Destroying Strongholds Essay:
The Ante-Nicene Church on Nonresistance

This section is under construction, however, there is are many excellent books available to defend Christian nonresistance. Some of these books appear in the Suggested Reading section. For now, some quotes from the Ante-Nicene church Fathers are given below. All quotes are from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1--10, Ed.'s Alexander Roberts D.D, and James Donaldson, LL.D., Chronologically arranged, with brief notes and prefaces by A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., Hendrickson Pub., Inc. 2004

The Early Church and Nonresistance

They comfort their oppressors and make them their friends. They do good to their enemies. Aristides, 9.276

We will not ask you to punish our accusers. Their present wickedness is sufficient punishment. Justin Martyr, 1.165

We have learned not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us. Not only that, but to those who strike us on the one side of the face, we have learned to offer the other side also. Athenagoras, 2.129

He commanded (His followers) ... not only not to strike others, but even, when they themselves are struck, to present the other cheek ... (He commanded them) not only not to injure their neighbors, nor to do them any evil, but also, when they are dealt with wickedly, to be long-suffering. Irenaeus, 1.408

The philosophers will then with propriety be taken up in a friendly exposure, ... but not in the manner of avenging ourselves on our detractors. Rather, it will be for the purpose of their conversion. For vengeance is far from being the case with those persons who have learned to bless those who curse. Clement of Alexandria, 2.347

The spiritual man never cherishes resentment or harbors a grudge against anyone - even though deserving of hatred for his conduct. Clement of Alexandria, 2.540

Christians are not allowed to use violence to correct the delinquencies of sins. Clement of Alexandria, 2.581

Hippias (a pagan) is put to death for laying plots against the state. No Christian ever attempted such a thing on behalf of his brethren, even when persecution was scattering them abroad with every atrocity. Tertullian, 3.51

If dragged to trial, he does not resist. Tertullian, 3.110

The practice of the old law was to avenge itself by the venge-ance of the sword. It was to pluck out "eye for eye", and to inflict retaliatory revenge for injury. However, the practice of the new law points to clemency. Tertullian, 3.154

Men of old were used to requiring "eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" and to repay evil for evil, with usury! ... But after Christ has supervened and has united the grace of faith with patience, now it is no longer lawful to attack others even with words, nor to merely say "fool," without danger of the judgment. ... Christ says, "Love your enemies and bless your cursers, and pray for your persecutors." Tertullian, 3.711

If someone attempts to provoke you by physical violence, the admonition of the Lord is at hand. He says, "To him who strikes you on the face, turn the other cheek also." Let outrageousness be worn out by your patience. Whatever that blow may be, joined with pain and scorn, it will receive a heavier one from the Lord. Tertullian, 3.712

For what difference is there between provoker and provoked? The only difference is that the former was the first to do evil, but the latter did evil afterwards. Each one stands condemned in the eyes of the Lord for hurting a man. For God both prohibits and condemns every wickedness. In evil doing, there is no account taken of the order ... The commandment is absolute: evil is not to be repaid with evil. Tertullian, 3.713

Christ plainly teaches a new kind of long-suffering, when He actually prohibits the reprisals that the Creator permitted in requiring ``an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'' Tertullian, 3.370

The Lord will save them in that day - even His people - like sheep ... No one gives the name of ``sheep'' to those who fall in battle with arms in hand, or those who are killed when repelling force with force. Rather, it is given only to those who are slain, yielding themselves up in their own place of duty and with patience - rather than fighting in self-defense. Tertullian, 3.415

Moreover, the command about the right cheek being struck is most (literally) impossible, since everyone who strikes (unless he happens to have some bodily irregularity) strikes the left cheek with his right hand. Origen, 4.367

(Celsus, a pagan critic) says, "They also have a teaching to this effect: that we should not avenge ourselves on one who injures us." Or, as Christ expresses it: "Whoever will strike you on the one cheek, turn the other to him also." Origen, 4.634

