Was the "Christianisation" of the later Roman Empire a victory for the church?

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
I was in a discussion on another post about the fullness of the gentiles coming into the church. It was not the main thrust of his thesis, but he did take the position that the purported conversion of the later Roman Empire to Christianity was a great victory for the church as part of his thesis. I disagreed strongly with this position. I am of the opinion that the vast majority of the later Empire was Christian in name only and that the adoption of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine was a thinly disguised effort to prop up a decaying State by fusing it with the largest functioning organization in the Empire. I believe the historical record backs me up on this. I am curious how the opinions of the other board members here, most of whom are quite well educated in church history, fall out on this issue.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Humm our brothers and sisters escape the lion's mane, the burning stake, etc. etc. etc.
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
Humm our brothers and sisters escape the lion's mane, the burning stake, etc. etc. etc.
Had Constantine stopped with the edict of toleration I would be in 100% agreement with you. But he didn't. He went on to involve the State in what were strictly church affairs for the sake of having a monolithic religion in his empire. They eventually wound up trying to force Arianism on the church, a heresy that would have certainly sent people to eternal burning even if they were spared burning by the State.
 
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Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
As with most dominant personalities there are pros and cons regarding Constantine's effect on Christianity. Once again I find Schaff's account of Constantine to be helpfully even-handed, articulate, thoughtful, and mindful of Providence. Here's a brief excerpt from his introduction.
The last great imperial persecution of the Christians under Diocletian and Galerius, which was aimed at the entire uprooting of the new religion, ended with the edict of toleration of 311 and the tragical ruin of the persecutors. 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.​
This great epoch is marked by the reign of Constantine I. He 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 placed himself at the head of true progress, while his nephew, Julian the Apostate, opposed it and was left behind. He was the chief instrument for raising the church from the low estate of oppression and persecution to well deserved honor and power. For this service a thankful posterity has given him the surname of the Great, to which he was entitled, though not by his moral character, yet doubtless by his military and administrative ability, his judicious policy, his appreciation and protection of Christianity, and the far-reaching consequences of his reign. His greatness was not indeed of the first, but of the second order, and is to be measured more by what he did than by what he was.​
...At the same time, however, Constantine stands also as the type of an undiscriminating and harmful conjunction of Christianity with politics, of the holy symbol of peace with the horrors of war, of the spiritual interests of the kingdom of heaven with the earthly interests of the state.​
In judging of this remarkable man and his reign, we must by all means keep to the great historical principle, that all representative characters act, consciously or unconsciously, as the free and responsible organs of the spirit of their age, which moulds them first before they can mould it in turn, and that the spirit of the age itself, whether good or bad or mixed, is but an instrument in the hands of divine Providence, which rules and overrules all the actions and motives of men.​
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Neither scenario was perfect. Constantine was a brilliant politician and terrible church man. He didn’t ruin the church. He got rid of old difficulties and introduced new ones
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
The Lord in history seems to provide periods of peace through the magistrate for the church in which the church is favored or even established, and during which times there is the space for the church to reform, to hold councils, to think, write, debate, hammer out what's needed. During those times, rulers are acting as nursing fathers and mothers to the church for her good. Human nature being corrupt, those times so far have ended in curruption. But their good beginnings is a gift from God to his people.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think the notion of "victory of the church" is incoherent unless one is thinking eschatologically. Practically any engagement the church has with and in this world/age must, in the nature of the case, be a mixed bag.

I would love to call the 16th C. Reformation an unqualified "triumph of the gospel." I think a strong case can be made that it ranks with the creedal achievements of the 3rd & 4th C.'s as a high-water-mark of the church in this age. There was a glorious recovery of vital strength and pure marks of the church. But, insofar as it stands among man's works, everything in it that bears the imprint of the flesh is imperfect and will be burned up.

The same must be said of the Constantinian settlement. While there should be thanksgiving upraised to God for giving a period of "rest" to his church (before the end of time), to the extent that such respite clouded the mind of the church (in its members) that the battle was done, the warfare past, so much was the "fighting edge" of the church lost. Taming or making peace with the Beast is deceptive or foolish, probably both.

The Beast dies: it succumbs to a rival Beast, or it sickens or ages into ruin. Its next rise is like a "resurrection"--we act amazed that the thing has come back, and its nature is unchanged! But it should be no surprise at all. We cannot change, nor tame, its nature; and the church makes peace with it on terms at its peril.

