The First Christian Emperor

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The first time I picked up a slight interest about Constantine was back in 2003, when Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code came out.

It was all the rave back then, and even as I found myself engrossed in the novel, I wondered at the real historical events that surrounded the institution of Christianity as Rome’s state religion. And I wondered at how Christianity left the West and came to our Asian shores. Because really, how did we get here?

Thirteen years later, my questions are partially answered as I study Church History (Church history is much more interesting than it sounds! I think every Christian should study Church history! But that’s another blog post for another time.)

Turns out, it had a lot to do with Constantine, the first Christian emperor.

SO HOW DID IT ALL START?

It all started when the Roman empire was collapsing. It was toward the end of the third century AD, and against all odds, Diocletian (the emperor before Constantine) took the crumbling Roman empire and succeeded in returning order to the anarchy.[1] This new emperor took numerous steps to ensure the stability and efficiency of the empire.[2]

One of these steps was to purge the empire of Christians.

WHO WAS CONSTANTINE?

In the years following AD 303, the church reeled and staggered under the force of Diocletian’s vicious persecution,[3] also now known as the last major persecution of Christians in the Roman empire.

Constantine’s Conversion

At that time, Constantine himself was already a military leader, and in 312, he advanced through the Alps against his rival Maxentius to conquer Rome. Maxentius, apparently, was militarily superior, and so Constantine’s move was a gamble.[4]

What happened next was a crucial event in history that would affect the lives of Christians in the empire and redirect the course of Christianity.

There seem to be variations to the story, but the common scenes of the story are: Constantine marching to the Milvian Bridge, Constantine praying to the god of his father, and Constantine dreaming, or having a vision, of a cross in the sky and the words “Conquer by this.”[5] And so, against all odds, Constantine wins against his militarily superior rival.

constantine-03

“Vision of the Cross” by Raphael, 1520-24

Constantine himself was won to the Christian faith, or so it seemed.

The implications and consequences of this moment were vast and perhaps unprecedented, for “…to acknowledge a certain god as supreme and determine to obey him… had special consequences when an emperor was involved.”[6] Indeed, as Constantine advanced in power throughout the empire, he also advanced the promotion of Christianity.

BUT WAS CONSTANTINE REALLY CHRISTIAN?

The effect of Constantine’s conversion, however, was not immediate.

He continued to give his honors to the Sun publicly, and although he played a significant role in what we now know as the Edict of Milan in 313, the results of his edict really had little effect on status quo.[7] Some even question the sincerity of the emperor’s conversion. History tells us that he still “…conspired; he murdered, he even retained his title Pontifex Maximus as head of the state religious cult.”[8]

Just Politics?

Some interpret Constantine’s conversion as purely political, and there is no denying that just as Diocletian, Constantine too was concerned about the empire’s stability and unity. The difference in the two emperors is that while Diocletian saw Christianity as a threat, Constantine saw Christianity’s potential for unity.[9]

Constantine finds out however, perhaps to his chagrin, that internal strife had befallen the church, mostly centering on the teaching of Arius. In an effort to overcome this strife, he “inserted himself into the doctrinal debate swirling around Arius”[10] and called for the council at Nicaea. The council rulings, now known today as the Nicene Creed, established, and set precedents for Christian orthodoxy.

The Emperor’s Favors

Constantine publicly favored Christians. He built grand basilicas, endowed churches with land and exempted these lands from taxation, gave gifts of food and grain allowances to churches, besides many other things, and all these expenses were extracted from the empire’s non-Christian population, who had learned to fear the emperor, by the aggressive and violent proclamations against those who did not identify with Christianity.[11]

constantine-04-basilica-ulpia

A reconstruction of Basilica Ulpia, one of Constantine’s basilicas. (Image from http://www.khanacademy.org/humanities)

The emperor also raised his sons and daughters as Christians, and was later baptized in 337.[12] His sons carried on their father’s generosity, exempting Christians from taxes, and giving them many other favors.[13] He also increasingly limited non-Christians from performing their usual activities by prohibiting public sacrifice, closing temples, and conspiring with Christians in their acts of violence towards unbelievers.[14]

Most significantly, Christians “could now in safety follow their inclination to defend and actively advocate their religious views among unbelievers.”[15] Under the new freedom, Christian activity flourished and gave way to evangelical campaigns and publicity.

WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM CONSTANTINE’S LIFE?

