|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
1) Abounding Heresies
2) Rome Conquered (The Edict of Toleration and Constantine)
The character of the times in which we live is such as to call forth from us even this admonition, that we ought not to be astonished at the heresies (which abound) neither ought their existence to surprise us, for it was foretold that they should come to pass; nor the fact that they subvert the faith of some, for their final cause in, by affording a trial to faith, to give it also the opportunity of being "approved." Groundless, therefore, and inconsiderate is the offence of the many who are scandalized by the very fact that heresies prevail to such a degree... [Tertullian, A.D. 145-220, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol III, p 243.]
The prevalence of and the ready acceptance of heresies, therefore, by believers is neither new nor unexpected. Hence a primary purpose of instruction in God's Word is countering heresies.
Paul, writing to his son in the Lord, Timothy, gave some very explicit instructions. Paul's purpose was to both warn and urge Timothy to warn others of the danger of strange, false doctrines that would influence the church, 1 Tim 1:3. Paul warned that demonic doctrines contrary to the law-word of God would creep into the church under the guise of Christian doctrine, vv. 4. Paul warns Timothy of many teachers who will come in the name of Christ, professing things contrary to sound doctrine. [It is interesting that Paul implies an unsound doctrine is that Christ must reign visibly in order to be the King of the whole earth, 1:17.]
Paul instructs Timothy in several points of sound doctrine in chapters two and three. Having spoken to Timothy in general terms in the first three chapters, Paul gives him some very specific warnings, i.e. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly..., 4:1. Paul thus identifies the following instructions as explicitly from the Spirit, and clearly identifies some of the unsound doctrines that will be accepted by many believers. The Spirit foretells "a dreadful apostasy which should happen in the last times," (John Gill, 1696-1771) and gives the apostasy's details, so God's people can easily recognize it.
The author of the prophetic warning is the Spirit of God; the author of the apostasy is the enemy, i.e. seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, 4:1. Hence, the Spirit could not be more candid in identifying the authors of the apostasies He is about to identify, nor in identifying the apostasies' time-frame of appearance.
The Spirit identifies two apostasies that will be prevalent among believers in the latter times: first, forbidding to marry, and second, abstain from meats. [KJV shows that the words, "and commanding" added by the translators; they can thus legitimately be left out of the reading.] These doctrines of devils will proceed from even Christian teachers, teachers who have departed from the faith, and who have had their conscience seared with a hot iron.
We should recognize a couple of facts at this point: 1) these two doctrines are presented to believers by seducing spirits for a purpose, and, 2) because they are doctrines of devils, the purpose behind these doctrines must be the immediate or eventual destruction of believers, to cause them to depart from the faith and from their source of victory over the enemy.
Paul tells Timothy that by pointing out these seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, he (Timothy) will show himself a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained, he will prove himself mature in the Word of God and show his faithfulness in using his God-given gift. Continuation in sound doctrine against the seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils will result in saving himself and his hearers from those spirits and devils, vv. 6. Let us add that no matter what is the believer's physical age, his spiritual maturity is shown by withstanding the seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
Four times, Saint John tells us that the antichrist, the mystery of iniquity, was already at work in the early church, 1 Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn 1:7. Paul identifies for Timothy a weapon of warfare used by the antichrist against the saints of the Most High God: lies against truth. In the case before us, the lies consist of forbidding to marry, and abstain from meats. (See Dan 7:22-25, &c.)
The lies and deceits are presented to men in hypocrisy. The goal is to influence men to accept the lies, for the enemy's only power is his lies: If people do not believe his lies, his power vaporizes. Christ, the Word of God, presents the truth; therefore, the enemy's power is broken from over those who accept the truth over lies.
HYPOCRISY: "acting of a stage player," e.g.
I Ki 13:18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. 1 Ki 22:22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
Deut 13 tells us that the Lord God Himself permits the seducing spirits to move freely among His people for the purpose of proving their loyalty to His law-word. Will His people accept the law-word of God over the apparent truth of the seducing spirits? The seducing spirits move to destroy those whose hearts are not wholly upon the Lord, Deut 1:36. Observe that seducing spirits do not necessarily move as some mystical feeling nor supernatural, spiritual aberration; rather, they move in the hearts of speakers, making those speakers false prophets, and in the hearts of the hearers, making them receptive to the heresies. According to the Spirit, those false prophets under the influence of the seducing spirits are hardened, so they either do not realize what they are saying, or do not care what they are saying as they present the doctrines of devils, 1 Tim 4:1, 2.
Basically, the false teachers are themselves convinced and convincing to their hearers, saying there is a higher and holier way than is spoken by God's Word, "Yea, hath God said...?"