Coming to terms with this finally cured me of a mild dalliance with postmillenialism, even "optimistic amillenialism." Premillenialism/chilliasm was never anything to me but a curiosity; reading HalLinsey as a 10yr old was like getting an inoculation for that illness. The nature of the Beast is fallen human nature. Putting Christians in charge barely moves the needle toward social or collective "good," when we end up with the spectacle of Christians arguing with other Christians each side invoking the Faith to justify their position and condemn the other side.

Understand the social realities under which we live as part of the nature of this passing-away world. The church is salt and leaven, it is not the dough. It is not going to change the nature of the dough. Its effect on the dough is sometimes not precisely predictable. Other variables such as the temperature of the oven or the composition of the flour affect the outcome. The world is what it is; and we as Christians should adjust to it where we can, calling people out of it, and influencing it gently while maintaining unchanged what it is we are. Typically, the church is too busy acting like Israel in the days of the Judges....

The church's presence in the first four Centuries A.D. had an effect on the state-outcome by the time of Constantine. The change in conditions introduced a new environment, in which some things changed for the better, and other things changed for the worse. The same thing is always happening, anywhere the church is planted while history rolls on. Jesus alone has command of history.
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks to all for your erudite observations. I want to state flatly that I do not think that the light of the church was completely obscured by it's dependence upon the State during the period of the later Empire. God always preserves a remnant. I take issue with the implication (and perhaps I am wrong in reading it into the discourse) that it is either one set of difficulties or another, either persecution or co-option. I restate and emphasize, it would have been ideal if Constantine had stopped with the edict of toleration. That would have given the Church the breathing room it needed to pull together the bible and formulate it's doctrines without inculcating State dependence and even State worship into it's culture. Perhaps it would even have led to a true re-vitalization of Roman culture that would have prevented it's decline and fall. Let us all take a moment and give thanks that we have something like tolerant indifference with equal protection under the law here in the United States. This is not to imply that the sin of State worship (or party worship) does not go on in the church in the U.S., only that it is not mandated by law.
 
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Schoolman

Puritan Board Freshman
Here are some thoughts.

I am addressing 312 to 800 AD as the era of the high tide of the East Church. This was launched by Constantine’s adoption of Christianity for the whole empire and the relocation of the capital to Byzantium.

Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325 which condemned Arianism.

Constantine may have softened his stance against Arianism for political reasons, but he died in 337; Arianism disappeared by 671.

Until Constantine’s conversion at the Milvian Bridge, the church had endured horrific persecution followed by the problem of the traditores and Donatists. The cessation of persecution alone was a great triumph.

Now at the time, the empire itself was dying, prompting Constantine’s move to Byzantium. However, after the conversion and thanks to Christianity, the empire lasted another 1000 years, during which Augustine proposed that the millennium of Scripture did apply to that contemporary kingdom. That represents another triumph.

The era of the East Church can be compared to the letter to Pergamum in Revelation.

The church of the time did face serious troubles, heresies, and idolatry, but Christ did “fight with the sword of my mouth,” with Scripture. That may be typified by the preaching of John Chrysostom.

But the most important achievement of that earthly kingdom during the age of the East Church, is the defeat of the Persian Empire, which embodied the archetype of Babylon. The gospel had reached (with roots in Daniel’s time) deep into the Persian Empire and beyond, but unlike the Romans, the Persians never formally adopted the faith for their national household, instead creating the impure hybrid of Zoroastrianism.

That leads to the observation that a true and lively faith in individuals happens most often in Christian households, whether of the family or the nation. This is one reason why that the covenants are established with families and nations, and why Christian parents must seal their children in those covenants.

On the Roman Empire of his time, Augustine writes—

“Thus, when illustrious kingdoms had long existed in the East, God willed that there should arise in the West an empire which, though later in time, should be more illustrious still in the breadth and greatness of its sway. And, in order that it might overcome the grave evils which had afflicted many other nations, He granted it to men who, for the sake of honour and praise and glory, so devoted themselves to their fatherland that they did not hesitate to place its safety before their own, even though they sought glory for themselves through it. (V,13)

