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III. Development of the proto-Catholic Church

 

Early Catholic Church Fathers

 

Marcion, Rome 120s-130s AD

 

[note:  Whenever the word “Church” with a capital “C” is used in the following quotes, it refers specifically to the Roman Catholic Church and not the Body of Christ in general.]

 

A “wealthy Greek convert from Pontus, Marcion…had come to Rome in the 120s or 130s to take an active part in propagating the faith.  He was from the school of Paul, indeed his greatest theological follower.  He represents two important and permanent strains of Christianity: the cool rationalist approach to the examination of the Church’s documentary proofs, and a plain, unspectacular philosophy of love.  He was, as it were, a preincarnation of a certain type of Renaissance scholar, an adumbration of Erasmus.  Marcion had no doubt that Paul’s essential teachings were sound and he know they were closer to Jesus in date.  His difficulty was how to square them either with the teachings of the Old Testament, or with the post-Pauline Christian writings.  Using historical and critical methods basically similar to those of modern scriptural scholars, he identified only seven Pauline epistles as authentic, rejecting all the later documents which were circulating in the apostle’s name…[obviously he lopped off six authentic epistles of Paul]  Of the so-called evangelists he accepted only portions of Luke (in his gospel and Acts) as inspired, rejecting the rest as later fabrications, rationalizations and muddle.  This stripped the New Testament down to its bare Pauline bones:  indeed, to Marcion, the teaching of Paul was, essentially, the gospel of Jesus.  The Old Testament he rejected in toto since it seemed to him, as it has seemed to many Christians since, to be talking of a quite different God: monstrous, evil-creating, bloody, the patron of ruffians like David.  His textual analysis and the process by which he arrived at the first ‘canon’, thus had a unity: the breach with Judaism, initiated by Paul, had to be complete, and [so-called] Christian texts with Judaizing tendencies or compromises expurgated or scrapped.  No book of Marcion’s has survived.  He quarreled with the Roman Christian authorities in AD 144 and went east.” [“A History of Christianity” by Paul Johnson, p. 46, par. 2-3]  So Marcion was lopping off most of the authentic New Testament, except for Paul, and all of the Old Testament!  He was also introducing an anti-Semitic bias, teachings, and flavour into that church that was at Rome early on.  Although Marcion was kicked out of this early Roman church congregation, which at the time was an orthodox Gentile Christian congregation with both Jewish and Gentile believers within it, a little later on many of his beliefs and focus on Paul to the exclusion of all else, and especially his exclusion of the Old Testament, worked their way into the focus of the proto-Catholic church and then the Catholic church itself.  That is why I include Marcion as one of the important pre-Constantine “fathers” of the Catholic church.  These quotes from Paul Johnson’s exhaustive work are very revealing.  Let’s read on.

 

Tertullian 160-220AD,

 

“Tertullian and Marcion never met: they were quite different generations and Tertullian was attacking an attitude of mind rather than a real personality.  Both had powerful intellects.  Tertullian, in addition, was a master of prose, the prose of the rhetorician and the controversialist.  He was at home in both Latin and Greek but he usually employed Latin---the first Christian theologian to do so.”  [So-called “Christian” in my eyes.  We’ll see why I feel that way soon.]  “Tertullian came from Carthage where, even in the closing decades of the second century, a distinctive regional Church had emerged [the Donatists, considered by the Church in Rome as a schism off the orthodox Church in Rome]:  enthusiastic, immensely courageous, utterly defiant of the secular authorities, much persecuted, narrow-minded, intolerant, venomous and indeed violent in controversy.  There is some evidence that Carthage and other areas of the African littoral were evangelized by Christian Zealots and Essenes and had a very early tradition of militancy and resistance to authority and persecution.  Tertullian embodied this tradition.  To him the Church [the Roman proto-Catholic church, that is] was a precious elite of believers, to be defended against the contamination from whatever quarter; the Devil, he thought, roamed the earth seeking to corrupt.  Christians [of his extraction, that is] should limit their contacts with the state to the minimum: they should refuse to serve in the army, or the civil service, or even in state schools;. They might not earn their living in any trade connected, even indirectly, with pagan religion.  He particularly deplored the attempts of rationalists, like Marcion, to reconcile Christian teaching to Greek philosophy…In his contempt for intellectual inquiry, Tertullian appeared anti-Pauline.  Yet in another sense he sprang from the Pauline tradition.  He stressed the overwhelming power of faith, the precious gift of the elect.  To him Christians were supermen because of the spirit that moved them.  This is Paul’s conception of the Church; a community where the spirit worked through individuals, rather than an organized hierarchy where authority was exercised by office.  Tertullian’s burning faith made him a scourge of heretics and an avid propagandist for the Church – one of the best it ever had.”  [ibid. p. 48, par. 1-2]  “Tertullian, the scourge of heretics, eventually joined it.  He could not continue to endorse an orthodoxy which denied any independent role to the Spirit and insisted that all communication with the deity should be through the regular ecclesiastical channels.”  [ibid. p. 50, par.1]  So we see Tertullian, a very early father of the proto-Catholic church, leaving due to the fact that this church was becoming so structured in a way the denied proper independent Christian communication with God in the Spirit.  A powerful hierarchal structure was beginning to develop in what was to become the proto-Catholic church, and the date was 170AD.

 

Rise of the proto-Catholic Church

 

“But by the time the early Roman sources appear, early in the second century, the matrix of a clerical structure had been forged.  The first epistle of Clement (96-99AD in papacy) stressed the importance of ‘decency and order’ in the Church.  And a part of this order was a hierarchal structure.  Women were subject to men, the young to the old, the ‘multitude’ to the presbyters, or alternately to bishops and deacons selected for this purpose.  A historical theory of episcopacy had already been evolved: ‘Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be contention over the name of bishop.  For this reason, being possessed of complete foreknowledge, they appointed the above-mentioned men, and then made a decree that, when these men died, other reliable men should take over their office.’  By the time Ignatius of Antioch wrote his letter, perhaps twenty years later, the hierarchal order had developed further, and clergy were divided into grades: the bishop, the council of presbyters, and the deacons…By this stage, as we see from the pastoral epistles [within this developing proto-Catholic Church], the primitive democracy of the eschatological period had gone [i.e. the period where the true Church, Judeo-Christian in nature, had been the chief Church extant.]: the congregation had lost its freedom, the bishops taught authorized truth and office was seen as the instrument by which the apostolic tradition was to be preserved.  The authority of the bishop was then buttressed, as we have seen, by the compilation of episcopal lists going back to apostolic foundations [or so they said they went back to apostolic foundations, which was a hoax].  All such churches produced their list, no one Church alone had to bear the burden of proving that its teaching was the one originally given. Thus the Churches [and this would be the churches who were falling more and more under the influence of the proto-Catholic Church in Rome.  Judeo-Christianity, from the apostolic line of John, to Polycarp, to Policrates still resided in Asia Minor, where it was always going through severe persecution at the hands of the Roman empire.] established intercommunion and mutual defense against heresy, on the basis of the monarchical episcopate and its apostolic genealogy.”  [ibid. p.56, par.2, p. 57, par. 1] 

 

where the true apostolic churches were residing

 

As we have seen in the previous sections, Judeo-Christianity, now residing in Asia Minor, is where the true Church was residing.  Those congregations, first under the apostle John’s authority, then his disciple Polycarp, and then Policrates, the true apostolic line of succession in that sense (all the other apostles had been killed off except John) continued on gently ruling over their churches from the 90s AD to around 250AD when Policrates was martyred.  This is in direct contrast to what was developing in the west at Rome, and southeast and south of Rome in Alexandria and Carthage under the influence of the Donatist schism of the proto-Catholic Church.

