Marinov over at American Vision continues to write articles that are both stunning and telling. My comments are interspersed.
You can find the original link here.
The City of God Vanquished the City of Man
By Bojidar Marinov
Published: January 19, 2011
There couldn’t have been a better choice for a place to gather the bishops for the First Ecumenical Council of the Church.
The city was originally named after the wife of one of the Alexander’s generals, victorious over his rivals in the civil war after the “son of Zeus” died of too much drinking in Persia. It was one of those cities that the divine human Alexander the Great and his heirs built to be a true representation of the City of Man, a proud declaration of the autonomous man to be a god, to build the tower of Babel and reach heaven. Every inch of the ground of Bithynia – one of the richest Roman provinces at the time – spoke volumes about the quest of man for divinity. There was no place within a few days walk from the city where there wasn’t some memory of ancient glories, victorious battles and dramatic defeats, fabulous riches, and great civilizations. Just 150 miles east were the great cities of the ancient Hittite Empire, one of the earliest attempts of man to build a world empire. The same distance west were the ruins of Troy – the earlier Carthage, the mistress of the seas and trade, destroyed by the lust, greed, and vaingloriousness of the Achaean barbarians. Thirty miles north was Chrysopolis, one of the ancient gold depositories of the Persian empire, the “golden city” of Xerxes. Just south was the kingdom of Lydia with its king Croesus – for a time a king over Bithynia as well – whose fame for his riches outlived antiquity by two millennia. Just a few miles north, in Nicomedia, the last great Canaanite in history, a hero of the City of Man, Hannibal (Baal is my Lord) took poison after Rome demanded his surrender. Throughout its history, Bithynia controlled the “cross of trade” – the sealines through the Bosporus, and the land roads from Asia to Europe. The place had everything that excites even our modern pagans today.
Nice intro. Actually the pagan imagery is very appropriate…as a Constantine a pagan-at-heart Emperor exercised his power by calling for the Council to meet. What a change! Now Caesar tells the Church when and how to solve its problems.
And one note….Hannibal was a Carthaginian. The Carthaginians were Canaanite colonists from Phoenicia. Dido the founder of Carthage was said to be related to Jezebel of Tyre…yes, that one.
The Berbers were and are (in part) descendants of the Carthaginians. Certainly Marinov wouldn't want to forget the most famous of them all…Augustine of Hippo, some five centuries after Hannibal.
As Propraetor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger rebuilt the city in the image and likeness of that ultimate City of Man, Rome, the highest achievement ever of man’s prideful attempt at conquering other men. His walls encircled area far larger than the population at the time. And, as a faithful servant of the City of Man, it is from the palace in the city that he commanded the persecutions against the Christians in Bithynia. Pliny knew what was at stake; he knew – better than modern Christians – that Christ’s goal was to make the kingdoms of the world, Rome included, His Kingdom.
Pity Jesus didn't seem to know that when he told Pilate 'My Kingdom is not of this world.'
Of course the Theonomic interpretation is….My Kingdom is just like Rome, but its source of power is not of this world.
So, though Christ assured Pilate otherwise…apparently Caesar did need to watch his back, because the Christians…they were coming to take over.
Roman society like all pagan societies was Sacral and couldn't conceive of a Spiritual Kingdom in which the citizens lived in all nations and spoke in all tongues. Christianity isn't after thrones. They live here as sojourners…in the land but not of it. That was something entirely new...a message the early Church did not fully grasp and consequently largely lost.
Sadly post-Constantine, the Church adopted not a Biblical view of antithesis, but in many ways a cultural view of defining the theological concept of The World. At the time, this was largely influenced by neo-platonism and other philosophies of the day. This gave rise to monasticism and other such practices. Denial of the flesh, and issues related to matter was a rejection of worldliness. The Scriptures don't teach this view of piety.
Consequently you ended up with a worldly Kingdom...geo-political and culturally defined....
And a wrong view of piety....a secular piety that was world-affirming and world-conquering....Dominionism
or the alternative...a matter-based, fleshly self-focused piety....monasticism in the Middle Ages, Pietism for Protestants after the Reformation.