Regardless of one's view of Eschatology, Daniel 8 gives us an excellent insight into the current war waged by the enemy against God:
23-25 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify [himself] in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
The prince of darkness is prospering in his warfare against the mighty and the holy people. Through his crafty lies, he has destroyed and is continuing to destroy many; but in his stand against the Prince of Peace -- the Truth -- he is broken without hands. [See also, Acts 20:30; Rom 16:18; Eph 4:14; 2 Tim 3:5; 2 Pe 2:1, &c. Note 2 Pet 2:1, false prophets..., false teachers..., damnable heresies, even denying the Lord... Denial of the Lord is only part of their heresies. Paul, in his instructions to Timothy, points out that their damnable heresies include forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats. Hence, the seducing spirits present many things without openly denying the Lord.]
Paul warns Timothy that the "wily" devil (Eph 6:11) tries to convince, by whatever means possible, that it is preferable to abstain from marriage and to abstain from meats. Origen [A.D. 185-230-254], a pupil of Clement of Alexandria, said of 1 Tim 4:1-4,
...But these persons, because of the ignorance of their understandings, are not only unable themselves logically to state the truth, but cannot even give their attention to what is advanced by us; and entertaining unworthy ideas of His divinity, have delivered themselves over to errors and deceits, being depraved by a spirit of error, rather than instructed by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, according to the declaration of the apostle, "Following the doctrine of devils, forbidding to marry, to the destruction and ruin of many, and to abstain from meats, that by an ostentatious exhibition of stricter observance they may seduce the souls of the innocent." [Ibid, vol IV, p 285.]
In his lie, the devil offers believers a higher level of holiness and/or health, e.g. "You can," says the enemy, "Be more holy and/or more healthy than what the Lord offered you in His Word. The Lord gave you a good outline, but here is a better way. Do more than what He said." Furthermore, the lying enemy is not above using apparent truth nor subverting truth to support his efforts to seduce the saints to follow doctrines of devils. The problem will be especially serious in the latter times.
Forbidding to marry: There have been several movements and groups over the years who have made such demands upon their followers, e.g. Gnosticism, Marcion, Encratites, Montanists, Manichees, &c. Obviously, the most well-known, prevalent group is the Roman Papists, who forbid marriage to their leaders under pretence of a higher, holier way of life. In the mean time, the Romans hypocritically overlook the rampant debaucheries among their leaders whom they forbid to marry: fornication, sodomy, adultery, &c. All one needs do is watch the media for public exposure of the wickedness among the Roman leaders. But lest we point to the Papists, protestant "leaders" are publicly falling to sexual sins by far greater numbers than are the Papists. [A local Romanist hospital was sold because, as the story has it, it no longer had enough nuns to keep it operating under Roman rule.]
The Lord's answer to the marriage question is clear, viz. it is the natural state of men and women:
Heb 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
In fact, the married state is so exalted that the Lord made the husband of one wife a qualification for church leadership, 1 Tim 3, Titus 1. (See 1 Cor 7, which we will not get into at this point.)
[T]o abstain from meats: Though one of the more obvious modern applications of abstain from meats is the Roman practice of "abstaining from meats" during Lent or on special days, e.g. Fridays, the understanding of the phrase is clearly "abstain from animal food," i.e. vegetarianism. Irenaeus [A.D. 120-202] gives us an idea of the background of "abstain from animal food:" Under CHAP. XXIV. - DOCTRINES OF SATURNINUS AND BASILIDES, Irenaeus says,
...This heretic [Saturninus, ed] was the first to affirm that two kinds of men were formed by the angels,-- the one wicked, and the other good. And since the demons assist the most wicked, the Saviour came for the destruction of evil men and of the demons, but for the salvation of the good. They declare also, that marriage and generation are from Satan. Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by feigned temperance of this kind. They hold, moreover, that some of the prophecies were uttered by those angles who made the world, and some by Satan; whom Saturninus represents as being himself an angel, the enemy of the creators of the world, but especially of the God of the Jews. [Ibid, v. I, p 349, Irenaeus Against Heresies.]
Hence, abstention "from animal food," i.e. vegetarianism, strongly implies, knowingly or unknowingly, service to another god, demonism. Thus when one abstains from meat for better health, he says that God did not give in His Word all the details needed for a healthy diet; he, therefore, attacks God, saying that He did not tell man all he needs to know in His Word for good health, 2 Tim 3:16. Vegetarianism, by establishing a "higher" standard than does God, thus serves another god. Please note, though, that we do not include in this statement those who forgo "animal food" for specific medical reasons, e.g. partially removed stomach.