“Moreover, it was not only for the sake of rendering due reward to the citizens of Rome that her empire and glory were so greatly extended in the sight of men. This was done also for the advantage of the citizens of the eternal City during their pilgrimage here. It was done so that they might diligently and soberly contemplate such examples, and so see how great a love they owe to their supernal fatherland for the sake of life eternal, if an earthly city was so greatly loved by its citizens for the sake of merely human glory. (V,16)” (Augustine. City of God, Cambridge edition, loc. 358, 359)
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
My knowledge of early State sponsored Christianity does not extend into the Byzantine period. Therefor I cannot challenge your characterization of State sponsored Christianity as benevolent for the Byzantine empire. I can quote a scholar of the period prior to the fall of Rome however. "The price paid for the restoration of the Empire was twofold. First, the absolute State had come, catering for the population at large, schematic, appealing to mass intelligence. Second, a complete State-socialism was in force, with which it's terrorism by officials, it's over-emphasized restrictions on the individual, it's progressive State interference, and it's burdensome taxation and liturgies, previously not so clearly defined, and it's methods of realizing it's demands, acted very much as before, except insofar as it's union with the Christian church, from the time of Constantine, gave the system a religious veneer, and stamped subjection as resignation to the will of God." This quote is from the Cambridge Ancient History, hardly a revisionist source. This does not sound like the kind of society Christ wanted for his church and it is certainly not the kind of society I would want to live in. Now maybe things improved after the fall of Rome, that is a matter for further research on my part, but I stand by my assertion that the Empire from the time of the Imperial Crisis to the fall of Rome was NOT an ideal that we should cite approvingly.
 

Schoolman

Puritan Board Freshman
Without historical context and immediate context, such as information about the chapter, organization of the volume, dates, and a precise citation, it is impossible to respond to the quotation. I don’t see a Kindle version and the print version is expensive, so it seems to be unverifiable.

However, each of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation includes criticism and applause, warnings and commendation. Pergamom received both praise and warning, for example, and that letter can be applied to the East Church from 312 to 800. Everything man does includes good and bad, both of which vary over time. A blanket generalization covering the many periods from 300 to 1453 is meaningless without more detailed exposition.

Further, Edward Gibbon finished his famous work around 1789. It is revisionist, does abuse Christian history, and its influence exists today. So the Cambridge history you found could easily be revisionist and tainted against Christianity.

The replies from several people above are nuanced and did answer the original question adequately.
 
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dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
Cook S.A., Adcock F. E., Charlesworth M.P., and Baynes N.H., The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII, The Imperial Crisis and Recovery, A.D. 193 -324, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1939. p 269.

I am bounding my comments to the period between the Imperial Crisis and the Sack of Rome in 410.
 

Schoolman

Puritan Board Freshman
So it is online!

The quotation has very limited application, since it discusses only a specific period of time, 193-312. I should say the author is hyperbolizing with statements such as “increased encroachments of the freedom of the individual.” In actual fact, if you or I were to travel in time, the provinces (the subject of the chapter) would appear libertarian to us, and more like our own American frontier. Ancient times did not have the technology for the degree of surveillance and control we are used to today.

But that description does confirm that the fall of Rome was being reversed. Order was achieved against the decline in the Western empire.

To flash forward 100 years to a sack of Rome, one should remember the context, that the focus of the Roman Empire and civilization had returned to its roots in the east. The western empire had always been somewhat of a frontier, the hinterlands. Rome was outside where most of the people lived, where civilization was centered, where Paul made his missionary journeys.

So when Constantine had moved the capital to Byzantium, he had returned the focus and governance of the wider empire home to where it began under Alexander. Then over time, the West developed its own locus of power culminating in the crowning of Charlemagne in 800, launching a new day (which may be comparable to the letter to Thyatira).

That is why I had referred to the age in question as the age of the “East Church.” When Constantine converted in 312, he inaugurated a new age of the church centered in the Greek civilization of the East.

Rome had already begun a long process of decline; later in the Middle Ages it slipped to a population of perhaps 500 or so. The West, wherein Rome lay, continued as hinterlands until after the Crusades, when the West Church came into its own.

But the age that Constantine launched lasted another 1000 years. For millennia, Greece embodied world civilization and power. Christianity directly caused that endurance and success. When at last Constantinople did fall in 1453, its scholars brought the best texts from antiquity to the West, sparking the Renaissance and the Reformation through the received text of Scripture and the great literary works of the ages.
 