 

Now let’s continue with the development of the proto-Catholic Church

 

“The idea of succession, originally stressed to safeguard belief in the tradition, was detached from its setting and used to create a doctrine of spiritual office.  Tertullian saw this in legal terms: the bishops were ‘heirs’ to spiritual property.  And part of their property was that their authority was valid everywhere because they became special people by virtue of office.  How did they become heirs?  The answer was shortly supplied by Hippolytus of Rome, writing early in the third century, with the notion of a special sanctifying power in episcopal consecration.  This service, he argued, was the means by which bishops, like the apostles before them, were endowed with the threefold authority of the high priesthood, the teaching, and the office of ‘watchman.’  They could be ordained only by other bishops – thus for the first time a sacral differentiation was made in consecration rites.”  [ibid. p. 57, par.2]  So we see the steady development of a hierarchal structure for this developing proto-Catholic Church, a structure which would divorce forever proper accountability of this structure from lay members, and deny lay members from having any say in how the church was being run, as well as they were more and more cut off from direct communion with God in any spiritual capacity, the very reason Tertullian left.  The proto-Catholic church is getting ready for---being prepared for by some unseen force--- Constantine, as we shall see, but we’re not quite there yet. 

 

Second century growth

 

“The creation of an international Church, moving slowly from doctrinal diversity to the semblence of orthodoxy, based on an agreed canon and underpinned by the institution of the bishops, was essentially the work of the second century.  This was pragmatical work, evolved in response to the collapse of the eschatological hope, and during a fierce and continuous battle against heresy; theory was made up to rationalize and justify change rather than to advance it.  The character of the Church – or rather the increasingly victorious trend within the Church – was acquiring was empirical and inclusive; it tended to reject one-sided ideological interpretations.  Thus Marcion, the ultra-Pauline, and Tertullian, the defender of charismatics, found themselves outside.”  [ibid. p. 57, par.3]  So this Church in Rome and those associated with it was streamlining itself to become a universal Church, all it lacked is universal power, political power, military power.  “In the West, diversity was disappearing fast; in the East, orthodoxy was becoming the largest single tradition by the early decades of the third century.  The Church was now a great and numerous force in the empire, attracting men of wealth and high education…

 

Origen

 

“The effect of Origen’s work was to create a new science, biblical theology, whereby every sentence in the scriptures was systematically explored for any hidden meanings, different layers of meanings, allegory and so forth.  And from the elements of this vast scriptural erudition he constructed, in his book First Principles, a Christian philosophy from which it was possible to interpret every aspect of the world.”  [p. 58, par. 2].  But was this the interpretation of Scripture Jesus gave the apostles and the early true Church?  Far from it, many of Origen’s interpretations were like night compared to day compared to what the apostles taught and wrote.  He allegorized away many Scriptures which had previously been interpreted in a literal sense.  Amillennialism is thought to have originated under him.

 

Cyprian, 208-258AD

 

“Within the broad philosophical system elaborated by Origen there was room for an internal system of regulation and discipline. This was supplied by his younger contemporary, Cyprian of Carthage.  If Origen adumbrated the concept of a Christian universe, Cyprian unveiled the machinery necessary to keep it together and make it work”…Cyprian “had to face the practical problems of persecution, survival and defense against attack.  His solution was to gather together the developing threads of ecclesiastical order and authority and weave them into a tight system of absolute control.  He reasoned as follows.  The Church was a divine institution; the Bride of Christ; Mother Church, the mediatrix of all salvation.  It was one, undivided and catholic. [catholic = universal in that sense]  Only in association with her could Catholics have life.  Outside her holy fellowship there was nothing but error and darkness.  The sacraments, episcopal ordination, the confession of faith, even the Bible itself, lost their meaning if used outside the true Church.  The Church was also a human, viable community, found only in an organized form.  The individual could not be saved by direct contact with God.  The carefully graded hierarchy, without which the organized Church could not exist, was established by Christ and the apostles [so Cyprian taught and had installed in the Catholic Church as dogma].  The laity was allowed to be present at the election of the bishop but the actual choice was made by all the presbyters, especially by other neighboring bishops…Without the office of bishop there could be no Church; and without the Church, no salvation.  The man who determined who was, or was not, a member of the Church, and therefore eligible for salvation, was the bishop…With Cyprian, then, the freedom preached by Paul and based on the power of Christian truth was removed from the ordinary members of the Church; it was retained only by the bishops, through whom the Holy Spirit worked…” [ibid. p. 59, par. 2, p. 60, par.1]  Just look up and read Romans 8, first 16 verses, and see who Paul says the Holy Spirit works through, you will see that the Holy Spirit works in all believers, not just “bishops”.  Can you see how far from Biblical truth this proto-Catholic church has gotten so far?  “With Bishop Cyprian, the analogy with secular government came to seem very close.”  i.e. this proto-Catholic church was beginning to look more like a government in the world than a Christian church.

 

How the Roman church gained influence over what had been true Christian church congregations—buying influence with money

 

“Even before this stage [Cyprian], however, there is evidence that Rome was using its position as the imperial capital to influence the Church in other centres, and thus to build up a case-history of successful intervention…Moreover, Rome had an excellent excuse for such interference.  From the earliest times, it had assisted small and struggling Churches with money.  This was charity, but charity, increasingly, with a purpose.  Money certainly accompanied Clement’s letter to Corinth, where it helped to turn the minority into the majority party…The Rome congregation was rich, and became much richer during the second century…It is easy to project backwards into these developments – the extension of orthodoxy, the rise of monarchical episcopate, the special role of Rome – the operation of a deliberate policy, pursued relentlessly from generation to generation with the object of creating a system of ecclesiastical law, a privileged clerical class and an authoritarian faith.  This, indeed, was what was beginning to emerge by the third century.”  [ibid. p. 61, par. 1, 3, p. 62, par.1, 2]  This is the story of the development of the Roman Catholic Church, not the true struggling and persecuted Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor.

 

Before we move on to Constantine, Tertullian in 170AD, and then emperor Julian looking back in 355, gives us a glimpse of true Christianity in Galilee and Asia Minor

 

“Tertullian quotes them as saying: ‘How these Christians love one another!’  And he adds that the funds which financed their charities were essentially voluntary.  ‘Every man once a month brings some modest coin, or whatever he wishes and only if he does wish, and if he can – for nobody is compelled.’…The Christians had enormously expanded the old charitable trusts of the Jewish diaspora.  They ran a miniature welfare state in an empire which for the most part lacked social services.  The Emperor Julian [355-360AD, see    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/julian_the_Apostate], seeking to revive paganism in the fourth century, tried to introduce similar charitable funds for the poor.  In a letter ordering imperial clergy to set these up, he noted: ‘Why do we not observe that it is in their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the apparent holiness of their lives that they have done most to increase atheism?’ (i.e. Christianity [Julian was calling Christianity ‘atheism’]).  He thought it, ‘disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans support not only their own poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.’  Julian noted bitterly the important role played by Christian women.  He told leading citizens of Antioch: ‘Each one of you allows his wife to carry out everything from his house to the Galileans.  These wives feed the poor at your expense, and the Galileans get the credit.’  Women played a much bigger part in the Christian charitable trusts than corresponding organizations in the Jewish diaspora; this was one reason why Christianity took over the old proselytizing role of [diaspora] Judaism, which now ceased to expand.  Christianity offered solid advantages to women.  It treated them as equals in the eyes of God.  It told husbands to treat their wives with as much consideration as Christ showed to his ‘bride’, the Church.  And it gave them the protection of Jesus’s unusually definite teaching on the sanctity of marriage.  Women converts began the Christian penetration of the upper-classes and then brought their children up as Christians; sometimes they ended up by converting their husbands.”  [ibid. p.75, par.2]  That’s a historic description that Tertullian and Julian gave of what must have been the true Church, which was still residing in upper Judea, Syria (Antioch) and Asia Minor.  Calling them Galileans identifies those being described by Julian as being distinctly Judeo-Christian, and not of the extraction of the proto-Catholic Church, as evidenced by the following quotes.

