Posted by Sen on March 8, 2009
In a discussion on this blog, I referred briefly to Rodney Stark’s work on the dynamics of religious growth. Stark is primarily a sociologist, whose contribution to church history is to employ the statistical and analytic methods used in sociology. His book, The Rise of Christianity (1996, Princeton University Press) deals roughly speaking with the first three centuries of Christianity, and the first century of Mormonism, and offers a lot of food for thought for the Bahais.
Stark begins by estimating that there were 1000 Christians in the Roman Empire in the year 40. He notes that in the middle of the third century, Christians were by their own account few in number (p.5), but by the year 300 there were about 5 to 7.5 million Christians: so numerous that a few years later Constantine found it expedient to embrace the church. This has led the church in its own histories, and some scholars, to suppose that there was a mass conversion event in the late third century. But constant growth of 40% per decade, or 3.42% per year, is enough to explain these results: no mass conversion event is required. This is the same growth picture that Stark had found in his previous work on the Mormon church, which has grown hugely in 100 years without mass conversions, and it is supported by the archaeological evidence of church building sizes.
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Posted in Community | Tagged: Bahai, Bahai Faith, Benton Johnson, conservative theology, Constantine, devotional meetings, entry by troops, Hoge, Lesser Peace, liberal theology, Luidens, mass conversion, Moonies, Mormons, Rodney Stark, Ruhi, The Rise of Christianity, triumphalism, Vanishing Boundaries, بهائی, بهائیت | 7 Comments »
Posted by Sen on February 17, 2009
It has been my experience that Bahais often become discouraged as a result of having unrealistic expectations of what is called entry by troops (EBT) and large scale conversion. I would like to look again at what the Bahai scriptures say about this, and at how Shoghi Effendi conceived the historical process of growth. The little that the scriptures say suggests to me that its importance has been over-rated, and that the time-frame of entry by troops, its nature, and how the Bahais can bring it about have all been misunderstood. From my reading of the world and of the scriptures, I suggest that we should not now be greatly preoccupied with entry by troops or large scale conversion: a concern with the needs of the age we live in, and the needs of our Bahai communities today, will indicate healthier, locally-specific priorities which – ironically – will be more conducive to actual ‘growth’ in every sense. We will start by briefly looking back over the last two generations.
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Posted in Community, Ethics and Morality | Tagged: Bahai Faith, bahai theology, entry by troops, Lesser Peace, mass conversion, Matthew 16:3, millenialism, personal transformation, Shoghi Effendi, y2k, year 2000, بهائی, بهائیت, شوقی افندی | 7 Comments »