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Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay Frank D. Felker Grand Canyon University: HTH 379 15 January 2012

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay Church and State: An Historical Perspective Church and state is a subject that has been intimately interwoven with the history of

Western civilization and Christianity since the time of Constantine the Great (311-337). With the Edict of Milan in 313, Constantine halted persecution of Christians and ordered return of all their properties. Theodosius I (379395), made Catholic Christianity the official religion of the empire... by the end of the 4th century Christianity had been transformed to the dominant faith of the empire, in the process becoming intertwined with the imperial government. (Christianity, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2012) From that time, to our present age, the matter of Church and State has become a pairing not easily reconciled. This essays intent is to explore, briefly, how this intermingling of politics and religion came about. Original Mission of the Church Christianity was initiated by the birth of a man (c.4-6 B.C.); a man that was avowed to be the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. This man, Jesus of Nazareth, by performing miracles, evangelizing, his death by crucifixion, and bodily resurrection promulgated a powerful Apostleship. These Apostles founded the Church on the teachings of Jesus. These teachings did not include a mandate to meddle in government or politics; rather, just the opposite. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? and he asked them, Whose image is this and whose inscription? Caesars, they replied. Then he said to them, So give back to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is Gods. (Matthew 22: 2021, NIV) Jesus intentions are found in the following verse; Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. He sent them

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay

to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1-2, NKJV) The involvement of the Church in politics caused a drifting of the Church, itself, toward the realms of secular power. Prelude to Politics For the first 300 years of the Church, prior to Constantine I, the Roman Emperor, the Church was immersed in evangelism, defining its own identity, and defending itself from persecution. Among its own followers it faced differences in the interpretation of Scripture, heresy, Gnosticism, apostasy, and false preachers and teachers. There was little time for politics. Things gradually changed. By the 4th century the Church had cohered. By the year 400 A.D. Millions of new members had poured in. Becoming a Christian was no longer a risk, but could even be politically and socially opportune, so the church had to deal with a new laxity in standards of belief and behavior. (Church History by the Century, 2012) The Church had become strong enough, that in 374 A.D., Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was also the Governor and a recognized figure in the court of Emperor Valentinian I (364-375). Growth in Political Strength Between 604 and 1073, the Church sharpened its skill in politics. They played Italian rulers one against another by making political alliances. The rulers had little choice but to woo the Christian leaders. The Church controlled the religious populace through fear of God and fear of the Church. In 1198 A.D. Innocent III was elected Pope. His agenda was to build a papal state, autonomous of the Italian rulers. He also claimed right of jurisdiction, over not just the Church, but also over kings. Innocent contended that no King can rule without submitting to the Pope. (Church History for the Masses, 2007)

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay

The King might control armies but those armies were made up of men. The great majority of those men were Christian and the Church held sway over their minds and their souls. The Popes had abrogated for themselves the power to forgive sins by using the verse; And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16: 19, NKJV) This is what Jesus said when speaking to Peter of building His Church. The Pope claimed unbroken descent of power, from Peter to the Pope and no man wanted to antagonize the one that had the power to excommunicate him or refuse to forgive his sins. Declination Church power began to ebb somewhat with the death of Innocent in 1216 A.D. The decline began with Boniface VII who succeeded Celestine V. Boniface tried to rule as Innocent I had ruled. The empire, however, was no longer intact. What power the Church had, had shifted to Avignon in France with the selection of Clement V as Pope. Nationalism had developed and Popes power was no longer as complete as it once was. In 1378, Urban V, who hated French domination, became Pope. His selection was rescinded by the Cardinals who claimed duress and they appointed Clement VII, a Frenchman, as Pope. There were now two Popes and sides were taken. In the end, Urban was declared the true pope and Clement was regarded as the anti-Pope. (Church History for the Masses, 2007) Conclusion Erroneously, on the part of the Church, by the 1300s it was felt that Europe knew Scripture and that there was no longer a necessity to evangelize. The void that was left was filled

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay by a move to accrue power. Men of little faith, but great ambition, had come to power in the

Church and those that retained faith felt the need to control the lives of men in order to save their souls. Power and ambition are akin to an avalanche that begins with the trickling of pebbles in a high mountain. Loosening stone upon stone, there is soon a great surge of force and power that grows stronger and greater until is almost unstoppable. It is stoppable though; by the power of God reclaiming His dominion. It is then that the mission of Jesus Christ will be fulfilled and the Church returned to its rightful domain.

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay Resources Christianity (2012), In Encyclopedia Britannica, retrieved, 15 January 2012, from, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/115240/Christianity Church History by the CenturyChurch History Timeline (2012), Christianity.com, retrieved, 15 January 1012, from, http://www.christianity.com/historybycentury/ Church History for the Masses (2007), The Avignon Papacy, retrieved, 15 January 2012, from, http://www.christianchronicler.com/history1/avignon_papacy.html Holy Bible (2005), Life Application Study Bible, NIV, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. & Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Holy Bible (2002), Scofield Study Bible, NKJV, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Module 4Historical Perspective of the Church Essay