doubt you are correct about the raw numbers.  But on the other hand, I don’t disbelieve you–people change religions.  I imagine many of those you reference were not personally forced to convert; perhaps their parents or ancestors were.  It’s very sad if a truly converted person chooses to walk away from Yeshua; there is no other name in which we can be saved–He is God’s only provision for salvation; this is the message of both the Tenakh and the N.T.

Joseph:  You know how many jews are leaving messianism and reverting back? alot. You know how many people are xtianity period because they find out their jewish heritage and back to judaism? Alot. I will also I know alot of messianics, most of their stories are the same uneducated, they only started reading the bible again after being a jesus believer. So what happens? they believe jesus before they study, so they are already taking an uneducated bias into reading. So you accomplished something, you converted the uneducated, bravo! Now, can you count how many highly educated jews converted? I can.

Kurt:  Again, even if you are correct, what does it prove?  You have restated something that Paul of Tarsus, as you refer to him, wrote nearly 2,000 years ago:  “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;  but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” (1 Cor 1:25-27).

Bless you Joseph…and blessings on the Jewish people and Jerusalem.

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