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chothomas

Puritan Board Freshman
Modern evangelicals are too focused on the purity while ignoring the command of Jesus to be "wise as serpents". God answered prayers of Christians during the demonic Diocletianic Persecution. Jesus commanded to evangelize "kings" as well according to Acts 15:15. So Constantine had faults, but so what? We are going to judge a blessing from God because later Christians distorted this gift? Many RCC and EO blame Reformers like Luther and Calvin for current heresies among "Protestants". Are they right?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
My knowledge of early State sponsored Christianity does not extend into the Byzantine period. Therefor I cannot challenge your characterization of State sponsored Christianity as benevolent for the Byzantine empire. I can quote a scholar of the period prior to the fall of Rome however. "The price paid for the restoration of the Empire was twofold. First, the absolute State had come, catering for the population at large, schematic, appealing to mass intelligence. Second, a complete State-socialism was in force, with which it's terrorism by officials, it's over-emphasized restrictions on the individual, it's progressive State interference, and it's burdensome taxation and liturgies, previously not so clearly defined, and it's methods of realizing it's demands, acted very much as before, except insofar as it's union with the Christian church, from the time of Constantine, gave the system a religious veneer, and stamped subjection as resignation to the will of God." This quote is from the Cambridge Ancient History, hardly a revisionist source. This does not sound like the kind of society Christ wanted for his church and it is certainly not the kind of society I would want to live in. Now maybe things improved after the fall of Rome, that is a matter for further research on my part, but I stand by my assertion that the Empire from the time of the Imperial Crisis to the fall of Rome was NOT an ideal that we should cite approvingly.
You might want to study the Eastern Empire. Without Constantine you would not have the breathing room that gave rise to the councils and the greatest theologians we ever had
 

chothomas

Puritan Board Freshman
My knowledge of early State sponsored Christianity does not extend into the Byzantine period. Therefor I cannot challenge your characterization of State sponsored Christianity as benevolent for the Byzantine empire. I can quote a scholar of the period prior to the fall of Rome however. "The price paid for the restoration of the Empire was twofold. First, the absolute State had come, catering for the population at large, schematic, appealing to mass intelligence. Second, a complete State-socialism was in force, with which it's terrorism by officials, it's over-emphasized restrictions on the individual, it's progressive State interference, and it's burdensome taxation and liturgies, previously not so clearly defined, and it's methods of realizing it's demands, acted very much as before, except insofar as it's union with the Christian church, from the time of Constantine, gave the system a religious veneer, and stamped subjection as resignation to the will of God." This quote is from the Cambridge Ancient History, hardly a revisionist source. This does not sound like the kind of society Christ wanted for his church and it is certainly not the kind of society I would want to live in. Now maybe things improved after the fall of Rome, that is a matter for further research on my part, but I stand by my assertion that the Empire from the time of the Imperial Crisis to the fall of Rome was NOT an ideal that we should cite approvingly.
Put yourself in Constantine's position. Constantine was the emperor of a falling empire wracked by civil wars and dissensions. He is not a pastor or theologian. The scripture is clear on different responsibilities given to civil magistrates .vs church ministers on few things, but there are areas just not that clear. Some issues you raise apply only if he was a church minister.

He became a Christian at later in his life and was looking for ecumenicalism in the Church while trying to revitalize the empire. The issue of Homoousia vs Homoiousia vs Heteroousia was not his fault at all. He funded the Council of Nicaea and abided by the decision. While Arianism/Heteroousia was settled, the church still split between Homoousia and Homiousia and that was the failure of church leaders... not the emperor. He didn't start this tradition of the civil magistrates getting involved in the worship of God, but the church did starting with the Donastism controversy.

The church entered a new era where the Christianity became the dominant religion. No church leaders at that time dreamed of such blessing from God and was not prepared. Also, the scripture is not that clear on the COMPLETE role of the civil magistrates. We have differing views even today.
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?

Church government is to be strictly an internal affair. We are NOT to involve the magistrate in deciding or enforcing our internal disputes. As far as entering a new era where Christianity was the dominant religion, the arrangement that the Church made with the State during the medieval period went beyond mutual respect, it was one of mutual re-enforcement, and the system that the Church re-enforced was a terrible one. Prior to the Imperial Crisis, Roman citizens were for the most part middle class free landowners who had a self motivated real interest in preserving the Nation. The tax system imposed by Constantine and his successors forced free landowners to sell their lands and their persons to large landowners, essentially creating the manoral system. It turned a nation of free farmers into a nation of sharecroppers with no real interest in the preservation of the Nation. The Church sanctioned this, even approved it. WE DIDN'T HAVE TO MAKE THIS BARGAIN. We would have been better off with mere toleration by the government. Such an arrangement would have given us all we needed from the State to conduct our own affairs and left us free to criticize and even (in our secular roles) to resist the socialization of the culture. Please try to view the period objectively. A serf has no real interest in who his landowner is, as long as he gives him a decent shot at surviving the next winter. Citizenship in a "Christian" nation was not an adequate motivator to cause a people stripped of it's freedoms to defend it, so Rome fell. Once a people is stripped of their patriotism the collapse of the culture is inevitable, and that's what the Church was complicit in.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?

