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Christian Attitudes Towards The Roman State, War, And Military Service

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Chapter Summary

Many scholars start from the assumption that mainstream Christians were pacifists and then proceed to examine the literature in that light. But, despite the traditional characterization of Christianity as a religion of peace, there is a sizable amount of evidence which conclusively proves that a substantial number of Christians were already serving in the Roman military well before the fourth century. Von Harnack's analysis assumes that the early Christian outlook was essentially pacifist and that the church declined from this ideal for the sake of the worldly benefits offered by Constantine. This chapter demonstrates a summary of recent work explaining the attitude of early Christians towards the Roman military. The recognition of the necessity for war as a matter of national survival would lead Christian thinkers of the fourth century to arrive at a theological justification for war waged in defense of the Christian state and its people.

Keywords: Christianity; Constantine; Roman military; Von Harnack



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