Reason to Believe

I have been reading The Barbarian Conversion by Richard Fletcher.  In this book, Fletcher recounts how the people who practiced paganism in Europe during the 4th to 14th centuries converted to Christianity.  What is disturbing is that much of the conversion was because rulers were convinced (and this belief was reinforced by the religious leaders) that God gave them victory in battle, gave them material success, or healed them or their people of diseases. [1]  Writings on missionary strategies of that time state that Episcopal wealth, might, and display were necessary to win converts.  Missionaries who were poor had little success in converting the pagan.  The pagan attitude was that if God is as rich and powerful as the Bible describes, then his messengers should not be destitute. [2] The prosperity gospel as we know it today existed as early as the 4th century.

The problem with the prosperity gospel is the same today as it was in the Middle Ages.   When people no longer had success, many times they reverted back into their pagan ways. [3]  Also, there were many examples in the Middle Ages of kings and peoples who did not convert to Christianity and who continued to enjoy success. [4]  So how can Christians claim God grants success to those who are Christian?  We discussed this issue in greater detail in my blogs titled “Christian Determinism” dated December 6, 2011 and “Empirical Religiosity” dated November 1, 2011.

There were other reasons why people converted to Christianity in the Middle Ages including coercion (a Christian king would conquer an area and force its inhabitants to be convert to Christianity) [5], witnessing a miracle [6], and some were bribed with material wealth [7].  Some converted to Christianity because they were truly convinced it was the right thing to do as the Hungarians who changed from a raiding people to helping others [8].  So why would or should have the rulers or the common people of the Middle Ages converted from paganism to Christianity?  Why should we today believe in Christianity?  That is the topic we will address in the upcoming blogs.


[1]   Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion, New York:  Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997, pp. 106, 214, 243-245, 405.

[2]   Ibid., pp. 457-458.

[3]   Ibid., p289.

[4]   Ibid., p. 122, 246.

[5]   Ibid., p. 215-216.

[6]   Ibid., p. 405.

[7]   Ibid., p. 444.

[8]   Ibid., p. 433.

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