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CATHOLIC

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Constantinian Shift Pt. 2

Thursday, October 12, 2017

(This question is a follow-up to “Constantinian Shift”)

I am glad you have corrected your statement about Constantine "forcing" all to convert to Christianity.  There is a very fine line between statements of historical truth and statements meant to lead a reader to a conclusion by implication and exaggeration.  My only issue with your line of reasoning has to do with how you determine what is historically reliable and what is not.  You cannot have things both ways.  When presented with historical sources and actual named witnesses to a questioner laying a foundation of an organized church before Constantine, you rejected the history outright and claimed it was contradictory and unreliable (see your response to "A History Of Error" in the Catholic archive).  Then in response to other topics (canon of New Testament and Constantine's activities), you relied on extra-biblical historical accounts.  So on one hand, you are relying on history to make some points, while on the other hand, you are rejecting history to disprove other points.  I am hoping you see this contradiction as I really don't want you guys to keep sawing off the very branch you are sitting on in an attempt to influence your readers away from a faith you don't agree with.  Why do you accept the testimony of the witnesses to Constantine's subtle ways of influencing conversion?  What makes you think those extra-biblical accounts are reliable?  How do you know the early church historians (bishops and clergy) that attest to an organized church before the famous edict are unreliable?

Sincerely,
Cite Your Sources Please

Dear Cite Your Sources Please,

We appreciate your concern over our use of extra-biblical history.  Let's see if we can quickly clarify.  We use historical resources as reliable sources in regards to Constantine because that is the ONLY history of Constantine we have.  The Bible never directly deals with Constantine; therefore, we are left to use secular history as our only guide.  You may have misunderstood our statements about Constantine – we do believe Constantine forced people to obey his state-run religion.  As we mentioned in the last post, he forced them by using inducements.

The times that we have stated that the early church historians were being unreliable or contradictory is when we do have a biblical account to compare it to.  The Bible is always the first and foremost guide in church history, and the Bible soundly condemns Catholicism's practices.  Therefore, people who lived and taught anything in opposition to the Bible are wrong, no matter whom they are.  There were early church historians that were beginning to move toward the Catholic way of functioning before the era of Constantine (Constantine simply is the historical demarcation point when things began to quickly move downhill), but the fact that early church writers taught things contradictory to Bible teachings discredit them in doctrinal matters.  We can trust early historians in secular history unless they prove otherwise (i.e. contradict the majority of historians); we can trust early historians in religious history unless they prove otherwise (i.e. contradict Scripture).  Hopefully, that gives you some clarity as to why it seems like we are "cherry picking" the history that we want.  Everything gets compared to Scripture – even early church writers.

Constantinian Shift

Friday, October 06, 2017
In a previous post, you stated "Both the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church trace their history back to the days of Caesar Constantine.  …Constantine made Christianity the national religion and forced all people to join it.  By forcing people to join Christianity, Constantine removed all traces of the volunteer Bible-based faith that Christ died for."
The edict of Milan issued by Constantine only proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire.  There is no historical record of Constantine "forcing" anyone to become christian.  Constantine was actually against conversion by coercion: “It is one thing voluntarily to undertake the conflict for immortality, another to compel others to do so from fear of punishment”.  As a student of history, could you please clarify for me your historical sources for your previous statements regarding this period of Christianity?

Sincerely,
Cite Your Sources Please

Dear Cite Your Sources Please,

You are correct that the edict of Milan only proclaimed toleration and that Constantine is on record as saying that conversion by coercion was a bad thing, but like all good politicians, what Constantine said and what he did were two different things.

Constantine issued the edict of Milan legalizing Christianity and then subsequently began to provide “inducements” to conversion.  These inducements included:

  1. Government-conferred benefits for church leaders (this included immunity from military service)
  2. Cash gifts to congregations
  3. Building elaborate buildings for churches
  4. Christians received career advancements within the government over and above pagans
  5. Exile of preachers that upset him (even subsets of Christian beliefs – such as Arianism)

These inducements are well-documented in various sources, but one good book to look at is “Christianizing the Roman Empire” by Ramsay MacMullen.  It is also important to note that the edict of Milan, which legalized tolerance, was only the beginning of a movement to make Christianity a state religion.  The edict of Milan promoted tolerance in 313 AD, but by 380 AD, emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official state religion, and in 392 AD, all other worship was made illegal.  Constantine was the tip of the spear for a movement to turn Christianity into a government entity (eventually Catholicism) over the next hundred years.