 

The proto-Catholic Church continues to develop

 

“The truth is that during the large-scale anti-Christian operations of the second half of the third century [250AD onward to 313AD], the State was obliged to recognize that its enemy had changed and had made itself a potential ally.  In the long struggle to suppress internal division, to codify its doctrine and to expand its frontiers, Christianity [of the proto-Catholic extraction] had become in many striking ways a mirror-image of the empire itself.  [emphasis mine throughout]  It was catholic, universal, ecumenical, orderly, international, multi-racial and increasingly legalistic.  It was administered by a professional class of literates who in some ways functioned like bureaucrats and its bishops, like imperial governors, legates or prefects, had wide discretionary powers to interpret the law.  [that would be a reference to ‘church law’, not Bible law.]  It was becoming the Doppelganger of the empire.  In attacking it, the empire was debilitating itself.  For Christianity had become a secular as well as a spiritual phenomenon: it was a huge force for stability, with its own traditions, property, interests and hierarchy.  Unlike Judaism, it had no national aspirations incompatible with the empire’s security; on the contrary, its ideology fitted neatly into the aims and needs of the universal state.  Christianity [this proto-Catholic ‘Christianity’] had been carried towards the State by the momentum of its own success.  Would it not be prudent for the State to recognize this metamorphosis and contract, as it were, a marriage de convenance with the ‘bride’ of Christ?”  Now let’s analyze what we’ve just read.  How could the true ‘Bride of Christ’ ever become married to a State government, and this one, the Roman Empire, whom the Bridegroom is coming back to defeat and conquer???  What is described here is spiritual adultery on a grand scale, the marriage between a supposed Christian church and a secular State government, and in this case, the Roman Empire.  That ought to be telling us something, all by itself.  Let’s continue with the quote, “Thus it [“it” being the Roman Empire] would relinquish a state religion [paganism] which seemed increasingly forlorn and required public support just to stay alive and replace it by a young and dynamic partner, capable of development and adjustment to underpin the empire with strength and enthusiasm.  Here lay the very mundane logic of Constantine’s edict of toleration: he perceived that Christianity [this brand of it] already possessed many of the characteristics of an imperial state Church.” [ibid. p.76, par.1]  Constantine needs a Church, a supposed Christian Church that will do his bidding, that will help bolster the Roman Empire.  The developing proto-Catholic Church did that, was a perfect match.  The Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor were not a perfect match.  This takes us to a section on Constantine.  But just before we go to Constantine, let’s add a little bit more to the picture of the developing or proto-Catholic Church.  “It was common for the State or private interest groups to push their nominees into key Church posts, irrespective of their status.  St. Ambrose was baptized, went through the various clerical ranks and was consecrated bishop of Milan all within eight days.  Among laymen ordained directly to the presbyterate were St. Augustine, St. Jerome, Origen and Paulinus of Nols.  Fabian was a layman when made Pope in 236; Eusebius was only a catechumen when made bishop of Caesarea in 314; other laymen-bishops were Philogonius of Antioch in 319, Nectarius of Constantinople in 381 and Synesius of Ptolemais in 410.  Eusebius, it should be added, was enthroned by the military, as were Martin of Tours and Philiaster of Brescia.  Gregory of Nazianzus says it was common in the fourth century for bishops to be selected ‘from the army, the navy, the plough, the forge’.  Jerome complained: ‘One who was yesterday a catechumen is today a bishop; another moves overnight from the amphitheatre to the church; a man who spent the evening in the circus stands next morning at the altar, and another who was recently a patron of the stage is now the dedicator of virgins.’  Direct bribery was also common.  John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, found six cases of episcopal simony at the synod he held at Ephesus in 401.  They came clean: ‘We have given bribes – the thing is admitted – so we would be made bishops and exempt from civil duties.’  They asked to be confirmed or, if this were impossible, to have their money back.  They were evidently small men: ‘Some of us have handed over furniture belonging to our wives.’  They got their bribes back and, after Chrysostom’s fall, their bishoprics too, keeping their wives all the time.” [ibid. p. 77, par.4; p. 78, par.1]

 

Progressive destruction of Judeo-Christianity

 

Paul Johnson tells us, “From the second century the Catholic Church, as it increasingly called itself, stressed its universality, its linguistic and cultural uniformity, its geographical and racial transcendance – in short, its identity aims with the empire…”  Emperor Julian in a letter pointed out how under the previous reign of Constantine and the Catholic Church, “Many whole communities of so-called heretics”, he claims, “were actually butchered, as at Samosata, and Cyzicus in Paphlagonia, Bitynia and Galatia, and among many other tribes villages were sacked and destroyed; whereas in my time exile has been ended and property restored.” [ibid. p.86, par.1] Many of those places mentioned above were cities where Judeo-Christian congregations existed in Asia Minor, such as Galatia where Paul had established churches. According to the rising Catholic Church “Christian heresy, on the other hand, was almost by definition anti-authoritarian and it linked in unholy communion men whose notions were otherwise merely tribal, or even criminal, by supplying them with transcendental and dangerous concepts.  For all these reasons the imperial State found itself obliged – it was not unwilling – to become the enforcement agency of Christian orthodoxy.”---of course Judeo-Christianity had become unorthodox in their eyes---“By the time of Theodosius, in the fifth century, there were over 100 active statutes against heresy and heretics.  The first general statute, dating from the 380s, shows the essentially secular nature of the State’s concern: it is attacking heresy now as it once attacked Christianity as a whole because it provoked disorder.  Thus sanctions are laid down against ‘those who contend about religion…’to provoke any agitation against the regulations of Our Tranquility, as authors of sedition and as disturbances of the peace of the church…There shall be no opportunity for any man to go out to the public and to argue about religion, or to discuss it or to give any counsel.’  The law was very severe indeed, as it appears to forbid religious debate of any sort outside, presumably, the authorized channels.  But in some ways it was merely a logical culmination of a train of events set in motion by Constantine’s decision to seek alliance with orthodox Christianity [i.e. the proto-Catholic Church].  Indeed to a great extent Constantine himself may have been aware of the logic at the time of his Milan of Edict…Of course Constantine was not concerned about doctrinal truth.  So far as was possible, he wanted the Church to be universalist and inclusive.  He wrote threateningly to Bishop Athanasius in c. 328: ‘As you know my wishes, pray admit freely any who wish to enter the church.  If I hear you have stopped anyone claiming membership I will immediately send an official to depose you and send you into exile.’”  What Constantine wanted was a universal Church that would bring peace and stability into the Roman Empire, and he basically chose the developing Catholic Church to be the one universal Church to accomplish that.  Any other Church or set of believers who dared be a rival to that would bring the wrath of the Roman Empire down on them.  That is why all but a very few remnants of Judeo-Christianity survived down through the centuries, often in small Torah-observant groups.  What Constantine wanted was, “his Church must reflect the empire at its best – harmony, serenity, multiplicity in unity.  Equally, he disliked doctrinal argument, for which he had no sympathy or understanding.” [ibid. p. 87, par.3]  [This period of time is reflected in a Sabbatarian Church of God history about what they consider to be the Pergamos era of the Judeo-Christian churches.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation2-12-17.html.]  Now let’s examine Constantine and his Edict of Milan a little bit more thoroughly.