On the one hand, Constantine gave the Christians a reprieve from the heavy storm of Diocletian’s persecution.

We can only speculate what would have happened if the persecution had not stopped – perhaps the church, after suffering so profusely, might have never recovered. The favors Constantine gave the church also allowed for the growth and expansion of the influence of Christianity.

However, we may have mixed feelings from Constantine’s methods in advancing the Christian faith. While there were no official proclamations of persecutions against the non-Christians, Constantine (and his successors) progressively imposed heavier and heavier burdens upon them. Moreover, Constantine’s colluding with Christians in violently oppressing non-Christians is not something Christians ought to be proud of.

If anything, the life of Constantine shows the impact of power and authority on the expansion, or suppression, of Christianity. To his credit, perhaps Constantine’s activities might have been done out of a sincere devotion to God, and some of his methods, although questionable, may have been done out of his interpretation to pay homage to God.

One thing is for certain – his leadership has irrevocably affected Christendom.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

As you read this, what impressions did you get about Constantine?

What else do you think we can learn from Constantine’s life?

What other events from Constantine’s life are you curious about?

SOURCES:

[1] Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, 4th ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 98 of 541, Kindle.

[2] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 49.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, 99 of 541, Kindle.

[5] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points, 50.

 [6] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (AD 100-400) (Westford, MA: Yale University, 1984), 43.

 [7] Ibid., 44.

[8] Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, 100 of 541, Kindle.

[9] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points, 50-51.

 [10] Ibid., 51.

 [11] Ibid., 49-50

[12] Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, 100 of 541, Kindle.

 [13] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (AD 100-400), 53.

 [14] Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), 74.

 [15] Ibid., 59.

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47 responses »

  1. It is true that Constantine’s conversion is still relevant today. It goes to show how a changed life can affect the whole nation and society, and how, if it was a leader it would really change the world. this was a good read 🙂 However, just to make things clear, this was from a Catholic view of Christianity, right? this was gotten from a traditional perspective?

    • True, Constantine was a key figure who advanced Christianity. 🙂
      I’m not sure what you mean by “Catholic view / traditional view” though. All the sources (the footnotes) I based my research on, as far as I know, are evangelical Christians.

      But actually, at this point in history, there was no distinction yet between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. There was only the catholic (as in “universal”) church. The divide between RCs and Protestants began at the Reformation, as instigated by Martin Luther in the 16th.
      These events surrounding Constantine happened waaaay back in the 4th Century. 🙂
      So I guess, in a sense, yes, this is the traditional view.

  2. Constantine the Great made a few important changes during his rule. One of the major changes that he made was the gradual Christianization of the Roman empire. He hoped that Christianity would bring unity during his reign but it did not. There were incidents that he had to mediate in various religious disputes. He changed the world to suit his vision when he adopted Christianity and founded Constantinople. Until now, the impact of his decisions continues to affect the world. Christianity has become a major religious group.

  3. I read the story of Constantine when I was maybe 10 (?) in children’s encyclopedia and really thought that he was a good Christian king until I read how people critics him and started to get confused who he really was…but anyway…

    1. Impression about him: No matter his conversion is out of gratitude or it’s just all about politics, Constantine knows that all that he had is because of the cross and he put in effort in protecting the cross and everything relates to it (protect Christians, build basilicas, called for the council of Nicaea etc)

    2. Learn from him: There’s a wise saying in Chinese that I loosely translate as “To govern the country (and bring peace to all), one should first be able to govern one’s family; to govern one’s family successfully, one should first learn to govern oneself.” To see this through a “spiritual lens”, I would say if a person wants to bring peace to all, he have to govern himself through knowing God, let God transform his life, and from there, he learn to manage his family with godly principles. And then he only able to rule the country and bring peace to all.
    I think Constantine managed to do so through his conversion and how he raised his children, and try to bring peace to the nation.

    3. Hmmm…maybe his spiritual life? Not just what he did ‘for God’, but how was his relationship with God.

    • Hmmm, I too wonder how his personal relationship with God was. I haven’t yet read anything regarding that, and I do wonder if we have any records about it. So far, all I know is that his commitment to God was the motivation behind many of his actions, which sadly include the oppression of non-Christians.