Constantinianism changes the Kingdom into a Rome, a Babylon…and then certainly, Pliny and the rest would have need to watch out. At the time of Pliny's letter to Trajan, the Church was not on the Dominionist track.
Rome was remarkably tolerant for a pagan empire, but it was still within a Sacralist-Unified framework. The early Christians went too far in that they would not acknowledge the supremacy of the Emperor.
They were content to live as law-abiding citizens and pay their taxes, but they would not help the state build Babel....by joining with the state or trying to transform it.
250 years of persecution changed the Church. By the early 4th century, the opportunity that Constantine presented, the temptation for peace with and patronage from Caesar proved too powerful.
So he forced Christians to take the routine political oath of loyalty to the Empire. Those that refused to honor Caesar above Christ, he considered true Christians, true enemies of the City of Man, and therefore true ambassadors, and soldiers, of the City of God. He killed them.
The name of the city was Nicaea – the city of Victory. The victory of man over his fellow man – the victory of man over God. The ground, the history, every tree, even the names of the roads and the gates were laden with symbolism and witnessed to the attempt of the sinful man to rule as God.
Very poetic indeed that Christian Sacralism or Constantinianism found its true genesis in the Council of Nicaea in 325.
As a note, this has proved a stumbling block for many. The obvious unbiblical setting and foundation of the Council has led some to reject the Christological doctrine it formed.
Protestants often claim to hold to the doctrinal formulations of the first four Ecumenical Councils, but even this is a little deceptive. In reality Protestants have always rejected much of what the Councils put forward, but they have rightly accepted the Christological formulations as being in accord with Scripture. Protestants do not give an unqualified endorsement to all these councils put forward.
And this in no way should mean an endorsement of the organizing principles behind the Councils, nor any of the participants. Even many of the Orthodox behaved and conducted themselves in a less than Christian manner.
And all parties will admit that there was a great disparity among the parties as to the meanings of the theological terms employed. It took a long time for the formulations to be fleshed out. Often enough there were members of the same party that had vastly different ideas of what the terms actually meant.
So when in AD 325 Constantine gathered over 300 of the Christian bishops of the Empire in his imperial palace – most likely the same building where Pliny had been signing death sentences for Christians over 200 years earlier – the place was chosen very carefully, and its name too. Constantine made it clear that he resided in Victory over his enemies, and he called the bishops to live in the same Victory with him, even if for a few weeks. But there was more: The First Council was not simply a gathering of theologians. It was a Victory feast, a triumphal declaration to the world that Christ and His Church have vanquished those who had persecuted them. The world knew: After 300 years, the small band of one carpenter and 12 apostles forced the Empire to its knees. Caesar surrendered to Christ.
That's quite an interpretation. Considering the subsequent history, there are few non-Dominionists, non-Constantinians who could go along with that.
In fact I would argue the exact opposite was the case. History is replete with such examples…an antagonist makes peace, is transformed, and actually takes over. So who won? It's not clear, because both parties changed.
As a similar example I think of Charlemagne and the pagan Saxons. Threatened with death, they accepted baptism and were 'converted.' While they didn't become Christians in a Biblical sense, they were integrated into the Medieval framework of the Holy Roman Empire, and ironically within a couple of centuries they were running it as emperors.
Constantine hardly surrendered….he had a vision, perhaps fictitious, perhaps demonic…to conquer by the Sign of the Cross. Christianity was a means for him to extend his power…his end.
Eusebius the Church Historian provides an excellent example of early hack Christian history. There's plenty of it today as well. Much of it can be found in the writings of Dominionists, authors like Rodney Stark, and Christian homeschool catalogs are replete with it. While Eusebius is informative and worth the read, he kowtows to Constantine and white-washes his wickedness. Constantine was just like our politicians today….they talk the talk when they need to…but often walk a very different walk. Constantine was still a pagan and lived and worshipped as such. Only those who wish to see otherwise will fail to see it. He passed several laws to please the Christian Bishops, but then did not enforce them. He was involved in scandal, deceit, and obvious religious syncretism.
I know, since he was the first, he gets a free pass. A little transformation at a time, can't expect too much at once.
Even today, people in power who speak soothing words to the Church are granted free passes. If they were normal Church members, they would be disciplined and put out, but when you're Caesar or an American President, your heresies and conduct can be overlooked.
