The Constantinian Theorem
Robert Wurtz II
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:11-12)
The Only Hope
Peter writes his first epistle in around 63 AD. This is seven years before the First Jewish Revolt. The storm was gathering. The Christians could hear the chatter. The Zealots were preaching a message of rebellion — the opposite of what Jesus preached. The Zealots radical arm known as the Sacarii were assassinating people. In fact, Rome was getting fed up. War was about to break out. The drums were beating (as it were). In the midst of this Peter states, Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:11-12)
What is he talking about? He is referring to men who lived and died like Stephen in Acts 7. He refused to get in the flesh, even though they were mercilessly stoning him to death. Jesus Christ was set forth evidently among those who stoned him. Paul was one who observed this event. Having beheld such an awesome example of Jesus — he glorified God on the day of his visitation. This was how the Church was founded. This is what turned the world upside down. From Domition in the first century Rome to Diocletion in the late third century Rome, countless Christians loved not their lives unto the death. Their blood was spilled as if it were water.
The Rise of Constantinianism
It is impossible to express how radically the visible church changed after Constantine came to power, ended the persecutions, and made Christianity the official religion of Rome. Therefore, Constantinianism has been defined as “the shift of ecclesial identity that occurred in the fourth century church when it became an imperial power, instead of a church identified with the martyrdom of Jesus and his followers. The result was to place the locus of the church’s action in the political and military realm rather than in the kingdom of God.” (Wiki) This marked the beginning of what we commonly call “Christendom” and witnessed the joining of church and state. From this time, Christian ethics no longer centered in Church worship or Jesus’ example and teachings. Dissenters and rivals became civil threats (Arians, Donatists, Copts, etc.) and missions were performed by conquest.
A cursory read of history will show that the visible church failed miserably at representing Jesus Christ once book of Acts style evangelism ended. People were “born a Christian”; as opposed to “born again Christians.” When a person professes Christ and has not been born again, they still have their carnal mind and their sinful nature. I have said it before and I say it again now, this makes the person the most dangerous people on earth. They believe they are saved and are still in the carnal mind. What could be more dangerous? They profess Christ and are devoid of His Spirit, His compassion, love, peace, etc. They believe they are God’s people and that their beliefs are God-pleasing. I suggest this is how multitudes have fought in bloody battles under the banner of Christianity during the Middle Ages. This is also how Christian on Christian violence was perpetrated during the Reformation years. Could a person be full of the Holy Spirit as was Stephen and turn around and drown a fellow believer or behead them? I trow not.
Violence = Christianity – New Birth (V=C-NB)
The basis of my “Constantinian Theorum” is that “violence increases proportionally to a deemphasis on New Birth.” Proving this theorem is not an exercise carried out on a chalk board or laboratory; but by examining a constant in history that where New Birth is not preached, violence became an accepted means of dealing with people who were considered a threat to the accepted definition of Christianity. In fact, it is shocking how many people today, after over 100 years of decisional regeneration (sinners prayer, sawdust trail, pledge card), name the name of Christ and are little different in disposition than was Peter before his change came.
It’s almost like we are back in Matthew 5 and the Disciples are looking at Jesus all crazy as He says things like:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.
And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5)
Jesus was the express image of the person of God and these teachings in Matthew 5 and elsewhere are fundamental to understanding a true Christian’s disposition. Decisional regeneration will not yield a person that walks in the reality of those things written above. They are foolishness to them and they will seek to explain them away. Only a saint or an aspiring saint will agree with what Jesus has said here. Only New Birth can take us there. Otherwise, the world races as fast as the unlocked wheels of time will take her towards Armageddon.