  4. It may appear to some that Constantine was using God for his own political agenda. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m certain though that the reverse is true. God was using Constantine for His Kingdom agenda. I don’t think either one of Constantine’s or Diocletian’s attitudes toward Christianity was smarter than the other. The sovereign Lord orchestrated both of them for His glory and for the fame of His name to be proclaimed among all nations. 🙂

    • “The sovereign Lord orchestrated both of them for His glory and for the fame of His name to be proclaimed among all nations.” For sure! It’s comforting to now that whatever Constantine’s motivations were, God was still in control, using the circumstances and situation to bring the gospel to the world.

  5. Since it seems that there may be several versions to Constantine’s story of conversation, I guess no one can conclude about the authenticity of his Christian faith.
    From a political standpoint, Constantine was wise to adjust to the needs of some of his subordinates by giving Christians more favor (just basing my opinions from this article).
    Only God knows his heart. I think that what we can learn from his life is that God is Sovereign. God may allow leaders to expand His Kingdom, and God may allow persecution as well.
    I’m curious with Constantine’s conversion story, what really happened.

    • It is true that we will never know whether his conversion was real or not. All we know, based on historical records, was that he did things, and he claimed that his motivations were because of his commitment to his “new deity.”

      Also, regarding Constantine’s conversion… Although there are several versions of the “Milvian Bridge” story, the important elements are the same, so I think we can say that perhaps, there must be some element of truth in that. 🙂

  6. Is Constantine a Christian? I would say yes. However, he is more a politician. I would compare him to a worldly man that so attach with the pattern of this world.

    Lesson learn: As Christians we should not compromise. We win others by love not by force.

    Event of his life that I want to know:
    Love life, Walk with God and Thought about Jesus Christ.

    I want to know his thought about

    • haha, at this point, I don’t know anything about his love life, except that he was married, and that he had children. I *too* am actually curious about his personal spirituality. Might be a good topic to research and read up on.

  7. Thank you for this Missionartist! Your study encouraged me to learn and know more about Christian history! Because of this post, I’m excited to research on these (haha):

    1. How is Constantine related to Catholicism? (Not reading much history about Roman Catholics but I believe he is somewhat connected to its history? Or is he th

    2. Did he devote himself to the study or meditate on the Torah?

    3. In his conquest, how did it contribute to the completion of the Bible?

    4. Does “the end justifies the means” apply here? Debatable. Haha

    5. During this period, is Christianity considered an extremist group? (In the eyes of non-Christisns)

    Got a lot of questions pa but so far these are the top 5. Hehe

    • Heyy bro! I’m excited that you’re excited! Go! Church history is fun, I promise! 😀
      You have very good questions, all of which I unfortunately cannot answer (lol), but I can at least address number 1.

      An earlier comment asked the same question as well. These events surrounding Constantine happened in the 4th Century. Before Constantine came into power, the persecution of Christians was very heavy. The role Constantine played was very important because he halted the persecution. Finally, the small number of Christians in the empire were allowed to breathe, which resulted to the revival of churches, and even the council of Nicaea (from which we get the very important Nicene creed). The church just kept growing since then.

      At that time, it was actually just “the church,” with no dichotomy of Roman Catholicism and Protestants. This distinction happened in the 16th Century, instigated by Luther’s Reformation. 🙂

  8. May halo mang political na dahilan o wala, hindi maikakaila na ang pabor na binigay ni Constantine ay nakaapekto sa kasalukuyang pagtingin ng mga tao sa nasabing relihiyon lalo na sa usaping pulitikal. Ano po ang iyong opinyon hinggil sa pananaw na mas napabilis ng Christianity ang pagbagsak ng Emperyong Romano?

    • Hindi po ako sigurado kung Christianity lang ang masisisi sa pagbagsak ng Roman Empire. I need to read more about that. 🙂 Although, I think mas complicated siya than to just say na Christianity ang sole reason kung bakit bumagsak ang Roman empire, IF indeed naging reason ang Christianity sa pagbagsak ng Rome. May mga ibang factors din surrounding the fall of the Roman empire, such as weak leadership, attack of neighboring peoples, etc.

      • Thank you for being honest. Ako rin po, I need to read more about Constantine and the fall of Rome.

        Yes ate, naniniwala naman po ako na even before Christianity ang naging official religion ng Rome, hindi na po stable ang nasabing Emperyo. However, one argument says that because Christians worship God, nanghina po ang grip ng emperor sa citizens, thus mas “naaccelerate” ang fall ng Roman Empire.