So when on that summer day in June of AD 325 Constantine personally gave the opening address, he said three things that were a political revolution for the ancient world. Modern historians, secular and Christian alike, being the blind bunch they usually are, focus almost exclusively on the manner of Constantine’s entry and his purple mantle – as recorded by Eusebius – to prove their own bias against him as “vainglorious and proud” (as if the Emperor had jogged to his throne in sport shoes and shorts, it would prove his humility or something).
Since Theonomists have led the charge in trying to bring symbols and Jewish ritual into the Church, they of all people should realize the importance of liturgy and protocol…whether it be secular, religious, or a blend of both.
But they usually miss the essence of his words. The points of his address were (1) the peace of the Empire depends on the peace in the Church; (2) the peace in the Church depends on the revelation about the nature of God and Christ in the divine scriptures; and (3) the past is not worth mentioning, it is the future that matters. These points deserve much more detailed discussion in another article. Suffice to say here, from a political point of view they were the ultimate betrayal of everything pagan Rome stood for. Political peace (pax romana) was the ultimate, divine peace for the nations; the word of men was foundational, the word of gods was heeded only when it confirmed the goals of men; and the real meaning of the “peace” of man was a return to the past, to the long-lost but never forgotten mythical “golden age” of abundance, power, and happiness. These were the three foundations of Octavian Augustus’s ideology. Constantine, in his opening address to the Nicaean Council, turned the ancient world upside down, politically and ideologically.
A politician is a politician is a politician.
Even if he was sincere, which he wasn't….it doesn't make it right. This was a sad day in Church history.
Constantine was still about one thing…Empire. How that Pax Romana came about, mattered little. To many the transition from Republic to Empire had been a betrayal. Caesar was murdered over it. The senators that stabbed him believed themselves to be patriots. Caesar was the traitor, he was trying to change the fundamental nature of the Republic.
Octavian was so conscious of this, he refused the title of emperor. It's only with Caligula and Nero do we find the transformation complete. From 40BC to 40AD, Rome had undergone a political and cultural transformation.
Caracalla's extension of citizenship in the 3rd century to all people in the Roman Empire was to many a betrayal. Good old Roman culture, its values and virtues gave way to a cosmopolitan culture. People looked for the latest out of the East. Greek ways became popular…women in Rome emulated Gallic hairstyles and dress etc…. Old Rome was long gone by the time of Constantine.
In fact just prior to Constantine, Diocletian had changed the whole structure of the Empire, making it into the Tetrarchy and the protocol of the Imperial court took on an despotic Oriental flavour. Rather than Caesar trying to pretend like he was a First Citizen of the Republic…Caesar was now like an Persian Emperor. He wasn't only divine after death...he was treated as a living incarnation.
There were some who saw Constantine as a traitor, but Rome was coming out of crisis. The whole empire almost collapsed in the 3rd century. It was time to re-make itself again. A new vision was needed...
Constantine proved to be a very shrewd fellow indeed.
Constantine at Nicaea signaled a large change for both the Roman empire AND the Church. Marinov doesn't seem to realize that….the Church didn't just pass through this unscathed, unchanged.
The event has rightly been referred to as the Constantinian Shift…that's in reference to the Church, not merely Rome itself.
This wasn’t the first act of the Emperor in this vein. A year before the Council, right after his final victory over the pagan forces, Constantine started a building project: The New Rome, the City of God that will replace the Old Rome, the City of Man. The site was right across from the site of his last victory, on the other side of the Bosporus, where the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium stood, a mere 40 miles north of Nicaea. A Christian empire deserved a Christian capital. And Constantine was in the process of building, while at the Council he was presenting the philosophy of government for the new Empire.
Someone has been reading a little too much Eusebius I think. Rome had ceased to be a practical location for the capital. The Emperors had long realized this…Constantine made a symbolic and strategic move in moving the capital. He rightly saw the power, money, and population as being centered in the East.
And back to the old questions Dominionists, Theonomists, and Constantinians can't answer….Where can I read about Christian Empires in the Bible? Where can I find a single verse in the New Testament to indicate the Apostles had this vision for the Church?
