Thursday, September 4, 2008

Constantine, The Apostle of Compromise

Posted on the MySpace Mennonite Group under the topic "How Much Can We Really Blame On Constantine?"

There are a couple things that are unique to Constantine himself, as opposed to other emperors before him:

First of all, he made an open attempt to find points of common interest between Christians and pagans, especially sun worshippers.

Constantine's family religion was sun worship, and so he promoted sun worship in the empire. Christianity was a popular new religion and he used them to gain political leverage, especially against the other two Roman rulers who were competing against Constatine to be emperor.

So Constantine did encourage the church to worship on Sunday because Sunday was the day the sun worshippers worshipped. While some early Christians worshipped on the first day of the week, it was probably on the evening of what we would call Saturday, but the Jewish folks would call the first day.

Also, the Chi Rho, the symbol of Constantine's vision, looked suspiciously-- almost exactly-- like his family crest, which was the symbol of the rising sun between two hills.

So Constantine catered to the church, trying to make them feel as a part of the Roman people, not as outsiders.

The second unique thing Constatine did is to invite the church into the political process. He passed a law which required bishops to act as a court of appeals if a Christian didn't like a decision coming down from a Roman judge. While I think that Constantine's motivation was good-- to prevent further persecution or misunderstanding-- but many bishops at the time was opposed to this law. But there was nothing they could do about it.

He also put himself as arbitrator over the council of Nissea. Nissea was chosen because it was right next to Constantinople. Now Constantine didn't make a ruling, but he did act as mediator.

These three items, I think, give adequate reason to name Constantinism after Constantine. First of all, he actively knocked down the wall of separation between the church and the world. Secondly, he got the church involved in the poltical life of the current state instead of focusing only on the kingdom of God. Thirdly, he encouraged the state to get involved in church business.

If you have any questions about it, read what Eusibius says about Constantine. He gives the emperor greater praise than he does any saint of the church, and the emperor didn't get baptized until he was one foot in the grave and then in his crypt, he put himself amidst the twelve apostles!

Constantine was a great political mind. But he was terrible for the church.

I recently found out that near the end of his life, Constantine killed his wife and one of his sons. Not exactly the act of a "Christian" emperor-- or perhaps he was the model for almost all Christian poltical leaders after him?

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