Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

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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.

Day 199 - John 3

Friday, October 06, 2017

5 minutes a day 5 days a week - a year of Bible Wisdom

All My Children

Thursday, October 05, 2017
In Genesis 6:2, the "sons of God" in this verse are angels?  If not, then who are they?

Sincerely,
Halo Hunter

Dear Halo Hunter,

The sons of God referred to in Gen 6:2 are mortal men.  This language seems confusing at first, but it is perfectly scriptural to refer to mankind as ‘sons and daughters of God’.  In fact, Jesus mentions that we are all sons of God (Jhn 10:34-36).  Gal 3:26 refers to christians as children of God.  Humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), and that makes Him our Father (Eph 4:6).  Gen 6:2 is simply stating that men married women, had children, and populated the earth.  If you would like a more in-depth look at the subject, we taught a class on this subject.  You can listen to it here.

Day 198 - John 2

Thursday, October 05, 2017

5 minutes a day 5 days a week - a year of Bible Wisdom

A Well-Aimed Canon

Wednesday, October 04, 2017
Why do christians accept the New Testament canon?

Sincerely,
Authenticating Orders

Dear Authenticating Orders,

The question of what books to include in the Bible and what books to exclude as false is a major issue – and it is an issue that the early christians had to face.  Twenty-seven books are included in the New Testament canon (the word ‘canon’, when applied to Scriptures, means ‘the officially accepted list of books’), and each one of these books is documented by early christians as being a divinely-inspired piece of literature.  In other words, the early christians believed that God wrote it.

The key to understanding why some books are included in the Bible and other books (even books from the same time period) are excluded is to remember that the Bible claims to be God’s Book (2 Pet 1:19-21).  The early christians lived during the time when these books were being written, and they were fully aware of who was doing the writing.  Today, we can’t tell which religious documents were written by apostles and which documents were written by heretics… but the early christians certainly could!  If someone claimed that a letter was written by the apostle Paul, all they had to do to verify the authenticity of the letter was to ask Paul for themselves.  The early christians were in the best position to differentiate between authentic apostolic writings and other manmade documents.  This is exactly why the early church quickly adopted the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and they have been almost universally accepted as the only New Testament books ever since.  Numerous historical documents verify that the New Testament canon that we use today was accepted, read, collected, distributed, and used by the early christians from very early on.  People who seek to say that they have “found” some new Bible books that have been missing from the canon have to prove that their books were accepted by christians from the beginning – no one has been able to do that.

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