Everything pointed to a victory of Christ over Caesar, of light over darkness, of Christianity over paganism. Even when the Emperor tried to influence the Council in favor of his preferred Arianism, the orthodox bishops revolted, and in his presence they tore to pieces the proposed Arian creed. (On the preference of Emperors to Arianism, see Rushdoony, Foundations of Social Order, chapter 2.) Constantine conceded, as did his friend, Eusebius. Purple robe or not, Christ was not retreating before Caesar.
A heretic Christian Emperor? Isn't this problematic?
Why did Constantine concede? Because he believed in the doctrine of the orthodox party, or because it was socially and politically expedient?
And it didn't take long....soon, the emperors were not conceding to the Bishops, they were ordering them and heavily involved in the affairs of the Church.
Theonomists like Marinov would be critical of this turn, but to think they can re-create this scenario and not have it happen again....exhibits a pretty low view of sin and the curse.
Since when do we find individuals or institutions with power sitting content and willing to share it? Since when does man not seek to increases his own position at the expense of someone else? These principles are foundational to a Christian worldview of politics, economics and many other spheres.
Dominionists don't seem to grasp this. Not only are their positions, agenda, and goals unsupportable from the Biblical data...a basic understanding of Biblical anthropology points to the impossibility of their vision.
In the final account, when the reign of Constantine was over, it was the church that emerged triumphant, and in the church the orthodox Trinitarian creed that we have today. With all the personal shortfalls of Constantine, with all the imperfections of his faith, his reign will remain as one of the greatest periods of triumph for Christianity and the Church.
It was a shift, I'll grant that. Of course a generation later when the first heretics were executed, a few lone voices wondered….what have we done?
The Kingdom was re-defined, the Gospel corrupted, the Church became populated with those who sought gain and power…Christian life since it had to encompass all of society took on a form that was nominal and always sought the lowest common denominator.
The rise of the Papacy showed the Imperial impulse was at work in the Church…the Bishops of Rome sat on the throne of the Caesars.
Roman Constantinianism was unable to really forge a unity for several more centuries. The Barbarian Invasions of the west and the splintering of Empire created a political situation which the Pope were unable to rectify until perhaps the year 1000 or so. Then you see the rise of the Imperial Papacy and the beginning of a true Western Christendom. Incidentally this is also when 'heretics' begin to appear on the Ecclesiastical radar and the age of persecution begins.
In the East, the situation was different, the Sacralist vision was equally universal but more pragmatic. The Byzantine Empire's diverse population and frontier demanded a more tolerant social vision. Christianity was the state religion, but others were tolerated as long as they kept their heads down. The State didn't show as much as interest in pursuing individuals but when 'heretical' groups became large enough...then the state acted.
The Church was wedded to the state and this tradition continues on to this very day. In fact the Byzantine tradition of Christian Caesar as head of the Church continued right up until the Russian Revolution, not even quite a century ago. Even under Communism, the Orthodox Churches often collaborated with the regime...it's in their genes. This disease was implanted at Nicaea in 325.
Even today, the Russian Orthodox Church fulfills the role of cultural guardian and in some ways pays a key part in defining what it is to be Russian.
Biblical Christians are viewed as cultural traitors and their number one problem is the Constantinian Orthodox Church. It will not tolerate them and looks to the state for aid. In addition, because the United States is often touted as a Christian nation....a Protestant heritage Christian nation...these people are suffering from the Shapur Effect. That is they're suffering persecution resulting from Christianity being wedded to a political entity.
Yes, it was all rather glorious wasn't it? Christian Babel.
Modern American theologians, preachers, and Christians know little of these events. If they have anything to say, it usually is a word of condemnation. They reject what they call the “Constantinian model.” They believe that the church should never preach to the civil government. They believe the civil government has a different sphere of operation, one that the Bible doesn’t speak to, and therefore the church has nothing to say about. They limit the Gospel to a few propositions for individual salvation. The Gospel can’t and doesn’t speak to the civil ruler, they claim. The issues of justice are left to the Old Testament. The New Testament is strictly individual, and it never addresses the culture, the law of the land, or the civil government.
How does the Church preach to the Civil Government? Where do we find that? As Christians we should certainly be aware of what's happening around us and the Church needs to be informed and taught…but how are lost people in Washington DC supposed to respond and conform to a moral system which you have to be regenerate to understand and accept?
