Skip to content

Early Christianity and Social Reality

Again from Kaye’s superb book on conflict in the church:

We observe in early Christianity that existing social connections and priorities are in a state of flux and are being changed. The absolute claims  of Jesus’s lordship cut across existing patterns for social and personal order. The immediate result is to introduce new patterns of diversity and difference within the newly constituted community of the churches. The early Christian reality was that the gospel, universal in its scope and address and yet demanding a personal and living response, laid the foundations of a rich profusion of local diversity and cosmic belonging. (p. 24)

Or, to put it in different terms, what we see in the unfolding of the church recounted in the New Testament is the irruptive happening of catholicity itself in diverse and particular contexts. The event of catholicity is, thus, an event that is at once subversive of existing social conventions and generative of new possibilities for human life and community.


  1. Chris Donato wrote:

    ‘Tis a rather nice way to describe how folks were not getting along…

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Nobody said catholicity was pretty.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  3. james wrote:

    Still, mostly a middle class urban phenomenon with a disdain for rural peasants typical of all ages.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:


    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink
  5. Doug Harink wrote:

    I think James is on to something. Everything about the quote presupposes urban rather than rural, and perhaps also middle class too — social and ethnic diversity, mobility, contact with cultural “others,” and so on. Not what you’d find among rural peasants, or even many traditional farming communities. Perhaps it’s not so much a “disdain” for the rural, as it is an almost complete ignoring of it by middle class, educated urbanites.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    I think the problem is the idea that there was a “middle class” in the sense that we think of it today in early Christianity. But yes, Christianity was a largely urban phenomenon. I don’t much mind that at all. The city is where the entire biblical drama takes place.

    The only reason I see to scoff at Kaye’s quote (as James does) is on the basis of a rather nostalgic and naive construal of “rural” and “peasant” life. He’d have to actually fill out what he’s talking about in a substantive way for me to really take it seriously.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  7. d barber wrote:


    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  8. Nick wrote:

    Rather ironic considering the disdain of the city seen nowadays within certain circles of modern evangelicalism . . .

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  9. d barber wrote:

    In other words, it seems relevant that Christianity named its outside with the name of the rural dweller. And thus the limit of Christianity thus far with thinking “indigenous” and “natural” religious modalities.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site