We revile no one, for we believe that ``revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God.'' And we read, ``Bless them that curse you; bless, and curse not.'' Also, ``Being reviled, we bless.'' Origen, 4.654

Do not willingly use force and do not return force when it is used against you. Commondianus, 4.212

We may not hate. And we please God more by rendering no return for wrong. Therefore, we exhort you to make satisfaction to God. Do this while you have the power, while there yet remains in you something of life ... We do not envy your comforts, nor do we conceal the divine benefits. We repay kindness for your hatred. In return for the torments and penalties that are inflicted on us, we point out to you the ways of salvation. Cyprian, 5.465

The Christian has departed from rage and carnal contention as if from the hurricanes of the sea. He has already begun to be tranquil and meek in the harbor of Christ. Therefore, he should allow neither anger nor discord within his breath. For he must neither return evil for evil, nor bear hatred. Cyprian, 5.488

Even our enemies are to be loved. Cyprian, 5.546

Do no one any injury at any time; provoke no one to anger. If an injury is done to you, look to Jesus Christ. And even as you desire Him to forgive your transgressions, also forgive others theirs. Theonas of Alexandria, 6.161

Religion is to be defended - not by putting to death - but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. Not by guilt, but by good faith. For the former belongs to evil, but the latter to the good ... For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned ... And, therefore, when we suffer such impious things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God. We do not act as those persons who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, who rage without restraint against those who do not worship them. Lactantius, 7.157

If we all derive our origin from one man whom God created, we are clearly of one blood. Therefore, it must be considered the greatest wickedness to hate a man - even if he is guilty. On this account, God has forbidden us to ever contract enmities. Rather, they are to be eliminated, so that we soothe those who are our enemies by reminding them of their relationship. For, if we are all inspired and quickened by one God, what else are we except brothers? ... Therefore, they are to be considered as savage beasts who injure man, who - in opposition to every law and right of human nature - plunder, torture, slay, and banish. On account of this relationship of brotherhood, God teaches us never to do evil, but always good. Lactantius, 7.172

When we suffer such ungodly things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God. Lactantius, 7.158

The Christian does injury to no one. He does not desire the property of others. In fact, he does not even defend his own property if it is taken from him by violence. For he knows how to patiently bear an injury inflicted upon him. Lactantius, 7.160

If anyone should be so shameless as to inflict injury on a good and just man, such a man must bear it with calmness and moderation. He will not take upon himself his revenge. Rather, he will reserve it for the judgment of God. He must maintain innocence at all times and in all places. And this commandment is not limited to merely his not (being the first to) inflict injury on another. Rather, he should not even avenge it when injury is inflicted on him. For there sits on the judgment-seat a very great and impartial Judge. Lactantius, 7.183

"An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." That is the expression of justice. However, His injunction that a man who is struck on the one cheek should offer the other also - that is the expression of goodness. Now, are justice and goodness opposed to each other? Far from it! Rather, there has only been advancement from simple justice to positive goodness. Disputation of Archelaus and Manes, 6.216

When a Christian is arrested, he does not resist. Nor does he avenge himself against yur unrighteious violence - even though our people are numerous. Cyprian, 5.462

We do not resist those who injure us, for we must yield to them. Lactantius, 7.182

The Early Church and War

And when the Spirit of prophecy speaks as predicting things that are to come to pass, He speaks in this way: "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." And that it did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ. Justin Martyr, 1.175

...and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,-our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage,-and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; Justin Martyr, 1.254

I do not wish to be a king. I am not anxious to be rich. I decline military command. Tatian, 2.69

We have learned not to return blow for blow, not to go to law with those who plunder and rob us. Instead, even to those who strike us on one side of the face, we offer the other side also. Athenagoras, 2.129