      • Interesting notion. Although based on what we know, mukhang naging effective nga yung strategy ni Constantine to unify the empire, kasi people really took the authority of the church really seriously. For some time after Constantine, the church held so much power and influence such that even the emperors feared being excommunicated.

  9. Whether Constantine was truly a genuine Christian, nobody is able to make any adjustment for now. What we can only observe is the legacy the person leave behind. Although he had educated and baptized his children in Christianity’s way, how many of his children had faithfully walk with God?
    Of course it is undeniable that because of his contributions, the Christianity’s doctrine had been established due to Nicene creed. Yet, is it because his real desire to understand the theology behind it or for the sake of theology’s unity?

    • Yes, that *has* been the debate and mystery surrounding Constantine’s motives. We might never know, to be honest. Some choose to believe that he truly was converted, but others believe it was for political unity’s sake only.

  10. Indeed, Constantine’s actions helped in Christian unity and orthodoxy. however In my opinion, after he favored Christianity, it also led to political power and emergence of professing Christians because of the privileges he granted to Christians.

  11. Just like many, I am not sure whether Constantine was a Christian or not. However, what I am sure about is that He was an instrument for the Christians to be relieved from the persecution of the Roman empire. Moreover, he was also an instrument for the rapid spread of the gospel to reach places and people of different cultures and tongues. He was an instrument for major changes in world history. However, i think what he did also contributed to the mixture of pagan practices and Christian teachings which caused the division of the Roman Catholic and the Evangelicals or also known as the Protestants. Was he an instrument for change? Yes. But was he truly in the faith? Though he had a lot of contributions, I am not sure.
    As i reflected on his life and his legacy, what i realized is that as a Christian it is important to do hard things and dream big things to impact the world where we live in.

  12. Great article!

    I’m thinking about today about when a person of influence, claims he/she is a Christian, majority of Christians immediately jumps on the bandwagon to share about it without considering if he’she is really authentic. So yeah, sometimes we do have to be cautious if a person is really a Christian.Only God knows if Constantine really became a Christian when he really saw a sign, which I doubt. But basing on his actions I would like to believe he eventually became a Christian during his reign. But that’s just me wishful thinking.

    As for the effects of Constantine’s conversion and making Christianity as the official religion, I believe it was God-ordained thus having more pros than cons for Christians during that specific season of the Church’s growth.

    • Who knows, maybe eventually, Constantine really did become truly “saved!” Or not. We will never know. But yes, it’s amazing that for all intents and purposes, God used Constantine to usher in a new era in the history of the Church.

  13. As I read this, my interest in knowing history of the church grows. I want to know more. I am studying at a Catholic School, yesterday, nagdiscuss ang prof ko tungkol sa history ng church and growth of Christianity, napag-usapan rin yung tungkol kay Constantine and Reformation. Tas nadiscuss rin po yung response ng Catholic Church sa mga theses niya. Tsaka, Roman Catholic Priest si Martin Luther? o.O

    Sa nangyari sa pag rule ni Constantine, masasabi ko lang po na God is in control kahit na di maganda yung means ni Constantine and may influence ng politics.

    • Malayo pa si Luther sa mga pangyayaring ito. 🙂 Pero of course, may connection pa rin kasi kung hindi dahil kay Constantine, hindi mabubuo ang Church as an institution, which Luther would eventually attack (lol).

      And you’re right! God is still in control.

      I’m glad you’re interested in Church history! There is so, so much more to learn. Let’s be fellow students of Church history! I’m happy to journey with you in learning more. 😀

  14. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing this article with me.

    Answering your questions:

    1) As you read this, what impressions did you get about Constantine?
    Definitely his life and his decision to follow Christ had implications to the Christian church then and also now. I also think that the church was “politicized” after it became the state religion of Rome, and the nation’s leaders influenced the decisions of the church thereafter until now, which made the church also more legalistic, rather than true followers of Christ. I also believe that many of his decisions have and are still impacting the church negatively. I also do not think that “Christianity left the West and came to our Asian shores,” because Christianity went from Asia (Middle East) to the West, and Constantine’s influence also paved a way for the spread of Christianity to the Western Nations.

    2) What else do you think we can learn from Constantine’s life?
    We as Christians, also need to learn from his life not to show favoritism to anyone (Lev. 19:15; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Tim. 5:21; James 2:1, 9). God has called us to love all people, just as He does. We also need to do all what we can for the Church of Jesus Christ that will bring honor and glory to His Name. We also as Christians need to be careful and also watch-out of mixing pagan rituals and practices with the Christian faith. I believe that some of our practices as Christians that we practice today are also because of the effect of the Roman Empire’s influence on the church during Constantine’s and the subsequent reigns of the other emperors.

