Stark, Rodney. "Chapter 10: A Brief Reflection on Virtue." The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997, 191-208.
Stark observes that historians today are willing to evaluate social factors and their influence on doctrine, but they are not as willing to evaluate the influences doctrine has on society (Stark 1997, 209). However, Stark believes "that it was the religion's particular doctrines that permitted Christianity to be among the most sweeping and successful revitalization movements in history. And it was the way these doctrines took on actual flesh, the way they directed organizational actions and individual behavior, that led to the rise of Christianity" (Stark 1997, 211).
Stark specifically sees that the Jewish and Christian idea of God actually loving his people would be puzzling to the pagan world (Stark 1997, 211). Mercy was not part of the pagan world view. It was even seen as a character defect (Stark 1997, 212). Counter to paganism, Christianity is centered on a merciful God who makes people merciful, and requires them to love one another. "This was revolutionary stuff" (Stark 1997, 212).
A second major feature of Christinaity which made it effective in revitalization is that it offered a distinct culture which was not based on ethnicity and which did not require people to discard their ethnicity (Stark 1997, 213). Inthis way, Christianity was the most cosmopolitan culture of all. The culture, moreover, was humane and valued all people alike. In such a culture, people were treated as intrinsically valuable. The virtue was certainly compelling. This made Christianity uniquely able to change the world.