Posts Tagged Constantine

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 11

Posted by on Friday, 9 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 11 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Jarrod McKenna and Chris Marshall

 

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Transcript:

Jarrod McKenna: Since the Constantinian shift in the church there has been a change in Christians’ thinking where they think that the role of the Christian in the world, be it George Bush or Tony Blair or whoever else, has been, Christians should rule, Christians should be in charge, we’re the good guys. And that’s completely foreign to the early Christians and to the Anabaptists as well. They would say that our role is not to rule the world but to be a lived-in community, a sign of a world transformed. So that’s a fascinating model. How do we stay in these places which are clearly not transformed, which clearly participate in oppression and a destruction of creation? How do we stay in those places without participating in them ourselves, even if it means we become wedged between these two worlds? These are practical nitty-gritty issues of day-to-day living that we talk about, and we discern the Spirit’s movement as communities. This has been the witness of Anabaptism, the witness of the early Friends, Quakers, the witness of the early church. And also you find it in places like the Base communities of the Catholic liberation theology on the ground level where people are opening up the scriptures and going ‘How do we live this out? What does that look like in our situations of day-to-day life’?

Gary Bryson: Jarrod McKenna, one of the founders of the Peace Tree Christian Commune in Perth, and also the founder and creative director of ‘Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community’.

The Anabaptist focus on post-Christendom poses a particular problem for mainstream Christianity. If Christianity is indeed no longer at the centre of power, should it continue to behave as though it is, or should it be reconceived, in Anabaptist terms, as a church that operates at the margins? Chris Marshall.

Chris Marshall: In many ways Anabaptism is an idea that’s found its day. I mean if you think, what is the contemporary context of the church at this time of history in Australia and New Zealand? What is the world that we live in? Well it’s one that’s characterised I think by the demise of Christendom. Now after a 1500 year period where it was assumed that the church, state and the culture were all part of the same mix, and that one was a Christian by virtue of belonging to a Western European Christian society – that’s what we mean by Christendom – but that really has unravelled and has pretty well disappeared, certainly in the Western world. And churches that have for 1500 years assumed that reality are kind of left, spinning really, to know quite what it means to be church now in this new world. And a tradition that has always emphasised voluntary commitment and nonconformity has something to say to us in that context.

We’re also in a context of growing secularisation, certainly at an institutional level in society, of growing pluralism, in terms of religious beliefs and practices, and I think in this kind of confusing pluralist relativist, secularist world that we live in where the church has been pushed to the fringes, many people are rediscovering, I think, the Anabaptist ideal of dissident communities of faith who commend the gospel to society by lifestyle as much as by theory, a lifestyle that is committed to non-violence, to justice, to peacemaking, to sharing and so on.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 8

Posted by on Tuesday, 6 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 8 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Mark Hurst, Chris Marshall, and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: The over-riding authority then for Anabaptists was and is the New Testament. All scripture is interpreted according to the teachings of Jesus Christ as they understand them. Perhaps the most important consequence of this is a fervent commitment to non-violence.

Peacemaking was and is in many ways one of the more radical expressions of Anabaptism, isn’t it, and it’s also one of the most controversial, and one of the other reasons that people were persecuted?

Mark Hurst: Yes. The Anabaptists in the 16th century and since have refused to join military forces, often refused to join police, and this goes back to an understanding of what the church is. For many Anabaptists, in the 16th century and even today, when they look at church history and they look at Constantine, rather than seeing that as a high moment in church history, they see that as the fall of the church, and they see the introduction of Christendom as something that they were against, that linking of church and state. So from the very beginning, they said no, the church should not be linked to the state, and because of that then, as Christians they didn’t get involved in the political forces, and particularly the police and the army, that they would use lethal force to enforce their ways.

Chris Marshall: When you come to the issue of violence, I think a huge cleavage opens up. As I understand the teaching of Jesus – and this is open to dispute, not everybody would agree – but as I understand the teaching of Jesus, he did reject coercive violence, he did encourage his followers to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, not to use the sword. And when you say well, if that’s the case and we look at Christian history, why has the church been so caught up in violence? To this day the dominant Christian position on war is the ‘just war’ theory, which believes that under certain circumstances, war is all but obligatory, and that it is not inconsistent with discipleship for Christians to participate in that. And so how does that square with the teaching of Jesus? Well, we either have some way of limiting the teaching of Jesus to personal conduct or to private areas so that it is no longer an obstacle to fighting a war, or we ignore it. So to take this seriously I think is quite radical.

Thorwald Lorenzen: It is very important that the church – actually all of religion, but in our setting, the church – has a clear peace witness, because we know that all over the world religion is functionalised to validate violence and war, what the state is still using as a political instrument. And here all religions are invited today, to make a clear commitment to non-violence.

Chris Marshall: The commitment to peace, the commitment to non-violence flows from an understanding of the teaching of Jesus. The Anabaptist tradition by and large said, well, this means that followers of Jesus must not be involved in lethal coercion, and I guess a corollary of that is if you’re not going to be involved in war, then it’s not enough just to withdraw into a kind of separate community of pacifism, but you also need to be committed to peace-making.

