General Christian Quotes:
Descriptions of Christianity

Christian quotes describing Christianity from its earliest periods.

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

We who formerly delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone. ... We who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring what we have into a common stock and share with every one in need. We who hated and destroyed one another and would not live with men of a different tribe because of their different customs now, since the coming of Christ, share the same fire with them. (First Apology 14)

Tatian, c. A.D. 165

With us there is no desire of self-exaltation, nor do we indulge in a variety of opinions. We have renounced the popular and earthly; we obey the commands of God; we follow the law of the Father of immortality; and we reject everything which rests upon human opinion. Not only do the rich among us pursue our philosophy, but the poor enjoy instruction without charge, for the things which come from God surpass the reimbursement of worldly gifts. Thus we admit all who desire to hear, even old women and adolescents. In short, persons of every age are treated by us with respect, but every kind of licentiousness is kept at a distance. (Address to the Greeks 32)

Athenagoras, A.D. 177

Among us you will find uneducated persons, craftsmen, and old women, who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of our doctrine, yet by their deeds exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth. They do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck, they do not strike again; when robbed, they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbors as themselves. (A Plea for the Christians 11)

Irenaeus, c. A.D. 185

The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying one house, carefully preserves it. She believes these things … and she proclaims them, teaches them, and hands them down with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. (Against Heresies, I:10:2)

Clement, c. A.D. 190

It is time, then, for us to say that the pious Christian alone is rich and wise, and of noble birth, and thus call and believe him to be God's image, and also His likeness, having become righteous and holy and wise by Jesus Christ, and so far already like God. Accordingly this grace is indicated by the prophet, when he says, "I said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest" [Ps. 82:6]. For us—yes, us—he has adopted and wishes to be called the Father of us alone, not of the unbelieving. (Exhortation to the Heathen 12)

Good is the whole life of those who have known Christ. (Exhortation to the Heathen 12)

Tertullian, c. A.D. 200

As to your saying of us that we are a most shameful set, and utterly steeped in luxury, avarice, and depravity, we will not deny that this is true of some. It is, however, a sufficient testimonial for our name, that this cannot be said of all, not even of the greater part of us. It must happen even in the healthiest and purest body, that a mole should grow, or a wart arise on it, or freckles disfigure it. Not even the sky itself is clear with so perfect a serenity as not to be flecked with some filmy cloud. A slight spot on the face, because it is obvious in so conspicuous a part, only serves to show purity of the entire complexion. The goodness of the larger portion is well attested by the slender flaw. But although you prove that some of our people are evil, you do not hereby prove that they are Christians. Search and see whether there is any sect to which (a partial shortcoming) is imputed as a general stain. You are accustomed in conversation yourselves to say, in disparagement of us, "Why is so-and-so deceitful, when the Christians are so self-denying? why merciless, when they are so merciful?" You thus bear your testimony to the fact that this is not the character of Christians, when you ask, in the way of a retort, how men who are reputed to be Christians can be of such and such a disposition. There is a good deal of difference between an imputation and a name, between an opinion and the truth. (Ad Nationes 5)

It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to label us. "See," they say, "How they love one another!" For themselves are animated by mutual hatred. "How they are ready even to die for one another!" For they themselves will sooner put to death. ... the family possessions, which generally destroy brotherhood among you, create fraternal bonds among us. One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives. (Apology 39)

In your long lists of those accused of many and various atrocities, has any assassin, any cutpurse, any man guilty of sacrilege, or seduction, or stealing bathers’ clothes, his name entered as being a Christian too? Or when Christians are brought before you on the mere ground of their name, is there ever found among them an ill-doer of the sort? It is always with your folk the prison is steaming, the mines are sighing, the wild beasts are fed. It is from you the exhibitors of gladiatorial shows always get their herds of criminals to feed up for the occasion. You find no Christian there, except simply as being such; or if one is there as something else, a Christian he is no longer. (Apology 44)

A man becomes a Christian; he is not born one. (The Soul's Testimony 1)