VEGETARIANISM, its source
[M]any of the health food stores are actually fronts for the Hindu gurus. Much of the New Age Hindu teachings are presented as "scientific." Diet is a large part of this movement - especially vegetarianism. I have seen a number of people trapped in demonic bondage through frequenting various "herbalists" and health food stores and maintaining a rigid vegetarian diet as prescribed in various magazines and books containing New Age teachings. [Prepare For War, by Rebecca Brown, M.D., revised Edition, 1992, p 123. Whitaker House, 580 Pittsburgh Street, Springdale, PA 15144.]
Dr. Brown also makes this interesting observation:
Another area of witchcraft which Christians unwittingly use is in the area of herbs. Most of the herbalists and herb shop owners are involved in witchcraft. Incantations are done over the herbs, that is why they work so well. God has given us various herbs which have some medicinal qualities. But if you want to use herbs for medicine, I strongly urge that you grow your own. Most of what you will buy has been involved in rituals of some sort... [Ibid, p 122. This writer would suggest that when using purchased herbs one should renounce any hidden things of dishonesty that might be connected with them. One knows not the origin of the herbs though purchased from a `neutral' source.]
Why, therefore, would seducing spirits and devils, according to Paul's warning, desire Christians to abstain from meats? Again, quoting Dr. Brown:
...Spiritual battling results in an acute loss of protein from our physical bodies. If we are not careful to increase our intake of high quality protein during times of intensive spiritual battle, we will become weak. The scriptures have much to say on this subject.
Ever since God's covenant with Noah in which he gave Noah animals to eat, Satan and his Demons have been trying to stop humans from eating meat. It is interesting to note that today's Hindus and many other Eastern religions (all of which are forms of demon worship), believe that the success of either a medium or an adept whose powers come from the demons possessing them, depends on the presence in their bodies of a subtle fluid called "akasa," which is soon exhausted,and without which the demons are unable to act. This fluid, the Hindus say, may be regenerated only by a vegetarian diet and chastity.
All of the New Age teachings, especially the teaching of the yogis, emphasize vegetarianism. Yogis says that the "vibrations" of meat are harmful and will decrease spiritual sensitivity. A multitude of supposed scientific reasons are put forth in all sorts of media teaching that the eating of meat is harmful. None of this can be backed up by scriptures. Unfortunately, a large portion of the Christians are accepting these teachings. Why the emphasis on vegetarianism by Satan's kingdom? [Dr. Brown points out that, Yoga is for one purpose only, union with [the Hindu god, ed] Brahman. It cannot be separated from the demonic religion which created it...
Yoga is specifically for the purpose of opening up the practitioner to the entrance of demons... [T]he goal of yoga is physical death. Ibid, pp 194, 195, 199. Emph Dr. Brown's.]
As we study the Old Testament and the laws God gave to his people, the children of Israel, we find that the spiritual warriors of those days were the Levites of Israel. Their diets were clearly high in beef and lamb.
If beef is so harmful, then why did Abraham prepare beef for God Himself to eat when He came to visit him? Abraham would obviously prepare the best he had. (See Genesis 18:1-7)
If we look at the various spiritual warriors of renown in the Old Testament, we will find that every time, before they engaged in a great battle, God prepared them with the eating of meat. For instance, Elijah. Please note the menu provided for him personally by the Lord during his period of preparation just before he faced all the prophets of Baal. [Dr. Brown quotes 1 Kings 17:2-6, ed.]
The Lord speaks very directly through Paul to this point in the New Testament. [Dr. Brown then quotes 1 Tim 4:1-5, ed.]
I have searched medical literature carefully, and, despite all the publicity, there simply are no good studies that conclusively show that red meat is harmful. (Please note, I am referring to lean meat, not the fat, which the Lord told the Israelites not to eat when He gave them the Law through Moses.) [This writer wonders if maybe the gross violation of Lev 11 by American Christians has weakened them spiritually and physically?] In fact, much work has been done showing the merits of protein supplements in a very wide range of illnesses. But Satan has such control of the medical field that it is extremely difficult to get the average physician to pay any attention to the merits and necessity of protein. [Yes, this writer heard Paul Harvy quote a news release that vegetarians live longer. But who controls the media that produced the release? Has not the media proved its usefulness to the powers of darkness in forming public opinion?]
If you will stop to evaluate, you will find that the bottom line in any health food teaching or fad is the abstinence from meat. This is no accident. It is a carefully masterminded plan by Satan, because he knows very well the protein needs our bodies have and the tremendous protein drain caused by involvement in spiritual warfare. If Satan can keep God's warriors from eating meat, he can cause much weakness and illness among them from the lack of protein. The physical body rapidly loses its ability to fight infections when deprived of protein. Many people die unnecessarily in these days of "modern medicine" because their doctors don't supplement their protein intake. [This writer's 80 year old, very active father was told a few years ago by his doctor that if he did not eat meat, he would not heal from a serious surgery that had just taken place. The length of life before the flood, i.e. over 900 years, shows that illnesses had not been prevalent before the flood. Moreover, the flood may well have changed some things concerning spiritual warfare.]