Thorwald Lorenzen: Today, as you know, for instance in the church’s stance with regard to the war in Iraq, there was basically a unanimous opinion of all the churches, and all the church leaders, to oppose the war. So we have reached the stage today where in light of modern military technology, most or perhaps all churches would agree that war is no longer an institution by which we need to do politics. So in a sense, the Anabaptist vision today has become ecumenical.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 2

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 February, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision

[Part 2 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Thorwald Lorenzen and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Thorwald Lorenzen: Up to the fourth century, the church and Christians were pacifists. In the 4th century, with the victory of Constantine on the Milvian Bridge, just before his military victory, Constantine had a vision of Christ, and in this vision, he was asked to fight the battle under the banner of the cross, and he did this and he won. And this military victory has become a major influence of the Christian church. Under Constantine, the church began to have privileges, the clergy began to have privileges, the church was used to unify the Emperor, and ever since this marriage between church and state has determined the history of the church. In the Reformation, in theory, this history was finished, but it is still living on in the state churches in many countries today.

Gary Bryson: Thorwald Lorenzen. It was a commitment to pacifism that first set the Swiss Anabaptists up against the mainstream Reformation. In Switzerland the Reformers were led by Huldrych Zwingli, one of the major Reformation figures alongside Luther and Calvin. The issue had quickly divided the country, canton against canton. But the Anabaptists resisted Zwingli’s call to arms against the Catholics. John Hirt.

John Hirt: Zwingli as a Protestant reformer in the Canton of Zürich was keen to raise an army to fight against the Catholic Cantons; tragically in the history of Christianity, here’s the church at war, fighting among itself, and it was slaughter and slaughter and slaughter all over the place. Zwingli therefore, wanted to get everybody he could into his army, to fight the Catholic Cantons. He happened to have two best friends, two of his best Biblical scholars, one a Greek scholar, the other a Hebrew scholar, one was Conrad Grebel, and the other guy called Felix Manz. They were both ardent Christians, who like a lot of people at the time said that there’s something more to what Jesus says than us being behoven to the state, or to be given to killing and to that whole process of what the world expects of us. They of course were seen by Zwingli as being betrayers, and when he began to raise an army, these two allies of his, two of his best scholar friends, said to him, ‘We cannot fight because it is not lawful for us to fight. We are followers of Jesus.’ And they chastised Zwingli – he didn’t take that kindly.

Then, to cut to the chase, the argument became about well, who belongs to the state and who doesn’t belong to the state? And at that point, Zwingli said, ‘If you’re baptised as an infant, you belong to the state’, and at that point the Anabaptists started to say, ‘Wait a minute, if that’s what infant baptism is about, me being behoven to the state, that’s a problem.’ And so that’s when the whole discussion really picked up.

The Constantinian Shift – Part 3

Posted by on Monday, 13 February, 2012

Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House church in Ontario, Canada, discusses the early church’s views on pacifism, before and after Constantine

[Part 3 of a 3-part series]

Ministry: The Meeting House
Full Podcast: The Emperor’s New Clothes
Date: 4/11/10
Speaker: Bruxy Cavey

 

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Bruxy Cavey


Notes: 
Constantine wanted Christianity to flourish… but it would flourish at the demise of the Roman Empire… he had a problem that needed a solution, and some of the best minds went to work, such as Augustine; Augustine, then, started writing things like this: “War is waged to serve the peace”; Here we have within Christian circles the first time that peace as a means and peace as an ends is separated; Additional quotes from Augustine; In his writing he turns more and more to the Old Testament, and then you see another trend happening that happens within just war theory… and that is a desperate attempt to find some clue in the teaching of Jesus that might tell us He didn’t actually mean what He said and say what He meant in His very clear teaching on the way of peace; And so we see this snippet, or that parable, or this over here, and that starts to come up… that pattern still exists today… comes up often when talking with non-pacifists, and we see it begin in the writing of Augustine; Luke 14:23; It is an exercise in exegetical desperation… but we see it become the norm in Augustinian thinking and rationale

The Constantinian Shift – Part 2

Posted by on Sunday, 12 February, 2012

Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House church in Ontario, Canada, discusses the early church’s views on pacifism, before and after Constantine

[Part 2 of a 3-part series]

Ministry: The Meeting House
Full Podcast: The Emperor’s New Clothes
Date: 4/11/10
Speaker: Bruxy Cavey

 

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Bruxy Cavey


Notes: 
One of the last voices before the Constantinian shift that we hear from is Lactantius, who is actually the tutor of Constantine’s son, Crispus; Quote from Lactantius; In this commandment of God, no exceptions at all ought to be made to the rule that it always wrong to kill a man, whom God has wished to be regarded as a sacrosanct creature; From Constantine on, things change, and over the centuries ahead we get a new norm; Examples of what becomes normative after Constantine; Quote from Jacques de Vitry; Now pacifism is seen as demonic; Quote from John of Mantua; What we find in much of their writings is the shift has moved from the example and teaching of Jesus to the example of other Old Testament saints, where violence is used to establish the kingdom of Israel and maintain the kingdom of Israel… and so David, Joshua, and others become the heroes of the faith, and Jesus steps to the sideline in much of their writing; Quote from Pope Innocent IV