What definition of Christianity is this? The Church has nothing to say about what happens in the Civil Sphere? Who has ever said that? We have much to say about it. By keeping our identity as the Church…we can see better than anyone else what is happening in the civil sphere. Does that mean the Civil Sphere is Redemptive, it builds the Kingdom of God? Of course not.
Unless you re-define what the Kingdom of God is.
A few propositions for individual salvation? Maybe some Baptists treat it this way, but you'll hardly find that among Reformed anti-Constantinians, and you won't find it here.
Justice isn't left to the Old Testament…it's understood in light of Christ. Are we going to bring Justice to the earth? We warn of the Justice to come. We preach and proclaim this…with the longsuffering of Christ. Can the State do this? Can a state fulfill the role of the White Horseman of Revelation 19...the Coming Judge?
Of course not. The state can exercise Justice…but that will never be righteous. It will always be flawed and corrupt. What a deification of the state! What a misunderstanding of the Kingdom.
We're not looking for the state to help us build the Kingdom. All we're looking for is a venue that permits us to mind our business, work with our hands, lead quiet lives and preach the gospel. The Gospel does the work of transformation, not our silly attempts at culture war.
You want the local porn shop to close? Preach the gospel, convert people...it will go out of business.
You want the abortion factory to shut down. Preach the gospel, and when women are converted...they won't kill their babies.
The state represents lost people coming up with lost-minded solutions. Don't begrudge them for trying to come up with pragmatic-minded solutions which treat the social context that leads to abortion...what else can they do? They have no gospel to preach!
More on that another time....
They justify this retreatist ideology by resorting to the argument of “trials and tribulations.” According to the majority of modern theologians, the mark of a true church is persecutions. The more persecuted the church is, the purer it is, and therefore the better and the faster it will grow. If all institutions in a society and a culture are obedient to God, there would be no persecutions, and therefore such a “model” is unacceptable for the true Church. We cannot work to change the culture; to the contrary, we should rejoice when the culture is farther away from God, because then we have persecutions, and the Church grows much faster. Christians under persecutions are by default much stronger, and Christians in a peaceful, righteous society are weaker in the faith. The “Constantinian model” therefore cannot be an acceptable model for the Church.
Yeah, we're real retreatist here. Just hiding our heads in the sand, not paying any attention to what's happening in the world.
When you don't agree with their interpretation....you're defeatist and retreatist.
I suppose to people like Marinov, he can't conceive that a vigilant rejection of the Babel project is a type of activism…a type of aggressive posturing. We're standing against the tide of culture, because we're not part of their vision.
I've seen Dominionist 'conquest' ideology. More often than not it's what the Bible calls worldliness. Visit a Christian college or seminary....the Dominionist kids are usually pretty easy to spot.
Who are the theologians that say the mark of a true church is persecution? I know of none. But in certain historical contexts...the persecution or non-persecution of the Church speaks volumes.
The Church in Nazi Germany went along with the mandates of the Third Reich because she viewed the Church and the social structure as a cohesive unit. To be Christian was to be German. They were used to the state being involved in their affairs. The rulers of Prussia were the leaders of the Church and in 1817 by state decree the Lutheran and Reformed bodies were merged.
So rather than Constantinianism generating activism, in this case it actually put the Church to sleep. They handed over the reins to political cronies who sold out the Church for state approval.
Some dissented and were persecuted. Bonhoeffer of course was the most famous dissident. Is this the kind of activism we should engage in?
Dominionists often blame Two Kingdom Theology for allowing the Third Reich to rise up in Germany. Okay...what was the Church supposed to do? Would Hitler have said, "Oh, you're right, I'll step down."?
Would the German people have risked arrest and possible death for the sake of a watered down socially defined gospel and definition of Christianity?
Should the faithful Germans have followed Bonhoeffer's path and tried to kill Hitler?
What was the Church supposed to do? It was supposed to be awake and aware, preaching the truth, suffering the consequences...and it times it has no choice but to leave.
Now we can talk about the response of other states and the Christians who live in other states under attack....but the issue here is, what does the Church do in these contexts?