During times of intense battling we often find it necessary to eat meat at least twice daily. If we do not, we rapidly lose strength and often become physically ill. I have worked with many people who, when under intensive attacks by witchcraft, became excessively weakened and even ill, simply because they did not know about God's simple principles regarding the needed protein intake. All of them were much improved when they increased the amount of meat in their diets...
The whole area of spiritual warfare is a very deep and dangerous one. We must stay close to our precious Captain and follow His orders day-by-day. As long as we follow and obey Jesus Christ, He will see us safely through all our battles. [Ibid, pp 290-294.]
Though Dr. Brown is a woman, and this author cannot agree with all she says and does as recorded in her book, she certainly uncovers some extremely serious facts about the rise of the modern Hindu influence in the church, and we MUST NOT IGNORE THE FACTS: The modern increase of Hindu influence in the West, America particularly, has been accompanied with an acceptance of vegetarianism and the influence of seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. American Christianity is under serious attack, and Washington's immigration policy is one of the weapons of attack: Its policy clearly encourages Hindus to immigrate here, compromising and confusing the clear teachings of God's Word. [This writer recently stood behind a Hindu woman who paid for all her groceries totally with food stamps, except for a few coins to make change.]
HINDUISM, its influence
The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some will say that the Lord did not create "animal food" for man's use, that the use of "animal food" will make one less healthy than those who do not use it; those who follow the lies have departed from the faith, for they have followed seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, for it clearly violates the Truth, 1 Timothy 4:3.
It is, therefore, wicked to command men to abstain from meats, and evil in those who do it, for such abstinence attacks God and His Word. Meats are to be received with thanksgiving because they have been provided by Divine Providence for man's well being - both spiritual and physical. So far from abstaining from them, man ought to take them, and use them with all thankfulness. (John Gill)
Those which believe and know the truth should not be bound by the "New Age" movement's Hindu diet, i.e. vegetarianism; they should be free from its rites, rituals, ceremonies and inventions of men, e.g. "God did not love you enough to give you everything you need to know in order to be completely holy and healthy."
V. 4, For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused is the clear command, but those warring against God cannot accept God's Word. Obviously, there is a condition upon receiving meats: if it be received with thanksgiving. The vegetarian cannot receive it with thanksgiving to God because he is contemptuous against God: He believes that God provided meat for man's ill health.
V. 5, For it is sanctified, or set apart by God's Word for man's use. (See Gen 9:4) The meats sanctified are listed in Leviticus chapter 11. It would be redundant to go over the list found in Leviticus 11, so this writer urges the reader to check The Institutes of Biblical Law, vol I, pp 297. [©1973, The Craig Press, R.J. Rushdoony.]
Would the Lord permit His people to eat something injurious to their health?
Deut 12:15, 16 Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart. Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.
Would the Lord command His priests to eat something injurious to their health? See Ex 12; Lev 6; 7:23, &c.
Doctrines of devils also result in actions of devils: First, forbidding to marry has resulted in social acceptance of fornication and sodomy, and second, forbidding meat has resulted in Christians with neither the physical nor spiritual strength to engage in the spiritual warfare, for they have established a standard other than God's.
We will address a few points used to justify an extreme opposite of vegetarianism: eating every creature, e.g. swine, &c. First, Acts 10 clearly illustrated taking the gospel to the unclean beasts of the field, the Gentiles, Acts 11. Second, 1 Cor 10 refers to Scripturally "clean" meats that had been offered to idols. Third, Acts 15:29; 21:25, &c. Concerning Col. 2:16, 17, Rushdoony says:
The significance of this has been noted with respect to the sabbath law. The sabbath law is no longer law for us, in that it no longer is a civil and religious offense to fail in one's observance, but it is a principle of life and a moral rule. Similarly, the dietary laws are not legally binding on us, but they do provide us with a principle of operation. the apostles, as they moved into a Gentile world, did not allow diet to be a barrier between them and the Gentiles. If they were served pork or shrimp, they ate it. On their own, they maintained the kosher rules as God's rules of health and life. St. Paul rebuked St. Peter to his face when he withdrew from the Gentiles, with whom he had been eating, because of fear of criticism on the part of some Judaizers (Gal. 2:9-15). With reference to our salvation, the laws of diet have no significance, although Phariseeism gave it such a significance (Gal. 2:16). With reference to our health, the rules of diet are still valid rules... Both [Sabbath & dietary laws, ed] remain, not as laws but as principles for the health of man, the sabbath for man's spirit, and the rules of diet for man's body. Our observance of these dietary rules should never be to place a barrier between ourselves and other men but for our health and prosperity in Christ. [Ibid, pp 301, 302.]
