Tolerant when down

Christians won’t accept the validity of other ways to God but a philosopher turned Christian proclaimed their tolerance.

worship cannot be forced; it is something to be achieved by talk rather than blows, so that there is free will in it … anyone without devotion and faith is no use to God … there is nothing that is so much the matter of willingness as religion.

No surprise that this was expressed at the beginning of the century, during the great persecution. Move to the end of the century and you hear a call for classical tolerance from a grand senator of Rome.

We ask, then, for peace for the gods of our fathers and of our country. It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road.

But Christianity on top would only hear of her own ways. The great bishop Ambroise warned the child emperor,

we bishops cannot contentedly suffer it [allowing others ways] and take no notice; you indeed may come to the church, but will find either no priest there, or one who will resist you. …┬áThe Lord Jesus refuses and rejects your service, because you have served idols, for He said to you: “Ye cannot serve two masters.” … I implore you to do that which you know will be profitable to your salvation before God.

And then even Augustine who started tolerant could declare

There is a persecution of unrighteousness, which the impious inflict upon the church of Christ; and there is a righteous persecution, which the church of Christ inflicts on the impious … Moreover she persecutes in the spirit of love, they in the spirit of wrath.

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