 

Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire

 

The Emperor Constantine had spent a good part of his career as a soldier-emperor, much as Julius Caesar had, uniting the empire militarily until all was well.  He even reunited the eastern and western divisions of the Roman empire militarily.  But the emperor had a problem.  The Roman Empire was far from united religiously.  Previously the whole Empire had been pagan, essentially.  Now Christianity was growing within the empire by leaps and bounds.  Killing Christians only seems to make their numbers grow.  So now the empire was essentially religiously dividing between pagans and Christians.  He wanted to unite  the empire under the Christian banner for various reasons, but primarily for reasons of political stability within the realm.  Several problems existed.  One, the pagans outnumbered the Christians.  Two, the Christians were going through a number of hotly contested religious schisms within the Greco-Roman churches, Arianism being the biggest issue.  In the midst of the Greco Roman churches factions of differing belief systems were occurring all over the place.  Add to this the 3+ million Judeo-Christians in Asia Minor---whose beliefs were decidedly anti-pagan---and they also obstinately refused to come under the authority of the Greco-Roman church in Rome.  Constantine was in a fine fix.  He decided the only thing he could do was bring all the Greco-Roman bishops from the entire Roman Empire together, both eastern and western, into a massive religious counsel, which ended up being the Counsel of Nicea.  No Judeo-Christian bishops were invited to attend.  He presided over this Counsel, using his Greco-Roman bishops to decide the direction the “orthodox” church would take.  Their purpose was to eliminate all other forms of Christianity that would not conform with the belief systems of the Greco-Roman church at Rome, and Alexandria in Egypt for the eastern half of Rome.  He also promoted the syncretization of pagan holidays, days of worship, into Christianity.  He did this so that  a massive influx of pagans into the Greco-Roman church could be facilitated.  Constantine used the ‘carrot and stick’ method.  He made it real tough to be a pagan, confiscating pagan priests’ property and wealth, temples and all, and giving them to the Greco-Roman churches and their priesthood.  Pagan priests lost their free ride, property and wealth, whilst the Greco-Roman church got the free ride, tax-free status for priests, but for the pagans themselves, the Greco-Roman church’s days of worship were friendly to them.  The day of the Sol, Sunday, was their worship day.  The feast of Saturnalia became Christmas.  Easter, borrowed from the Babylonian religion was the day of Ishtar, or in Egyptian, Isis.  (Ishtar is pronounced the same as our English word Easter.)  Constantine’s motives were entirely political, and not based on any search for religious truth.  As a matter of fact, he was not officially baptized until on his deathbed.  First, the Arian heresy threatened to derail Constantine’s grand master plan for religious stability and homogenization of the Empire. 

          The Arian heresy amongst the Greco-Roman churches was threatening to tear them apart in 319AD.  Arianism basically taught that Jesus was a good person, chosen by God to be messiah, but not equal to God.  It basically denied the pre-existent Deity of Jesus Christ.  The following quotes are from “MacroHistory, Rome’s Christian Emperors to 410 CE” [ http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch24.htm ]:

 

“In addition to having become emperor of the western half of the empire, Constantine took the office as Supreme Pontiff.  And as Supreme Pontiff, he gave recognition to the god that had been his father’s favorite: sol Invictus, the Syrian sun god that had been brought to Rome by the boy-emperor Varius Avituus some sixty years before.  Constantine’s half of the empire was five or more percent Christians.  Constantine, open to belief in a variety of gods, had become sympathetic with the god of the Christians.  And he gave Jesus at least part of the credit for his victory over Maxentius…

          “Constantine became Christianity’s champion and patron…Constantine gave the bishop at Rome imperial property where a new cathedral, the Lateran Basilica, would rise, and he provided for the building of other Christian churches across his part of the empire.  Constantine granted Christian clergy special privileges; he allowed people to will their property to the Church.  He exempted the clergy from taxation, from military service and forced labor---as had been granted to the priests of other recognized religions.  The tax exemptions for the Christian clergy were followed by a number of wealthy men rushing to join the clergy, and in 320 Constantine would correct this by making it illegal for rich pagans to claim tax exemptions as Christian priests…

          “Constantine’s half of the empire remained from five to ten percent Christian, and the city of Rome remained largely pagan, especially the Senate, and so too did the high command of Constantine’s army. Constantine had made no break with paganism [at this point, at least outwardly, but he was positioning himself for this].  The arch dedicated to Constantine’s victory over Maxentius, erected in 315 or 316, described that victory as an “instigation of divinity” without crediting Jesus or Yahweh. Constantine by now obviously favored Christianity, but as the emperor of the west he made an effort at neutrality in what Christians saw as their conflict with demonic paganism.  He appointed pagan aristocrats to high offices in Rome while tolerating from his army the greeting “Constantine, may the immortal gods preserve you for us!”  Then, in 321, in a move to spite the Jews and accommodate Christianity with prevailing pagan ways, Constantine made the day of Sol Invictus a holy day and a day of rest for the Christians---Sunday…”

This was also a move to destroy Judeo-Christianity in the eastern part of the empire---for reasons that were purely for political stability within the empire.

325AD:  “Much to Constantine’s annoyance, God’s harmony continued to elude the Christian Church---as churchmen disagreed over the exact nature of Jesus.  In 325, he called for the Church’s first ecumenical (general) counsel, which was to meet in the city of Nicaea for the purpose of deciding by committee the nature of Jesus Christ and other issues.  Of Christianity’s 1,800 or so bishops [in the Greco-Roman churches, not the Judeo-Christian churches], 318 attended the conference---most of them from the eastern half of the empire.  Constantine presided over the meeting. One group of bishops, led by the bishop Arius, claimed that God and Jesus were separate beings, that because Jesus was God’s son there must have been a time when Jesus did not exist.  Another group of bishops could not accept the notion that Jesus had been created from nothing and insisted that he had to be divine and therefore a part of God.  It was the kind of muddle that came with applying imagination to empirically unverifiable matters, and a great rift was developing that would split Christianity.  Christianity was on its way to become most concerned with doctrine compared to some other faiths, including Judaism…

          “Constantine decided against Arius.  But, for the sake of unity, he decided that Bishop Arius and his supporters would be allowed to remain within the Church and would not be forced to recant.  Constantine held that those bishops who refused to sign the settlement of Nicaea were to be exiled, and to those Christian sects that the Church considered heretical [which included all the Judeo-Christians in Asia Minor, 3+ million of them, roughly] he sent a letter proclaiming that their places of meeting would be confiscated…

          “With the power of the state behind them, the bishops decided to make their authority law.  Cutting off the possibility of common Christians choosing their own bishop, the bishops ruled that in no province was anyone to be made a bishop except by other bishops within that province.  The bishops granted to the bishop of Alexandria papal authority over the eastern half of the empire, and to the bishop of Rome they granted papal authority over the western portion of the empire…”

 

A stick for the pagans

 

“Wishing that his pagan subjects would give up their religious rites, Constantine kept the pagans fearful and cowed as he confiscated from their priests much of the wealth the pagan religions had accumulated, including their sacred icons.   This brought to Constantine much wealth in the form of precious metal, which he gave to the Christian Church…

 

Power, Prestige and Popularity Transform the Church

 

 “The Church had left behind its original communal sharing and its sense of equality among members.  The bishops were growing in wealth and in the splendor of their dress.  Having moved from simple buildings to those that were grand and imposing, the Church also made its rituals more splendid.  In place of a simple table for the rite of Holy Communion---the Eurcharist---the Church now used a massive and ornate altar of marble studded with gems…

          “Christianity was supposed to be a matter of the heart, of conversion, and commitment to Jesus, but it was the increase in grandeur, including the prestige gained from Constantine’s support that helped the Church make great new gains in converts.  Some conversions were accommodations to the belief that the emperor was a Christian---and accommodation to state power.

