Are Christians Ignorant, Uneducated, Simpletons? Sort Of

Every generation of Christians has been criticized for being ignorant and out of touch with culture.

We would respond by noting (as Origen does in his response to Celsus) that not all Christians are uneducated. Indeed, many are quite intelligent and well educated. Moreover (and this is the real point), just because some Christians are “simple” does not mean the Christian worldview itself is that way.  In fact, Paul essentially argues that Christianity is the most sensible, coherent, reasonable option around.  It is better to rely intellectually on God then on our own fallible, finite, fallen minds (1 Cor 1:19-20).

 

Some things never change.  At least when it comes to what critics think of Christianity.

When we hear modern-day stereotypes of Christianity we might assume that they are, well, modern.  These are criticisms, we think, that pertain to the present cultural moment in which we find ourselves.

But, a quick survey of the earliest Christian critics shows that there really is nothing new under the sun.  Even when it comes to complaints about Christians.

Take, for example, the prolific anti-Christian philosopher Celsus. Around AD 177, Celsus published his True Doctrine, a scathing, witty, and biting critique of the early Christian movement.

Celsus’ critique is wide-ranging, but there are three fundamental criticisms he levels against Christianity.  And I will deal with each of them in a short three-part blog series.

And, here’s why Celsus’ critiques are so effective: each of them have an element of truth in them. They are partly right and partly (or perhaps mainly) wrong.

Ok, so here’s the first critique of Celsus we will consider: Christians are ignorant, uneducated, simpletons.

Holding nothing back, Celsus tells us what he really thinks about the Christian movement:

The following are the rules laid down by [the Christians].  ‘Let no one come to us who has been instructed, or who is wise or prudent (for such qualifications are deemed evil by us); but if there be any ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons, let them come with confidence.’  By which words, acknowledging that such individuals are worthy of their God, they manifestly show that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, with women and children.

Ouch.

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