Religion and believers #13 Superstition, misunderstanding and hatred leading up to the Nicene Creed

Superstition, misunderstanding and hatred caused the Christians trouble for many generations, and governmental repression they had to suffer occasionally, as a result of popular disturbances. No systematic effort was made by the imperial authorities to put an end to the movement until the reign of the Roman emperor (249–251) who fought the Gothic invasion of Moesia and instituted the first organized persecution of Christians throughout the empire.

White statue
Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius, sometimes translated as Trajan Decius or Decius, proclaimed emperor by his troops after putting down a rebellion in Moesia, and the emperor of the Roman Empire from 249 to 251.

Decius (250–251), whose policy of suppression was followed by Diocletian (303 ff.) and continued for some years after his abdication.

Emperor Diocletian went to great lengths to overhaul the entire structure of the Roman Empire, aiming to recreate the Roman Empire into his idealized vision he tried to extricate Rome from the Crisis of the 3rd Century.

A few times there had been edicts of toleration but they all were short-lived as the regimes that sanctioned them. In spite of all opposition the Church steadily grew, until in 311 the emperor Galerius upon his death-bed granted again a toleration (see Eusebius H.E. x.4, and Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum, 34), and in 313 the emperors Constantine and Licinius published the edict of Milan (February 313), proclaiming the principle of complete religious liberty, and this time making Christianity a legal religion in the full sense (see Eusebius x. 5, and Lactantius 48. Seeck, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, xii. 381 sq., has attempted to show that the edict of Milan had no significance, but without success).

Coin depicting man with diadem and military garb
Licinius in a follis minted at Londinium, c. 311. Legend: imp licinius p f aug.

The proclamation, made for the East by Licinius in June 313, granted all persons freedom to worship whatever deity they pleased, assured Christians of legal rights (including the right to organize churches), and directed the prompt return to Christians of confiscated property.

Marble bust of Constantine the Great found in Stonegate, York

Constantius’s eldest son, Constantine, known as “The Great” , who was passed over for formal succession, as a high-ranking military tribune had a forceful command and was able to eliminate his rivals successively in the West. He became the uncontested emperor of the West in 312 and, upon the defeat of his co-emperor in the East, he became the sole Augustus of the empire in 324.

When Constantine stormed Susa, defeated Maxentius’s generals at Turin and Verona, and marched straight for Rome, this bold and almost desperate move, which contrasted strongly with Constantine’s usual caution, and seemed to court the failure which had befallen Severus and Galerius, was, it would seem, the result of an event which, as told in Eusebius’s Life of Constantine, took the form of a conspicuous miracle — the Vision of the Flaming Cross which appeared in the sky at noonday with the legend Έν τούτῳ νίκα (“By this conquer”), and led to Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius professes to have heard the story from the lips of Constantine; but he wrote after the emperor’s death, and it was evidently unknown to him in the shape given above when he wrote the Ecclesiastical History. The author of the De mortibus persecutorum, whether Lactantius or another, was a well-informed contemporary, and he tells us that the sign was seen by Constantine in a dream; and even Eusebius supplements the vision by day with a dream in the following night. In any case, Constantine, who may have been impressed by the misfortunes which had befallen the more strenuous opponents of Christianity, adopted the monogram ☧ as his device stormed Susa, defeated Maxentius’s generals at Turin and Verona, and marched straight for Rome. This bold and almost desperate move, which contrasted strongly with Constantine’s usual caution, and seemed to court the failure which had befallen Severus and Galerius, was, it would seem, the result of an event which, as told in Eusebius’s Life of Constantine, takes the form of a conspicuous miracle—the Vision of the Flaming Cross which appeared in the sky at noonday with the legend Έν τούτῳ νίκα (“By this conquer”), and led to Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius professes to have heard the story from the lips of Constantine; but he wrote after the emperor’s death, and it was evidently unknown to him in the shape given above when he wrote the Ecclesiastical History. The author of the De mortibus persecutorum, whether Lactantius or another, was a well-informed contemporary, and he tells us that the sign was seen by Constantine in a dream; and even Eusebius supplements the vision by day with a dream in the following night. In any case, Constantine, who may have been impressed by the misfortunes which had befallen the more strenuous opponents of Christianity, adopted the monogram ☧ as his device[The name labarum, given to the military standards bearing the monogram, is of unexplained origin. Lactantius says that the symbol was used on the shields of Constantine’s troops] and staked his all on the issue.

