The Providential Necessity of “Open” Blessings

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By Michael Mickler

Michael_MicklerUnificationists would do well to review accounts of Christianity’s rise, particularly the role of inter-marriage in its penetration of the Roman Empire.

One astute analysis is that of Rodney Stark, an eminent American sociologist of religion, who distinguishes between “primary” and “secondary” conversions in his Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (1997) and The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (2011).

According to Stark, “In primary conversion, the convert takes an active role in his or her own conversion.” Secondary conversion, he says, “is more passive and involves a somewhat more reluctant acceptance of a faith on the basis of attachments to a primary convert.” Agreeing to “go along” with one’s spouse’s faith is an example of this.

Based upon this distinction, Stark argues that exogamous marriage (with pagans) and secondary conversions were “crucial to the rise of Christianity.”

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