The new covenant that brings back peace and the law that gives life have gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: "For out of Zion will go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he will rebuke many people; and they will break down their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and they will no longer learn to fight." ... These people (Christians) formed their swords and war-lances into plowshares, ... that is, into instruments used for peaceful purposes. So now, they are unaccustomed to fighting. When they are struck, they offer also the other cheek. Irenaeus, 1.512

It is not war, but in peace, that we are trained. Clement of Alexandria, 2.234

The Scythians, the Celts, the Iberians, and the Thracians are all warlike races. They are also greatly addicted to intoxication and think that drunkenness is an honorable, happy pursuit to engage in. But we, the people of peace, feast for lawful enjoyment, not to wantonness. We drink sober cups of friendship. Clement of Alexandria, 2.246

The one instrument of peace is what we employ: the Word alone, by whom we honor God. We no longer use the ancient psaltery, trumpet, timbrel, and flute. For those who are expert in war and are scorners of the fear of God were accustomed to make use of them. Clement of Alexandria, 2.249

Let our seals be either a dove, a fish, or a ship scudding before the wind ... If there is anyone fishing, he will remember the apostle, and the children drawn out of the water. We are not to draw an outline of ... a sword or a bow, since we follow peace. Nor should we draw an outline of ... drinking cups, since we are temperate. Clement of Alexandria, 2.286

He bids us to "love our enemies, bless them who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us." And He says: "If anyone strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone takes away your coat, do not hinder him from taking your cloak also." Clement of Alexandria, 2.293

An enemy must be aided, so that he may not continue as an enemy. For by help, good feeling is compacted and enmity dissolved. Clement of Alexandria, 2.370

We do not train our women like Amazons to manliness in war, for we wish even the men to be peaceable. Clement of Alexandria, 2.420

If, then, we are commanded to love our enemies (as I remarked above), whom have we to hate? If injured, we are forbidden to retaliate, lest we become just as bad ourselves. Who can suffer injury at our hands? Tertullian, 3.45

How often you inflict gross cruelties on Christians. You do this, partly because it is your own inclination, and partly in obedience to the laws... Yet, banded together as we are, ever so ready to sacrifice our lives, what single case of revenge for injury are you able to point to? However, if it were held to be right for us to repay evil by evil, a single night with a torch or two could achieve an ample vengeance. But away with the idea of a divine sect avenging itself by human fires! Tertullian, 3.45

We willingly yield to the sword. So what wars would we not be both fit and eager to participate in (even against unequal forces), if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay? Tertullian, 3.45

The Christian does no harm even to his enemy. Tertullian, 3.51

God puts His prohibition on every sort of man-killing by that one inclusive commandment: "You shall not kill." Tertullian, 3.80

"Nation will not take up sword against nation, and they will no more learn to fight." Who else, therefore, does this prophecy apply to, other than us? For we are fully taught by the new law, and therefore observe these practices. ... The teaching of the new law points to clemency. It changes the primitive ferocity of the primitive execution of war upon the rivals and enemies of the Law into the peaceful actions of plowing and cultivating the land. Tertullian, 3.154

Now inquiry is made about the point of whether a believer may enter into military service. The question is also asked whether those in the military may be admitted into the faith - even the rank and file (or any inferior grade), who are not required to take part in sacrifices or capital punishments ... A man cannot give his allegiance to two masters - God and Caesar. ... How will a Christian man participate in war? In fact, how will he serve even in peace without a sword? For the Lord has taken the sword away. It is also true that soldiers came to John the Baptist and received the instructions for their conduct. It is true also that a centurion believed. Nevertheless, the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier. Tertullian, 3.73

"And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." In other words, they will change the dispositions of injurious minds, hostile tongues, blasphemy, and all kinds of evil into pursuits of moderation and peace. "Nation will not lift up sword against nations." That is, they will not stir up conflict. "Neither will they learn war any more" - that is, the provocation of hostilities. So you should learn from this that Christ was not promised to pursue peace. Now, you must deny either that these things were foretold (although they are plainly seen) or that they have been fulfilled (although you read of them). Tertullian, 3.339