A gold solidus of “Unconquered Constantine” with the god Sol Invictus behind him, struck in AD 313. The use of Sol’s image stressed Constantine’s status as his father’s successor, appealed to the educated citizens of Gaul, and was considered less offensive than the traditional pagan pantheon to the Christians

Constantine became undisputed master of Rome and the West, and Christianity, although not as yet adopted as the official religion, secured by the edict of Milan toleration throughout the Empire. This edict was the result of a conference between Constantine and Licinius in 313 at Milan, where the marriage of the latter with Constantia took place. Constantine was forced to recognize Licinius’s natural son as his heir. In the course of the same year Licinius defeated Maximinus Daia, who perished at Tarsus by his own hand. In 314 war broke out between the two Augusti, owing, as we are told, to the treachery of Bassianus, the husband of Constantine’s sister Anastasia, for whom he had claimed the rank of Caesar. After two hardwon victories Constantine made peace, Illyricum and Greece being added to his dominions. Constantine and Licinius held the consulship in 315, in which year the former celebrated his decennalia, and on the 1st of March 317 Constantine’s two sons and Licinius’s bastard were proclaimed Caesars. Peace was preserved for nearly nine years, during which the wise government of Constantine strengthened his position, while Licinius (who resumed the persecution of the Christians in 321) steadily lost ground through his indolence and cruelty. Great armaments, both military and naval, were called into being by both emperors, and in the spring of 324[It has been disputed whether the final struggle between Constantine and Licinius took place in C.E. 323 or 324; but the formulae employed in the dating of Egyptian papyri seem to point to the latter year (see Comptes-rendus de l’académie des inscriptions, 1906, p. 231 ff.).] Licinius (whose forces are said to have been superior in numbers) declared war. He was twice defeated, first at Adrianople (July 1) and afterwards at Chrysopolis (Sept. 18), when endeavouring to raise the siege of Byzantium, and was finally captured at Nicomedia. His life was spared on the intercession of Constantia and he was interned at Thessalonica, where he was executed in the following year on the charge of treasonable correspondence with the barbarians.

Constantine now reigned as sole emperor in East and West. Constantine quickly came to realize that the various peoples and interest groups in his empire needed something to unite them. He decided the Christian religion might serve to do this.

As an unbaptized catechumen Constantine I presided over the opening session of the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, meeting in ancient Nicaea (now İznik, Turkey), in the same year he celebrated his Vicennalia in the East, and in 326 repeated the celebration in Rome. Requesting such a meeting was his idea to solve the problem created in the Eastern church by Arianism, which was considered a heresy first proposed by Arius of Alexandria that affirmed that Christ is not divine but a created being. It is said that anywhere from 250 to 318 bishops attended, only a minority of the total number, and most of those attending were from the Greek-speaking region.

The majority of those opposing the humanness of Christ were the false teachers the Scriptures warned for, but had become the majority of highly placed persons in society. Their teachings were given unbiased scrutiny in the light of Jehovah God’s inspired Word, the Bible.

After fierce debate, out of that unrepresentative council came the Nicene Creed with its heavy bias toward Trinitarian thought. Yet it failed to settle the doctrinal argument. It did not clarify the role of God’s holy spirit in Trinitarian theology. Debate raged for decades, and it required more councils and the authority of different emperors and the use of banishment to achieve eventual conformity. It was a victory for theology and a defeat for those who held to the Scriptures.​—Romans 3:3, 4.

The Nicene Creed is something beyond what was declared as good news by Jesus’ apostles, including Peter, and therefore subject itself to the curse or “anathema[from Greek anatithenai: “to set up,” or “to dedicate”] pronounced by Paul at Galatians 1:8. Though instead of those bringing false teachings being accursed the ones agreeing with Greco-Roman philosophy and in line with Constantine’s Roman thinking and Roman gods, won the debate.

So Constantine extended recognition to the Christian religion in an edict issued at Nicomedia in 313 C.E. This did not mean that he had been converted to Christianity. Many authorities argue that his motives were chiefly political, and that he simply used the Christian religion as a tool to achieve stability for his empire. As an individual he remained unchanged by the Bible’s teachings, resorting to treachery, trickery, even murder, to achieve his aims. He was superstitious and constantly on the lookout for portents and omens. So in the true sense of the word he never became a Christian.

“By the fourth century Christians were themselves at disagreement on various points, however; so Constantine first of all had to try to unite them. In an attempt to allay their differences, he convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E., where the Nicene Creed spelling out the Trinity doctrine was adopted.”

Whilst he was in Rome his eldest son, Crispus, was banished to Pola and there put to death on a charge brought against him by Fausta. Shortly afterwards, as it would seem, Constantine became convinced of his innocence and ordered Fausta to be executed. The precise nature of the circumstances remains a mystery.

It was in Constantine his reign (312–337) that not only we could find significant and lasting changes to the Roman Empire. Christians, who had been tolerated at best — but often tortured or killed — found new favour after the Edict of Milan (313) assured toleration for all religions and from about 320 the Roman state no longer persecuted Christians but rather showered Christian institutions with patronage, though for getting this he required certain things from the Christians which would bring a schism in Christianity and give birth to Christendom with the so-called Roman Catholic church from then onwards worshipping a three-headed god, in line with the three-headed gods of the Greco-Roman Culture and including the Greco-Roman pagan festivals.

Constantine, recognizing the growing strength of the Church and wishing to enlist the loyal support of the Christians, treated them with increasing favour, and finally was baptized upon his death-bed (337).