Two Kingdom Theology did not lead to the Church's acquiescence to the Nazis. This theology is sometimes attached to Luther, though his understanding of it was nothing like what modern Reformed or people like me are advocating. Luther was an inconsistent mess. He called on the state to persecute the Jews. That's hardly a Two Kingdom understanding of the Church.
The German legacy was one of state control and state involvement. It was one of social conformity and acculturation. It was the legacy of a thousand years of Constantinian Christianity. So when Hitler arose, would the Church stand against him?
Constantinianism guaranteed that it would not.
Yet, it's interesting that when Paul says that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution…Dominionism envisions a time and scenario when that verse and others will no longer be pertinent.
Like the Dispensationalists they chop up the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount gives them great difficulties. Their 'Christian' Economics have to explain away giving away your cloak….bad stewardship you know, not good Capitalism.
Turn the other cheek? Only when Christians are in the minority….
When they're in control, don't turn the other cheek, 'bust their chops,' as Theonomist Gary North famously said.
And indeed it wasn't long after Nicaea that the Church began to do just that.
Sacralism generates pretty interesting hermeneutics.
But in the very “Constantinian model,” there is a strong testimony against such a view.
Theodoret and other church historians, based on the account of Eusebius, a participant in the Council, tell us something very peculiar about the Nicaean Council: The majority of the bishops present were maimed or disfigured. Some were one-eyed, others had their limbs cut off. All of them bore on their bodies the marks of persecution. Little is known today that the bishops present at the first Council had all passed through severe persecutions. Modern theologians only babble about persecutions and trials and tribulations from their cozy offices in churches and seminaries in America. (Strange how we never hear calls for more persecutions from Christians in North Korea, Pakistan, or Zimbabwe. We only hear babbling about persecutions from American theologians and preachers.) These early bishops didn’t babble about it; they saw it firsthand. They knew firsthand if the Church was really stronger under pressure; they knew firsthand how strong Christians were under persecutions. Some of these bishops were the first to voluntarily present themselves for mutilation of their bodies in order to save their flocks from fire, beasts, or torture. Death was the most merciful end of a true Christian; exile (the much condemned “persecution” in the later Christian Empire for heresy) was reserved only for the Christian members of the Emperor’s family. Most of the time Christians ended up tortured for weeks, or burned alive, or crucified in a most cruel manner. Some persevered and yet survived. Others gave in. Thousands died. The bishops present at the Nicaean Council were among those who persevered and survived. But they paid the price.
The comment regarding Pakistan and Korea is absurd and not worthy of comment.
I think of the footage of Tim Lahaye, D James Kennedy, Dobson, and Falwell all tripping over themselves when they were meeting George Bush. It's the old temptation of power.
Biblical Christianity is not very pleasing to the flesh. Constantinianism indulges the flesh and brings worldly glory and power into the Church.
The Church in the Age of the Martyrs was glorious but she had long been building on a bad foundation. Superstition had crept in..relic worship, the cult of the saints, holy days, and all kinds of other extra-scriptural practices.
The Church had developed an unbiblical polity…largely out of pragmatism. This was the beginning of episcopacy, an unbiblical hyper-clergy/laity distinction, hierarchy, ceremony, and pomp.
The Church had shown a poor grasp of sin…dividing it into mortal and venial categories. This affected the doctrine of Baptism. Baptism was postponed well into adulthood, not for the reasons Baptists of today would give….but because they were concerned with post-baptismal Mortal sins. Many believed that certain post-baptismal sins were not able to be forgiven.
Does this sound like the Church (generally speaking) was on track? Does this sound like a setting in which the leaders of the Church are going to exercise Biblical wisdom.
There still was some and on certain issues the Church was still looking to the Scriptures. But largely, things were in pretty bad shape.
The Church was at a precarious point. Church buildings had come into use during the latter half of the 3rd century during the lull between the Decian and Diocletian persecutions.
What a moment….suddenly the persecutions ended…and now the temptation for not only peace, but power and influence. The leaders of the Church to put it into today's terms were asleep at the wheel.
Just like today as we rush into and embrace technologies and medical procedures without thinking them through, the Church seized the moment and didn't think through what they were doing.
