the weblog of Alan Knox

Missional Christians in 360 AD

Posted by on Oct 5, 2007 in church history, love, missional, service | 4 comments

Most people are familiar with Emperor Constantine, the Roman Emperor who legitimized Christianity and called the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. However, not as many people are familiar with one of his successors: Julian the Apostate. Flavius Claudius Iulianus was born around 331 AD to the half-brother of Emperor Constantine I. He died on June 26, 363 AD during a battle.

Julian is known as “the Apostate” because he rejected Christianity and attempted to return the Roman Empire to the worship of the pagan gods – which he called “the Hellenic faith”. We only know Julian’s writing “Against the Galileans” because parts were preserved in Cyril of Alexandria’s rebuttal.

What did Julian say about the Christians in the 360’s? Well, we can learn much about those Christians (“Galileans”) by observing Julian’s rebuke of the pagan priests and practitioners:

Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians’] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [unbelief of the pagan gods]?… For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort.

Have we come full circle? It seems that the church is willing to allow the state [pagans] to care for the poor – even poor Christians.

Interestingly, this pagan emperor recognized that it was the lifestyle of the followers of Jesus that was attracting people away from paganism – and, primarily that lifestyle was a lifestyle of service and concern and care for others. I wonder if that same kind of lifestyle would have the same effect today.


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  1. 10-5-2007


    I wonder if that same kind of lifestyle would have the same effect today.

    I think it would. I wish we could get a community of Christians to try it!


    P.S. – Is that short enough? :P

  2. 10-6-2007

    I’m in agreement. As a matter of fact, it actually happens. Seen it in my church.

    I’m in favor, however, of the church entirely dropping the word “lifestyle” and replacing it with “life”.

    Lifestyle sounds like section E of the newspaper, with Dear Abby and Hints from Heloise.

    Styles change even quicker than the flower of the field.

    But that’s just my own personal snit.

  3. 10-6-2007


    Thanks for the comment. I think (as David shows below) this is happening. I’d love to see it take place among more groups of believers – entire communities working to serve those around them.


    That’s awesome that you’re seeing it there! I agree about the difference in “lifestyle” and “life”. Thanks for pointing that out.


  4. 10-15-2007

    Alan, that is just an awesome bit of deeper knowledge.