not so great: church and state

before constantine there were no cathedrals – no official christian buildings. the church met primarily in homes and understood each believer to be temples of the holy spirit. as second century christian minucius felix wrote in his octavius dialgoue:

you mistakenly think we conceal what we worship since we have no temples or altars. yet how can anyone make an image of god? man himself is the image of god. how can anyone build a temple to him when the whole world cant contain him? even i – a mere human – travel far and wide. so how can anyone shut up the majesty of so great a person within one small building? isnt it better for him to be dedicated in our minds and consecrated in our hearts – rather than a building?

the closest thing any of the christians before constantine had to a church building was a home with a wall knocked out for space in dura europas – a small town centered around a border fort in the roman province of syria. other than this example and others like it the early christians were by threat of persecution and necessity confined to meet in homes.

but this is where the church grew.

yet in the aftermath of constantines supposed conversion worship took on an imperial nature. as imperial basilicas replaced homes as sites of worship one of the most noticeable consequences was a decrease in congregational participation and interaction. ministers were now given special prominence and carried out official duties.

and as i consider all this and look at the church as we know it currently im struck by just how closely we have followed constantines example and im left to wonder how a pagan emperor can have possibly led us in the right direction concerning how our worship should be housed and arranged. and i wonder how the holy spirit can be confined to an order of worship. and i am confounded by the idea that worship can ever include imperial iconography.

now there are those who would shrug off these problems and claim that a sincere heart trumps all. but sincerity has never been the mark of truth – lest we forget there are very sincere people in every faith. sincerity is no more an answer to these problems than ignorance. and as the christian faith falters in the west and only makes real gains via hyperbolic emotionalism in the southern hemisphere it certainly seems worth considering that we have embedded in our lives an institution that takes its major traditions from an imperialistic pagan emperor.

and thats a serious problem.


~ by graceshaker on March 6, 2009.

10 Responses to “not so great: church and state”

  1. I don’t think the pagan did us a favor. State sponsorship messed up the message. i agree whole heartedly.

  2. I honestly believe why most people think our gov’t supporting Christianity is a “good” thing is b/c they feel it takes away all their responsibility to spread the message on their own. For those people who think the gov’t is capable of doing anything better than it’s people just take a look at the track record folks! If Jesus intended for gov’t’s to be the torch bearers of the faith, why did gov’t officials end up being his oppressor and murderer? All questions I have for prayer lead by teachers in school…gov’t sanctioned religion, etc

  3. WOW! That last sentance is in no way coherent! LOL!

  4. Oh yes, because no pagan has ever done anything good. Ever. Not once. *rolls eyes*

    Guess what, churchie? I’d rather burn in hell FOR ALL ETERNITY than worship your god. Deal with it!

  5. Goliath, as much as you claim that we fit some stereotype for “Christians” your church-hating, insulting, and spiteful comments fit a common child. No one is asking for you to adopt every word we say as truth, but a little common decency couldn’t hurt. It is funny that your last gateful comment is directed at the blogger to deal with it….oddly enough as much as I am sure we both would love to carry on an adult conversation so you won’t burn in hell…as you say…you are the one who has to deal with the decisions you make…no one else here does. Just something to think about. I think the point is that a pagan pretending to be a Christian is what has hurt our faith.

  6. No, churchie, you’re still not getting it: I would rather burn in hell than worship your god. When will that finally sink in?

  7. No, I read what you typed. I understand clearly what you are saying. I just find a unique hypocracy in a person so obviously against anything being forced upon them, yet a stubborn unwillingness to participate in a conversation. No one is saying you have to believe everything that is said, as I have openly disagreed with people on this blog. I would like to ask you to participate with a tad bit of dignity, and be open to the views of others while we listen to your views. This will require less insults and more conversing, but as you have boldly claimed, you will do what you want to do. I hope we can have a good conversation some time in the future. The name is Jon , or churchie I guess works too.

  8. Whose god Goliath? Graceshaker’s, J-smed’s, or another?

    And why do you hate him? Or do you just have a hard-line opposition to any form of worship? Just curious.

  9. goliath – im not going to try and figure out why youve chosen to comment on my blog but i appreciate your presence here as a voice of dissent. i only ask that ours be a productive conversation.

  10. […] a couple years ago i started a series of blogs intending to address some current problems in the church by taking a historical look at their roots. the first two blogs in this series briefly covered how our current mode of doing church owes more to the pagan emperor constantine and roman imperialism than to jesus or the disciples. you can find these posts here and here. […]

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