Church government is to be strictly an internal affair. We are NOT to involve the magistrate in deciding or enforcing our internal disputes. As far as entering a new era where Christianity was the dominant religion, the arrangement that the Church made with the State during the medieval period went beyond mutual respect, it was one of mutual re-enforcement, and the system that the Church re-enforced was a terrible one. Prior to the Imperial Crisis, Roman citizens were for the most part middle class free landowners who had a self motivated real interest in preserving the Nation. The tax system imposed by Constantine and his successors forced free landowners to sell their lands and their persons to large landowners, essentially creating the manoral system. It turned a nation of free farmers into a nation of sharecroppers with no real interest in the preservation of the Nation. The Church sanctioned this, even approved it. WE DIDN'T HAVE TO MAKE THIS BARGAIN. We would have been better off with mere toleration by the government. Such an arrangement would have given us all we needed from the State to conduct our own affairs and left us free to criticize and even (in our secular roles) to resist the socialization of the culture. Please try to view the period objectively. A serf has no real interest in who his landowner is, as long as he gives him a decent shot at surviving the next winter. Citizenship in a "Christian" nation was not an adequate motivator to cause a people stripped of it's freedoms to defend it, so Rome fell. Once a people is stripped of their patriotism the collapse of the culture is inevitable, and that's what the Church was complicit in.
Was the Council of Nicea a bad idea?
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
Was the Council of Nicea a bad idea?
We didn't need State sanction to conduct the council of Nicea. We held the Jerusalem council during the period of Roman oppression and that came out just fine. I know it's a distasteful exercise, but think like the enemy for a moment. I suspect that he knew that an abrupt interference of the State in church affairs would have set off alarm bells with the Church fathers, so he decided to gradually inculcate a State role in church affairs by beginning with largely benevolent role like the council of Nicea. A nice outcome, but a terrible precedent. Once the government had it's foot in the door initially annoying and increasingly difficult interference in church affairs was inevitable. It is the nature of government to seek power, and a role in church government was (and remains) a lever of power. The enemy is more than clever enough to exploit this.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
We didn't need State sanction to conduct the council of Nicea. We held the Jerusalem council during the period of Roman oppression and that came out just fine. I know it's a distasteful exercise, but think like the enemy for a moment. I suspect that he knew that an abrupt interference of the State in church affairs would have set off alarm bells with the Church fathers, so he decided to gradually inculcate a State role in church affairs by beginning with largely benevolent role like the council of Nicea. A nice outcome, but a terrible precedent. Once the government had it's foot in the door initially annoying and increasingly difficult interference in church affairs was inevitable. It is the nature of government to seek power, and a role in church government was (and remains) a lever of power. The enemy is more than clever enough to exploit this.
The situation on the ground was far more complex than you make it. The Jerusalem council barely covered Palestine. The Christian range in the 300s covered Scotland to Ethiopia to India
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
The situation on the ground was far more complex than you make it. The Jerusalem council barely covered Palestine. The Christian range in the 300s covered Scotland to Ethiopia to India
What did government sanction during that period offer us that we couldn't afford on our own? We had access to horses. We could send messages to each other. The church leaders of the time were literate and were holding regular discourse with one another already. There were large meeting places available to the public. Why did we need them?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
What did government sanction during that period offer us that we couldn't afford on our own? We had access to horses. We could send messages to each other. The church leaders of the time were literate and were holding regular discourse with one another already. There were large meeting places available to the public. Why did we need them?
You’ve already admitted you don’t know about the Eastern Empire. You are reading modern ideas of travel and communication back into the ancient world. It doesn’t work like that.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
We didn't need State sanction to conduct the council of Nicea. We held the Jerusalem council during the period of Roman oppression and that came out just fine. I know it's a distasteful exercise, but think like the enemy for a moment. I suspect that he knew that an abrupt interference of the State in church affairs would have set off alarm bells with the Church fathers, so he decided to gradually inculcate a State role in church affairs by beginning with largely benevolent role like the council of Nicea. A nice outcome, but a terrible precedent. Once the government had it's foot in the door initially annoying and increasingly difficult interference in church affairs was inevitable. It is the nature of government to seek power, and a role in church government was (and remains) a lever of power. The enemy is more than clever enough to exploit this.

Hello brother. First of all, I don't think I've ever interacted with you yet, so welcome :)

If I were to think like the enemy, there are some things I really would not want.

