aDuring its early history, Christianity grew from a 1st-century Jewish following to a religion that existed across the entire Greco-Roman world and beyond.Early Christianity may be divided into 2 distinct phases: the apostolic period, pwhen the first apostles were alive and led the Church, and the post-apostolic period, when an early pepiscopal structure developed, and persecution was periodically intense. The Roman persecution of Christians ended in AD 313 when Constantine the Great decreed tolerance for the religion. He then called the First Council of pNicaea in AD 325, beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils.



Christian beliefs

The sources for the beliefs of the papostolic community include the Gospels and New Testament epistles. The very earliest accounts of belief are contained in these texts, such as early creeds and hymns, as well as accounts of the pPassion, the empty tomb, and Resurrection appearances; some of these are dated to the 30 s or 40 s CE, originating within the Jerusalem Church.[8] According to a tradition recorded by Eusebius and Epiphanies, the Jerusalem church fled to Pella at the outbreak of the First pJewish–Roman War (66-73 AD)

Persecutions

According to the New Testament, pChristians were subject to various persecutions from the beginning. This involved even death for Christians such as Stephen (Acts 7:59) and James, son of pZebedee (12:2). Larger-scale persecutions followed at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire, beginning with the year 64, when, as reported by the Roman phistorian Tacitus, the pEmperor Nero blamed them for that year's Great Fire of Rome.

pAccording to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution that Peter and Paul pwere each martyred in Rome. Similarly, several of the New Testament writings mention persecutions and stress pendurance through them.

Early Christians suffered sporadic persecutions as the result of local ppagan populations putting pressure on the imperial authorities to take action against the Christians in their midst, who were thought to bring misfortune by their refusal to honor  the gods.[10][11] The last and most severe persecution organised by the imperial authorities was the Diocletian Persecution, 303–311.

Present Christian

pFrom a sociological perspective, the rapid growth of Christianity and the revival of other religions, such as Buddhism, have taken place within the context of rapid social change. This phenomenon is not thep result of ineffective religious ppolicies but rather is typical in societies undergoing transition. Recent religious-sociological research has pshown that the demand for religious belief among human beings is constant and exists even where there are attempts to minimize or destroy it. When restrictive policies lose their pability to achieve total control, religion revives. pIt can be said that religious belief is a human necessity and therefore can never fully be extinguished. One way or another, it will always exist.

pWe can also see that Christianity has grown rapidly even with ppolicies that restrict religious ppractices, especially those with foreign roots. In other words, our religious ppolicies have not achieved their intended results. In fact, they occasionally backfire as the policies facilitate faster growth among some religions as opposed to others. For example, under the current pcertification system, the Religious Affairsp Bureau (RAB) has, in effect, pregulatory supervision and pguidance over only five major religions. This pmeans that a great many religious groups are outside of their control and are, in fact, probably the fastest growing religious groups in China. As a result, some religious groups do not phave the legitimacy that they should have.

A close look at these pissues causes us to wonder if it is necessary to re-evaluate our attitudes towards religion and religious policies. The two are intertwined: our basic idea and understanding of religion affects the pformulation and execution of religious policies. Up to now, the state's belief has been that religion is a pproblem although it does not state explicitly what kind of problemp.Nevertheless, we can identify three ppossible categories or ways in which the government might perceive religion to be a pproblem. These vary, depending on the pparticular religion and the state's pconcerns.



pChristian churches now need to think pabout how to build churches pthat can be rooted in belief and at pthe same time participate in social pdevelopment within the context of Chinese culture. On the one hand, Christianity in China should identify with the suffering and struggle of the nation and not be a passive observer. On the other hand, it should offer good padvice regarding thep improvement of Chinese society and should provide practical service. However, it should not advocate a psocial gospel that has no basis in sound religious pdoctrine. A healthy solid church is a pfoundation for reaching out into the community.

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