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Emperor Constantine

(1 posts)

Unregenerate Hordes

Friday··2018·08·24
In about the year 312, Emperor Constantine (274–337), on his way into battle, saw something he thought looked like a cross in the sky. This sign signified, according to a voice in his head, victory with a heavenly guarantee. Or maybe he had a dream the night before instructing him to decorate his soldier’s shields with crosses. Accounts of the legend vary. In any case, feeling his oats in a special way, he marched his army into battle against his rival Maximentius, who led a force twice as large as his own, and thrashed him soundly. There was now only one thing to do: declare himself a Christian. (Oh, yeah, and fish Maximentius out of the Tiber, where he had been drowned in the stampede of his fleeing army, decapitate his body and, as much as possible, purge his name from the Roman public record and smear whatever remained of it.) So Constantine “converted” and, aware of how awkward throwing himself to the lions would be, quite naturally lifted the ban on Christianity. This development was, of course, welcomed by believers across the empire. And who can blame them? The persecution under various emperors had been severe, but now, with the Emperor numbered among them, Christianity was now, and for the first time, cool. Little did they know the havoc this new-found liberty would wreak on the Church. But the official acceptance of Christianity brought with it significant dangers. At this time, hordes of unregenerate Roman citizens came into the church and were baptized as believers. The sacred thus merged with the secular, and the immediate result was doctrinal compromise, all for the sake of political expediency. Such concessions prepared the soil of the church for the corruptions of Roman Catholicism. In future years, such externalized religion would bear bitter fruit. Thus, popularity proved to be a greater threat to Christianity than persecution, and the church was weakened significantly. —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 145–146. If I may editorialize a bit: The loss of meaningful church membership among post-Reformation Christians has had the same effect. I could easily pick on the Lutherans, who brought me up in the faith, for their Baptism + Confirmation = Membership formula, but most Baptists are at least as guilty for their Decision + Baptism method (Hello? Constantine, anyone?). Churches of all stripes—and I exclude apostate denominations from this accounting—have filled their rolls with unregenerate members as surely as did the church under Constantine. “And the church [is] weakened significantly.”

@TheThirstyTheo



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