It'd be very helpful to my cause if the church never came to a clear idea on the nature of Christ, and whether He was really God, mostly God, or something else altogether. If you don't fall in with the first of those, you are a heretic. There was nothing really helpful to the devil of getting a mass of pastors and theologians together and act as iron sharpening iron to debate these issues and come up with clear definitions that, 17 centuries later, are still the standard of orthodoxy.

There were other unhelpful developments as well. The Synod of Dort was called by the Netherlands Assembly, so we have that governmental body to thank in some degree that we are five-point Calvinists. And the Five Points as based on the developments of that synod have been a glorious Gospel preservative ever since,.

And where even to begin with the Westminster Confession, the Larger and Shorter Catechism, the Directory of Church Government, and the timeless 1650 Psalter? Who called this assembly? The British Parliament!

And again, these works are the litmus test for orthodoxy, more or less. Some disagreements on some points of the Westminster Standards, but for 370 years we are still referencing, reciting, studying these works for the fact that they are comprehensive, clear, concise, convicting, compelling. The church can never go back.

If this was the work of the devil (which I utterly deny and repudiate), it was a boneheaded thing for him to do, as the church has been marvelously fortified ever since, so long as she holds fast to these standards.

I'll let historians address issues of whether the church could have done this without the help of the governments, but I cannot conceive of churches being able to go to the time and expense that these assemblies would have required without a lot of help. Travel, expenses, pulpit supply, arranging the meeting place, tracking delegates, coordinating schedules, committing to be out-of-towners for lengthy periods of time, and doing this with north of 100 men... that's a huge amount of resources to be expended.

Government funds put towards such magnanimous efforts, in my mind, are well spent.
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
You’ve already admitted you don’t know about the Eastern Empire. You are reading modern ideas of travel and communication back into the ancient world. It doesn’t work like that.
Not really. The question boils down to did the empire have resources for communication and travel that a fairly affluent church did not? I am of the opinion that the government had no significant resource that the church could not have mustered an alternative to on it's own. Even private security was within the range of the early Churches resources.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Not really. The question boils down to did the empire have resources for communication and travel that a fairly affluent church did not? I am of the opinion that the government had no significant resource that the church could not have mustered tell an alternative to on it's own. Even private security was within the range of the early Churches resources.
The very simple answer is yes. Most churches weren’t affluent,
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello brother. First of all, I don't think I've ever interacted with you yet, so welcome :)

If I were to think like the enemy, there are some things I really would not want.

It'd be very helpful to my cause if the church never came to a clear idea on the nature of Christ, and whether He was really God, mostly God, or something else altogether. If you don't fall in with the first of those, you are a heretic. There was nothing really helpful to the devil of getting a mass of pastors and theologians together and act as iron sharpening iron to debate these issues and come up with clear definitions that, 17 centuries later, are still the standard of orthodoxy.

There were other unhelpful developments as well. The Synod of Dort was called by the Netherlands Assembly, so we have that governmental body to thank in some degree that we are five-point Calvinists. And the Five Points as based on the developments of that synod have been a glorious Gospel preservative ever since,.

And where even to begin with the Westminster Confession, the Larger and Shorter Catechism, the Directory of Church Government, and the timeless 1650 Psalter? Who called this assembly? The British Parliament!

And again, these works are the litmus test for orthodoxy, more or less. Some disagreements on some points of the Westminster Standards, but for 370 years we are still referencing, reciting, studying these works for the fact that they are comprehensive, clear, concise, convicting, compelling. The church can never go back.

If this was the work of the devil (which I utterly deny and repudiate), it was a boneheaded thing for him to do, as the church has been marvelously fortified ever since, so long as she holds fast to these standards.

I'll let historians address issues of whether the church could have done this without the help of the governments, but I cannot conceive of churches being able to go to the time and expense that these assemblies would have required without a lot of help. Travel, expenses, pulpit supply, arranging the meeting place, tracking delegates, coordinating schedules, committing to be out-of-towners for lengthy periods of time, and doing this with north of 100 men... that's a huge amount of resources to be expended.

