Where were New Testament Churches found in the 4th Century?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Thinkingstuff, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. Thinkingstuff

    Thinkingstuff
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    This thread is for a discussion about where was the real church in the 4th century? There was an opinion expressed that there are actually two churches one established by christ and another that was foundly established but became apostate through the introduction of Paganism in the 4th Century primarily due to Constantine. I do not hold this opinion but there are those who do and I thought it might be a good discussion. We kind of started this debate on another thread but left track of that thread so we started a new one.

    Ps. Bro James look forward to hearing from you.
     
  2. Zenas

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    I have heard that the New Testament church became apostate in the 4th Century, primarily due to Constantine. Numerous accounts attest to this, but they were all written many hundreds of years after the fact. Does anyone know of something written contemporaneously with the apostasy that would show how, when and where the church veered off course? Anything by the church fathers of that era perhaps?
     
  3. Ed Edwards

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    In the 4th century (301-400), the scrolls that people wrote to tell how the false church was degenerated were used to stoke the fires under people who were unfaithful to the pagan church. This started about AD 325 when the Pagans quit burning Christians and the 'Christians started burning Pagans.
     
  4. TCGreek

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    As a missional entity the church was all over the world by the 4th century.
     
  5. Zenas

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    Where did you learn that, Ed? You are saying that all the evidence has been destroyed, but there had to be someone around to record that fact or we would be ignorant of it today. Who was that someone?
     
  6. Zenas

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    "Missional." There's a word I haven't heard before. Is this new or have I just missed it in the past?
     
  7. JustChristian

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    I know this won't be generally accepted but I think we have to admit the the church during this period was the Catholic Church. Its abuses finally led to the Reformation and the various Protestant churches were born, including the Baptist church. I personally don't think that the premise behind "The Trail of Blood" which attempted to trace the Baptist church back to the Apostles is proven or believable.
     
  8. TCGreek

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    Zenas, "missional" is an old word. :thumbs:
     
  9. Thinkingstuff

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    This is actually closer to my thinking.
     
  10. John of Japan

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    We have a detailed account of the process by church historian Eusebius (263-339), a contemporary of Constantine, in his book The History of the Church. The thing is, Eusebius didn't realize what was happening. He was so glad the persecution was ended by Constantine in 313 that he thought it was all good: large gifts and money to the bishops (actually bribes), the establishment of a state church that could control doctrine, vestments for priests (as opposed to pastors), state sponsored Christian festivals (I don't oppose the festivals but the state sponsorship), church buildings with thrones for the prelates, etc., etc. (I've been looking in the English translaiton by G. A. Williamson of the book itself, which can be easily obtained, for this information.)

    In short, Constantine instituted all the trappings of the Catholic "church." If you are a good Baptist, this will be abhorrent to you.

    A believer in our church recently made the appeal to a Catholic lady that according to our financial report, we went 20,000 yen (ab. $200) in the red last month. She was discouraged at all the dunning the Catholic "Church" did for her money every month. This is what Constantine started in 313.
     
    #10 John of Japan, Jul 6, 2008
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  11. Zenas

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    Eusebius does allude to these things but with such subtlety you have to read carefully to notice it. He doesn't emphasize them. Neither does he leave a clue that there were churches of any variety other than what was known as the "catholic" church. For example,
    If we are going to have proof of the existence of non-catholic churches in the 4th Century, we must look to someone other than Eusebius.
     
    #11 Zenas, Jul 6, 2008
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  12. John of Japan

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    On the contrary, note the letter from Constantine to Chrestus, Bishop of Syracuse, quoted on p. 405 of my edition of Eusebius (and I didn't have to read very long to find this): "When on an earlier occasion base and perverted motives led certain persons to begin creating divisions concerning the worship of the holy and heavenly Power and the Catholic Religion, I determined to cut short such quarrels among them."

