Constantine Imposes Christianity on Rome

Constanine the Great was born Flavius Valerius Constantinus, at Naissus, Serbia (so states Christian History Magazine, No. 27, page 23). But the year? “Probably 272”, however others put the range as from 274 to 288. His father was Constantius Chlorus, a Roman officer, and his mother was Helena, a concubine and a woman of inferior birth.

Emperor Diocletian had sought to frustrate the power of the Praetorian Guard by dividing the Roman Empire into four empires governed by tetrarchs. However this situation quickly led to rivalry among the various tetrarchs.

Constantine’s father was made the new Emperor of the West, on the resignation of his own father.

During that process Constantine recognised the weakness of Diocletian’s system, and when he became Western Emperor, or Caesar, on his father’s death, he sought to keep out of the rivalry.

Get a Free Church History Post every day by Subscribing at http://chrisfieldblog.com

However the situation deteriorated after the death of the Easter Emperor, Galerius and Constantine found himself compelled to fight for his throne against Maxentius. Having been reluctant to engage in war over several years, Constantine made haste to confront his opponent, despite his weaker forces. His men were more highly disciplined and gained the advantage in several battles as he marched toward Rome for battle with Maxentius.

Their armies clashed at the famous Battle of Milvian Bridge, October 28, 312. (See the post for October 28, 2007)

According to two Christian writers, Constantine had a dream on the eve of that battle which convinced him to adopt a Christian emblem – and wage war with his rival, trusting in the Christians’ God. He had his men decorate their shields with the sign of the Cross.

Despite being heavily outnumbered Constantine won and Maxentius drowned in the Tiber River. Constantine became the new Emperor – and he professed Christianity. He quickly proclaimed the Edict of Milan, jointly with the tetrarch Licinius, early in 313, which approved Christian worship. The persecution of Christians which had been a reign of terror under Diocletian and Maximian was now ended. Christians were released from prison and from the mines. Many who had abandoned the faith to avoid persecution now returned, repentant.

Constantine also convened the great Council of Nicea in 325AD, where over 300 bishops gathered to deal with the Arian heresy.

Initially Constantine allowed Licinius, the sole surviving tetrarch appointed by Diocletian, to keep his power. Constantine married his sister to Licinius. However Licinius conspired against Constantine and 10 years of fighting ensued until Licinius was executed.

Constantine was then the sole and undisputed supreme ruler of the Roman Empire. He moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople.

As part of his on-going support for Christianity, Clergy were exempted from taxes, Sunday was set aside as a day of worship … and his dear mother, Helena, made a trip to the Holy Land, where she found “the true cross” and a host of other relics.

Among his other achievements, he had Crispus, his eldest son, executed, and Fausta, his wife for 20 years, drowned in a hot bath! (Miller’s Church History, page 202).

He issued coins dedicated to the ‘sun god’ – and he was baptised by an Arian bishop shortly before his death on 22 May, 337.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Government in Australia

Have you noticed that most people don’t know anything about the Government processes that are their birthright? Though the subject is given cursory attention at schools most people never come to grips with much more than the facts that they vote for Government officials.

Government of any land is a complex matter, but it must work on the basis of some underlying principles or a pattern. While I am no expert on the subject, I have some notions about the underlying principles, so let me share them with you to stimulate your thinking.

If you think you have a better grip on the process than I do, let me know, so we can all work toward a better appreciation of what our forefathers passed to us.

Some Home Truths About Government

Australia’s forefathers, in creating the model for government of the nation they left as our inheritance, were aware of some home truths about government. History reveals that power hungry people will fight with their own people, even their own siblings or parents, in order take the reins of rulership.

Julius Caesar became Emperor of Rome by taking power to himself. Shakespeare’s play captures the human tension behind the issue of assumption of power. Centuries later, the Battle of Milvian Bridge enabled Constantine to take the role of Emperor by conquering others who could compete with him for the throne.

Jewish history tells of families and siblings who were murdered to allow such people as Athaliah (2Kings 11:1) to grab the reins of power.

A similar situation occurred in ancient Abyssinia (Ethiopia) after the time of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Judith, the wife of a provincial leader, attacked the royal city of Damo and killed the royal princes, numbering about 400. She then took the throne for forty years and passed it to five of her descendents. After that the original royal line was restored.

Got the picture? People lust for power and will use violent means to take it illegitimately.

Protecting Future Generations

The Australians who created the structure and shape of the new-born nation sought to protect future generations of their children, grand-children and so on. They did this by creating a structure of shared authority and checks and balances, to frustrate the plans of those who might wish to take over the country.

Sadly, most Australians do not know what the threats against them are, or what protections have been created to safeguard them. In such a situation it is easy to whittle away at the good and godly inheritance the Aussies have been given. At some time in the future an ignorant generation of Australians, looking only at some short-term interpretation of their nation and their inheritance, will vote to destroy the protections which they have been given in trust.

What our forbears created for us and passed to us is supposed to be protected by us and passed, undamaged, to future generations. But we are already seeing ignorant Aussies keen to throw it away, without the slightest notion of why it is valuable.

Each successive generation is being led a further step closer to throwing away the structure of our nation, for something they know little about. Very few, if any, have invested the amount of research, thought and national dialogue which went into crafting the Australian Constitution in the late 1800’s.

