To many pagans Christianity seemed another manifestation of the same solar monotheism that had long been a presence in their religious culture. It shared many features of the mystery cult Mithraeism as well as of the monotheistic or syncretism worship of Sol Invictus. Initiates of these monotheistic religions shared a revealed doctrine and ritual initiations, and they could look forward to a blessed afterlife. But there are other, more obvious, similarities between the solar cults and Christianity: Christ, Mithras, and Sol Invictus were all believed to have been born on December 25, the winter solstice; Christians worshipped on the day of the sun (sol)— Sunday; and Christian churches were oriented to the east so that when congregants worshipped they faced the direction of the sun's rising. Thus, it was not the concept of monotheism that set Christians apart from nonChristians so much as the Christians' unequivocal belief in the divinity of Jesus.
Christian doctrine taught that God the Father had sent his Son Jesus to redeem mankind by sacrificing himself on the cross. Through that sacrifice, Christians could anticipate eternal life, a blessed immortality. Unlike Jewish and other non-Christian religions, Christians could be saved by one act of faith—by believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that he had redeemed mankind by dying on the cross. Pagan monotheists did not reject the Christians' belief in a transcendent deity, nor the promise of eternal salvation in a blessed afterlife, but they did reject the idea of a deity who would take human form and suffer crucifixion, a means of death reserved for the lowest type of criminal.
Was this article helpful?