          “Pagan habits were modified to fit Christianity.  Some evangelists, Gregory the Wonder working among them, facilitated conversions by encouraging Christians to have the feasts of their old gods celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs.  In the western half of the empire, the popular pagan feast day celebrated as the birthday of Sol Invictus and the winter solstice, December 25th, began being celebrated as the day of birth of Jesus Christ.  Christians in the eastern half of the empire disagreed with this and choose instead January 6th –the day of another great pagan festival---the day of Jesus’ birth.  This difference between western and eastern Christian was to continue into modern times…  [emphasis mine]

          “Among the pagan practices adopted by Christians in bringing pagans into the fold were a devotion to relics, the worship of holy objects as an act of reverence, genuflection, and the use of candles and incense…Those who had prayed to pagan gods for rain and for bestowing fertility upon women would now be praying to Christian saints.  Many peasants who had venerated a pagan female guardian of grain would transfer that veneration to a new guardian and creator of their grain: Mary, the mother of Jesus…”  [to read the full article, log onto http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch24.htm.]

 

Those were quotes from a secular article about Constantine and the Counsel of Nicaea.  If you read between the lines, you will see that this was a far different Church in Rome than the one Paul wrote his Epistle to.  The last two paragraphs show this ‘church’ syncretizing with pagan beliefs to bolster the flow of pagans into the church.  A church historian in the 1800s, Alexander Hislop, made a comparative study of these syncretized beliefs, first as they were in the ancient pagan Babylonian religion, and then as they had been syncretized into the Greco-Roman church in Rome.  The book itself has been placed online, and can be read and downloaded from this link: http://www.biblebelievers.com/babylon/ [“The Two Babylons is out of print and probably considered a rare book].  Now back to the development of the early Catholic Church. 

 

Continued development of the Catholic Church:

Pope Damasus 366-384AD

 

“In any case, in these and other respects, Christianity was changing to meet public opinion.  In the second century the Church had acquired the elements of ecclesiastical organization; in the third, it created an intellectual and philosophical structure; and in the fourth, especially the latter half of the century, it built up a dramatic and impressive public persona: it began to think and act like a state Church…during the pontificate of Bishop Damasus of Rome, 366-84…His aim seems to have been quite specific: to present Christianity [his brand of it] as the true and ancient religion of the empire and Rome as its citadel.  Thus he instituted a great annual ceremony in honour of Peter and Paul, making the point that Christianity was already very old and had been associated with Rome and the triumphs of the empire for over three centuries.  The two saints, he argued, not only gave Rome primacy over the East, since it was their adopted city, but they were also more powerful protectors of the city than the gods….Damasus seems to have been a wholly unspiritual man.  His enemies called him the man who tickled ladies’ ears – most of his important converts were society women.  He was singleminded in his efforts to win over the rich to Christianity, no easy task for in his day more than half the senate were still pagan.  Forgeries circulated to boost Christian [proto-Catholic Christian that is] credentials: thus a correspondence between St Paul and Seneca was produced.  [This brand of] Christianity attempted to gain a footing in all the great families of the late empire, in both Rome and Constantinople.”  [“A History of Christianity”, by Paul Johnson, p.99, par.2]…”This was Damasus’ line of reasoning.  Hence he spent a great deal of effort and money integrating Christianity with imperial culture.  Since the time of Constantine, Christian basilicas, which had ordinarily been private houses, had been built on an enlarged scale.  Damasus developed the classic late-Roman type, capable of holding thousands, and covered within with gold and coloured mosaic…He completed the Latinization of the western church which, even in Rome, had originally been Greek speaking.  Latin versions of the gospels had existed for some time; there was also a third-century North African translation of the entire scriptures.  Damasus employed Jerome to make a fresh translation and the result, known as the Vulgate, became the standard until the Reformation.  Damasus also Latinized the mass, which had been conducted in Greek until his time…This Sunday eucharist had become the absolute obligation by Justin’s time and the words of the central prayer became formalized in the next generation or two.  The effect of the process of change introduced by Damasus was to change an essentially simple ceremony into a much lengthier and more formal one, involving an element of grandeur.  The scriptural extracts were made longer and standardized, and prayers inserted at fixed intervals.  This is how the West acquired the kyrie, the sanctus, the Gloria and the creed, most of which were translated into Latin.  Some of the ceremonial aspects were taken over from pagan rites, others from court practice, which became far more elaborate after the transfer to Constantinople.  The impetus in making the liturgy longer, more impressive, less spontaneous and so more hieratic [hierarchal] was essentially Greek but was seized on eagerly by Rome from the time of Damasus onwards…”  [ibid. p.101, par.1, 2]

 

Vestments

 

“Thus from the late fourth century there was a spectacular explosion of colour in the vestments and hangings, the use of gold and silver vessels and elaborate marble piscinae, silver canopies over the altar, a multitude of wax candles (a mark of respect in Roman domestic practice), and elaborate censering with incense.  This was accompanied by a deliberate smartening up of the proceedings at the altar and in procession to and from it, and by an even more elaborate mystification, especially in the East, of the more sensitive parts of the mass.  At the end of the fourth century John Chrysostom spoke of the Lord’s Table as ‘a place of terror and shuddering’, not to be seen by profane eyes, and it became customary to screen it with curtains.  Again, from this period, or shortly after, we find the practice of erecting a screen or iconostasis, whose effect was to hide all the operations on the altar from the congregation as a whole, and to deepen the chasm between clergy and laity.”  [ibid. p.102, par.1]

 

St. Ambrose 337-397AD

 

“By the end of the fourth century, in fact, the Church has not only become the predominant religion in the Roman empire, with a tendency to be regarded as the official one, indeed as the only one.  It had also acquired many of the external characteristics appropriate to its new status:  official rank and privilege, integration with the social and economic hierarchy, splendid and elaborate ceremonial designed to attract the masses and emphasize the separateness of the priestly caste.  It had arrived.  It was well launched on its universalist career.  It had, as it were, responded to Constantine’s gesture, and met the empire half way.  The empire had become Christian.  The Church had become imperial…In Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 373-397, we get the first close-up glimpse of the Christian as an establishment figure and member of the ruling order: the prototype of the medieval prince-bishop…[p. 103, par.2, 3]…”The degree of power exercised by Ambrose during the quarter century he ruled the church in Milan was something to which no churchman had hitherto aspired.  He influenced the policy of successive western emperors, Gratian, Valeninian II, Theodosius…He excommunicated Theodosius for carrying out a mass-reprisal against citizens of Thessalonica, who had murdered a barbarian army commander, and required the emperor to accept public penance before being readmitted to communion…Ambrose was thus instrumental in hastening the process which aligned imperial authority completely behind the orthodox Catholic Church, and also the Church completely behind imperial policy…In his day it began to be commonly assumed that non-membership of the Church was, in effect, an act of disloyalty to the emperor.  [This same logic was used by the kings and queens of England during the 1500s through 1600s for people who refused to hold active membership in the Anglican Church of England.]  State exile of dissenters went back as far as 314.  In the time of Ambrose it became systematic, as a necessary characteristic of an orthodox empire.  Those guilty of religious error became automatically enemies of society, to be excluded from it or reduced to second-class status.  Who was the judge of error?  The Church, naturally.  Therein lay the power…[ibid. p.104, par. 2, 3]

 

anti-Semitism comes in under Ambrose

 

