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Constantine…and early Christian Church History
By: 'Sweeps' Fox From his book-'Trying To Light The Match-/'Kicking The One Reality Habit'
Gradually Constantine became more in league with Christian groups. He had granted many favors and concessions to certain Christian church groups and their Bishops. He built churches and stocked them, throughout the Empire, with gold and silver and provided them with art, marble, and mosaics. He made sure that churches were given land, power, and a variety of rich possessions. As a politician he depended on their support in his civil war with Licinus who had large Pagan support. By 324 A.D. Constantine's alliance had emerged triumphant and he was the sole Emperor of the Roman Empire. He also had Licinus executed. It wasn't necessary. Licinus was no tyrant, but Constantine would brook no liberality in his drive to establish his personal imprint on the course of history. He was later to have his eldest son executed and also his wife, in a ruthless stamping out of any objection to his one man rule. He conceived of himself as the 'One' head of State. There was now only 'One' Roman Empire, so why shouldn't there be only the 'One' God?
In 325 A.D. he convened the council at Nicaea. As a politician he realized that it was necessary to consolidate the loose Christian apostolic communities around the Empire. There was no 'one' belief or doctrine, no one set of agreed sacraments, no agreed historical acceptance of events, no agreement on the divinity or lack of divinity of Jesus Christ, and no universally agreed on oral accounts or written records inclusive of the 300 years after the death of Christ. Most Christians will find this uneasy...the truth 'was always known...wasn't. it? In street vernacular...'time to get their act together'.
Suddenly many of the illiterate and local leaders of these separate belief communities would find themselves elevated to the rank of Bishop, in order for the Counsel to take on the proper air of importance.
The gathering done...the Council broke down into warring factions, each proclaiming their own pre-conceived ideas and practice of what should be accepted. Physical fights broke out, and when the old scholar Arius rose to speak he was struck down. Arius
was a Presbyter of Alexandria Egypt and a learned man? His argument was that if Christ was born as God he could have easily resisted temptation and sin, but if he was born human how much more respect he was due in being able to resist sin. Arius and his faction of scholars and literate scribes denied the divinity of Christ. These Arians, as the philosophy was called, found themselves rejected by the more illiterate merchants, traders, craftsmen, who had recently been elevated in status.
The continuing wrangling of the Council prompted Constantine to conclude the dissension. Acting as Emperor...not in any religious capacity....he imposed his will on the Council. He had decided that the value of the men of commerce necessary to hold the flagging Empire together, the non-Arians, was more important to the Empire. The value of the scholars could be of lesser importance. He ruled that the divinity of Christ was to be proclaimed as the only view. It became a creed.
It was now necessary to preserve the Empire by preserving the State religion and the politically arrived at religious settlement.
Arianism was condemned and became an heretical outcast, but its influence and support was not to go away yet. It remained a 'thorn' in the side of many future Councils. Finally, over 1 million Arians would be pursued, persecuted for their beliefs, and killed in order to preserve the 'one true faith'...and in the typical tolerance of Christendom. Constantine's own son, Constantius 11, was an Arian....but, like his father, committed himself to the 'Christianization' of the Empire in order to further its survival. The majority of the people of the Empire were still Pagan and were to again manage to gain some control of the Imperial Throne for a short period around 360 A.D.
Other matters of this landmark Council centered on the many interpretations of doctrine, the many differently authored Gospels and oral and written works, and the settlement of what would become the official Church sacraments out of the many. Arguments continued on each new round of decision making. Nothing was ever 'apparent'...they argued about everything. Christianity was about to become the great borrower religion. Even the concept of the Devil was to be stolen from some older Jewish sects. This, Devil, was never admitted into the Jewish Cannon...but it was a concept to be taken over and re-invented by Christians. Many of the early Christians were really Jews that had been cast out of the Hebrew faith for their insistence on proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.
They also brought their Devil into Christianity. It was welcome. It would be the main theological weapon to create an evil in the world which only Christianity could deal with...until the Muslim's came along. Their Devil (Shaytahn) would be borrowed from the Christians 500 years later...with the same grizzly application.
