In this series of lessons we are building a cumulative case for Christ by looking at 10 reasons to think that Christianity is true.
This is the fourth reason in this series, How The Peaceful Conversion Of The World And The Continued Existence Of His Church Proves That Christianity Is True.
To summarize the cumulative case so far:
- Not only did Jesus claim to be God (and if he’s wrong He’s lying or crazy)
- Not only did He back up that claim by fulfilling prophecy
- Not only did He back up that claim by rising from the dead
- But after He died the religion that He taught spread rapidly and peacefully across the world just as He predicted it would.
What I am calling The Argument From The Peaceful Conversion of the World has been a long time favorite of many saints.
This argument has the character of both fulfilled prophecy and a moral miracle.
The Predictions Of Jesus
The reason why is because, first of all, Jesus made some bold claims about his teaching.
Christ called his disciples to be missionaries and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). He then predicted that His message would in fact be preached to “all nations”:
"And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations" MT 24:14
But then Jesus added to that by making a bold claim that his teachings would always be around, saying "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
Jesus also says He will build a Church that will last forever - “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Mt 16:18
Think about the improbable nature of this claim. Here’s a guy who lived in the first century A.D. He has just a handful of followers, who are uneducated. The local Jewish authorities are not happy with what He is doing. His country is under the control of Rome. There is no form of mass communication. He can’t start a Facebook account or YouTube channel.
It seems pretty improbable that his words would even go out to all nations let alone “never pass away.”
The Historical Reality
But that is precisely what happened.
His apostles went out, preached the Gospel and were extremely successful, even in the face of institutionalized persecution.
During the Christian persecutions of Rome, Roman emperors ordered Christians to be arrested, burned alive, mutilated, starved, sent to die in gladiatorial contests for amusement, and have their homes torn down.
Not only that but the Christian moral message was that to be saved one had to give up pleasures of the flesh. Sexual activity had to be limited to a married man and woman.
So in spite of facing institutionalized persecution and execution, and asking men to denounce sinful pleasures of the flesh, and by using no armies and no weapons whatsoever, eventually, the religion started by a convicted Jewish criminal and his group of 12 followers became not only the official religion of the Roman empire but eventually the largest religion in the world.
St. John Chrysostom once wrote that Jesus did what no mere man could do, win over the people of all nations through the preaching of a small band of ignorant Galileans.
St. Augustine agrees and says:
“It is incredible that the world believed so incredible an event; and it is incredible that men of no birth, no standing, no learning, and so few of them, should have been able to persuade, so effectively, the whole world, including learned men.” City of God 22.5
St Thomas Aquinas agrees, and doubles down on it, saying:
“This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness of the signs given in the past; so that it is not necessary that they should be further repeated, since they appear most clearly in their effect. For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes. Yet it is also a fact that, even in our own time, God does not cease to work miracles through His saints for the confirmation of the faith.” SCG I.6.3
Moreover, the oldest institution in the world, the Catholic Church, started by Jesus Christ Himself, exists to this day.
In Spite Of External Threats
- Jewish authorities tried to destroy it
- Roman authorities tried to destroy it
- Barbarian invasions tried to destroy it
- Muslim invasions of Europe tried to destroy it
- Protestant Reformation tried to destroy it
- Hitler tried to destroy it
- Communism tried to destroy it
In Spite of Internal Threats
- Bad popes
- Bad bishops
- Predatory priests
In spite of all of these persecutions and powerful attempts to destroy the Church, the Church remains unconquered.
This is a historical miracle never before seen in the history of the world. And it has not escaped the notice of some of the great saints and doctors of the Church.
The documents of Vatican Council I say:
“What is more, the church herself by reason of her astonishing propagation, her outstanding holiness and her inexhaustible fertility in every kind of goodness, by her catholic unity and her unconquerable stability, is a kind of great and perpetual motive of credibility and an incontrovertible evidence of her own divine mission.” (Vatican I Dei Filius Ch. 3:)
The successful and yet peaceful conversion of the ancient world by the early Christians and the continued existence of His Church and teaching has the characteristics of both a moral miracle (meaning a miracle involving how people typically exercise their free choice) but also fulfilled prophecy since all of these things happened like Jesus said they would.
And this give us yet another reason to think that Christianity is true.