There were a few voices that began to protest, but I'll admit they were few. Some of them came way too late. The die had been cast.
The Donatists in North Africa were the first to really raise the alarm. Initially they were happy to appeal to the emperor, but when he turned against them, they were forced to address the issue…and they realized something terrible had happened.
So, by the standards of the modern theologians of the “trials and tribulations” doctrine, these bishops were the best Christians of all. They can be taken as our standard for righteous action, since they not only passed through the tribulations, but they managed to grow the church to become the most influential community in the Empire. They knew the tribulations were a battle, a battle that would inevitably end in victory. They didn’t know if the victory would be in their lifetime – after all, many before them had died without seeing it. But they certainly expected it.
Marinov defines victory the way the world defines it…power.
'The most influential community in the Empire.'
But when Constantine not only put an end to the persecutions but also declared that the peace of his Empire will from now on depend on the Church of Jesus Christ, these exemplary Christians, these mutilated, disfigured, tortured bishops did not resist the new turn of events. They apparently didn’t have the ideology of our modern theologians. They didn’t start babbling about the necessity of persecutions for “growth” and “strength.” They had a much different idea.
When Constantine gathered them, the men who felt the wrath of the pagan Empire now joyfully accepted the invitation to stay at the Emperor’s palace for over two months, discussing issues of theology that from now were to direct not only the Church, but the Empire as well. The persecutions were not an end in themselves; they were the means to victory.
Who has said the persecutions were an end?
Where can I find this type of victory in the Bible? Who says it was a victory?
Not only the eternal victory in the final judgment, but an earthly victory as well, the victory of the City of God over the City of Man, in history, on earth. The persecuted Church – truly persecuted, unlike our modern theologians – accepted the surrender of Caesar as something normal, historically inevitable, and expected.
This is the doctrine of Dominionism…..Transformationalism…Babylon becomes Zion.
Where is this in the New Testament? They think they find it in the Old, but the New Testament doesn't support that reading either.
In this case a basic misreading of the Bible literally turns Christianity on its head.
And a year after the last battle on the battlefield against the Old Empire, the victorious Church in the persons of the formerly persecuted bishops was ready and willing to shape the future of the Empire and its culture and society, according to the Word of God.
The modern theological idolatry of suffering was not part of the early Church’s doctrine. Suffering was the means; victory in both history and eternity was the goal. The means couldn’t be more important than the goal. When Constantine surrendered, the bishops accepted his sword. And when he summoned them to learn from them the official ideology of his future Empire, they were there to teach him.
This is actually quite sad.
This is the same guy who thinks the gospel can be spread by M-16's as he said in another recent article.
Idolatry of Suffering? I guess Paul was an idolater. Has this guy ever read 2 Corinthians?
Romans 8? I guess when Paul was just a retreatist because he didn't share this vision of victory?
Am I being too harsh in suggesting that Constantinianism does not understand the Gospel? Christ said we must be Born Again to SEE the Kingdom of God. Does this theology see it? They seem to see something else entirely different.
I will freely admit…if they're right, I'm obviously hell-bound. Because this gospel is not the one I believe in. This is not what I find in the Scriptures.
This is another gospel.
So when you hear a modern theologian talking nonsense about “exile,” “tribulations,” “by the rivers of Babylon” as if those are supposed to be the eternal state of the Church in history, remind them that they have never been through tribulations. Then set before them the example of those who have been, and persevered, and lived to see the victory of Christ over Caesar. Christianity accepts tribulations as a means, and we do not complain about them. But the idolatry of suffering is not a Christian concept, and the early Church’s example teaches this very well. God is not God over eternity only, but over history as well.
It is time for the modern Church to prepare the ground for its future Nicaea. The City of God vanquished the City of Man before. God will do it again.
Give these people what they want…and we'll be suffering for sure. For they will persecute the Church…just like Constantine and his legacy did.
I end with a quote from Kline:
"Latent in the Apocalyptic symbolism is an even more direct contradiction of dominion theology's postmillennial eschatology. The melding of church with the state and its coercive power, the arrangement which theonomic reconstructionism regards as the kingdom ideal to be attained during the millennium, is precisely what is anathematized in the Apocalypse as the harlot-Babylon church, the monstrous perversion of the true church."