THE ROMANIZATION OF CHRIST AND CHRISTIANITY
By Pastor Ray Hagins
Looking back through the evolution of Christian theology, it should be noted that it was the emperor Constantine who did more than anyone else in history to introduce the subtleties of pernicious precepts into Christianity.
Whereas before him under Diocletian, in the last and most severe period of persecution, the catacombs of Rome were full of Christian renegades, Constantine, seeing that the old gods of Rome were losing their popularity because so many people were turning to become Christians and confronted by the rising tide toward Christianity, decided, "I can't lick 'em so I'll join 'em."
While yet competing for control of the Roman Empire in A.D. 312, Constantine claimed to have been told by God in a dream to have his soldiers paint the Chi-Rho (a Christian symbol consisting of the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ) on their shields, and as a result won a decisive battle.
He went on to defeat his rival and became the holy Roman emperor Constantine, who has been portrayed in all his regal robes celebrating Christian rites and declaring himself a Christian yet still tolerating the pagan cults of the day; using them all as a means to his political ends of unifying the empire. And to this day Constantine is remembered for "freeing" the Christians and "Christianizing" the empire. In fact, he "Romanized" Christ and Christianity.
The degree to which Constantine sought to synthesize Christianity and paganism can be seen in one of the emperor's commemorative medallions that shows him with a Chi-Rho monogram on his helmet and a Sol Invictus (pagan sun god) chariot horse below. And what did they teach? They taught what Romans would be expected to teach. They presented Jesus as a "god." They led the people astray into a cult of idolatry more Satanic than Christ-like. They taught people to worship Jesus as a flesh-and-blood martyr and messiah.
In 325 A.D., when this bitter controversy threatened schism in the Church (and with it Constantine's goal of a "universal empire" for which he had worked long and hard) the emperor called the first ecumenical council of over 300 bishops in Nicea, had the state to pay for all their expenses, and lodged them in his palace. Constantine himself presided over the opening session of the council and took part in its debates.
The conflict centered around Arius, a pastor in the Alexandrian Church who taught that Jesus, the Christ, was not equal or eternal with the Creator but, as the Logos, was the first and highest of created beings --- "divine only by participation," by God's grace
--- whereas his opponents said the Son was "of one substance with the Father." In the simplest of terms, the point at issue was whether Jesus was a mere human being who had been brought into existence to serve God's purpose; to act as the "word" of God at a particular time in the early First Century A.D., or whether he had been God for all eternity, "of one substance with the Father." If the latter, then he was effectively a supraterrestrial entity easily compatible with Sol Invictus, but light years removed from the Jesus envisaged by Arius and the Antiochenes (supporters of Arius who emphasized the human element as distinct from the divine in Jesus).
When all was said and done, the council, as commanded by Constantine, rejected Arius' position and adopted the Nicene Creed:
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in Heaven and in earth. Who, for us men and for our salvation came down [from Heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day He rose again, and ascended into Heaven. And He shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion --- all that to say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathamatizes them." ("A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church" Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1979) 2d ser., 14:3
The main issue in the controversy over the Nicene Creed (which continued on for fifty (50) years more until the First Council of Constantinople again condemned all forms of Arianism) was the use of the word homoousios ("of one substance") to define the relationship of Jesus, the Christ to the Father, which was ordered into the creed by Constantine himself.
Athanasius, the patriarch of Alexandria and chief proponent of Nicene orthodoxy, later wrote that the intent of the creed was to show that "the resemblance of the Son to the Father, and his immutability, are different from ours: for in us they are something acquired, and arise from our fulfilling the divine commands."
Only two of the bishops at Nicea refused to sign the creed. Along with Arius, they were anathematized ("cursed") by the council and exiled by decree of Constantine, who also ordered all of Arius' books to be burned upon penalty of death. After returning home a few of the bishops expressed their remorse for assenting to the new formula. Note the following statement written by Eusebius of Nicodemia:
"We committed an impious act, O Prince, by subscribing to a blasphemy from fear of you..."
from Wilson, "Jesus: The Evidence" p.168
Although no gospel regarded Jesus as God, and not even Paul had done so, Jesus was declared "Very God" through all eternity, and a whole new theology would flow from this. Even in the gospel of John (the one most inclined to make Jesus divine) Jesus is reported as saying, "I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I..." (John 14:2.
Nicea was indeed a turning point in more ways than one. Constantine's involvement in Church affairs also created a precedent for civil leadership in Church councils. Nicea marked the replacement of paganism with Christianity as the religious expression and support of the Roman Empire. By order of Constantine, Christianity became a state as well as a church, and the mold, for fourteen centuries, of European life and thought.
Well, we may ask the question: Who ever gave the Roman emperor the right to decide Christian doctrine? The answer is simple...it was a political feat to gain support and momentum for his personal agenda of a "universal Church" over which he would preside. The scriptural basis that he used to link Christianity with his pagan sun god (Sol Invictus) was Malachi 4:2, where the Christ is referred to as the "SUN (not SON) of righteousness." This was the perfect verse to support the merge of paganism into Christianity.
Is it possible that what we know as Christianity today was not, in truth, what the first and second century believers (followers of Jesus and his teachings) practiced and lived in their daily lives, but in fact a religious perversion that was spawned by the Roman Euro-Gentile empire and its powerful influence upon the entire world?