Government funds put towards such magnanimous efforts, in my mind, are well spent.
Just about any resource expended by the church in the name of maintaining independence from the State is justified. This is not a just a matter for speculation by historians, alternative or otherwise. A government will go to great expense to establish a attitude of bon homme with an institution that has as much influence over the opinions of it's citizens as the church has, even coming out on support of some truly spectacular doctrinal statements, if it can use this support as coin for recruiting church sanction for some truly awful cause. Modern historians bemoan the pointless bloodshed of the first world war and rightly so, but who was standing behind the various sovereigns of the day lending support for that pointless conflict in the name of country and God? The church. Why? Because they believed what was good for the State was good for the church and vice versa. A government does NOTHING without expecting something back. Christ does not want his body recruited to any cause except his own and those explicitly sanctioned in the word, and it is not for us to enter into any agreement with any organization outside those boundaries no matter how much they sweeten the offer. And yes, the enemy is capable of playing the long game with the church. What fisherman does not bait his hook with something attractive to the fish?
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
The very simple answer is yes. Most churches weren’t affluent,
A matter of research I suppose. Generally throughout the history of the church there have been those with extra resource to be lent to a Godly cause, but I cannot currently claim knowledge of any particular affluent Christians of the period.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Not really. The question boils down to did the empire have resources for communication and travel that a fairly affluent church did not? I am of the opinion that the government had no significant resource that the church could not have mustered an alternative to on it's own. Even private security was within the range of the early Churches resources.

In conjunction with my last post, I can tell you as a Presbyterian, that even in the modern day this kind of effort for even an annual presbytery or synod lasting a week is a big undertaking. It would have been much more difficult near four centuries ago, or two thousand years ago.

For example, travel. Some of our delegates have to fly from other states. For synod, they fly from as far as Japan. Relatively easy today, but 100 years ago that would have been days or weeks of travel, and the Japanese delegates wouldn't make it. That's a lot of time right there that the pastor is not shepherding his congregation. And this requires that the meeting place, lodgings, and the business of the meetings, with a good idea of who all is coming, be settled months (perhaps a few years?) in advance. That was an enormous administrative task.

Now, doing this for 100-150 delegates. And consider that some had to come to London from as far as Scotland, whole travel distance would average 300 miles roundabout. And horses don't have as much stamina as cars or planes, and fueling them wasn't as cheap, and the fuel efficiency wasn't quite as good.

Now, they all need a place to stay. If you have an annual synod which will last a few days, that's easy enough for congregations to manage. But for the Westminster or Nicea, on top of the travel expense, you need to give hospitality to all these delegates for weeks or months at a time. And take into account that some/all will at some point or another need to go back to their own congregations, and then come back. More coordination, more scheduling. Nicea lasted months, but the Westmister Assembly lasted ten years.

Now, oftentimes the presbytery or denomination will reimburse travel expenses because, to be fair, this is a financial burden. Who is going to reimburse these Westminsterian delegates for the travel (horse feed, inn stays, meals), and hyper-extended and frequent stays in London itself? On top of that, who is going to do pulpit supply while these delegates are off in London? Maybe there are other teaching elders, but very likely others had to bring in another man. So now the delegate pastor needs to be paid for, and so does whoever is taking his place.

And on top of the delegates, the Assembly was also commissioned to examine the qualifications of numerous pastors in the Anglican church already. So now those non-delegates are required to attend and come under a fresh examination. All the previous expenses must account for them too.

I do wonder too about the paperwork. For our synods you sometimes have hundreds of pages of items to read before you come. I imagine that in earlier synods and assemblies they found ways to keep the paperwork down; But nonetheless, it was at a time when many families didn't have their own copies of God's Word, and printing was still more expensive than today. In any case, several years of paperwork, even with a good faith attempt to keep it minimal, I have to imagine was a bit pricy. Who's going to foot that bill?

Could the church somehow still pull all this off? Perhaps one can argue that the church of England was affluent, and many of these Westminster delegates were Anglican men, but that was by political connection, since the Anglican church was a state church. I'm not aware of any church structure in the Three Kingdoms that came up to that level of scale, membership, or geographical spread. But then again, others well-versed in church history may know something I don't.

But for Nicea, could this be pulled off? You would still need to assume a region-wide ecclesiastical superstructure with a lot of wealth which, to my mind, did not exist at the time. And I doubt it would have, considering that Constantine was a relief from an extended period of persecution, and so having a massive, region-wide denomination would have been an attention-getter. And the funds would surely have been the targets of the persecutors. But let the historians say for sure on this.

I would say yes, government funds were utterly critical to making this happen.
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
Brother Daniel, the understanding, I believe, is that magistrates are to be nursing fathers and mothers to the church. The very term ‘nursing’ implies a closer relationship than mere toleration or even friendliness. The true religion must be countenanced above false ones for the church to flourish in peace (which 2 Timothy 2:2 tells us to pray for). It seems funny that God may have set it up this way, for magistrates to play such a role, but God did, in his wisdom.

