I cannot go along with your assessment of early Christian/church history. The faith was alive, and even thrived, for 300 years as a combination of a variety of people. There were the few survivors who were actually with Christ
If you believe the Acts of the Apostles
is reliable history, sure. But there is no compelling internal evidence to do so; there were many such Acts
of various figures, both Christian and Pagan, circulating well before, during, and after the time of the composition of our canonical Acts
; which, by the way, is not likely to have been earlier than 80 c.e., and can quite strongly be argued for closer to 200 c.e., making it a close contemporary of Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana
, just one such example of "discredited" messianic literature.
Jews who survived the Roman defeat of Jerusalem uprising in 70 ad;
Would these be the same jews responsible for such writings as The Gospel of Thomas
The Christian faith was certainly much more than a rich housewife hobby, and it flourished in spite of brutal persecution and outright hatred from the wealthy and powerful.
Depends of the emperor. Sometimes they were persecuted, sometimes not.
After Emporer Constantine converted (311-313) the story of course took a very different turn.
And from whom, I wonder, did Constantine learn his Christianity?
it took hundreds of years to get to that point, and some would argue (as I do) that Christianity was better off as an "insurgency" than it was as a part of the establishment.
Most Fundamentalist or Evangelical chrisitians I have known (and I have known a great many, I spent several years as a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and even preached from the same pulpit as R.M. McCheyne once had) believe that a return to "early" or "primitive" christianity would please god to no end. Then again, I wonder how they'd feel if their wives were required to shave their heads, like those early churches in Asia Minor.
The early church fathers were often trying to sort through scripture, teaching, theology, history, etc. in an effort to make sense of Christ and the Christian faith. Their focus was on a geniune search for truth, beginning with a basis of faith of course.
We'll have to disagree here, too. The early church fathers were looking for a uniformity of practice first and doctrine second; witness Paul's confused (and confusing) letters; he's clearly trying to hold the various churches together with doctrinal duct tape and chickenwire, even to the point of esentially admitting that Jesus was a figurative, not a literal, persona. (Hebrews 8.4; the proper translation reads, "If he had been
on earth, he would not have been a priest"; the conservative translations give, "If he were
on earth", a subjunctive sense not supported by the past indicative verb in the Greek. Paul, it would seem, didn't believe Jesus had been on earth, at least not when proselytising his fellow Jews.) Their search was for an institutional stability that could withstand rival cults and the not-infrequent persecutions from local and Roman authorities.
As I have said before, one of the infuriating things about the modern church is that it has allowed Christianity to devolve into this thing called orthodoxy (right belief) and puts far too much emphasis on orthopraxy (right practice, of course).
This, my friend, is the history of the church in toto
. It is not a new phenomenon.
Pensod, faith and rational thought certainly have a point of departure, but that point is much further down the line than you are acknowledging.
Religion does have its rational elements; Augustine, far and away the most important of the early church thinkers, is scripture in an Aristotle-shaped box. And his mother was pretty devout, too, even when ol' Augie was nicking pears out of the neighbor's orchard.
Then again, when your beginning assumptions are incorrect, then so are your conclusions, no matter how sound the logic in between.
FWIW, this was post number 6,666 for me.