A Thumbnail Sketch

The nation of Australia was created from two general groups: the States; and the People. People carry personal authority based on Natural Law. The States carried authority vested in them under Maritime Law, when they were created as British colonies. Australia became a nation by the confluence of the agreement of the majority of the people, but only if they also represented all the States.

So the populace of Australia, and each State within Australia, united into a union for common benefit, or Common-Wealth. Thus we became the Commonwealth of Australia.

Each State was to remain an autonomous entity and manage its own affairs. The Commonwealth was not for the detriment of the existing States, but for their better good by cooperation with the other States.

Certain, limited responsibilities were assigned to the Commonwealth, Federal Government, but others were preserved by and kept to the States. The Federal Government could not pass laws to be forced on the States. The Federal Government could not take power from the States or force its dictates onto the States.

The Federal Government, then, had two houses of Parliament. One, the House of Representatives, represents the popular vote of the people, for the people’s choice of a representative in the National interest. The other house, the Senate, comprises an equal number of representatives from each of the States, to protect the rights of the States and to provide a check and balance to the populist ideas which may come from the House of Representatives.

A Protector of the People

With all of that in place, there is yet another layer of protection for the Australian people. That protection is provided by our Governor General. No law can be made binding, whether it comes from the House of Representatives or the Senate, unless it is signed by the Governor General.

The Governor General stands in the place of a Ruling Monarch. The Kings and Queens of Britain cannot hold office until they had sworn themselves to be bound by the Law of God and commit themselves for the good of the people.

The Governor General, similarly, is under the same regal responsibility, to uphold Divine justice and Godly standards, especially in the protection of the people.

In practice, a Governor General should send back to the Parliament any law that they see as not good for the people. They are our Head of State and the final protector and protection for the people of Australia.

That is why Sir John Kerr was within his rights to sack the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam back in 1975. As Governor General he was responsible to protect the Australian people. Note that the ruling by the Governor General to dismiss Gough Whitlam was not deemed illegal. It was not overturned. It did not have to be authorised by anyone outside Australia, such as the Queen of England or the British Parliament. The Australian Constitution gives the Australian Governor General the final authority as the effective Head of State of the Nation.

However, even though the Governor General is Australia’s Head of State he or she cannot assume power to their self. We are not only protected from the Parliament, we are protected from the Governor General!

The Lucky Country

One of the things that make Australia a “Lucky Country” is that we have the best out of other people’s experience. While America struggles with multiple, competing technologies Australia, as a late comer, could select the better options and avoid the quagmire or mistakes other nations get bogged in.

This is what happened when Australia’s leaders crafted the Australian Constitution. They were able to take the best of the American Constitution, Canadian Constitution, British System, and so on, with the benefit of hindsight as to how those legal structures worked.

Every Australian citizen is blessed with the world’s best Constitution. But they are ignorant of it and so will be sorely tempted to destroy it through lack of knowledge. Please do your bit to help each Aussie understand how blessed they are with the nation which their forefathers built for them and entrusted to them.

Battle of Milvian Bridge Changes Christendom

This is the day that the “Battle of Milvian Bridge” took place – in AD 312.

It was this historic battle, won by Constantine and his armies, which led to the Christianisation of the Roman Empire. Bear in mind that one uses the word ‘Christianisation’ in its broadest term.

The Milvian Bridge crossed the Tiber River, which was part of the western defences of Rome. The bridge was first built by Gaius Claudius Nero in 206 BC. In 63 BC the bridge was the site of an ambush by agents of Cicero.

Serbian born Constantine was at this time one of six contenders for leadership of the Roman Empire, following his father’s death in York, in Britain. Constantine marched on Rome and his forces met those of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.

Constantine’s victory was not the only significant event of that day. He claimed to have seen a vision at midday on that same day, seeing a Christian Cross superimposed on the sun, and the words “In This Sign, Conquer”, “In hoc signo vinces”.

Following his decisive victory, Constantine went on to become Emperor of the Roman Empire. He then made Christianity legal. Constantine claimed to be a Christian, and the changes that followed were momentous.

Persecution ceased. By March, AD 313, the Edict of Milan was published granting religious liberty to all, restoring previously confiscated church property and protecting Christian people from persecution. The Lord’s Day was set aside as a day of rest and worship. Favours were granted to the clergy. Churches were built.

Miller, in his Church History, records that in one year, in Rome, 12,000 men and women were baptised … “and a white garment, with 20 pieces of gold, was promised by the Emperor to every new convert of the poorer classes…” (page 194).

Three years after his victory at the bridge a triumphal arch was built with words telling how Constantine saved the republic ‘”by greatness of mind and impulse of divinity.” Roman troops then carried a pennant bearing the monogram of Jesus – the Greek letters “chi” and “rho” standing for the word “Christ”.

Within several years Constantine sponsored the Council of Nicaea to negotiate a statement of orthodox Christian belief that could be recognized across the Empire. The Nicaean Creed continues to be used today.

Some ‘state churches’ regard these events as a triumph in the history of the Christian faith; others, of ‘free church’ persuasion, are more likely to regard it as “almost as calamitous as the fall of Adam and Eve.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.