I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. What point is there in discussing the merely incidental, when that on which it rests is to be condemned? Do we believe it is lawful for a human oath to be added to one that is divine? Is it lawful for a man to come to be pledged to another master after Christ has become his Master? Is it lawful to renounce father, mother, and all nearest kinsfolk, whom even the Law has commanded us to honor and love next to God himself? ... Is it lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword will perish by the sword? Will the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? Will he who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs, apply the chain, the prison, the torture, and the punishment? Tertullian, 3.100

Is the (military) laurel of triumph made of leaves, or of corpses? Is it adorned with ribbons, or with tombs? Is it wet with ointments, or with tears of wives and mothers? It may be made of some (dead) Christians too. For Christ is also believed among the barbarians. Tertullian, 3.101

Our religion commands us to love even our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us. Tertullian, 3.105

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. Origen, 4.444

The statement (of Celsus, a pagan critic) 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 it 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 us 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. Origen, 4.467

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. Origen, 4.467, 468

Perhaps the so-called wars among the bees convey instructions as to the manner in which wars should be waged in a just and orderly way among men - if ever there arise a necessity for them. Origen, 4.533

To those who inquire of use 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 anymore." That is because we have become children of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Leader. Origen, 4.558

Celsus (a pagan critic) 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 to Moses? Or did He change his mind, condemn His own laws, and send forth a Messenger with opposite instructions?" ...

(Origen's reply) We would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with 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 the devices 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. Origen, 4.617, 618, 621

(Celsus) 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's reply) 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 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." Origen, 4.666

In the next place, Celsus urges us "to help the king with all our might, and to labor with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him." To this our answer is, that we do, when occasion requires, give help to kings, and that, so to say, a divine help, "putting on the whole armour of God." And this we do in obedience to the injunction of the apostle, "I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; " and the more anyone excels in piety, the more effective help does he render to kings, even more than is given by soldiers, who go forth to fight and slay as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who require us to bear arms for the commonwealth, and to slay men, we can reply: "Do not those who are priests at certain shrines, and those who attend on certain gods, as you account them, keep their hands free from blood, that they may with hands unstained and free from human blood offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods; and even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If that, then, is a laudable custom, how much more so, that while others are engaged in battle, these too should engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure, and wrestling in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously, that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed!"

And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way 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 along with righteous prayers we join self-denying exercises and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures, and not to be led away by them. And none fight better for the king than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he require it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army-an army of piety-by offering our prayers to God. And if Celsus would have us to lead armies in defense of our country, let him know that we do this too, and that not for the purpose of being seen by men, or of vainglory. For "in secret," and in our own hearts, there are prayers which ascend as from priests in behalf of our fellow-citizens. 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 those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy, to a divine and heavenly city, to whom it may be said, "Thou hast been faithful in the smallest city, come into a great one," where "God standeth in the assembly of the gods, and judgeth the gods in the midst; "and He reckons thee among them, if thou no more "die as a man, or fall as one of the princes." Origen, 4.667, 668

Wars are scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood. And murder - which is admitted to be a crime in the case of an individual - is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not because they are guiltless - but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale! Cyprian, 5.277

Christians do not attack their assailants in return, for it is not lawful for the innocent to kill even the guilty. Cyprian, 5.351

The hand must not be spotted with the sword and blood - not after the Eucharist is carried in it. Cyprian, 5.488

When the worship of God was taken away, men lost the knowledge of good and evil ... They then began to fight with one another, to plot, and to achieve glory for themselves from the shedding of human blood. Lactantius, 7.141

If only God were worshipped, there would not be dissensions and wars. For men would know that they are the sons of one God. Lactantius, 7.143

