Previously, our lesson left the Christian church in a very strong position at the end of the First Century. It was strong spiritually, for although there had been attempts to dilute some of its beliefs, the strength of the apostles, who lived through most of the century, had been enough to repulse any attempt to bring any pagan influences into the church. In a physical sense, the church also was strong, for it had spread over most of the Mediterranean world, had many converts who were strong in the faith and had weathered two great persecutions.
The Second Century saw a revival of literature and philosophy among all the countries. There were many new sects and new philosophies that were born during this century, both among the Greeks and among the Romans. The Stoics, whom we mentioned previously as being one of the sects that tried to influence the Christian church without success, became stronger and was one of the great philosophical movements of the century. Another sect growing strong in this century was the Epicurean, which had a great attraction for the masses because it allowed a lot of freedom from conscious and remorse concerning participation in wicked pursuits.
The sect which gave Christianity the most trouble, however, developed in the latter part of the century. This sect called themselves the Platonists, naming themselves after Plato. They claimed that no religion or philosophy had all the good, but that there was some good in all philosophies, and they attempted to pick out the best and consolidate it into one philosophy which naturally would be the best of all. This philosophy took hold, especially in the East and in the schools for Christians in Alexandria, hence it had an easy opening into Christianity. Stripped of all extraneous meaning, its principal tenant was that all religions were true religions when they were first given to man, but they were polluted and passed down imperfectly from generation to generation. Consequently, the way to regain perfect communion with God was to strip away all teachings except those chosen as the best, and then through austere discipling of the mind, to finally secure perfect communion with God. It was this idea of denial and self contemplation that gave rise to the great numbers of monks who separated themselves from the world into a world of inactivity.