    Again:
    "Constantine intervened in ecclesiastical affairs to achieve unity; he presided over the first ecumenical council of the church at Nicaea in 325. He also began the building of Constantinople in 326 on the site of ancient Greek Byzantium. The city was completed in 330 (later expanded), given Roman institutions, and beautified by ancient Greek works of art. In addition, Constantine built churches in the Holy Land, where his mother (also a Christian) supposedly found the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. The emperor was baptized shortly before his death, on May 22, 337" (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 98).​

    So, early on Constantine began to exert control over what was allowed and what was not in his "Catholic Religion." And I'm sure he cracked down hard. Remember that this the guy who said he saw a sign in the sky, "In hoc signum," and proceeded to spread Christianity by the force of the sword.

    To me it is simplistic to assume that everyone fell in line right away, and there was no dissension under Constantine, no churches who did their best to live by the NT while separating from the Catholics. Humans are just not like that! In fact, Donatus was already going strong in 313. :type:
     
  13. Thinkingstuff

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    I find several problems with this analysis: First of All Constantine prefered Arius theology to the mass body of Christianity. He did want to unify the empire and he wanted Christians to be unified as well. In 325 he did set up the council of Nicea (historically the Emperors beach resort area kind of like Sandals) to have the Bishops of the chuches come to some conclusion about accepted beliefs. The church council differed from Arius and so Constantine. If he wanted impose his will on doctrine he could have right there. He didn't. He was more concerned that the disunity in the churches would stop and there by maintain peace in his state. We see that he was baptised by a follower of Arius. But the main church did not follow Arius.

    I would like to Challenge how much conversion to christianity happened by the sword under Constantine. This was deffinately more applicable under Pepin, Charlemagne, and Otto.
     
  14. Palatka51

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    Being not a scholar (surprise, surprise) I have no opinion on the subject of this thread. I like what John ,of Japan has posted and I like Thinkingstuff's rebuttals. The subject at hand is so compelling and fascinating that I want more.

    Please don't stop here, I am like the monster plant in the movie "Little Shop of Horrors", "Feed Me Seymour!"
     
  15. John of Japan

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    It's late here in Japan, so I don't have time tonight. But hopefully tomorrow I can get into this with my Schaff, and with some relevant quotes from The Light in Dark Ages, by V. Raymond Edman. I like Edman in particular since he approaches history with a spiritual attitude, and his book is primarily a history of missions.

    For the record, I'll not use the famous Trail of Blood booklet by J. M. Carroll, which I don't completely agree with. :type:

    Oyasumi nasai. ("Sleep well.") :sleeping_2:
     
  16. Thinkingstuff

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    Domo Arigato Gozimasta (spelling is always off):wavey:
     
  17. Thinkingstuff

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    BTW I'm having problems with "Trail of Blood" by M Carroll. According to him the "parallel" church or baptist origins come this way: Setting up of independent churches. (this issue is being discussed on another thread) then to Montanist (heretical group very similar to Pentecostals and a history of false prophesy. Tertullian fell into this movement unfortunately for him.) Then to Donatist. ( who had no sympathy for those weak enough in their faith to hide or sacrifice to the emperor cult. People who repented of their weakness could no longer be clergy. or participate in the sacrements which is not Baptist!) Then the Catheri (who fell into similar beliefs of the Manichaeans who were a mystical eastern religion with mixtures of all sorts of stuff mostly pagan). To the Paulicans (a big jump to Bulgaria and eastern Europe but still holding to Manachaean type beliefs). to Waldensians (a little more sympathetic except for Peter Waldo who preached poverty as the way to perfection. ) to Baptist eventually. I have a problem with all the heretical movements as the foundation for my faith.
     
  18. John of Japan

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    Actually, in spite of his Edict of Milan and his conquering in the name of Christ, according to Schaff Constantine did not completely turn to Christianity until his deathbed in 337. Then he was evidently baptized by an Arian. But he hardly could be said to prefer any theology.