“We see the workings of Ambrose’s mind and method in his attitude to the Jews.  They were now a ‘problem’ within the Christian empire, as they had been a problem in the pagan one – a large and conspicuous element which would not accept the Christian norms.  And they [the Jews] were increasingly unpopular among Christians….Under Theodosius, when Christian uniformity became the official policy of the empire, Christian mob-attacks on synagogues became common”…[ibid. p.104, par.4]  If that were the case, how do you think the poor Judeo-Christians were faring, hiding out in the areas of upper northeastern Asia Minor?  It couldn’t have been good.  Historically, it is believed the Judeo-Christians, descended from John’s, Polycarp’s and Policrates’ churches were hiding out in the region of Lake Van, in the upper northeastern quadrant of Turkey near the Russian border (soon to be driven west toward the Balkans by the Saracens in the 500s AD).  To continue, “In 388 the Jewish synagogue at Callinicum on the Euphrates was burnt down at the instigation of the local bishop.  Theodosius decided to make this a test-case, and ordered it rebuilt at Christian expense.  Ambrose hotly opposed the decision.  His dictum was: ‘The palace concerns the emperor, the churches the bishop.’  Was this not a matter of Christian principle?  No such depredations had hitherto been punished.  To humiliate the bishop and the Christian community would damage the Church’s prestige.  He wrote Theodosius: ‘Which is more important, the parade of discipline or the cause of religion?  The maintenance of civil law is secondary to religious interest.’  He preached a sermon on these lines in the emperor’s presence, and Theodosius lamely withdrew his orders.  The incident was a prelude to the emperor’s humiliation over the Thessalonica massacre.  Indeed, it marked an important stage in the construction of a society in which only orthodox Christianity exercised full civil rights…Perhaps no man played a greater part, in practice, in constructing the apparatus of practical belief, which surrounded the European during the millennium when [his brand of Catholic] Christianity was the environment of society…[ibid. p.105, par.1,2]

 

idols and relics

 

“It was Ambrose, in his fight to defeat the popular challenge of Arianism, who first systematically developed the cult of relics.  Milan was poorly provided in this respect: it had no tutelary martyrs. Rome had the unbeatable combination of St Peter and St Paul; Constantinople acquired Andrew, Luke and Timothy…[But] the government, too, showed some alarm.  It was angered by monks who stole the remains of holy men, and hawked portions of them for money.  Theodosius laid down: ‘No person shall transfer a buried body to another place; no person shall sell the relics of a martyr; no person shall traffic in them.’  But the government permitted the building of churches over the grave of a saint, and it was this that lay at the bottom of the whole theory and practice of relic-worship.  Once that was conceded, the rest automatically followed, whatever the law said.  The world was terrified of demons – now joined by the dethroned pagan gods, and the devils of heretics – and the bones and other attachments of sanctified just men were the best possible protection against the evil swarms.  Any church well endowed with such treasures radiated a powerful circle of protection; and its bishop was a man to have on your side.  So Ambrose pushed the relic-system for all it was worth…” [ibid. p.105, par.3; p.106, par.1,2] 

 

clergy

 

“Ambrose seems to have assumed that the clergy, at least of the higher grades, should normally be drawn from the wealthy and ruling orders, or at least conform to their social behavior; he admitted he did not like presbyters or bishops who were unable to speak correct Latin, or who had provincial accents  [Guess the apostle Peter would have been on the outs, having a ‘provincial hick Galilean’ accent].  Thus another aspect of the medieval pattern falls into place: a clerical career open to the talents but structured to the possessing class.  Ambrose dressed appropriately, as a senator, in chasuble and alb.” [ibid. p.108, par.1]

 

Jerome, 347-420AD

 

“Son of Eusebius…Returning to Antioch in 378 or 379, he was ordained by Bishop Paulinus, apparently unwillingly and on condition that he continue his ascetic life.  Soon afterwards, he went to Constantinople to pursue a study of Scripture under Gregory Nazianzen.  He seems to have spent two years there; the next three (382-385) he was in Rome again, attached to pope Damasus I and the leading Roman Christians…In August 385, he returned to Antioch…[and] in the summer of 388 he was back in Palestine, and spent the remainder of his life in a hermit’s cell near Bethlehem…To these last 34 years of his career belong the most important of his works; his version of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew text [called later The Vulgate], the best of his scriptural commentaries…Amply provided [for] by Paula with the means of livelihood and of increasing his collection of books, he led a life of incessant activity in literary production.  Jerome died near Bethlehem on 30 September 420…His remains, originally buried in Bethlehem, are said to have been later transferred to the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, though other places in the West claim some relics – the cathedral at Napi boasting possession of his head…”[see http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome for more details.]  Jerome seems to have been a real scholar, although completely of the Catholic faith.

 

Augustine 354-430AD

 

“Augustine was the dark genius of imperial Christianity, the ideologue of the Church-State alliance, and the fabricator of the medieval mentality.  Next to Paul, [I know, it doesn’t seem right that the apostle Paul is being used in comparison to Augustine, considering what we will read, but Paul Johnson appears to be a secular historian], who supplied the basic theology, he [Augustine] did more to shape [Catholic] Christianity than any other human being.”  [ibid. p.112, par.3]  “…his ideas were steadily changing under the impact of events, cogitation and controversy.  He admitted: ‘I am the sort of man who writes because he has made progress, and who makes progress by writing.’  The events of his own lifetime were spectacular and somberly provocative of thought.  He was born in Souk Arras in Algeria in 354, in a middle-class family; became a professor of rhetoric at Carthage; pursued his public career in Rome and then in Ambrose’s Milan, where he became a Christian; was raised to the Bishopric of Hippo (near Bone) where he led a struggle against the Donatists; witnessed, from Africa, the sack of Rome in 410; spent years fighting the Pelagians; and then in his old age saw the Vandals overrun North Africa.  Augustine wrote an enormous amount…a great deal of this writing survived in its original form.  For a thousand years Augustine was the most popular of the Fathers; medieval European libraries contained over 500 complete manuscripts of his City of God...Augustine, aged seventeen, took a regular concubine, who bore him a son.  But there is no evidence that he was ever a libertine.  The arrangement was normal at the time; later, Pope Leo used to say that a young man’s desertion of his concubine was the first step to godliness.”  [ibid. p. 113, par.1,2]  “Augustine himself went to Rome, and later Milan, on the Manichee ‘net’, freemasonry which provided him with contacts and jobs.  It is not absolutely clear why he became a Christian convert.  One factor was his health – bouts of psychosomatic asthma which became serious enough to prevent him from pursuing a career demanding public oratory in the courts of law and government service.  Another was clearly the massive personality of Ambrose.  It was the bishop himself who led Augustine into the deep, dark pool of the Milan cathedral baptistery and pushed him under, stark naked, three times, before clothing him in a white robe and handing him a candle.  The service was solemn and portentous, preceded by the first lessons in the catechism, still regarded as secret, at least in part, and highly minatory in tone.  Under Ambrose Augustine felt he was joining a great and awesome organization, with enormous potential…What Augustine absorbed in Ambrosian Milan, what he brought back to Africa, and what he opposed to Donatist particularism, was the new sense of the universality of the Church which the Constantine revolution had made possible.  In Milan Augustine had seen the Church, through the person of a shrewd and magisterial prelate, helping to run the empire.  His creative mind leapt ahead to draw conclusions and outline possibilities.  In Milan the Church was already behaving like an international organization; it would soon be universal.  It was already coextensive with the empire; it would ultimately be coextensive with humanity, and thus impervious to political change and the vicissitudes of fortune…” [ibid. p.114, par 1; p.115, par1]

 

Augustine verses the Donatists

 