A History Of Error

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Paul mentions a brother in Christ named Linus in 2 Timothy 4:21.  According to christian historical sources, Linus went on to become the second bishop of Rome, possibly ordained by Paul himself.  The earliest witness is Irenaeus, who in about the year 180 AD wrote: "The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate.”  Linus is presented by Jerome as "the first after Peter to be in charge of the Roman Church, by Eusebius, as "the first to receive the episcopate of the church at Rome, after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter by John Chrysostom as "second Bishop of the Church of Rome after Peter", while the Liberian Catalogue presents Peter as the first Bishop of Rome and Linus as his successor in the same office.  There seems to be an extensive list of bishops of Rome from Peter to the Emperor Constantine, attested to by early church fathers such as Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical History), Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Ignatius of Antioch, etc.  Why do some christians believe the Catholic church began with Constantine in the fourth century when there is clear historical evidence to the contrary?

Sincerely,
Swiss Guard

Dear Swiss Guard,

Actually, there isn’t clear historical evidence… most of those early church writers were very vague (and sometimes even contradictory) about what the church was doing at that time.  Furthermore, the church is supposed to have bishops… just not Catholic bishops!  1 Tim. 3:1-7 outlines the biblical requirements for a bishop – even if Linus was a bishop (also known as an elder – Tit 1:5) in the congregation in Rome – that doesn’t mean it was a Catholic church.  The Catholic church with a pope, cardinals, archdioceses, etc. didn’t begin to truly form until the days of Constantine when the Roman empire tried to control Christianity by making it the state religion (a practice that has been repeated in many countries throughout time).

In the end, Catholicism is a false religion because it isn’t built upon the Bible.  Any religion that doesn’t use the Bible as its standard of measure is false (Gal 1:8).  The Catholic church calls its priests “father” which is wrong (Matt 23:9).  It tells people that they can’t eat certain foods, and it tells their priests that they can’t marry – which is wrong (1 Tim 4:3).  The Catholic church teaches that the Pope is directly in contact with God and that people should follow him… once again, wrong.  Christ is our direct connection to God (Heb 1:1-4), and the Bible is what we should follow (2 Tim 3:16-17).  Everything about the Catholic church’s organization is in direct opposition to the Scriptures.  The question isn’t how old a church is; the question is whether or not Christ is its head (Eph 5:23).  There is only one pattern for the church (Eph 4:4-6), and the Catholic church is not it.

Original Origins... Of Wayward Churches

Thursday, April 13, 2017

(This question is a follow-up to “Original Origins”)

Thank you for your answer regarding the first church in history, but I have another question.  Did the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church start at the same time, or did one form first and then the other?

Sincerely,
Ground Zero

Dear Ground Zero,

Both the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church trace their history back to the days of Caesar Constantine.  As we mentioned in the last post, Constantine made Christianity the national religion and forced all people to join it.  By forcing people to join Christianity, Constantine removed all traces of the volunteer Bible-based faith that Christ died for.  With national sanctions, political power, and a religious hierarchy that included cardinals, bishops, archbishops, etc., Constantine’s endorsement of Christianity suppressed Christ’s religion.  This time period gave birth to a national religion that was more about politics and power than faith, hope, and love.  Paul warned christians that an apostasy like this was coming and to beware of anyone that would set themselves up as head of the church (2 Thess 2:3-4).

This national religion continued until about the 11th century when there became a dispute over whether the city of Rome would lead this church or the city of Constantinople would.  This argument (and other smaller ones) broke the national religion into two groups.  The Roman Catholic church followed the Pope from Rome, and the Greek Orthodox church chose to have more localized bishops control their territories.  In any event, both churches can be traced to the same non-biblical beginnings which have confused many people for many generations.

Original Origins

Wednesday, April 05, 2017
What exactly was the first Christian church in history?  Was it the Roman Catholic church?  Was it the Eastern Orthodox church?  Or was it a Gnostic sect?

Sincerely,
Ground Zero

Dear Ground Zero,

The first church in history is the one founded on the day of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts.  Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox church didn’t begin until hundreds of years later under the reign of emperor Constantine when Constantine tried to control Christianity by making it the national religion… complete with government councils and sanctions.

The only pattern for the church that can be trusted is the one that can be found in the Bible.  All denominations, sects, and schisms are caused by deviating from the Bible.  The apostle Paul proclaimed that there is only one pattern for the church’s teaching, worship, and behavior (Eph 4:4-6).  A church must follow the Scriptures as its blueprint (1 Tim 3:15)… that is the only way to make sure it is pleasing to God.

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