The spiritual battle is real; the Lord God has provided all that is needed for victory over the enemy of our souls, and the primary portion of the whole armour of God is the truth as revealed in the totality of God's Word, Eph 6:10-18.
We must, accordingly, confront the doctrines of devils with the Word of God not only in our churches, but also in our personal lives.
The enemy may have been stabbed at the heart; yet will he get up, and renew the fight. Thou must walk - yea- sleep - in thine armour. It must be worn, not laid up. There is `no discharge from this war,' till the body of sin and death is laid in the grave. Meanwhile victory is declared, before the conflict begins. Let every day then be a day of triumph. The promises are to present victory. With such stirring, stimulating hopes, thou shalt surely have rule, if thou wilt but dare to have it. And if thou hast not courage enough to be a Christian, thou must be a slave for life to the hardest of task-masters.
This bloodless victory, so contrary to the turmoil of war (Isa ix. 5), is the crown of Christian grace. (Rom xii. 19.) No other grace of the gospel can be exercised without its influence. Yet the daily conquest anticipates the final victory, the spoils of which will be reaped throughout eternity. (Proverbs, Charles Bridges, 1846. 1981 reprint by The Banner of Truth Trust, p 251, 252.)
Having previously discussed the attitude and actions of the church from A.D. 90-200, (Examiner, 4/95) we would now like to consider the results of its militant actions.
Philip Schaff (1819-1893), in his 10 volume study of church history, traces the church from the time of the apostles to the late 1800s; he divides the church's history into ten periods. His first division is Apostolic Christianity, A.D. 1-100, the death of the last apostle, John, and his second division is the Anti-Nicene Christian period, A.D 100-325, the period from John's death to the general church council of Nicene, A.D. 325.
Actually, the turning point of both world and church history was Constantine's A.D. 312 "vision." It lead to his A.D. 313 "Edict of Toleration," setting the stage for the A.D. 325 Nicene council. Because of the importance of Constantine in world history, we will spend a little time on him. The Nicene Council marks the inauguration of the imperial state-church. Emperor Constantine belongs to both periods, i.e. Anti-Nicene and Post-Nicene. He was the first "Christian" emperor, and his Edict of Toleration marked the fall of paganism to Christianity and the beginning of the next period of church history, A.D. 313-600, Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great. We leave Constantine's "conversion" to the reader's discernment.
The reign of Constantine the Great marks the transition of the Christian religion from under persecution by the secular government to union with the same; the beginning of the state-church system. (Schaff, V. III, p 6.)
Consider a short overview of this major point in world history.
In A.D. 286, for convince and protection, Roman Emperor Diocletian divided his power over the vast Roman empire between two very worthy generals: Galerius and Constantius. The capital of the West was the city of Rome; the capital of the East was Milan. Milan's location at the foot of the Alps was important for watching the movement of the German barbarians.
Constantius Clorus reigned from Milan over Gaul, Spain and Britain till his death in A.D. 306. His first wife, Helena, an innkeepers daughter, was Constantine the Great's mother. For political reasons, Constantius had to divorce her and marry a daughter of Maximian. Constantine was probably born in A.D. 272, either in Britain or at Naissus. Helena was said to be a model woman and mother, and was maybe converted later in life. Constantine honored her till her death. Constantine was a soldier, and greatly revered by those under and around him. When his father, Constantius, died, Constantine reigned from Milan in his stead.
The pagan Maxentius usurped the government of Italy and Africa, and is universally viewed as a cruel, dissolute tyrant, hated by heathens and Christians alike. Constantine, at the request of the Roman people of that area, marched from Gaul across the Alps with 98,000 soldiers. Constantine fought three battles against Maxentius, with the third at the Milvian bridge near Rome. The evening before the third and last battle, and no doubt with the upcoming battle on his mind, Constantine saw a vision of a cross with the instruction to go conquer in the name of Christ.
Constantine was not unfamiliar with Christianity, the cross and Christ. His father, the former emperor, had looked favorably on Christianity and had protected the Christians under his authority from persecution. As Constantine grew up, he saw the emperors who worshiped pagan gods go "down in flames." While, on the other hand, his father, who revered the Christian God, uniformly prospered.
Thus the next day, Constantine placed the cross and the first two letters of the name of Christ on the shields of the army and on its banners: X & P superimposed to form a cross. He then triumphed over Maxentius. Please note at this point: Our King is not a prince of bloody conflict; therefore, how much of the bloodshed was of God? Regardless of what we might think one way or another, the vision, act and ultimate triumph of Constantine over Maxentius was the turning point of world history.
Three years afterwards [after Constantine's victory over Maxentius which Constantine attributes to the sign of the cross, ed] the [Roman, ed] senate erected to him a triumphal arch of marble, which to this day, within sight of the sublime ruins of the pagan Colosseum, indicates at once the decay of ancient art, and the downfall of heathenism; as the neighboring arch of Titus commemorates that downfall of Judaism and the destruction of the temple...
