I am amused by some of my Christian acquaintances and friends. They spend time postulating and posing ideas in their minds as to what exactly is meant by some of the weightier things in Godâ€™s word. The church and the form it takes is one current fashion. I read recently that the church is â€œinvisible.â€ I have heard that it is not an organization, a corporation, an entity, or an institution.
Roots of Catholicism.
It would be a mistake to leave off the part played in the establishment of Catholicism by Constantine the Great and his immediate successors. Yet this is often sidestepped. What the digressive churches would become was by then not yet set, although apostasy was already fully rooted, particularly in Rome and Alexandria. And the corruption already coursing through some of the churches was used to good advantage by the powerful. While there is a considerable distance between Rome, Alexandria and Istanbul, Constantine and his successors oversaw the laying of a foundation between these churches and the government, and out of it there arose a new and distinct vision of empire, and a new and distinct church.
Though noted as a religious man, Constantine was first and foremost a pragmatist. And his piety has been played up in religious history as the first Christian emperor mostly through the efforts of the Catholic Churches (both Eastern and Western). While he certainly appears to have held to the basic common notion of simple belief in Christ, he was first and foremost a politician and conqueror. He did not rise to power accidentally. All things available to him were used to empower. Of his character it should be noted that he did in some ways reform the empire and others; and life for Christians during these days was certainly better without continuing persecutions. But there is also clear evidence of terrible inconsistencies.
In the year he convened the Council of Nicaea, he had his most prominent rival, his own brother-in-law, executed. This was followed shortly with the murder of a nephew; and upon that, the unlikely accusation of infidelity which he made towards his eldest son, who was then executed at his command. Such was the behavior of the first non-Latin emperor, who publicly displayed his Christianity, all the while maintaining many of the very characteristics of the others who had preceded him to the throne. This, seen in emperors past and in others, is known by us as eliminating the competition.
Constantine was practical enough to recognize that the system of temple worship was fast losing its appeal and becoming unsustainable. This system had been part of the mechanism of financing the empire. And in the removal of heathenism as the religion of the realm, coinciding with the continuing politicizing of the churches, Constantine started the march to consolidation of the churches within the empire. As that replaced the pagan religion with a new one, it also exchanged one financial system for another. Part of this was promoted through the hollowness of the Edict of Toleration (325), which promised security in the overthrow of the supervision of paganism and emperor worship, while moving into its place the rapidly morphing construct of organized Christianity, anointing with “divine adulation” and conferring “heavenly powers” and declarations upon the emperor, that which had already been claimed for the officers of these churches. And Constantine was adept at using this to full advantage. It was not long before he had “witnessed” a vision of the cross where an angel (or Christ himself) said, “Hoc vince.” “By this conquer” soon became the motto and the crucifix was found on shield and emblem of the legions. This action was publicized and appealed to in the dispatch of the current enemies of Rome, only now in the name of Christ. It was the first of many such events, all of which were at least in part configured to work toward the consolidation of church and state to the eternal detriment of the churches and the loss of souls.
Philip Schaaf wrote that “The greatness of Rome was due to idolatry, to which indeed her subjugated enemies were likewise addicted.” And when Rome, the empire, had begun to align with Christianity, then in order, the conquered, the conscripts, the plebeians and finally the patricians also aligned themselves to the church at the behest of the rulers. Christianity was in quick time fully remade in a new and appealing form, used to unite and solidify within the empire’s sordid crumbling walls, with Constantine, his immediate successors, and unworthy men within a few churches, guiding the rise of the system. As the fellow once said, all you need to do is follow the money. This did not happen overnight — but it did happen by the time that Julian the Apostate had been dispatched, and the last vestiges of heathenism and paganism were thereby eliminated. With heathenism in its last throws, a new religion of Rome was now established. And one form of idolatry was exchanged for another.
In 380 the edict of Theodosius, Gratian, and Valentinian II was published.
“We, the three emperors, will that all our subjects steadfastly adhere to the religion which has been taught by St. Peter to the Romans, which has been faithfully preserved by tradition, and which is now professed by the pontiff of Damascus, of Rome, and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the institution of the apostles and the doctrine of the gospel, let us believe in the one Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, of equal majesty in the holy Trinity. We order that the adherents of this faith be called Catholic Christians; we brand all the senseless followers of other religions with the infamous name of heretics, and forbid their conventicles assuming the name of churches. Besides the condemnation of divine justice, they must expect the heavy penalties which our authority, guided by heavenly wisdom shall think proper to inflict.”
We could expend a good many words identifying the various forms of false doctrine and open heresy related within this single paragraph, where doctrine and instruction no longer have any foundation or link to scripture, only to the needs of the state. Corrupt men by this time had commandeered the religion of Christ to meet their own ends, those who had already arrived within the halls of secular and religious power raising now the specter of an unholy alliance between church and state. It was the sounding of a death knell for the earlier church, and those who still held to the scriptures, by their allowing evil men to gradually seize the offices within some of the assemblies, and placing truth to be manipulated in the hands of the unscrupulous.
If you study the historical documentation, you should be able to identify these things as having grown out of some of the churches found in the first part of the second century, starting in Rome and continuing in other unfortunately like minded cities. You can then see where this digression appeared near full blown by the first quarter of the fourth century, culminating a half century later with the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. It would take 126 more years to finally crown the first full Pontifex Maximus, Il Papa, The Father, God on Earth – not an emperor, but a proclaimed holy man beholden to emperors and their successors. It would take 420 years from that point to establish the Holy Roman Empire under Charles the Great (Charlemagne).
Where there is smoke, there is fire. Where there is money, there is desire.
Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. But he said to them, “The Kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors.”
But it must not be like that among you. on the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving.”
(Luke 22: 24-26)