The 'Devil' thing is fascinating 'doubletake' and 'doubletalk' in it's conflicting mythical origins. Supposedly, Lucifer revolted against God and He and his legions were cast into Hell...a base which He could use to cause further conflict against God and His creatures. Lucifer was reportedly(?) dissatisfied with God's decision to give Man a place even above the Angels and to give Man 'free will'...something not even the Angels had. The ironies stick out pretty far here. If the Angels didn't have free will how were they to be able to revolt in the first place? In the second place, it infers that God allowed 'Evil' to be created and to continue. How do you provide for the existence of 'evil' in the world if the 'God' who created it is 'all good'? Can 'Good' contact 'evil'? Could a God who is 'all good' have anything to do with 'evil'? Can 'evil' come out of 'good'? Could an 'all knowing' God be caught off guard...not knowing there was a revolt coming? It doesn't compute. Perhaps the 'War in the Heavens' was a war among Alien races...or a breakaway rebel group that wouldn't go along with 'The Federation'. In fact, it makes a better case than a God who lets things get out of control.
The Gospels were another big hang-up. No one group was able to sell it's convictions and preferences to the majority. Out of the 42 odd Gospels (according to this and according to him) all with differing dates and relevance to the life of Jesus Christ, only the present 4 were picked...and these again by the political imposition of Constantine...rushing in to conclude another dissension. The remainder, and even all the 'Gnostic' texts, were expunged or consigned to the fire...burned. And, those Gospels with perhaps more truth or insight on history were lost forever.
We'll never know. The 4 accepted ones (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) would be THE selected versions to be known from then on as reflecting the authoritative word of God! Of course, they would be re-written many times, and almost continually. More later.
At least, I muse with tongue in cheek, we can be assured that asteroid XF-11 won't be our 'end of the world'. It's been calculated that it could smash into the Earth around 28 October , at tea time, in the year 2028 A.D. The 'surviving' scriptures tell us paraphrased that 'We'll know neither the day nor the hour' of our doom'.
Later Councils would decide on such subjects as 'transubstantiation'....the bread of communion becoming the actual 'body of Christ' and many other of the doctrines and dogmas to be believed in. One Council had the prickly problem of establishing 'Purgatory' as an actual place. The reasoning went along the lines of.....'What if a person isn't bad enough to be sent to Hell but not good enough to get into Heaven'? Well we all know by now that a compromise was nicely agreed....Purgatory...where a soul could be purged of it's sins and then allowed to enter Heaven.
At this point the church would look anew at the system of 'indulgences', which had already developed much earlier in their history from the concept built on the practice of 'doing penance'. Indulgences were 'added on' special considerations given to 'sinners', offered by high ecclesiastical offices. There was the notion that there existed a residue of 'sin' even after absolution (forgiveness) was obtained. Indulgences could remove or lessen the punishment due these remnants of sins. The 'establishment' of Purgatory gave a whole new emphasis and design for applying indulgences. Now the church could offer degrees of indulgences to reduce one's time of punishment in 'this' Purgatory. The sinner's sentence could be reduced...time off for good indulgences received. If this whole idea was conceived of in 'modern' times perhaps the church would offer tokens, coupons, or merit badges, as visible evidence of accumulated points toward early parole. But in those days sinners would have to gain these award earnings in other ways, including 'paying for them'. 'When the coin in the coffer drops, out your soul will pop', and things like that. The money became a prime source of church revenue, and abuse, for years. After 'The Reformation' called these practices into question, the payment for indulgences was finally stopped (by the Council of Trent) in 1567 A.D. Still, the system of indulgences continues in its' reformed version even to today. The 'faithful' can certainly appreciate, and work real hard to sustain a church which can promise these benefits. Who the hell wants to spend more time in Purgatory than one has to?
This 'blast from the past' cemented the beliefs of billions of people over centuries, gave guilting and repression a head start, and enshrined the closed consciousness. It presented Man with a set of very strange values that gives him license (or the order) to destroy nature (because we have dominion over the Earth and it's creatures...not part of it as the Pagans practice naturally..., to murder each other, and to be fearful of a personal father God that is 'out there somewhere. 'The Blast' also sealed us into the tight little reality box which will be shown to be the culprit in most of our social and personal day to day problems.
All Religions Hide Their Real Origins
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