    3) What other events from Constantine’s life are you curious about?
    How did the conversion of Constantine change him as a person and also his role in his family?

    God richly bless and use you for His glory and fame.

  15. I usually find reading about history boring. Not because the content bores me, but because the way it was written is dry and boring. But the creativity in your writing motivated me to finish the article, ate.

    I think it is important for us to read historical accounts and be critical of what we read. We should not be passive readers. I am not saying that we should question everything that we read, but we should be open to the possibility that the writer himself is pushing for an agenda. Thus being aware of the biases of the writer. There is no such thing as objective historical writing.

    But the way you approached it helped me think. You posed a particular question. You gave some details and explanations that supported either possibility. But really, we cannot be 100% be sure of whether or not he was a believer. I tend to not give a sweeping declaration of someone’s standing before the Lord, especially if I am not able to mingle with that people. One thing’s for sure though, Constantine was a pawn in God’s great redemptive-historical narrative.

    Thanks for sharing this ate! 🙂

    • Our textbook, “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce Shelley, is written in a very engaging way. 🙂 You should check it out — maybe you have it in your library! I’m pretty sure you have it in your library.

      And I wholeheartedly agree — Constantine was a mere pawn in God’s redemptive-historical narrative! ❤

  16. Thank you,For sharing this article.

    My curiosity with the well-known emperor were somehow satisfied.
    Coming from the pontifical and royal university, the catholic univ/institution that I attended during college had just given us a small bit of info about Constantine. During our history class, the only definition that i can remember about him was, he’s the one who promoted and/or revived Christianity.
    Same with your facts presented, our (walking encyclopedia) professor back then mentioned that his conversion to Christianity is more of a political agenda in order to unify the thriving empire.

    Upon reading your post, I was provided more info about the things he’s done to advance Christianity like giving more favors to Christians compared to polytheistic subscribers. I am curious how the citizens eventually succumbed to the edict. Given the fact that this edict promotes freedom of religious tolerance, I want to know if there were any upheavals or factions among the different classes of society? Scrolling down to your post, I also became curious on how did the institution of the Catholic religion came to power; who’s who and what are their motivations (hidden or pure. Assuming that catholisicm had deep roots here). I want to read a book about him that has no bias for the catholic institution, can you recommend me one? (I haven’t taken yet the church history subject, haha)

    Nonetheless, i commend him for his leadership and efforts in reviving the empire. Along the line, we can see how the so called Christian institution went wrong, but still God’s sovereignty had wonderfully crafted the spiritual movement of the real followers of Christ. Whether Constantne’s conversion was auhentic or politically driven, it’s he undeniable fact that once you seek, He will meet you.

    • Haha, you know what I found interesting about the comments here? Many of the commenters (including you) are wondering how Constantine is connected to Roman Catholicism. I guess it’s because our country has deep RC roots. But actually, here’s something I can offer: the Roman Catholicism and Protestant divide happened in the 16th Century pa. These events surrounding Constantine were in the 4th C. Malayo pa before Roman Catholicism came into power. 🙂

      If you check my footnotes, you’ll find good references there, even approved by our kuya Craig. 😀 Some of these are: “Church History in Plain Language”, and “Turning Points.”

  17. As I was reading, I was just reminded that God extends His blessings to those who favor His children.
    It was a wise move for Constantine to favor Christians. Whether His conversion was genuine or not, he sure does know which side to take.

    This made me ponder on how other people share the same thoughts of Constantine while he was on the verge of his decision to go towards Christianity. It’s a risk but a risk worth taking.

    Though Constantine’s favor for Christians might have helped their growth, I wouldn’t give him all the credit because whether the persecution stops or continues, that doesn’t stop Christianity. I believe that persecution can even be a blessing. Constantine was just one of God’s instrument to fulfill His plans.

    I’m not a big fan of history but this post makes me want to dive more into church history. I’ve heard about Constantine in my elementary days but it was only now that I’ve realized the impact He has done for Christianity.

