I recently attended a conference, calling itself an “alternative conference to those applauding Emperor Constantine and the signing of the Edict of Milan.” This year marks 17 centuries since Emperor Constantine signed the Edict, legalizing Christianity in the Roman world. It’s called the Edict of Milan because he signed it here in Milan.
On the surface, it seems like the Edict was a good thing for Christianity. After about 300 years of persecuting and exterminating (feeding Christians to the lions, soaking them with oil and lighting them as torches, and crucifixion), instead of ending Christianity, it had continued to grow.
Constantine was no fool. He decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. So that’s what he did. Was he sincerely converted to Christianity? Only God knows, but probably not. The Edict was a political move to bring Christianity under government control—the opposite of the Biblical model, in which the government is under the control of God. The result was the ritualization of what had until then been Spirit-inspired rites (the Lord’s Supper, for example). And little by little through these rituals, the human doctrines replaced Biblical soundness (infant baptism and praying to saints, for example).
On December 8, 1854 the Immaculate Conception became a doctrine of the Catholic Church—a fact that many Catholics are unaware of. Many Protestants don’t realize that the Immaculate Conception is not about the sinless purity of Jesus, it’s about His mother, Mary, being born sinless. Of course, if Mary was a sinless, divine person, then Jesus could never have died for our sins. The only way that He could die in our place is if He was 100% human in body. If you’re interested in reading more on the subject, here’s a link: Immaculate Conception.
Ironically, the Edict, which was called the “Edict of Tolerance,” gave birth to a new anti-Semitic form of Christianity: Replacement Theology (link for those interested in knowing more about that). Before the 4th century, Christians were very much aware of their Jewish roots. But with the government-controlled version of Christianity, came a way to control the Jews. Despite having been scattered all over the known world, the Jews continued to grow in population and most refused to convert, but remained Jewish. Replacement Theology basically says that God gave up on the Jews and turned His attention and affection onto the Christians, instead. Of course, this doctrine shows a basic lack of understanding about God: He is not a man and He does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19). God is more than able to love Christians while still loving the Jews. It’s like being a parent. My sons are as different from each other as brothers can be, but I can and do love each of them equally. If I, as a flawed human mother, can love my children equally in their differentness, can’t God also love both the Christians and the Jews? Of course He can!
There were professors and clerics (Catholic, Evangelical, and Jewish), docents and intellectuals that spoke at the conference. They spoke on their particular areas of expertise, and in the end we were given the opportunity to sign a petition declaring repentance and true tolerance for the Jewish people and for the State of Israel.
Recently, I have lost some friends. These are Christian people who disagree with me on the true nature of grace. They have decided to stop being friends because I believe that grace does more than save your soul. (You can read more in my blog posts: Stop Complicating the Simple Things, Gracious Grace, Dis-Graceful Conduct, Generous Grace, and Blessed Reassurance, Part One.) I wanted to agree to disagree—extending grace to them—but they were unwilling. One of these former friends showed up at the conference, and was so surprised to see me there that when I greeted her warmly, she smiled and kissed me back. Then she scurried away from me, ostensibly to find a seat, and never said another word to me. This is at a conference about a new declaration of tolerance? I tried not to let it hurt my feelings, but I am human, and I did have genuine affection for this person. She used to be my cell group leader, for crying out loud!
This morning, the Word that the Lord gave me is Isaiah 65:17: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” In meditating about this verse, I realized that God isn’t saying that we won’t have the ability to remember, but rather that we won’t have the motivation to remember. It’s like when you’re on vacation in a beautiful, tranquil place. It’s not that you don’t remember the stress of your daily life, it’s just that there’s no motivation in that setting to do so.
In considering these things even further, I remembered a sermon I heard by Chuck Missler in which he described this world as a digital simulation of the real world: An Extraterrestrial Message. I recommend watching that sermon (follow the link) because it is one of the most amazing explanations of the proof that the Bible is a supernatural book. His point is that Heaven is a more real reality than this world. I really like Chuck Missler because he’s unashamedly and unapologetically both Christian and intellectual. The 2 are not mutually exclusive!
I understand very well why the Bible says that all creation groans to be set free from the bondage of decay (Romans 8:21-22). I am groaning for it, too! I look forward to the day when all these injustices (as with the Edict) and misunderstandings (as with grace) are a thing of the dim past that is not worth remembering. God is good!