At all events the victory of Constantine over Maxentius was a military and political victory of Christianity over heathenism; the intellectual and moral victory having been already accomplished by the literature and life of the church in the preceding period... (Ibid, p 28)
Observe that Constantine's victory arch, the Colosseum and Titus' victory arch are in the same vicinity. Titus represents the victory of paganism over Judaism, the Colosseum represents paganism over Christianity and Constantine represents the victory of Christianity over paganism. Moreover, Christianity did not destroy Judaism, paganism did; then Christianity triumphed over the paganism that destroyed Judaism. The symbolism could not be clearer.
This decisive battle with Maxentius was fought October 27, A.D. 312; the Edict of Toleration was issued from Milan, January, A.D. 313. Thus no doubt Constantine's vision played a great part in causing him to issue the Edict. The "vision" ushered in the "Nicene" age which mixed Christianity with military and political interests. The mixture in itself was not bad; rather, the problem was that Constantine set in motion the state's effort to control the church for its own benefit and political ends.
THE EDICT OF TOLERATION
For 300 years, ancient Greco-Roman paganism exerted all its fierce hatred, anger and might against the church. The Christians of that age, in spite of the terrible persecutions, refused to give up their Christian faith which required no king but Jesus, and refused to worship the pagan Greek and Roman gods. As Rome persecuted the church, it, of course, fought against God and signed its own death warrant. Greco-Roman paganism died as a result of the Edict in A.D. 313 AD:
[Constantine] understood the signs of the times and acted accordingly. He was the man for the times, as the times were prepared for him by that Providence which controls both and fits them for each other. He... clearly saw that idolatry had outlived itself in the Roman empire, and that Christianity alone could breath new vigor into it and furnish its moral support. Especially on the point of the external Catholic unity his monarchical polities accorded with the hierarchical episcopacy of the church. Hence from the year 313 he placed himself in close connection with the bishops, made peace and harmony his first object in the Donatist and Arian controversies, and applied the predicate "catholic" to the church in all official documents. And as his predecessors were supreme pontiffs of the heathen religions of the empire, so he desired to be looked upon as a sort of bishop, as universal bishop of the external affairs of the church. [Constantine carried to his death the pagan title, Pontifex Maximus, or high-priest of the heathen hierarchy, ibid, p 15. The Roman popes since have assumed this purely pagan title, ed.] All this by no means from mere self-interest, but for the good of the empire, which now shaken to its foundations and threatened by barbarians on every side, could only by some new bond of unity be consolidated and upheld until at last the seeds of Christianity and civilization should be planted among the barbarians themselves, the representatives of the future. His personal policy [to retain his power and authority as supreme ruler, Emperor] thus coincided with the interests of the state. Christianity appeared to him, as it proved in fact, the only efficient power for a political reformation of the empire, from which the ancient spirit of Rome was fast departing, while internal, civil, and religious dissensions and the outward pressure of the barbarians threatened a gradual dissolution of society.
...Constantine adopted Christianity first as a superstition, and put it by the side of his heathen superstition, till finally in his conviction the Christian vanquished the pagan, though without itself developing into a pure and enlightened faith.
With his every victory over his pagan rivals, Galerius, Maxentius, and Licinius, his personal leaning to Christianity and his confidence in the magic power of the sign of the cross increased; yet he did not formally renounce heathenism, and did not receive baptism until, in 337, he was laid upon the bed of death. (Ibid, pp 12, 13, 14, 15.)
In other words, Constantine credited Christianity's signs and ceremonies with more magical virtue than was present in paganism. Furthermore, each victory proved his belief correct. What was the source of his victories: God or his own military genius? His coins bore on one side the letters of the name of Christ, but on the other, the figure of the Sun-god with the inscription, "Sol invictus." Of course, this developed from his "vision" and the resulting victory.
At all events Christianity did not produce in Constantine a thorough moral transformation. He was concerned more to advance the outward social position of the Christian religion, than to further its inward mission.
...Not a decided, pure, and consistent character, he stands on the line of transition between two ages and two religions; and his life bears plain marks of both. (Ibid, pp 17, 18.)
After this victory at Rome (which occurred October 27, 312), Constantine, in conjunction with his eastern colleague, Licinius, published in January, 313, from Milan, an edict of toleration, which goes a step beyond the edict of the still anti-Christian Galerius in 311, and grants, in the spirit of religious eclecticism, full freedom to all existing forms of worship, with special reference to the Christian. The edict of 313 not only recognized Christianity within existing limits, but allowed every subject of the Roman empire to chose whatever religion he preferred. At the same time the church buildings and property confiscated in the Diocletian persecution were ordered to be restored, and private property-owners to be indemnified from the imperial treasury. (Ibid, p 30. Note that early churches before A.D. 313 held property.)