Why would (the just man) carry on war and mix himself with the passions of others when his mind is engaged in perpetual peace with men? Would he be delighted with foreign merchandise or with human blood - he who does not know how to seek gain? For the Christian is satisfied with his standard of living. He considered it unlawful not only to commit slaughter himself, but also to be present with those who do it. Lactantius, 7.153

If desire is restrained, no one will use violence by land or sea. No one will lead an army to carry off and lay waste the property of others. ... For what are the interests of our country but the detriments of another state or nation? To extend the boundaries that are violently taken from others, to increase the power of the state, to improve the revenues - all of these things are not virtues. Rather, they are the overthrowing of virtues. Lactantius, 7.169

How can a man be just who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? Yet, those who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things ... When they speak of the "duties" relating to warfare, their speech pertains neither to justice nor to true virtue. Lactantius, 7.169

Therefore, it is not befitting that those who strive to keep to the path of justice should be companions and sharers in this public homicide. For when God forbids us to kill, He prohibits more than the open violence that is even not allowed by the public laws. He also warns us against doing those things that are considered lawful among men. For that reason, it will not be lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself. Nor is it lawful for him to accuse anyone of a capital charge. For it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or by the sword instead. That is because it is the act of putting to death itself that is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this commandment of God, there should be no exception at all. Rather, it is always unlawful to put a man to death, whom God willed to be a sacred creature. Lactantius, 7.187

It is not right that a worshipper of God should be injured by another worshipper of God. Lactantius, 7.271

You allege that those wars of which you speak were sparked because of hatred of our religion. However, it would not be difficult to prove that (after the name of Christ was heard in the world), wars were not increased. In fact, they actually diminished in great measure by the restraining of furious passions. A numerous band of men as we are, we have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil should not be repaid with evil. Rather, it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it. We would rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another. As a result, an ungrateful world is now enjoying - and for a long period has enjoyed - a benefit from Christ. For by His means, the rage of savage ferocity has been softened and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow creature. In fact, if all men without exception ... would lend an ear for a while to His salutary and peaceful rules, ... the whole world would be living in the most peaceful tranquility. The world would have turned the use of steel into more peaceful uses and would unite together in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties. Arnobius, 6.415

Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man's piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, very many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service. Disputation of Archelaus and Manes, 6.179

A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 16

Of course if faith comes later (after someone was already enrolled in the military) and finds someone already occupied with military service, their case is different. For example, there is the instance of those whom John (the Baptist) received for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions. I mean the centurion whom Christ approved, and the centurion whom Peter instructed (i.e. Cornelius). Yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer and faith has been sealed, there must be either an immediate abandonment of the military office, which has been the course of many - or else all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God. And such quibbling is not allowed even outside of military service. Tertullian, 3.100

The Early Church and Separation

This world and the next are two enemies ... We cannot therefore be the friends of both. Second Clement, 7.518

You know that you who are the servants of God dwell in a strange land. For your city is far away from this one. If, then, you know your city in which you are to dwell, why do you here provide lands, and make expensive preparations, and accumulate dwellings and useless buildings? He who makes such preparations for this city cannot return again to his own ... Do you not understand that all these things belong to another, and are under the power of another? ... Take note, therefore. As one living in a foreign land, make no further preparations for yourself than what is merely sufficient. And be ready to leave this city, when the master of this city will come to cast you out for disobeying his law. Hermas, 2.31

And refrain from much business, and you will never sin, for those who are occupied with much business commit also many sins. For they are distracted about their affairs, and they are not serving their Lord at all. Hermas, 2.33

And your (pagan) public assemblies I have come to hate. For there are excessive banqueting, subtle flutes that provoke people to lustful movements, useless and luxurious anointings, and crownings with garlands. Justin Martyr, 1.272

I do not wish to be a king. I am not anxious to be rich. I decline military command. I detest fornication. I am not impelled by an insatiable love of gain to go to sea. I do not contend for chaplets. I am free from a mad thirst for fame. I despise death. I am superior to every kind of disease. Grief does not consume my soul. If I am a slave, I endure servitude. If I am free, I do not boast about my good birth ... Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it! Live to God! Tatian, 2.69

