Harnack on Comparative Religion: Early Christianity, Warfare, and Darwinian Social Evolution


Philip Tite, Ph.D.

Harnack Image

I was recently re-reading Adolf von Harnack’s classic Militia Christi: The Christian Religion and the Military in the First Three Centuries, transl. David McInnes Gracie (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981 [1905]), given my recent interest in early Christian military martyrs. In working through this little book, I was not surprised to find the standard concerns arising: how do we reconcile the historical presence of Christians in the Roman military, when Christianity is supposedly a pacifist and/or anti-imperial religion? But there is so much more in Harnack’s tackling such a concern, moves that he makes that effectively illustrate his indebtedness to 19th century epistemological frameworks; namely, Darwinian social evolutionary thought. I’d like to briefly reflect on that link in this post.

Harnack opens Militia Christi with the following questions: “(1) Has the Christian religion continuously or at any time in its history assumed a warlike character and preached the right and…

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Published by Vincent S Artale Jr

Biblical studies, Health and Nutrition, Biology, Fitness, Hiking, Reading. Re-blogging doesn't equal agreement.

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