General Category => Matters of Faith => Topic started by: _JS on October 17, 2008, 03:20:09 PM

Title: How Did Christianity Fail?
Post by: _JS on October 17, 2008, 03:20:09 PM
Nowadays there is a great deal of discussion around the amazing early success of Islam. It was, from an objective viewpoint, a brilliant success of both military might and religious conversion. Over time there was some syncretism, which almost always takes place with any religion that overtakes new people. Eventually, all of those lands taken in the 7th century converted primarily to the Islamic faith and remained so with the exception of the Iberian Peninsula.

My question is not one of military or economic consideration and you'll see why in a moment. The question is this: why did Christianity fail to keep a strong independent presence in the Middle East and North Africa? Was there something inherent in the faith itself that caused Christians to convert?

A little background: there were Jews who converted to Islam for certain (one of the first Muslims was a Jewish slave). Yet, Jewish communities fared rather well for many centuries under Islamic rule. The initial wave of expansion and success did not "break the back" of Judaism in the Middle East or North Africa. Many famous Jewish philosophers and leaders would come out of this area as well as Iberia including arguably the most famous Middle Ages Jewish philosopher: Maimonides.

The same was not true for the Christian churches of the region. North Africa was home to the African Theologians such as Tertullian and Saint Augustine. Two of New Rome's great Patriarch's were residents of this region: Alexandria and Jerusalem. This was not just an area of Christian influence - this was the solid foundation of Christianity, the bedrock. These were the original churches founded by the original Apostles of Christ. Yet, they offered little resistance as well as quick converts to Islam. The Coptic Christians, the primary Christian culture that remained in the Middle East after the Islamic expansion, actually fought alongside the Muslims. They were monophysites and had long been on the outside of the official Patriarch of Alexandria's good list.

The Christians had more means: more military power and economic might than the Jews, yet the Jewish culture survived and even thrived in some locations. So why did Christianity fail?

One quick note on Zoroastrianism. This is also a monotheistic faith, but I did not include it as it had already begun to decline even before Islam's expansion. That particular expansion into Persia is interesting of its own, but is not parallel to the Christian and Jewish cultures in North Africa and the Middle East.
Title: Re: How Did Christianity Fail?
Post by: hnumpah on October 18, 2008, 11:16:13 PM
Islam sees Mohammed, and Jesus, as prophets, whereas Christianity sees Jesus as the messiah, the son of god. The Jews do not recognize that the promised messiah has come yet, which is more in line with the Islamic belief that Jesus is simply another prophet. This might have summat to do with it.
Title: Re: How Did Christianity Fail?
Post by: _JS on October 20, 2008, 04:57:54 PM
I think that's a good explanation H and some historians agree.

It isn't just the concept of the Trinity, it is the entire Hellenization of Christianity that took place in roughly the 2nd Century and became the dominant model until around the 8th Century. Judaic Christianity, which was a mix of the early church, Judaism, and gnosticism, was still a dominant form of Christianity in the Middle East. Moreover, these Christians never had the Graeco-Roman urge to place logic, order, and law into every corner of the faith. They still held mysticism in high regard.

Therefore there wasn't a strong desire to understand that 3 = 1. Whereas, for Augustine, it required a higher form of Trinitarian mathematics. So there is this idea, which has been offered by Christian historical scholars as well, that Islam not only offered the formula of one God (1=1) but also strenuously pushed the idea that there is only one God. It was simpler and like Judaism, Islamic Laws were concerned with day-to-day living and not higher principles of theology.

In other words, Orthopraxy was stressed, not Orthodoxy.