The Imperial Church: The Impact of the New Order, Part 1

The History of Christianity #87

Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is 1 Corinthians 12:27 which reads: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Ignatius of Antioch. He said: “It is right, therefore, that we not just be called Christians, but that we actually be Christians.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Imperial Church – The Impact of the New Order” (Part 1) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The most immediate consequence of Constantine’s conversion was the cessation of persecution. Until then, even at times of relative peace, Christians had lived under the threat of persecution, and what was for many the hope of martyrdom. After Constantine’s conversion, that threat and that hope dissipated. The few pagan emperors who reigned after him did not generally persecute Christians, but rather tried to restore paganism by other means. But the immediate impact of that conversion on the life of the church went far beyond the obvious cessation of persecution. In this regard, a series of imperial edicts granted the church and its leaders’ privileges whose echoes may still be seen in some areas in the twenty-first century. One of this was tax exemption for church properties, as well as making it legal to bequeath property to the church. Over the long run, this would mean that the church would come to own vast lands and other riches. The bishops — at the time there were about eighteen hundred of them – as well as other clergy were also granted exemption from taxes, from military conscription, and from the days of labor that others were forced to devote to public works.

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