Saturday, August 4, 2018

In Defense of Constantine

From First Things:
In the years before Constantine took the throne, Christianity was rapidly winning the hearts and minds of millions of Roman citizens, including the most gifted thinkers. The effort of Constantine’s immediate predecessors in the purple, most notably Diocletian, to impede the growth of Christianity through empire-wide persecution had failed miserably. At the beginning of the fourth century the Church was too large, its way of life and institutions too well established, its leaders too resourceful, for Christianity to be halted with the sword. The refusal of Christians to venerate the traditional gods, and hence to show honor to the emperor and fealty to the institutions of society, created a dilemma for the emperors. By forcing a choice between Rome and Christianity, the emperors badly misjudged the strength and resiliency of Christianity.

Constantine realized the shortsightedness of trying to purge the society of Christians and sought a way to make room for Christianity under the umbrella of a genial monotheism (which Christians confessed and philosophers taught). His policy, writes Drake, sought to “reconcile the imperial need for religious justification with the refusal of Christians to pay divine honors to any other deity.” In granting the Church legitimacy Constantine not only diffused a tense situation, he harnessed Christian energy in service to the state. (Read more.)

No comments: