One of the oddest events of early American history (while we were still English colonies) was that of Solomon Stoddard. For those who don’t know, Stoddard was a pastor in New England of a Puritan church, the problem is the church was facing decline. The reason is the younger generation just didn’t find Christianity all that interesting (even back then it happened). In order to be relevant and look successful, Stoddard relaxed the rules for church membership, saying that as long as someone said they believed in the most basic tenets of the Christian faith and lived a moral life, they could be considered a member of the church.
Such a relaxation of standards meant that a person did not have to volunteer to help with the church, attend church, etc. One person stood up, Stoddard’s grandson, and said that the church had to require more from church members. The church, not liking Stoddard’s grandson’s views, decided to fire his grandson from the church. That man, Jonathan Edwards, went on to become one of America’s greatest evangelists.
Go back over one thousand years ago from this incident and we see Christians persecuted in ancient Rome. The reason for their persecution isn’t because they’re out engaging multiple faiths and having inter-faith dialogues. In fact, they’re not even being killed for helping the poor (they are ridiculed for such actions, but it is not something the Roman government persecutes them over). Instead, they face persecution because they will not acknowledge Caesar as a god. The Roman Empire – which was a religiously pluralistic empire – didn’t care at all that the Christians viewed Jesus as God. In fact, they didn’t even care that the Christians only believed in one God (the Jews were allowed such a belief). The problem is that the Christians were going into the communities and teaching people that believing in multiple gods was wrong and that there was only one way to Heaven (something the Jews did not do).