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The Relationship Between Church And State

1573 words - 7 pages

Question #2
Separation of the church and state is not a new concept. Within the past two thousand years of Christian history however the strategies and ideas of Christian leaders have changed several times. During the time that Christ walked the earth we can anecdotally perceive a very adversarial relationship between Jesus’ ministry and the local Jewish and Roman governments. This type of relationship continued for the first three centuries of the Christian Church. There was an almost total separation between the emerging Christian Church and the ruling governments at the time due to consistent and violent persecutions of the Christian Church and Christians personally. This persecution continued in spite of the efforts of Paul, Tertullian and other early church scholars to justify Christianity to the Roman Empire. This current climate of persecution saw Christendom spread far and wide across the known world and saw no headway in the relationship between church and state. (1)
The situation changed drastically after Constantine winning the final decisive battle of Milvian Bridge in 312CE became the sole Roman Emperor. In 313CE, Constantine legalized and legitimized the Christian faith as an acceptable practice within the Roman Empire. It is noted by the historian Eusebius that Constantine’s mother Helen was a Christian and it was through her influence that Constantine took these steps and ultimately became a Christian himself. Constantine also changed the nature of the relationship between church and state. With a strong Emperor on the throne of Rome, a state sponsored religion becomes a tool for unity and control. This is the change in relationship that Constantine fosters. For the purposes of this discussion, this idea of the separation of church and state will be a state dominated relationship. (2)
At Constantine’s direction, in 325 the 1st Council of Nicea is called by the Christian Church. The purpose for this council was to address the vast differences with Christianity. The issue of Christianity being a unifying force was in jeopardy because some many different versions of Christianity existed and Constantine wanted these issues resolved. Constantine also decreed that Christianity must have a book and that he would pay to have fifty of these books reproduced. This book would later become the Holy Bible that is known across the world today. (3)
With Constantine’s and the emperors who followed his rule Christianity became a part of the Roman world a tool for unity and a glue that helped to hold society together. This glue was tested dramatically during and after the fall of Rome in 409-410CE. Following the loss of the central Roman government, the church began to once again change the nature of the relationship between church and state. The church sought to guide and help the newly developing rulers but only so long as the new rulers listened to the church fathers. The new rulers became dependent on the church; the church could offer...

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