The Imperial Church — From the Unconquered Sun to Jesus Christ, Part 3

The History of Christianity #85

Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is 2 Corinthians 5:17 which reads: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from G. K. Chesterton. He said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Imperial Church – From the Unconquered Sun to Jesus Christ” (Part 3) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Given these circumstances, Constantine’s religious policy followed a slow but constant process. It is likely that this process responded both to the demands of political realities and to Constantine’s own inner development, as he progressively left behind the ancient religion and gained a better understanding of the new. At first, he simply put an end to persecution and ordered that confiscated Christian property be returned. Shortly thereafter he gave new signs of favoring Christianity, such as donating to the church the Lateran palace in Rome, which had belonged to his wife, or putting the imperial posts at the service of bishops traveling to attend the Synod of Arles in 314 AD. At the same time, he sought to keep good relations with those who followed the ancient religions, and most especially with the Roman Senate. The official religion of the empire was paganism. As head of that empire Constantine took the title of Supreme Pontiff or High Priest, and performed the functions pertaining to that title. On coins minted as late as 320 AD one finds the names and symbols of the ancient gods, as well as the monogram for the name of Christ — the Chi-Rho that Constantine had used for the first time at the Milvian bridge.

The campaign against Licinius gave Constantine occasion to appear as the champion of Christianity. He was now moving into the territories where for quite a time the church had counted the greatest number of adherents. After defeating Licinius, Constantine appointed a number of Christians to high positions in government. Since his tensions with the Roman Senate were growing, and that body was promoting a resurgence of paganism, Constantine felt increasingly inclined to favor Christianity.

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