If you are superior to the passions, you will scorn all worldly things. Tatian, 2.73

Now he (Christ) has not merely related to us a story about a poor man and a rich one. Rather, He has taught us some things: In the first place, He has taught that no one should lead a luxurious life. No one should live in worldly pleasures and perpetual feasting. No one should be the slave to his lusts and forget God. Irenaeus, 1.464

Wherefore we have no country on earth that we may disdain earthly possessions. Clement of Alexandria, 2.281

If you would loose, withdraw, and separate your soul from the delight and pleasure that is in this life (for this is what the cross means), you will possess it. It will be found resting in the looked-for hope. Clement of Alexandria, 2.371

"God stood in the congregation of the gods; he judges in the midst of the gods." Who are these "gods"? They are those who are superior to pleasure, who rise above the passions ... It is those who are greater than the world. Clement of Alexandria, 2.374

Why on the day of gladness (i.e., a pagan festival), why do we neither cover our door-posts with laurels, nor intrude upon the day with lamps? Is it a proper thing, at the call of public festivity, to dress your house up like some new brothel? ... We do not celebrate along with you the holidays of the Caesars in a manner forbidden alike by modesty, decency, and purity. Tertullian, 3.44

But as those in whom all ardour in the pursuit of glory and honour is dead, we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings; nor is there aught more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state. We acknowledge one all-embracing commonwealth—the world. We renounce all your spectacles, as strongly as we renounce the matters originating them, which we know were conceived of superstition, when we give up the very things which are the basis of their representations. Among us nothing is ever said, or seen, or heard, which has anything in common with the madness of the circus, the immodesty of the theatre, the atrocities of the arena, the useless exercises of the wrestling-ground. Why do you take offence at us because we differ from you in regard to your pleasures? Tertullian, 3.45, 46

Let us compare the life of the world and of the prison - and see if the spirit does not gain more in the prison than the flesh loses ... (In prison,) you have no occasion to look on strange gods; you do not bump into their images. You have no part in pagan holidays, even by mere bodily mingling in them. You are not annoyed by the foul fumes of idolatrous solemnities. You are not pained by the noise of the public shows, nor by the atrocity, madness, or immodesty of their celebrants ... The prison does the same service for the Christian that the desert did for the prophet. Tertullian, 3.694

Moreover, what causes have you for appearing in public in excessive grandeur? After all, you are removed from the occasions that call for such exhibitions. For you neither make the circuit of temples, nor demand to be present at public shows. Furthermore, you have no acquaintance with the festivals of the Gentiles. Now, it is for the sake of all these public gatherings - and of much seeing and being seen - that all ceremonies are exhibited before the public eye ... You, however, have no cause for appearing in public, except such as is serious. Either some brother who is sick is visited, or else the sacrifice is offered, or else the Word of God is dispensed. Tertullian, 4.24

So long as you deem yourself a Christian, you are a different man from a pagan. Give him back his own views of things, since, he does not himself learn from your views. Why lean upon a blind guide, if you have eyes of your own? Why be clothed by one who is naked, if you have put on Christ? Tertullian, 3.547

But as for you, you are a foreigner in this world, a citizen of Jerusalem, the city above? Our citizenship, the apostle says, is in heaven. You have your own registrars, your own calendar. You have nothing to do with the joys of this world. In fact, you are called to the very opposite - for "the world will rejoice, but you will mourn." Tertullian, 3.101

The one peaceful and trustworthy tranquility, the one solid, firm, and constant security is this: for a man to withdraw from this whirlpool of a distracting world and to lift his eyes from earth to heave, anchored on the ground of the harbor of salvation ... He who is actually greater than the world can crave nothing or desire nothing from the world. How stable, how free from all shocks is that safeguard. How heavenly ... to be loosed from the snares of this entangling world and to be purged from earthly dregs and be fitted for the light of eternal immortality. Cyprian, 5.279