The Donatists, as stated before, were a powerful and large schism of the Catholic Church residing mainly in North Africa. Just what kind of Church do we have here under Augustine, this Saint revered by so many Catholic and Reformation Protestants?  We pick up again with Paul Johnson’s quotes which define Augustine’s dark side, a dark side which was to imprint itself upon the Catholic Church from here on out.  “But the idea of a total Christian society necessarily included the idea of a compulsory society.  People could not choose to belong or not to belong.  That included the Donatists.  Augustine did not shrink from the logic of his position.  Indeed, to the problem of coercing the Donatists he brought much of their own steely resolution and certitude, the fanaticism they themselves displayed [and that Donatist fanaticism was military in nature and deed], and the willingness to use violence in a spiritual cause.  To internationalize Africa, he employed African methods – plus, of course, imperial military technology.”  [ibid. p.115, par.2]  “When Augustine became a bishop in the mid-390s, the Donatist church was huge, flourishing, wealthy and deeply rooted.  Even after a long bout of imperial persecution, inspired by Augustine, the Donatists were still able to produce nearly 300 bishops for the final attempt at compromise at Carthage in 411.  Thereafter, in the course of two decades before the Vandals overran the littoral, the back of the Donatist church was broken by force.  Its upper-class supporters joined the establishment.  Many of its rank and file were driven into outlawry and brigandage.  There were many cases of mass suicide.”  Augustine’s response?  “Augustine watched the process dry-eyed…The late empire was a totalitarian state, in some ways an oriental despotism.  Antinomial elements were punished with massive force.  State torture, supposedly used only in serious cases such as treason, was in fact employed whenever the State willed.  Jerome describes horrible tortures inflicted on a woman accused of adultery.  A vestal virgin who broke her vows might be flogged, then buried alive.  The state prisons were equipped with the eculeus, or rack; and a variety of devices including the unci, for laceration, red-hot plates and whips loaded with lead.  Ammianus gives many instances.  And the State, to enforce [religious] uniformity, employed a large and venal force of secret policemen dressed as civilians, and informers, or delators.  Much of the terminology of the late-imperial police system passed into the language of European enforcement, through the Latin phrases of the Inquisition.  Augustine was the conduit from the ancient world.  Why not? he would ask.  If the State used such methods for its own miserable purposes, was not the Church entitled to do the same and for its own far greater ones?  He not only accepted, he became the theorist of, persecution; and his defenses were later to be those on which all defenses of the Inquisition rested…he insisted that the use of force in pursuit of Christian unity, and indeed total religious conformity, was necessary, efficacious, and wholly justified.”  [ibid. p. 116, par.2,3]  “He also had the inquisitorial emphasis: ‘The necessity for harshness is greater in the investigation, than in the infliction of punishment’; and again: ‘…it is generally necessary to use more rigour in making inquisition, so that when the crime has been brought to light, there may be scope for displaying clemency.’  For the first time, too, he used the analogy with the State, indeed appealed to the orthodoxy of the State, in necessary and perpetual alliance with the Church in the extirpation of dissidents.  The Church unearthed, the State castigated.  The key word was disciplina – very frequent in his writings.  If discipline were removed, there would be chaos: ‘Take away the barriers created by the laws, and men’s brazen capacity to do harm, their urge to self-indulgence, would rage to the full.  No king in his kingdom, no general with his troops, no husband with his wife, no father with his son, could attempt to put a stop, by any threats or punishments, to the freedom and the shear, sweet taste of sinning.’…Nor did Augustine operate solely at the intellectual level.  He was the leading bishop, working actively with the State in the enforcement of imperial uniformity.”

 

Winkling out heretics

 

“Spain was already staging pogroms of Jews by the time Augustine became a bishop.  And twenty years later we find him in correspondence with the ferocious Spanish heresy-hunter, Paul Orosius, about the best means of winkling out heretics not only in Spain but at the other end of the Mediterranean in Palestine.  Augustine changed the approach of orthodoxy to divergence in two fundamental ways. The first, with which we have already dealt, was the justification of constructive persecution: the idea that a heretic should not be expelled out but, on the contrary, be compelled to recant and conform, or be destroyed – ‘Compel them to come in.’  His second contribution was in some ways even more sinister because it implied constructive censorship.  Augustine believed that it was the duty of the orthodox intellectual to identify incipient heresy, bring it to the surface and expose it, and so force those responsible either to abandon their line of inquiry altogether or accept heretical status.”  [ibid. p. 117, par.2, 3]  And to accept heretical status meant an automatic death sentence, of course.  “To Augustine, the duty of man was to obey God’s will, as expressed through his Church”, the Catholic Church, that is.  “What Augustine wanted was what he had already obtained in the case of the Donatists, absolute condemnation followed by total submission – monitored by State enforcement.  He did not want discussion.  ‘Far be it from the Christian rulers of the earthly commonwealth that they should harbour any doubt on the ancient Christian faith…certain and firmly-grounded on this faith they should, rather, impose on such men as you are fitting discipline and punishment.’  And again: ‘Those whose wounds are hidden should not for that reason be passed over in the doctor’s treatment….They are to be taught; and in my opinion this can be done with the greatest ease when the teaching of truth is aided by the fear of severity.’  [ibid. p.120, par.1]

 

Augustine’s twisted view of married couples having sex

 

The emperor “Julian argued that sex was a kind of sixth sense, a form of neutral energy which might be used well or ill.  ‘Really?’ replied Augustine, ‘is that your experience?  So you would not have married couples restrain that evil – I refer, of course, to favourite good?  So you would have them jump into bed whenever they like, whenever they felt stirred by desire?  Far be it from them to postpone it till bedtime…if this is the sort of married life you lead, don’t drag up your experience in debate.’…The mentality that he [Augustine] expressed was to become the dominant outlook of Christianity [which was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic from here on out], and so encompass the whole of European society for many centuries…By accepting the Constantinian State, the Church had embarked on the process of coming to terms with a world from which it had hitherto stood apart.”  [ibid. p.121, par.3; p.122, par.2]

 

Augustine’s death

 

“Augustine’s own life ended in darkness.  The Vandals broke into Africa in 429, and Augustine died next year in his episcopal city, already under siege.” [ibid. p.121, par.4, ln.1; all ibid.’s refer to “A History of Christianity” by Paul Johnson.]  So Mr. Johnson has given us a very accurate, if of a bit dark picture of the development of the Catholic Church, starting out in Rome where one of the original true Christian congregations had taken root shortly after the Pentecost in Acts 2, around 31-32AD.  This ‘Church’ that grew out of Rome after 96AD  effectively persecuted the Judeo-Christian churches which had almost completely taken up residence in Asia Minor after 132-135AD.  A small remnant of these Judeo-Christian churches or congregations survived, but that is another story [which can be read at http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm ].

 

A word about the hierarchal structure within a church and ministerial accountability

 

A word about the hierarchal structure developed during the infancy of the Catholic Church, and copied by the Anglican Church of England, and many other Reformation churches to one degree or another.  This form of hierarchal structure created an unBiblical form of church government that never existed within the early first century apostolic Church, or within any of the Judeo-Christian churches thereafter.  The apostles were gentle overseers over all the various congregations, but preferred it when they ran themselves.  The elder who was to preach and minister over a congregation was selected by local members of that congregation.  It was they, the local members, who would judge who was the most qualified, by the standards laid down the apostle Paul in 1st Timothy 3:1-7, which states, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [Strongs # 1984, episkope, superintendence], he desireth a good work.  A bishop [Strongs # 1985, episkopos, superintendent, overseer, bishop] must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach: not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”  The King James Version’s use of the word “bishop” is very a poor translation for the word.  There were only three basic ranks within the early Church, possibly four, deacon, pastor, perhaps an evangelist rank, and apostle.  Most if not all the early apostles were traveling evangelists.  A bishop was simply a pastor.  The congregation would see who best matched the qualifications Paul listed here in 1st Timothy 3:1-7 and select that person to be their pastor.  The congregations were all semi-autonomous under the gentle supervision and oversight of the apostles themselves.  A good example of how this selection process worked was recorded in the early history of the Sabbatarian Churches of God in Rhode Island and New Jersey in the early 1700s.  A small Church of God had started up in Piscataway, New Jersey.  The tiny congregation selected an Edward Dunham, one of their members whom they knew fit the qualifications of 1st Timothy 3:1-7.  They then sent him north to the Headquarters church in Newport Rhode Island, where the pastors there anointed him in a simple ordination ceremony, and sent him back to Piscataway to pastor his congregation.  There were built in safeguards and accountability in this simple system, as compared to the system we just read about in the proto-Catholic and Catholic Church.  Some church denominations have gone down the road of establishing hierarchal ministerial structure, to their own hurt and self-destruction, for it allows corruption to come within the ministry, almost unchecked.  It also allows for an ‘Old Boy’ network to entrench itself within that denomination, somewhat like when a bad professor is tenured into a school or university.  Once tenured, you can’t get rid of him.  Jesus never intended such, pastors were to be answerable to their congregations.  One word for pastor which Jesus used in Matthew is the word “minister”, which in the Greek is hupomeno, which translates out as under-oarsman. The position of an under-oarsman in a Greek or Roman galley was both dangerous and undesirable, the lowest of the low as far as crewmembers were concerned, an under-oarsman did the heaviest of the rowing work and ended up with all the crap on him, literally, a real servant.  That’s the word Jesus used for one who wanted to “minister”, the pastor of a church.  Jesus didn’t even want ministers or pastors to have titles, when he stated, “Call no man on earth rabbi…call no man on earth your father, for you have one Father in heaven.”