Minucius Felix, A.D. 160-230

If we Christians be compared with you, although in some things our discipline is inferior, yet we shall be found much better than you. For you forbid, and yet commit, adulteries; we are born men only for our own wives: you punish crimes when committed; with us, even to think of crimes is to sin: you are afraid of those who are aware of what you do; we are even afraid of our own conscience alone, without which we cannot exist. Finally,from your numbers the prison boils over, but there is no Christian there, unless he is accused on account of his religion, or a deserter. (The Octavius 35)

Do you boast of the fasces [bundle of rods with ax blade at end used as symbol of magisterial power] and the magisterial robes? Are you elevated by nobility of birth? Do you praise your parents?  Yet we [Christians] are all born with one lot; it is only by virtue that we are distinguished.

   We therefore, who are estimated by our character and our modesty, reasonably abstain from evil pleasures and from your pomps and exhibitions, the origin of which is in connection with sacred things we know, and we condemn their mischievous enticements. For in the chariot games who does not shudder at the madness of the people brawling among themselves? or at the teaching of murder in the gladiatorial games? In the scenic games also the madness is not less, but the debauchery is more prolonged: for now a mimic either expounds or shows forth adulteries; now a nerveless player, while he feigns lust, suggests it; the same actor disgraces your gods by attributing to them adulteries, sighs, hatreds; the same provokes your tears with pretended sufferings, with vain gestures and expressions. (The Octavius 37)

We despise the bent brows of the philosophers, whom we know to be corrupters, and adulterers, and tyrants, and ever eloquent against their own vices. We who bear wisdom not in our dress, but in our mind, we do not speak great things, but we live them; we boast that we have attained what they have sought for with the utmost eagerness, and have not been able to find. (The Octavius 38)

Origen, c. A.D. 230

The following quote by Origen is one of my favorites, not just because of its content, but also because of it's use of the word "ekklesia" (Greek) or "church" (English). "Ekklesia" was a political term, referring to all the voting citizens of a town or city. Origen contrasts the "ekklesia" of each particular city with the "ekklesia of God" in that city.

God ... caused ekklesias to be everywhere established in opposition to those of superstitious, licentious, and wicked men; for such is the character of the multitudes who constitute the citizens in the ekklesias of the various cities. In contrast, the ekklesias of God which are instructed by Christ, when carefully contrasted with the ekklesias of the districts in which they are situated, are like beacons in the world. For who would not admit that even the inferior members of the ekklesia—those who in comparison with the better are less worthy—are nevertheless more excellent than many of those who belong to the ekklesias in the various districts?

     ... In the same way, in comparing the "council" of the church of God with the council in any city, you will find that certain councilors in the church are worthy to rule in the city of God, if there be any such city in the whole world, while the councilors in all other places exhibit in their characters no quality worthy of the typical superiority which they appear to enjoy over their fellow citizens.

     And so, too, you must compare the ruler of the church in each city with the ruler of the people of that city in order to observe that even among those councilors and rulers of the church of God who come very far short of their duty and who lead more indolent lives than those who are more energetic, it is nevertheless possible to discover a general superiority in things relating to the development of virtue over the characters of the councilors and rulers in the various cities. (Against Celsus III:29-30)

Jerome, d. 420

Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples,

is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, “woven from the top throughout” [Jn. 19:23], since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ [Song 2:15], and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover “the sealed fountain” and “the garden inclosed” [Song 4:12] I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul [Rom. 1:8]. I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ. The wide space of sea and land that lies between us cannot deter me from searching for "the pearl of great price" [Matt. 13:46]. "Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together" [Matt. 24:28]. Evil children have squandered their patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact. The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold; but here the seed corn is choked in the furrows and nothing grows but darnel or oats [Matt. 13:22-23].  In the West the Sun of righteousness [Mal. 4:2] is even now rising; in the East, Lucifer, who fell from heaven [Luke 10:18] has once more set his throne above the stars. [Isa. 14:12]. "Ye are the light of the world" [Matt. 5:14]; "ye are the salt of the earth" [Matt. 5:13]; ye are "vessels of gold and of silver." Here are vessels of wood or of earth [2 Tim. 2:20], which wait for the rod of iron [Ps. 2:; Rev. 2:27], and eternal fire. ("Letter to Pope Damasus." Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Series  2, vol. VI.)

Stephen Charnok, d. 1680

A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant.

- (I think this is from The Existence and Attributes of God. It was cited without reference by Revival List.)

Soren Kierkegaard, d. 1855

[Luther's] later life accredited mediocrity. It should be noted that in a certain sense ittakes a hero to accredit mediocrity and in Protestantism we are blessed with this beyond measure. (unknown. Cited by Revival List)

Charles Finney, d. 1875

Lastly—are not the Church in their present state, a standing, public, perpetual denial of the gospel? Do they not stand out before the world, as a living, unanswerable contradiction of the gospel; and do more to harden sinners and lead them into a spirit of caviling and infidelity, than all the efforts of professed infidels from the beginning of the world to the present day? (unknown)

Vance Havner, d. 1986

The devil's not fighting churches today, he's joining churches. (cited by Revival List)

E. Glenn Hinson, 1994

Quotes like this need the historian's denomination identified (due to Protestant vs. Catholic categorizations of history). E. James Hinson went to Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

The fact that Tertullian (c. 210) strains to find scriptural support for his views indicates that many women resisted his rigorism. As a Montanist, he would have found still stronger opposition. As more and more converts flooded the church in the two long eras of peace (212-249; 260-304), the question of Christian lifestyle grew increasingly vexing. The large number of apostates during the persecutions under Decius and under Diocletian illuminates the fact that many had not thought through their commitments. Fleshing out this point are canons of the Synod of Elvira in Spain held in 305 or 306. If the canons represent actual cases, as is likely, they point up the grave difficulties many converts, including clergy, had in sorting out what distinguished Christian from pagon even in elementary ways. Some upper-class converts could not decide whether they could continue to function as flamines, offering sacrifices to the gods or preparing for public games. Divorce, adultery, fornication, and sodomy were common. Parents sold their children into prostitution. Some intermarried with pagans, Jews, and heretics. Both clergy and laity exacted interest from borrowers. Some failed to attend church regularly. Others still kept idols in their homes. An adulterous catechumen conceived a child and had it killed. Some served as informers during the persecution under Diocletian. Such problems mounted higher and higher after Constantine as the constituency of the churches multiplied many times. (The Early Church. [Abingdon Press: Nashville] 1996. p. 143)

The Middle Class Forum, 2009

Paul's proclamation was perhaps the most broadly egalitarian statement made up until that time. Our relationship to God depended on no cultural heritage or paternal order. Instead, it went through a very personal relationship with Christ with no other discrimination or allegiance involved.

   This led to early Christians, the Early Church, being decentralized. They were very much a bottoms-up, grassroots movement of independent fellowships. … 

   This changed dramatically when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official top-down, paternal religion. It became a religion dependent on scholars, rather than ordinary folks, to divine moral absolutes and "Natural Law." Protestantism was supposed to be a revolt against this, with the philosophy that we could all divine the truth for ourselves from the Bible. However, most Protestant denominations amount to the same thing as interest groups transcending communities, rather than a recapitulation of the communal Early Churches. ("Liberty and Tyranny – Confused Faith," MiddleClassForum.org, Oct. 2009)

Fr. Stephen Freeman, 2014

Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church, Oak Ridge, TN, USA.

In this particular quote, the context is the "modern project," which Fr. Freeman defines as the belief in and pursuit of a life without suffering.

There is no substitute for the gospel, nor can the gospel be altered to make it conform to a false promise. Christianity that is rooted in the modern project is not able to save. Like the modern project itself, it mocks human beings by underwriting the false assumptions of their culture. Christianity as the "modern economy at prayer" is among the saddest forms ever forced upon the Scriptures. ("The Human Project". Accessed Dec. 4, 2014.)

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