Whatever things are earthly and have been received in this world (and will remain here with the world) should be scorned, even as the world itself is scorned. For we have already renounced its ceremonies and delights when we came to God through a blessed passage (i.e. baptism). John stimulates and exhorts us ... He says, ``Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.'' Cyprian, 5.432

We should ever and anon reflect that we have renounced the world and are in the meantime living here as guests and strangers. Cyprian, 5.475

He who has attained to trust, having put off the former man, should reflect on only heavenly and spiritual things. He should give no heed to the world that he has already renounced. Cyprian, 5.535

Of this same thing, it is written in Matthew: ..." He who does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple." ... "The time is limited. It remains, therefore, that those who have wives be as though they do not have them." ... Of this very matter, he wrote to the Galatians: "But be it far from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me." ... Of the same thing in the Epistle of Peter: "As strangers and pilgrims, abstain from carnal lusts, which war against the soul." ... Of the same thing in the Epistle of John: ... "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Cyprian, 5.536

The Early Church and Public Office

Yes, and the Caesars too would have believed on Christ, if either the Caesars had not been necessary for the world, or if Christians could have been Caesars. Tertullian, 3.35

But as those in whom all ardor in the pursuit of glory and honor is dead. So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state. Tertullian, 3.45

But what shall believing servants or children do? officials likewise, when attending on their lords, or patrons, or superiors, when sacrificing? Well, if any one shall have handed the wine to a sacrificer, nay, if by any single word necessary or belonging to a sacrifice he shall have aided him, he will be held to be a minister of idolatry. Mindful of this rule, we can render service even ``to magistrates and powers,'' after the example of the patriarchs and the other forefathers, who obeyed idolatrous kings up to the confine of idolatry. Hence arose, very lately, a dispute whether a servant of God should take the administration of any dignity or power, if he be able, whether by some special grace, or by adroitness, to keep himself intact from every species of idolatry; after the example that both Joseph and Daniel, clean from idolatry, administered both dignity and power in the livery and purple of the prefecture of entire Egypt or Babylonia. And so let us grant that it is possible for any one to succeed in moving, in whatsoever office, under the mere name of the office, neither sacrificing nor lending his authority to sacrifices; not farming out victims; not assigning to others the care of temples; not looking after their tributes; not giving spectacles at his own or the public charge, or presiding over the giving them; making proclamation or edict for no solemnity; not even taking oaths: moreover (what comes under the head of power), neither sitting in judgment on any one’s life or character, for you might bear with his judging about money; neither condemning nor fore-condemning; binding no one, imprisoning or torturing no one—if it is credible that all this is possible. Tertullian, 3.72

Shall he apply the chain, the prison, the torture, and the punishment - he who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Tertullian, 3.99

Celsus (a pagan) also urges us to ``take office in the government of the country, if that is necessary for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion.'' However, we recognize in each state the existence of another national organization that was founded by the Word of God. And we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over churches ... It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices. Rather, it is so they may reserve themselves for a more divine and necessary service in the church of God - for the salvation of men. Origen, 4.668

(Emperor) Valerian had sent a rescript to the senate, to the effect that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should immediately be punished. In addition, Christians who were senators, men of importance, or Roman knights were to lose their dignity and be deprived of their property. Cyprian, 5.408

It is impossible for him who has surrounded himself with royal pomp ... to enter upon or to persevere in these difficulties. Lactantius, 7.165

He (Satan) causes others to swell with ambitious desires. These are they who direct the whole occupation and care of their life to the holding of magistracies, that they may set a mark upon the annals, and give a name to the years. The desire of others mounts higher, not that they may rule provinces with the temporal sword, but with boundless and perpetual power may wish to be called lords of the whole human race. Lactantius, 7.166

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