Monday, April 22, 2013
Start of the Papacy
One of the greatest and most powerful kingdoms in all of history was the Roman Empire. This empire lasted from about 1st century BC to the 4th century AD. This kingdom was so powerful that we still have many traditions and saying that come from the Roman era such as war tactics, concrete, or even waste systems. So what happened with the Christian church after their oppression by the Roman church? Who took power in the government after Rome fell and what influence did Christianity have on the new authority?
In the 5th century, we see the decline of the Roman Empire. Some of the reasons for the fall of the empire vary. According to Rome.info, the fall of the Roman Empire came from numerous reasons including decline in morals and values, public health, political corruption, unemployment, inflation, urban decay, inferior technology, military spending, and the last final blow was “In the third century A.D. The Roman soldiers were pulled back from the Rhine-Danube frontier to fight civil war in Italy. This left the Roman border open to attack.”
During this time, Christianity has experienced exponential growth. In Acts we see the church grow from a small handful of people to thousands of people come to know The Lord and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. One of these people that came to know Christ was Constantine. Constantine was a Roman emperor that was emperor from 306 to 337 A.D. Constantine was one of the first emperors to embrace the Christian faith. In the year 313 A.D., Constantine created the Edict of Milan that put an end to Christian intolerance and persecution. He was the one that started welcoming Christians into government jobs and the military. In the year 325 A.D, just at the end of Christian persecution, the Council of Nicea met. Gonzalez points something out that is important to remember when he says "In order to see that event in perspective of those who were there, it is necessary to remember that several of those attending the great assembly had recently been imprisoned, tortured, or exiled, and that some bore on their bodies the physical marks of their faithfulness." These men that were meeting at this council were the same men that were being persecuted just a few years before. And although Constantine had just become a Christian and not yet been baptized, he was the one who presided over the council. After this we can start to see some Christians in positions of authority around Constantine and see that he holds many in high regard. So we can see that when the Roman Empire starts to fall, there are most likely many Christians in positions of power within the Roman ranks. When the Roman Empire falls, where does the church go and what do they do?
There was a position that came into place that is still a tradition today. In the year 366, Pope Damasus was elected into the first position of Pope while the Roman Empire was still in existence. This election of the Pope was incredibly heated as there was a group of people trying to get another Pope elected in the chair of St. Peter. This group had a "number of over-zealous adherents of the deceased Liberius rejected him, chose the deacon Ursinus (or Ursicinus), had the latter irregularly consecrated, and resorted to much violence and bloodshed in order to seat him in the Chair of Peter." This started the inner fighting of different sects of beliefs within the Christian ranks. This one argument between two groups of people caused fighting and people to lose their lives; over doctrine of belief. Damasus also commissioned St. Jerome to revise the Latin edition of the Bible for the public. After the struggle with becoming pope, Damasus played a part in what was one of the largest battles won for the Catholic Church.
In the year 380 A.D., the famous edict of Theodosius I was written and put in place. Theodosius I was the last Roman emperor of the known Roman Empire. Theodosius was one to help put a stop to most of the pagan practices in the Roman culture. The edict put into place in the year 380 said that the only true religion was the Catholic religion. In this that you must believe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and that they are all equal in deity. Many today say that this one event helped shape the fall of false god worship in Rome and surrounding areas, but also help shape a bias against all other people. The next year, Theodosius made more laws (Theodosian Codes 16.1.2 and 16.5.6) which marked "the first time the legal code coerced people to become Christians. They made orthodox catholic Christianity the official dogma of the church and suppressed the Arian factions." This is when some bad comes in. After these laws were passed, people claiming to be Christians started reversing the persecution on those that were pagans or had any other beliefs than their own. So after these laws were passed, many started becoming "Christians" out of fear, pressure, or because it was the politically correct thing to do at the time.
One of the next successors in the papacy was Innocent I. Pope Innocent was the Pope after Siricius in the years 402-316. Pope Innocent I was recognized as the Pope during the final fall of Rome and actually helped in peace talks with the Visigoths under Alaric during the fall of Rome. While many view Pope Innocent as a great man for his want for peaceful resolve, he was also a man that wanted and needed control. Innocent I was one to not let others have a lot of religious freedoms. According to New World Encyclopedia "Never willing to tolerate what he and the Roman church considered as heresy, Innocent moved forcefully against Montanism in Africa, employing the power of the state as his agent. A delegation from a synod of Carthage (404) appealed to him for severer treatment of the Montanists in that territory. After the envoys came to Rome, Innocent obtained from Emperor Honorius a strong decree against the African Montanists, inducing some of them, out of fear of the state, to be reconciled with the Catholic Church." So in other words, it sounded as if Pope Innocent the I used any means necessary to keep control and to subdue beliefs other than his own.
Shortly after the time of Pope Innocent I, the Council of Chalcedon met. The Council of Chalcedon was held under the time of Pope Leo the Great, who held this title from 440-461 A.D. The Council of Chalcedon met in 451 A.D. and helped shaped the definition of faith. The definition was helped by the production of the Tome of Pope Leo. According to credoreference.com; "The Tome included the formula “two natures after the incarnation” and specified that Christ is consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father in the godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity." This council helped bring some peace to conflicting beliefs in Christianity.
So in the rise of the Christian church, we see people that have come from persecution and exile, to being in positions of power and authority. Many people used this opportunity to create good things, which some exist to this day. While others used this power and authority and lorded it over people with beliefs different from their own. We can learn a lot from the history of this time by modeling ourselves off the true starters of the church, and their bravery for standing up for what they believe in. But we can also learn to do this with modesty and humility.
Chalcedon, Council of. (1999). In Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World. Retrieved from liberty.edu. Last Accessed April 20, 2013.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. The Early Church to the Reformation. (New
York: Harper Collins.) 2010. 186.
Graves, Dan. Theodosius Issued an Edict. www.christianity.com. May 2007. Last accessed April
accessed April 19, 2013.
Fall of the Roman Empire. Your Travel Guide to Rome. Www.rome.info/history/history/fall. Last accessed April 18, 2013.
Pope Innocent I. New World Encyclopedia. (2008) Retrieved April 20, 2013 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pope_Innocent.
Shahan, T. Pope St. Damasus I. The Catholic Encyclopedia. (New York: Robert Appleton Company). Retrieved April 18, 2013 from New Advent: http://newadvent.org/cathen/04613a.htm.