The edict of toleration was an involuntary and irresistible concession of the incurable impotence of heathenism and the indestructible power of Christianity. It left but a step to the downfall of the one and the supremacy of the other in the empire of the Caesars. (Ibid, p 11.)
Though Constantine "converted" to Christianity, Rome itself was still in the clutches of heathenism and pagan traditions. So Constantine, by supposed divine command, transferred the seat of his Eastern Roman government to Byzantium with Constantinople as its capital, A.D. 330. The empire was called the Byzantine empire, and it extended the life of Rome to A.D. 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks. It is interesting that Constantine, though never breaking totally with heathenism and refusing baptism until three days before his death, was permitted to preach in this Byzantine city that he turned into "a new Christian Rome."
In other words, like bureaucrats of all ages, those in power paid lip-service to their "leader" while continuing their corrupt ways. Constantine, in the Byzantine Empire, "was the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of that system of policy which assumes all subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and state as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth." The problems came when the state and church united to enforce with arms and armies the "Christian Course" the state decided to take. The natural result of his policy was developed over the next several hundreds of year, viz., Constantine called himself the bishop of bishops and head of the church. And thus the Roman Church was born.
The precedent Constantine set in motion expanded from that point on in the papacy's claim to be Christ's representative on earth. The church-state union left church leaders with tremendous civil authority and power, which they very effectively misused for personal wealth and to oppress all dissent. (The Eastern Greek Orthodox Church is probably the legitimate heir to the Byzantine Empire, although the Bishop of Rome claimed the authority over the church that Constantine claimed. The Bishop of Rome, the Pope, probably inherited the vast power Constantine set in motion.)
In the fifth century the patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem stand at the head of Christendom. Among these Rome and Constantinople are the most powerful rivals, and the Roman patriarch already puts forth a claim to universal spiritual supremacy, which subsequently culminates in the medieval papacy, though limited to the West and resisted by the constant protest of the Greek church and of all non-Catholic sects. In addition to provincial synods we have now also general synods, but called by the emperors and more or less affected, though not controlled, by political influence. (Ibid, p 8.)
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS CONCERNING CONSTANTINE 1) the "vision" "justified" the use of armed might to protect and promote "Christianity." Up to Constantine, the church had avoided armed might for its protection even when its properties were confiscated by the antiChrist state.
Constantine presents a very confusing mixture of military might to defend and advance Christianity. The "vision" and Constantine's subsequent use of the cross as a military campaign symbol, went against all the suffering of the martyrs for the first 200 years of church history, A.D. 100-313, e.g. IRENAES, &c. Thus the church starts loosing its power to turn the world upside down.
...the assumed connection, in this case, of the gentle Prince of peace with the god of battle, and the subserviency of the sacred symbol of redemption [the cross on the shields] to military ambition, is repugnant to the genius of the gospel and to sound Christian feeling, unless we stretch the theory of divine accommodation to the spirit of the age and the passions and interests of individuals beyond the ordinary limits. We should suppose, moreover, that Christ, if he had really appeared to Constantine either in person or through angels, would have exhorted him to repent and be baptized rather than to construct a military ensign for a bloody battle. (Ibid, p 24.)
Schaff, in his footnotes, quotes Milman's History of Christianity:
It was...the first advance to the military Christianity of the Middle Ages; a modification of the pure religion of the Gospel, if directly opposed to its genuine principles, still apparently indispensable to the social progress of man... [toward] a higher civilization and a purer Christianity. (Ibid, p 21.)
This writer knows no Scriptural justification for armed might to either defend or advance Christianity as used by Constantine and many after him. Was the "vision" of God? What was meant by the "vision?" Was the "vision" a command to go into bloody battle with the pagan Maxentius or a command to go with the gospel, which Constantine would have been familiar with? If it was God's command to do bloody battle with the pagan Maxentius, then why not take up bloody arms today against paganism?
Only the Lord knows the answers to the above questions. All we have for our examination is the Word of God and history.
2) when the state seeks to promote Christianity because of the benefits of Christianity to the moral good and strength to the state, we end up with what Constantine started, viz., an oppressive state church exemplified by the church from which our forefathers fled. Moreover, the oppressive church prepared the way for our modern spirit of "Christian Monasticism," viz. Christian withdrawal instead of Christian rebuilding.
3) because of Constantine's continued paganism even after the Edict, many of his actions were influenced by his paganism, e.g., Constantine "enjoined the civil observance of Sunday, though not as dies Domini, but as dies Solis, in conformity to his worship of Apollo..." (Ibid, p 31.) Before we condemn Constantine too harshly for his continued paganism, he was not nearly as pagan as most professing "Christians" of our day, viz. he "gave his sons a Christian education." (Ibid, p 31.) But though receiving a "Christian education," they departed from the faith when they came into power.
