The Imperial Church — From the Unconquered Sun to Jesus Christ, Part 2

The History of Christianity #84

Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is Psalm 113:3 which reads: “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from C. S. Lewis. He said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Imperial Church – From the Unconquered Sun to Jesus Christ” (Part 2) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

There are several reasons why Constantine should not be seen as a mere opportunist who declared himself in favor of Christianity in order to court the support of Christians. First of all, such a view is rather anachronistic, for it tends to see Constantine as a forerunner of modern politicians. At that time, even the most incredulous did not approach religious matters with such a calculating attitude. Secondly, if Constantine had been such an opportunist, he chose a poor time to seek the support of Christians. When he put the Chi-Rho on his labarum, he was preparing to go to battle for the city of Rome, center of pagan traditions, where his main supporters were the members of the old aristocracy who considered themselves oppressed by Maxentius. Christians were stronger, not in the West, where the battle was to be fought, but in the East, to which Constantine would lay claim only years later.

Finally, it should be pointed out that whatever support Christians could give Constantine was of doubtful value. Given the ambivalence of the church toward military service, the number of Christian soldiers in the army, particularly in the West, was relatively small. Among the civilian population, most Christians belonged to the lower classes, and thus had scarce economic resources to put at the disposal of Constantine. After almost three centuries of tension with the empire, it was impossible to predict what would be the attitude of Christians before such an unexpected thing as a Christian emperor.

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