 

The Influence of Augustine

 

“Some of the novel teachings he introduced that were unknown to the early church were:

·         War can be holy

·          Some of the practices and teachings of the apostles no longer apply to Christians because the apostles lived in a different age.

·         Unbaptized infants are eternally damned.

·         As a result of Adam’s fall, man is totally depraved.  He is absolutely unable to do anything good or to save himself.  In fact, he’s even unable to believe or have faith in God.

·         Therefore, humans can believe in God or have faith in Him only if by grace God first gives them this faith or belief.  Man has no free will to choose either to believe or not to believe.

·         God’s decision to save one person and condemn another, to give faith to one person and withhold it from another, is totally arbitrary.  There’s nothing we can do to influence God’s choice.  Before the creation of the world God arbitrarily predestined (not simply foreknew) who would be saved and who would be damned.  There’s nothing we can do either in this life or the next to change these matters.  [“Will The Real Heretic Please Stand Up” by David Bercot, p.135, par.3, p. 136, par.1]

 

Martin Luther in Augustine’s Footsteps

[a peek two-thirds the way through the Church Age, my opinion, false side]

 

“Tragically, Luther adopted most of Augustine’s teachings without question…Luther also promoted the doctrine of holy war.  When German peasants rose up in revolt against the inhumane treatment they endured at the hands of the nobility, Luther recognized that their rebellion would be blamed on his teachings.  So he incited the nobility to forcibly suppress the rebellion, goading them on with these words:

  Here then there is no time for sleeping; no place for patience or mercy.  It is the time of the sword, not the day of grace….Any peasant who is killed is lost in body and soul and is eternally the devil’s.  But the rulers have a good conscience and a just cause.  [They] can therefore say to God with all assurance of heart: “Behold, my God, you have appointed me prince or lord; of this I can have no doubt.  And you have committed to me the sword over evildoers….Therefore, I will punish and smite as long as my heart beats.  You will judge and make things right.”  Thus is may be that one who is killed while fighting on the ruler’s side may be a true martyr in the eyes of God….Strange times, these, when a prince can win heaven with bloodshed, better than other men with prayer!...Stab, smite, slay whomever you can!  If you die in doing it, well for you!  A more blessed death can never be yours.

   The nobility followed Luther’s preaching without hesitation, savagely crushing the bands of peasants in a brief conflict marked by horrible atrocities.  Those peasants who weren’t slain in combat were gruesomely tortured and then executed.

   In short, Luther’s Reformation was no return to the spirit and teachings of early Christianity.  To be sure, Luther did eliminate many post-Constantinian practices in the German church, such as masses for the dead in purgatory, forced celibacy for the clergy, sale of indulgences, and religious pilgrimages as a form of “good works.”  By eliminating these practices, Luther did move Christianity [not true Christianity in my eyes, let the evidence speak] several steps closer to early Christianity.  On the other hand, by his wholesale adoption of Augustinian theology, Luther also moved German Christianity a few steps back from early Christianity.”  [ibid. p.136, par. 1, 3-4, p.137, par. 1-3]  In his book “Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up”  David Bercot has delved very deeply into the historic teachings of the early Christian Church, which has also proved to be a paradigm-breaker that has angered many an evangelical believer.  Although I disagree with some of his conclusions, particularly where he says that there was no historic church line from the apostles to present, and as well when he treats some early proto-Catholic fathers as if they were genuine Christians.  But other than that I highly recommend his book, for a pretty accurate glimpse into what the early Christian Church believed doctrinally, which amazingly enough, in many significant areas, we no longer believe.  It’s a wake up call for evangelicals, for sure, as well as the whole Body of Christ.  The book can be found on http://www.amazon.com as well as his A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. 

 

Conclusion

 

So in these three major sections, I through III, we’ve learned what the early Christian Church was like, and now in section III we’ve learned that a second major church was developing side by side with the early Judeo-Christian churches of God in Asia Minor, in the areas of Rome and Italy, Alexandria and North Africa.  So around 325AD, besides the truly heretical groups scattered all over the Roman Empire, there’s only one other group besides Roman Catholicism in existence, and it is the remnants of the Judeo-Christian churches of God---first residing in northeast Asia Minor, then migrating through the Balkans and on into northern Italy and southern and southwestern France.  This westward  migration of the Sabbatarian (Judeo-Christian at first) churches of God started in 325AD or a little bit later, going all the way into the 1200s AD.  During this time-span from 325AD to the early 1200s the only real Sunday observers that are calling themselves “Christians” are Roman Catholics or the few sects of it.  Also, based upon the facts we’ve just read throughout this three part series, the only true Christians at this point in time between 325AD and the early 1200s AD are Sabbatarian Church of God believers.  Didn’t I tell you this study would be a paradigm-breaker?  THEN during the 1200s AD, due to the intense Catholic persecution (via ongoing Catholic Inquisitions in France), the very first Sunday observing believers show up in France and then Germany.  They are the Anabaptists, turning into what we know today as the Baptists.  This is a whole different part of Church history, and I have written a series of short expository sections that deal with it in my commentary going through Revelation chapters 2 and 3.  This commentary section looks at Church history from the perspective of Church era’s, and the studies I direct you to with the following links go to that part of the Sabbatarian (and then Sunday observing) revivals going from that same period of time, from 325AD to the early 1200s AD, and then they go right up to the present day and age, where we are right now.  To read these fascinating church histories log onto are read the material on these three links, consecutively:

 

http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation2-12-17.html

 

http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation2-18-29.html

 

http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation3-1-22.html

 

Although to many it may seem very disconcerting that Sabbatarian (Torah observant at that) Christians were the main, and for a good period of time, the only true Christians extant, it is what the historic facts seem to clearly indicate.  As Romans 14 clearly points out, days of worship for believers is an optional choice for believers (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/romans/romans12-14_2.htm for a good explanation as to why “days of worship” are an optional choice for believers during the Church Age, 31AD to 2nd coming of Christ.  Most Sabbatarian Church of God believers don’t believe what’s presented there, but some of that is most definitely due to how you’ve been treating them, in a most un-Christian, un-brotherly manner).  That most if not all true Christians from 325AD to around 1200AD chose to worship God on the Sabbath and Hebrew Holy Days of Leviticus 23 has not been generally realized up until now.  Sabbatarians have always been viewed by modern Christians as some kind of ancient or archaic form of Christianity, aberrant in belief at best, heretical at worst, often called legalists.  But considering what they had to endure from 325AD onward through the 1200s, the reason for them taking a “hard-shell” view of which days of worship were commanded, and how the Sunday/Christmas/Easter “days of worship” were forced upon all, compliance enforced by death penalties, going “hard shell” in their interpretations of commanded days of worship was their only option for spiritual survival down through the ages.  It would appear that we owe these folks a huge apology for the slander we’ve spoken against them---calling them legalists, even heretical---as well as a huge debt of gratitude for holding onto the true faith of Christianity and passing it on to us.

 

 

Related links:

 

For an interesting subject that seems to mirror what was shown here about church traditions and hierarchal structure, log onto:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/mathew/Matthew15-1-20.htm

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