the weblog of Alan Knox

You’ve Been Charged

Posted by on Aug 17, 2010 in church history | 4 comments

You’ve Been Charged

We’re part of a homeschool co-op with a few other families. History is one of the subjects that we do as a co-op. Last year, we studied ancient history with the children reading Homer, Herodotus, Plutarch, Plato, Socrates, and others.

This year, they are studying medieval history, beginning with Constantine and working their way to the Renaissance and the Reformation. They’ll read Beowulf, The Rule of St. Benedict, Confessions, The Song of Roland, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, and other books, stories, and plays written during that time period.

They started by reading The Church History by Eusebius. Eusebius (as with all authors) has an agenda for writing his history which he states at the beginning of his book. His primary goal is to prove succession from the apostles to the bishops of his day.

However, he has another goal: listing many of the people who died because they professed Christ.

Interestingly, many of these martyrs did not die because they believed that Jesus Christ was divine or that he was raised from the dead. Instead, some were charged with crimes against the state and humanity.

What kinds of crimes? Well, crimes like cannibalism, incest, and atheism. Now, obviously, those early Christians were not cannibals. But, the people around them thought they were cannibals. Similarly, they were not practicing incest nor were they atheists. But, their neighbors thought they were. Why?

This week, my children have to pick one of the three crimes listed above and indicate how they would defend themselves against the charge.

I think this is an excellent exercise. First, it forces them to think about what they believe. Then, it forces them to think about how to explain what they believe to other people in a manner that they will understand.

What about you? Could you defend yourself from a charge of cannibalism, incest, or atheism in a manner that your friends, neighbors, and co-workers would understand? Wanna try it?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-17-2010


    My immediate first reaction to your post is absolutely not (to the question, “Wanna try?”). Here’s why: Knowing only a little context for why the first believers were called cannibals and incestuous, basically what I would have to defend is our meetings, and winning against a charge might mean I’ve missed something very important.

    They were called incestuous because of their “love feasts” which, if I’m not mistaken had everything to do with the Lord’s supper. The close relationships and celebration between people otherwise unrelated lead outsiders to believe these “love feasts” had more than just an “agape” kind of love going on. I could very easily defend why our love feasts are not incestuous to an outsider, and to some degree that is to my shame.

    The same could be said for the charge of cannibalism. (If I’m thinking correctly) Outsiders would frequently hear of believers eating the body and blood of Jesus. That phrase was both real to believers of the early church (meaning they took it seriously, we treat it as only a metaphor) and it was atrociously real to outsiders. I could defend why we are not cannibals to an outsider, but again, it may be to my shame.

    On the other hand, I think most of us could easily defend ourselves against the charge of atheism. But in our culture you just have to have a mental ascent to a higher power in order to stand against this charge. No big victory there.

    Anyways, thanks for listening to this rambling lurker. It probably gives me somethings to go and work on. 😉

  2. 8-17-2010


    First, thanks for lurking, and thanks even more for commenting!

    Your comment is exactly the way this assignment affected me as well.


  3. 8-19-2010


    Perhaps you should give a bit more information about the charge of atheism. The word has shifted in meaning over the centuries; currently it means belief in no god. In the first centuries, it meant a disbelief in the gods of the Roman Empire, specifically—at least by the second century—the divinity of the emperor. So, I would love to be accused of atheism; a disbelief in the gods of American culture: materialism, nationalism, selfishness. I would consider the charge of atheism on those terms a compliment and confirmation that I am not following the gods of this age…

  4. 8-19-2010


    Yes, each of the charges demonstrates a misunderstanding between the early Christians and those who lived around them in Roman society. It’s been interesting and fun helping my children work through these “charges.”



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