    This was a good read. =] If there is one take home from all of this, that is “…if God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31

    • Thanks for your comment! 🙂
      It wasn’t expounded in this post, but the persecution under Diocletian’s time was actually very heavy (the heaviest in all of that time). It got so bad, that even the non-Christians (who were initially passive) got sick of the constant killings. Some drawbacks of the persecution was the loss of Christian leaders (since they almost always went for the leaders first), which resulted to untrained Christians being forced to lead. This then resulted to heresies, wrong doctrines, and “shallow conversions,” and schisms.
      Constantine’s coming to power was just the right timing. To be more exact, and I agree with you on this, God put Constantine in power at just the right time, to fulfill His plans.

      I’m happy you’re encouraged to dive more into church history! I think it’s very relevant to us who minister in the Philippines, because our population is predominantly Roman Catholic. 🙂

  18. Constantine had just been a name of a Roman emperor until after I read this, having no interest in history (haha). So there was such a time when “Christianity” was dominant. I’ve read somewhere that people within the empire/government that time were considered Christians or else you’d be going against the empire (somewhat like “forced Christianity”). Although it was still the same system(turned upside down), I believe it is relevant to note that there was a time when such a powerful empire acknowledged the presence of a Supreme being that is beyond the physical. Since people during those times had the fixation on gods that they can see and touch, to be able to acknowledge a Supreme being, and no less by an emperor is really something.

    • So true!
      Also, Constantine coming to power certainly changed some of the public’s opinions of Christians. Before Constantine, Christians were even branded “atheists” (I know right?!), because Christians were the only religious group whose deity didn’t have a physical idol. Everyone else had their idols and temples, but Christians prayed to an invisible god. And because Christians tended to be secretive and exclusive at that time, people wondered at the rites / services they conducted.
      When Christianity was finally legalized, Christians were at least finally able to freely explain their practices and doctrines.

  19. What other events from Constantine’s life are you curious about?
    Learning on how Constantine prayed to the god of his father during his “conversion” made me want to know more about his family’s background, especially their religious beliefs. Were his family members Christians? Assuming they were, could it be possible that Constantine just shrugged off his beliefs so as not to interfere with his military career since the ruling emperor at that time was persecuting Christians? Also, who were the individuals guiding him in his new found faith?

    Cool article Sarah G! It seems exciting to understand Christianity while relating it to world history.

    • Oh it’s really cool when you realize how World History parallels Church History! Like, for instance, when the Reformation (started by Luther) was happening, Magellan was discovering the Philippines. Cool, right?

      You have good questions… and I cannot answer them all. haha. Except the last one, maybe. When Constantine first legalized Christianity, he intentionally honored the Christian leaders (especially those who were victims of the persecuted church). So we can probably assume that some of those Christian leaders helped him along.

  20. As you read this, what impressions did you get about Constantine?

    Constantine played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity. He used his peculiar position to promote and support Christianity. This, in turn, paved way for Christians be more open (read: more proud) with their faith. However, I think [the author] should be more careful with labeling him as the “first Christian emperor” as this could be misleading. For one, the term “Christian” can be very subjective for some people. As mentioned above, Constantine continued to worship the Sun god and supported persecutions against non-Christians. “Conservatives” might consider this as major red light. In addition, Constantine may have used Christianity to solidify his power in the Roman empire (read: religion as the opium of the masses). With a monotheistic religion in place, it would be more convenient for Constantine to bind Romans together and perpetuate shared meaning and purpose.

    P.S. For some reasons, I began to be more curious about church history after reading your article. Can you recommend to me articles/books/documentaries that I can read/watch over the Christmas break? 🙂

    • You’re right, “Christian” can be subjective for some people. And whether you believe Constantine was really Christian or not depends on how you interpret history (because really, that seems to be the only we can do that). It’s a matter of semantics, I guess. I chose to be not so politically correct in my terms, but I had hoped the content of this article clarified that. 🙂

      I’m so glad you’re curious about Church History! If anyone has gotten curious about church history, then I have succeeded with this blog! 🙂
      I highly recommend “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce Shelley. This is a great starting point for anyone who wants to know how the church grew from New Testament times onwards.

      Also:
      “Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” by Mark A. Noll.

      I think the Christianitytoday website has some good articles about church history figures as well. 🙂

  21. One thing’s for sure is that like every other human action in the world, the domino effect remains. His life has brought effect in Christianity today. I like how you’ve shown how his “sincere” conversion to Christianity was back then and in result evangelism took place. Nice blog!

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