4) the Edict did not exalt Christianity, but it did provide the protection of the state to Christianity: It did what was right Scripturally, protecting Christianity from the attacks of the pagans. Though the Edict took state funds from the pagan religions, it did not give state funds to Christians. The problem came when the "converted" Constantine moved his influence into the church and provided great personal - not state - wealth to the church. Therefore, the pagans, seeing the hand-writing on the wall, fled en-mass into the church. So now the church, once kept pure by persecution, is flooded with unconverted pagans.
Paganism died not because Constantine "outlawed" it, for he did not; rather, paganism died because it was deprived of state funds. Would to God that paganism would be deprived thusly today, and the pagan temples forced to support themselves, e.g. state schools. How many parents would pay $4,500 to $6,000 a year, per child, out of their pockets for what they are receiving from statist education?
Are we moving into another purifying era? Has not God always removed the dross with fire? This writer looks for persecution to take the shape of what took place in the "middle ages," viz., a state religion under the guise of Christianity persecuting all who will not conform to the state's version of "Christianity," Public Policy.
5) if we think on the results of the Edict of Toleration, we find that the Edict was actually the death-blow to pure, New Testament Christianity. The fires of persecution were put out and Christianity exalted. Some of the results are: A) an extremely unholy church-state mixture; B) a mixture of paganism and Christianity; C) Biblical faith replaced with rites, rituals and ceremonies; D) "Christianity" defined as proper, outward actions of the individual, and E) the Edict resulted in a generally united church--though many Christians remained separate--under one head, the fountain-head of popery & Romanism.
Let us further consider a few of the effects as mentioned by Schaff of the Edict:
1) "Worship appears greatly enriched and adorned; for art now comes into the service of the church. A Christian architecture, a Christian sculpture, a Christian painting, music, and poetry arise, favoring at once devotion and solemnity, and all sorts of superstition and empty display." (Ibid, p 8.) All activities of life was rightly brought into the church, art, music, &c. On the other hand, genuine Christianity was replaced with empty forms, rituals and superstitions.
2) "It opened the door to the elevation of Christianity, and specifically to the catholic hierarchical Christianity, with its exclusiveness towards heretical and schismatic sects, to be the religion of the state... ...For only as a catholic, thoroughly organized, firmly compacted, and conservative institution did it meet his rigid monarchical interests, and afford the splendid state and court dress he wished for his empire."
Note: First, Constantine, from the time of the Edict, always referred to the Christian church as catholic, i.e. universal. He saw that only a "catholic," or universal, church with centralized control would serve his purpose. Thus he set in motion the hierarchical style "Christianity" that is today prevalent in both the Church of Rome and in a great many Protestant churches. Then he claimed to be the head of the church. Second, Constantine loved great and grand "pomp and ceremony" with all the trappings. He was an extremely vain man, and he saw that he could mix "Christianity" enough with paganism to allow him to retain his vanity. Certainly, the Old Testament priesthood involved great "pomp and ceremony," but it foreshadowed Christ and His work. Why do men desire to retain what was fulfilled in Christ? No doubt, Constantine desired something to stroke his vanity, and maybe fill the void left by not being converted.
3) "This mighty example was followed, as might be expected, by a general transition of those subject, who were more influenced in their conduct by outward circumstances, than by inward conviction and principle." We would consider this third result of the Edict the most devastating of all. Up to this point, persecution kept the church pure. Now with the persecution removed and replaced with great pomp and ceremony, the church experiences a great influx of pagans. The church lowered its standards, and accepted the pagans with their pagan practices. From Constantine on, "Christianity" emphasized baptisms, outward forms and rituals, not conversion.
The pomp and rituals Constantine loved were, of course, incorporated into the church. By Constantine retaining much of his paganism, the rituals would, of necessity, be greatly influenced by his paganism. Thus not only did pagan rituals became an inseparable part of "Christianity," but because of the precedent set by Constantine and accepted by the church, pagan rituals continued and continue to be accepted by the church by giving the rituals a "Christian" name (e.g. Sunday, &c.).
Under Constantine, the pure church that existed from A.D. 33-312, warmly welcomed pagans who forever changed its pure character.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, ESQ, with notes, by the Rev. H.H. Milman, in six volumes, New York, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1879, v. I, p. 406, 434-435.
History of the Christian Church in Ten volumes, Philip Schaff, Em. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, ©1910, by Charles Scribner's Sons. Schaff's preface to the third revision is 1889, but his first preface date is 1866. v. III, pp 6-35. The reader should be aware that Schaff probably has Romanist leanings.
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