The Constantinian Shift – Part 1

Posted by on Saturday, 11 February, 2012

Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House church in Ontario, Canada, discusses the early church’s views on pacifism, before and after Constantine

[Part 1 of a 3-part series]

Ministry: The Meeting House
Full Podcast: The Emperor’s New Clothes
Date: 4/11/10
Speaker: Bruxy Cavey

 

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Bruxy Cavey


Notes: 
Pre-Constantine, the church that was associated with the Roman Empire rallied around a concept called “patientia“… it is Latin for “patience”… it meant “enduring evil so as not to commit it, rather than committing evil so as not to endure it”; They unanimously taught that we should do anything to avoid killing, because that would destroy our witness for Christ; It’s always ok to die for a cause… it’s just never ok to kill for a cause; Suffering well… dying well… loving your enemies as they extinguish your life… could be one of the greatest witnesses for the transformative nature of the kingdom of Christ at work in your heart… so why would we fight back to preserve our life?; The word “martyr”, which has now come to mean someone who dies for their faith, doesn’t actually mean that–it means a “witness”–someone who is a witness is a martyr; The early church said, well, one of the best ways you can be a witness is actually to die for your faith while you love your enemy; So to be one who dies for the faith came to be seen as the ultimate “witness”, and they were called “martyrs”; The unanimous voice of the church pre-Constantine… quotes from Origen, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Arnobius; You can agree or disagree, but this was the unanimous opinion of the church for 300 years

Frank Viola And Organic Church – Part 7

Posted by on Monday, 12 December, 2011

Frank Viola discusses the institutional church vs. organic church

[Part 7 of an 8-Part series]

Show: Nomad Podcast
Full Podcast: Nomad 8: Frank Viola and Organic Church
Date: 9/10/09
Guest:
Frank Viola
Notes: 
The sophists–pagan philosophers–would go around and be paid for teaching a group of people; They would sit there mesmerized by the great oratory of the greco-roman philosopher and orator, and that was brought straight into the Christian faith; That’s when you had the birth of the “one-man show”–giving the sermon and being paid for it; Then when Constantine came along, that’s when the guillotine dropped, and lots of things started happening there… clergy salaries, “sacred” buildings being gone up (“the house of the Lord”), people calling church a building (the church was never a building, it was the bride of Christ, it was the people of God); Today a lot of writers are talking about the Constantinian influence of empire, war, the whole issue of how people are being treated, and what the kingdom of God is opposed to empire, and tracing it all back to Constantine; You can find a lot of this in people like Stuart Murray, Greg Boyd, Brian McLaren, and other emerging writers… these observations about Constantinian influences are dead on, but we also need to go further and look at the Constantinian influences on the practice of the church; “Pagan Christianity?” and “Reimagining Church” are two sides to the same coin–”Pagan Christianity?” deconstructs and exposes where we got all these practices from, and raises the question, “Are they a help or are they a hindrance? And are they rooted in New Testament principles, or do they violate them?”, and then “Reimagining Church” paints a constructive picture of what the church of Jesus Christ can be and should be

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The Constantinian Compromise

Posted by on Saturday, 24 September, 2011

Tony Campolo discusses the change in the Christian church after 300 years of nonviolent resistance/pacifism, as it first began to embrace war under the Emperor Constantine.

Show: Across the Pond
Full Podcast: Campolo – Repeat: Peace Movements Part II (3/26/10)
Host: Tony Campolo
Notes: For the first 300 years of its existence… Christians were non-belligerents (they were not in the army); Those who became Christians often left the army if they were already in the army; For the first 300 years, the Christian church preached nonviolent resistance/pacifism; Why the change?; Up until the time of the Emperor Constantine, the church had been a persecuted minority; Constantine wanted to unify the Roman Empire… one of the ways of unifying the empire was to create a common, universal religion–he chose Christianity; “In this sign, conquer”; He became a “Christian” and ordered that Christianity become the “official religion” of the empire; The Christians were thrilled… no longer were they a persecuted minority; Overnight, they had been designated as “the moral majority”; But that recognition and legitimation came at a price… if you are going to get the support of the empire, then you’re going to have to support the empire in return, which the church readily did; In supporting the empire, they had to in fact support the empire’s militarism… and that’s when it all changed; It changed under Constantine, it changed at the Council of Nicaea… from then on, the church now supported war, and it remained only for Augustine to legitimate this with just war theory; There is no historian that will argue… for the first 300 years the church was pacifist, and it supported nonviolent resistance; If you go to the ancient writings, every one of them pronounces judgment against war and says Christians cannot participate in the army; There is nothing that polluted and ruined the church more than the Constantinian Compromise

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