Christianity as a Roman religion

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From 303 to 311, Christians suffered their most severe persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian. His edicts, continued by his successor, Galerius, brought the destruction of churches and sacred books, the enslavement of Christian household servants, torture, and death to some 1,500 believers. The obstinance of the Christians, who refused to sacrifice to the gods or pay homage to the Roman emperor, as well as the astounding growth of their religion, was a threat to the established order. But the persecutions failed to suppress the spread of Christianity, and the hopelessly ill Galerius issued an edict of toleration in 311 shortly before his death, asking for the prayers of the Christians in return for “our most gentle clemency.”

Busts Sol Invinctus (left) and Constantine holding a shield bearing the emblem of the Sol chariot. Gold nine-solidus multiple minted in Ticinum (Pavia) in 313 AD to commemorate Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge.
Central panel of a Roman mosaic found at Hinton St. Mary. Dating from the 4th century, it is one of the earliest depictions of Christ to survive to the present.

In what is considered a turning point for Christianity, Constantine, competing for control of the Roman empire, won a decisive battle in 312 after seeing a vision of a cross in the sky bearing the words “in this sign conquer” and then ordering his soldiers to paint the cross on their shields as he was directed to do in a dream. Constantine became sole emperor in 324, and while declaring himself a Christian he continued to support both paganism and Christianity.

Writing of the growing synthesis of Christian and pagan thinking, author Ian Wilson notes,

That Constantine himself mixed Christianity and the Sol Invictus [pagan sun god] cult is clear from a second commemorative medallion issued by him within two years of the first, on which he represented himself with a Chi-Rho monogram [Christian symbol formed from the first two letters, X and P, of the Greek word for Christ] on his helmet, and with a leaping Sol chariot horse below. How far Jesus had become divorced in western Christians’ minds from the Jew of history is forcefully illustrated by a portrait of him as a beardless Apollo-like youth in a mosaic that once decorated the floor of the Romano-Christian villa at Hinton St. Mary in Dorset. Only the Chi-Rho monogram identifies it as Jesus.

Although Constantine became an ever-stronger defender of the Christian cause and was baptized on his deathbed, some historians claim that he shrewdly used religion as a means to further his own political ends. In 325, when the bitter Arian controversy threatened schism in the Church, Constantine himself called the first ecumenical council of over 300 bishops in Nicaea, presided over the opening session, and took part in its debates; for “in the Arian controversy lay a great obstacle to the realization of Constantine’s idea of a universal empire which was to be attained by aid of uniformity of divine worship." [1]

Arius taught that Christ was not equal or eternal with the Creator but as the Logos was the first and highest of created beings, whereas his opponents said the Son was “of one substance with the Father.” As historian Will Durant observes,

If Christ was not God, the whole structure of Christian doctrine would begin to crack; and if division were permitted on this question, chaos of belief might destroy the unity and authority of the Church, and therefore its value as an aide to the state.

The council rejected Arius’ position and adopted the Nicene Creed, which read in part: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,... and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father,... God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.”

Athanasius, who became the chief proponent of Nicene orthodoxy, explained 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.” [2]

Arius, anathematized by the council, was exiled by edict of Constantine, who also ordered all his books to be burned upon penalty of death. Some of the bishops who assented in the presence of Constantine to the wording of the creed later expressed their remorse. Wilson writes:

Only on returning home did Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris of Chalcedon and Theognis of Nicaea summon the courage to express to Constantine in writing how much they regretted having put their signatures to the Nicene formula: “We committed an impious act, O Prince,’ wrote Eusebius of Nicomedia, “by subscribing to a blasphemy from fear of you.”...
Although no gospel regarded Jesus as God, and not even Paul had done so, the Jewish teacher had been declared Very God through all eternity, and a whole new theology would flow from this.... Even in the John gospel, the one most inclined to make Jesus divine, he is reported as stating quite categorically, “the Father is greater than I.”[3]

Furthermore, the emperor’s involvement in Church affairs created a precedent for civil leadership in Church councils. Nicaea “marked the replacement of paganism with Christianity as the religious expression and support of the Roman Empire,” says Durant. “By [Constantine’s] aid Christianity became a state as well as a church, and the mold, for fourteen centuries, of European life and thought.”

Commentary by El Morya

El Morya comments on these events:

Beloved ones, through all of this I have discovered in all of these lifetimes that one may make great progress with the children of the Light, with the seed of the root races. But the response from the brothers of the shadow is to find out the scheme, the strategy, the game which they imagine you are playing—to find fault with it or, if they believe it has merit, to turn it to their own devices.
Thus Christianity became a universal religion based on the ambitions of Rome and a Roman emperor. Some saw fit to raise high the banner of persecution to the extreme. When this no longer served their purposes, they embraced Christianity and sealed within it the idolatrous cult that has been present ever since. Thus Christianity has descended as a Roman religion, not as a religion of Jesus.
Therefore understand that when it suits the powers that be to create a universality of anything, you will know it is not for the purpose to which you have decreed, but to their own ends. The Great White Brotherhood sees the unity of nations under God, sees the oneness of Light both in government, in science, and in religion—this only when the point of individual Christhood is attained for the responsible use of these avenues leading toward the unification of all.
Beloved ones, the one-world aims and systems in the economy and the governments today can only lead to the neutralization of the power of Christ in the individual, can only lead to the destruction of the highest path of mysticism which has become your own as initiates of the will of God.[4]

Sources

  1. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, s.v. “Nicaea [Nice], Councils of”.
  2. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 2d. ser., 14:3–4.
  3. John 14:28.
  4. El Morya, “The Universal Religion,” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 28, no. 81, December 22, 1985.

See Ian Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984), pp. 162, 168, 176; and Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, vol. 3 of The Story of Civilization (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), pp. 652, 659, 661, 664.