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Next: Religion and believers #14

Preceding

Religion and believers #1 Lots of groups to be taken interest in

Religion and believers #2 Different forms of Truth

Religion and believers #3 From father and mother gods to land and local gods

Religion and believers #4 Order of Nature and Polytheism on the way to monotheism

Religion and believers #5 Transition to Monotheism

Religion and believers #6 Origin of a church

Religion and believers #7 Independent and organised form of existence of a religion

Religion and believers #8 Groups following one or another apostle

Religion and believers #9 Old and new cults

Religion and believers #10 Infiltrating pagan teachings

Religion and believers #11 Prospect of a life without end in a peaceful kingdom

Religion and believers #12 Ranking and days for days to holding worship in secret

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Additional reading

  1. Politics and power first priority #1
  2. Politics and power first priority #2
  3. Constantine a brutal sociopath getting the believers in a God man on his side and creating a Christian church
  4. The Development of Differences
  5. Different wineskins
  6. Who Is Jesus? God, or unique Man?
  7. Jesus the “God-Man”: Really?
  8. The saviour Jesus his godly side
  9. The saviour Jesus his human side
  10. Omniscient God opposite a not knowing Jesus
  11. Jesus Christ being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion
  12. Jesus begotten Son of God #19 Compromising fact
  13. Yeshua a man with a special personality
  14. The Christ, the anointed of God
  15. Application of old pagan concept of trinity
  16. The Trinity: paganism or Christianity?
  17. False teachers and false prophets still around
  18. Christianity without the Trinity

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Related

  1. How Diocletian Ended Rome’s Crisis Of The Third Century P.1 | 281AD-290AD
  2. Diocletian’s Palace, Split
  3. How Diocletian Ended Rome’s Crisis Of The Third Century P.2 | 291AD-300AD
  4. A History of Christian Persecutions in Rome & Founding San Marino | 301AD-310AD
  5. Constantine and Christendom: Glory or Calamity? | Catholic Lane
  6. Constantine’s Gift to Christianity: Catholic World Report
  7. Curtain Call
  8. St Nicholas, the Arians, and the Nicene Creed
  9. Nicene Creed
  10. The Nicene Creed
  11. Creeds
  12. What do all Christians believe? A Creed for a Modern Faith
  13. The Soldier Saints: Saint Sebastian
  14. A Military Life of Constantine the Great – Ian Hughes
  15. Ante-Nicene Subordinationism and the Unitarian Narrative
  16. Nicene Metaphysics: Apprehending the Transcendence
  17. Speaking of the Trinity…
  18. Is God comprised of three persons, or is He just one person?
  19. How much was Jesus man, and how much was he God?
  20. God is not a Trinity
  21. Trinity: The Truth about Matthew 28:19 & 1 John 5:7
  22. The Bible Teaches There Is One True God
  23. The God of Jesus
  24. A letter from the Lord Jesus: About God and Me by Dale Tuggy
  25. Questions for those who believe in the Trinity
  26. Trinity And Pagan Influence
  27. The Trinity: paganism or Christianity?
  28. Trinity in the Bible
  29. Tri-union gods and Pagan, Christian, Muslim and Jewish views on the Creator God
  30. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #1 Many gods
  31. A Triple God or simply a rather simple One God
  32. Trinity matter
  33. Trinity – History
  34. How did the Trinity Doctrine Develop
  35. History of the acceptance of a three-in-one God
  36. Altered to fit a Trinity
  37. The Trinity – the truth
  38. Trinitarian philosophy
  39. Does there have to be a Holy Trinity?
  40. Trinity And Pagan Influence
  41. Trinity: A False Doctrine of a False Church
  42. The underlying truth in John 1:1
  43. Jesus has a God!
  44. Problems correspondents have with the Trinity Doctrine
  45. How do trinitarians equate divine nature
  46. The Great Trinity debate
  47. Newton not believing in the Holy Trinity
  48. September 4, 476: Fall of the Western Roman Empire
  49. Slowly Reading St Athanasius: Why is the Incarnation so important? 
  50. Slowly Reading St Athanasius: You and I are the Cause of the Incarnation of the Word
  51. St Gregory the Theologian: Purifying the Theologians into the Holy Trinity
  52. Theophany, Epiphany and the Holy Trinity
  53. The Trinity Truth
  54. From Lofty Words to Faithful Action
  55. The Top Ten Most Important Church Councils
  56. Germanic mythological influences up to today’s Christmas celebrations
  57. Can Genuine Christians Be Trinitarian or Non-Trinitarian?
  58. Moving from trinitarianism towards Biblical monotheism
  59. Unitarianism and the Bible of the Holy Trinity
  60. 10 Minute Truth Talks: The Father Being the Only True God
  61. The One GOD is the Father
  62. One God, the Father & Gospel about the Coming Kingdom
  63. How Christians Can Unite Despite Disagreement
  64. Christianity and Constantine 1700 Years Later
  65. 3 Epiphany 2022
  66. Endings and beginnings
  67. The Augsburg Confession

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