So the magistrate sometimes called for a synod because when controversy was raging in the church, the church couldn’t accomplish one without his help.

The church is also free to ignore the magistrate’s commands in other times, when it’s an erastian impulse at work.
Sister Jeri, I respectfully disagree. Throughout the period of the old testament God told Israel not to look to outside powers for succor or protection. They were to rely upon him for their needs, both spiritual and physical. I liken turning to the State for help in an ecclesiastical matter to turning to Egypt for protection from Babylon. God will ALWAYS provide us with the resources we need to sustain his Church both physically and spiritually as long as he remains our exclusive source of inspiration and authority.
 

dnlcnwy

Puritan Board Freshman
In conjunction with my last post, I can tell you as a Presbyterian, that even in the modern day this kind of effort for even an annual presbytery or synod lasting a week is a big undertaking. It would have been much more difficult near four centuries ago, or two thousand years ago.

For example, travel. Some of our delegates have to fly from other states. For synod, they fly from as far as Japan. Relatively easy today, but 100 years ago that would have been days or weeks of travel, and the Japanese delegates wouldn't make it. That's a lot of time right there that the pastor is not shepherding his congregation. And this requires that the meeting place, lodgings, and the business of the meetings, with a good idea of who all is coming, be settled months (perhaps a few years?) in advance. That was an enormous administrative task.

Now, doing this for 100-150 delegates. And consider that some had to come to London from as far as Scotland, whole travel distance would average 300 miles roundabout. And horses don't have as much stamina as cars or planes, and fueling them wasn't as cheap, and the fuel efficiency wasn't quite as good.

Now, they all need a place to stay. If you have an annual synod which will last a few days, that's easy enough for congregations to manage. But for the Westminster or Nicea, on top of the travel expense, you need to give hospitality to all these delegates for weeks or months at a time. And take into account that some/all will at some point or another need to go back to their own congregations, and then come back. More coordination, more scheduling. Nicea lasted months, but the Westmister Assembly lasted ten years.

Now, oftentimes the presbytery or denomination will reimburse travel expenses because, to be fair, this is a financial burden. Who is going to reimburse these Westminsterian delegates for the travel (horse feed, inn stays, meals), and hyper-extended and frequent stays in London itself? On top of that, who is going to do pulpit supply while these delegates are off in London? Maybe there are other teaching elders, but very likely others had to bring in another man. So now the delegate pastor needs to be paid for, and so does whoever is taking his place.

And on top of the delegates, the Assembly was also commissioned to examine the qualifications of numerous pastors in the Anglican church already. So now those non-delegates are required to attend and come under a fresh examination. All the previous expenses must account for them too.

I do wonder too about the paperwork. For our synods you sometimes have hundreds of pages of items to read before you come. I imagine that in earlier synods and assemblies they found ways to keep the paperwork down; But nonetheless, it was at a time when many families didn't have their own copies of God's Word, and printing was still more expensive than today. In any case, several years of paperwork, even with a good faith attempt to keep it minimal, I have to imagine was a bit pricy. Who's going to foot that bill?

Could the church somehow still pull all this off? Perhaps one can argue that the church of England was affluent, and many of these Westminster delegates were Anglican men, but that was by political connection, since the Anglican church was a state church. I'm not aware of any church structure in the Three Kingdoms that came up to that level of scale, membership, or geographical spread. But then again, others well-versed in church history may know something I don't.

But for Nicea, could this be pulled off? You would still need to assume a region-wide ecclesiastical superstructure with a lot of wealth which, to my mind, did not exist at the time. And I doubt it would have, considering that Constantine was a relief from an extended period of persecution, and so having a massive, region-wide denomination would have been an attention-getter. And the funds would surely have been the targets of the persecutors. But let the historians say for sure on this.

I would say yes, government funds were utterly critical to making this happen.
Your losing sight of the principle in the details. Look at the lengths God went to to maintain the independence and provide for the needs of his people in the period of the Old Testament. Israel was told numerous times not to make alliances with outside powers, no matter how sweet the deal was, because he was to be their exclusive source of provision and authority. If the Israel humbled herself and trusted in God for her provision, God always came through for them. The principle is directly applicable to our relationship with the State. Putting it bluntly, whatever nation the Church finds herself living among is a foreign power in the eye's of our true sovereign and should be kept at arms length in all matters not explicitly addressed in the word.
 
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