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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.

Blood In Both Directions Pt. 2

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

(This post is a follow-up to “Blood In Both Directions”)

Does this mean, according to Paul, the justification and reconciliation could be attained despite the fact that the matter of faith in the Christ remained a secret until the first century when it became revealed to Paul and his associates?  Was the conscious faith not necessary until then for some reason?

 

Sincerely,
Just Wondering Jew

Dear Just Wondering Jew,

People who lived before Christ were still saved by faith in God.  The whole point of faith is that it is a matter of trusting whatever God has told you (Rom 10:17).  Faith assumes that there are pieces of the puzzle that aren’t revealed to you yet... but that the person (or in this case Deity) that you are putting your faith in is trustworthy (Heb 11:1).  The Old Testament saints had faith in Christ because they trusted in the Messiah that was to come.  The New Testament saints have faith in Christ as they trust the words of the Messiah who walked this earth many years ago… both groups have faith in Christ.  Each group had different instructions and different information that God had given them to follow, but they both had faith in the same God (1 Cor 10:1-4).  Each group had a conscious faith in God – just different rules to follow.

Blood In Both Directions

Friday, September 22, 2017
Hello.  I am a religious Jew but am interested in understanding other religions.  My question is: how did Paul explain how Jews (or Gentiles) were able to be justified (righteous) with or without the Law if the salvation of the Christ was a secret until it was revealed to him and his colleagues in the first century?  How did David and Abraham acquire righteousness if they (or anyone else) did not know about the role of the Christ?  Thanks.

Sincerely,
Just Wondering Jew

Dear Just Wondering Jew,

The New Testament teaches that the sacrifices that cleansed the Jewish people from sin never truly removed the sin (Heb 10:1-4).  The Jewish nation (along with all faithful people) needed God’s blood to permanently remove sin and make them righteous.  When Jesus died on the cross, His blood paid the price for those who had gone before and those who were to come after… one sacrifice for all sins (Heb 10:12).

All mankind is saved by faith in God, including those found in the Old Testament.  Abraham lived by faith and is considered the father of the faithful (Rom 4:11-12).  Abraham didn’t understand the mystery of what God would do in Christ, but he did live knowing that God would send salvation (Jhn 8:56).  Moses placed his faith in God (which includes Jesus because Jesus is Deity – Jhn 1:1-3) and was rewarded for it (Heb 11:24-26).  All the faithful who lived before Christ did so in expectation of better things through God (Heb 11:13).  Though they didn’t understand the details, all the faithful of the Old Testament anxiously anticipated the coming of the Messiah (1 Pet 1:10-12).  Jesus’ blood covered the sins of those who looked forward to the coming of the Messiah… as well as the sins of those who rejoice that He already came.

Shake, Rattle, & Roll

Thursday, September 21, 2017
I was at church Sunday night, and I "fell out", and while I was lying there, I saw flashes of bright white lights, and my body was trembling.  What does this mean?

Sincerely,
Knocked Flat

Dear Knocked Flat,

It means one of two things:

  1. You need to see a doctor.  Something medically is wrong and needs to be addressed.
  2. You have been taught that it is part of religious service to have strange visions, bodily reactions (such as convulsions, etc.), and direct supernatural “zaps” from heaven.  This is common in the Holy Roller movement, as well as in many Charismatic and Pentecostal churches.  The Bible never teaches this.  Many people are conditioned to believe they are having “religious experiences” because that is normal in the churches they attend.  This simply doesn’t match the Bible pattern.  People are pleasing to God when they follow His commandments (Jhn 14:15) and live by faith in His Word (Rom 10:17).  Do not be fooled by false pretenses of religion.  The Bible never discusses the “religious experiences” seen in many of today’s churches.

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