Living by the Sword: Constantinianism
Sources: Henry Chadwick, "The Early Church" in Richard Harries and Henry Mayr-Harting, Christianity: Two Thousand Years (Oxford, 2001); Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Postchristian Society (IVP, 1996); F.L. Cross, ed., Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1983).
Reading: Isaiah 60:10-12 or 1 Peter 2:11-17.
History of Constantinianism
One definition: a formal alliance between Church and state
Another: an eschatology that legislates the millennial kingdom of Christ through civil authorities
Hints in Isa. 60:10-12, Acts 23:11ff?
It takes root from roughly 200-400 as the Church moves from persecution to
acculturation: the Church accommodates Roman cultural and political ways
tolerance: Galerius issues edict of toleration in 311
patronage: Constantine supports churches from 313
establishment: Constantius closes temples and forbids sacrifices in 356
persecuting: Leaders and people oppress pagans and Jews from 388
monopoly: Theodosius bans pagan cults from 391
Means: The State Becomes a Church Sponsor (and then vice
Christian allegiance becomes politically and culturally attractive, then mandatory
Massive conversions stress and change older liturgies and structures
Church membership becomes citizenship (infant baptism)
The Church becomes very wealthy and propertied, the clergy tax-sheltered
Rome and Constantinople dominate and crowd out older episcopates
Bishop (Rome) and emperor (Caesaropapism) vie for supremacy
Ends: The Faith Becomes a Politically Unifying Force (and
then vice versa?)
Church uniformity and theology become direct state interests (Council of Nicea)
Dissenters and rivals become civil threats (Arians, Donatists, Copts)
Mission becomes conquest, national defense, and national security
Variety, change, incoherence congeal into homogeneity, stability, coherence
Church and state both become cultural caretakers
Christian ethics no longer centers in Church worship or Jesus' example (Christian violence)
The alliance becomes the culmination of human and divine history
The Church’s ethical transcendence is carried by clergy and monasteries
The Church's theological transcendence is carried by sacraments and "invisible Church"
After Constantinianism: Christians' Various Reactions
"Neo-constantinianism" looks for remnants of usefulness to the wider society
"Paleo-constantinianism" seeks to reclaim past civil power and authority.
"Hypo-constantinianism" withdraws from the public sphere to spiritualism
"Anti-constantinianism" concentrates on fighting the alliance
"Aconstantinianism" returns to the Church's earlier political vision of being itself