Not the Center of Christianity   Leave a comment

Christianity spent three centuries as a persecuted (but growing) minority in a Roman Empire that was once vigorous, but by the early 4th century was starting to weaken. Constantine recognized a need to provide stability across the Empire, which was a collection of diverse nations with very little in common. Seeing a diverse, but largely unified Christian movement already existing in the Empire, Constantine may have thought he could use it to his advantage.

Of course, the 4th century Christians were relieved to no longer face death as crowd-spectacle for their beliefs. The Council of Nicea is not overtly odd to my mind. Christians had held regional councils in the past to decide doctrinal issues. There’s little evidence that Constantine cared much how the Nicean council decided the primary issue of Christ’s nature. It appears he personally favored the Arian view that Jesus was a created being representing God, but when he realized that most Christians favored what would become known as the trinitarian view, he allowed the decision to stand. He wanted unity among Christians and really didn’t care what their beliefs were. In fact, when he was baptized on his death bed (just in case the Christian god cared, I suppose) he was baptized by an Arian bishop, as if the decision at Nicea meant nothing to him — which it didn’t.

Constantine’s interest in Christianity was purely a political calculation that a sizeable chunk of the population that was peaceful, productive and cooperative with one another could infuse the crumbling Roman Empire with a new productivity and consensus.

He felt it necessary to move his capital toward the East where the Empire was significantly weakening. That meant he needed to establish something stable in Rome.

Ah, Rome — the center of the Roman Empire!

It surprises a lot of people to learn that Rome was not the center of the Christianity.

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