    All of my Schaff quotes are from History of the Christian Church, "Third Period: From Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great, AD 311 to 590." I can't give page numbers since mine is a digital copy.

    Anyway, note what Schaff says: "At all events Christianity did not produce in Constantine a thorough moral transformation. He was concerned more to advance the outward social position of the Christian religion, than to further its inward mission. He was praised and censured in turn by the Christians and Pagans, the Orthodox and the Arians, as they successively experienced his favor or dislike."

    So Constantine was interested in political unity for the sake of the Roman Empire, not doctrinal unity. He knew or cared little about doctrine.

    Concerning Arius, "Arius was banished; but, three years afterward, Constantine, who regarded the whole question as one of slight importance, restored him to his church at Alexandria." (World's Great Events, by Esther Singleton, vol 2, p. 525.)

    I read many years ago that after seeing his vision with the Latin phrase In Hoc Signum Vinces, "Conquor in this Sign," meaning the cross, Constantine made the armies of his conquered rivals Galerius, Maxentius and Licinius, to bow to Christ under threat of death. However, I can't find this in my histories, so I have to back off on it.

    At any rate, his unification of the churches was a terrible blow to true NT Christianity. Forced unity is no unity at all. It invariably leads to apostasy. A modern parallel is in Japan during WW2. The Japanese government forced all churches into one denomination ruled by the government, and enforced it with the Kenpeitai secret police. Christian opponents of this were thrown in prison. (I know personally two children of pastors thrown in prison, one in Heaven now.) The churches were forced to have a picture of Emperor Hirohito (said to be deity) in the church, and bow to it (an act of worship) before each service--bowing to a false god before bowing to Christ.
     
  19. John of Japan

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    There are three theories of Baptist history: (1) That the first true Baptists were the English Baptists of the early 17th century. (2) That there have always been groups that loved the Bible and sought to follow it, and thus were close to being Baptists. (3) The Baptist successionism of The Trail of Blood view.

    I fit in view 2. I believe that God has always had a remnant, true churches that love the Lord and the Word of God. In the days of Constantine there was a great confusion about what was going on, and I have no doubt that many true believers and churches were caught up in the hype, just as in Japan during WW2. In Japan, true believers started coming late to church so they wouldn't have to bow to the Emperor! And of course to this day many come late to church! :laugh:

    Concerning the Donatists, I believe that much written about them is false, because it was written by their enemies. V. Raymond Edmond (not a Baptist, I believe, and certainly not a successionist) says, "The Donatist movement late in the fourth century received bitter opposition and persecution from the Church, with the support of the Empire. The Donatists held the Church to be an exclusive community of regenerate saints, a fellowship spiritual and idealistic, however imperfectly realized in the world, and not to be a heterogeneous assembly of believers and nominal Christians. They emphasized separation from the world as against inclusivism, subjective experience of the new-birth as against church-membership, holiness of life and church discipline as against laxity of conduct, Christianity as membership in the mystical body of Christ as against a Christendom of baptized heathendom. In vain did Gaudentius, one of their leading bishops in North Africa, protest that the Saviour had appointed prophets and fishermen, not princes and soldiers, to spread the gospel." (The Light in Dark Ages, p. 48)

    So, the Donatists held to many of the Baptist distinctives: a saved membership, baptism by immersion (according to some), separation of church and state, etc.
     
  20. Zenas

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    John, I would tend to agree with Edmond concerning the Donatists, but I don't think he told the whole truth. The Donatists were to the Catholic Church what the Puritans were to the Church of England, or perhaps more correctly what fundamentalists are to the Baptist Church. Not many doctrinal differences but dedicated to higher standards. The Catholics were inclusive; the Donatists (who regarded themselves as the real Catholics) were exclusive.
    Donatists believed in the sacraments, except they did not believe in the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. They believed in the Catholic priesthood. They venerated relics. Not much of a forerunner to the Baptist faith.
     

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