Constantine and the Church 3 – What was the Church to do?

Posted: August 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Constantine | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Before I dive into Nicaea, about which myths seem to abound, I wanted to reflect on some of the implications of the earlier posts in this series. It should be clear by this point that the Church and those within it had no real input on whether they would be persecuted or not. There are some who accuse the early church of “capitulating” to the state to avoid persecution. But where’s the evidence of that capitulation? Where’s the evidence that Roman emperors even tried to engage the Church in their decisions to persecute or not to persecute?

What do people expect? That when an emperor decided not to persecute, Christians should have marched on the imperial capital and demanded to be tortured and put to death? Really?

Or when Constantine began his conversion and not only ended persecution, but made Christianity legal and looked to the Bishops to help stabilize the empire, what would we have had them do? They had never expected anything but persecution with sometime respite from time to time. When the emperor not only said he acknowledged Christ as Lord, but sought their help, would it have been somehow more Christian to reject him?

Is it not, after all, our proclamation that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord? Is it not our charge to care for all? Are we not told that the powers are ultimately instituted by God and responsible to him? Was it an unexpected shift? Yes. Were they suspicious? Probably.

But what else, exactly, would you have had them do?