When We No Longer Have Power
It might surprise you to hear that until 312 AD, at least according to writings of multiple church fathers, the church never had an ounce of political or military power over anyone. In case you haven't done that math, that's around 280 years after Jesus' died and undied. You get the idea that the early church didn't want any sort of political/military power, even at 10% of the population of the Roman Empire. Quotes from early church Fathers verify:
Religion is to be defended - not by putting to death - but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. Not by guilt, but by good faith. For the former belongs to evil, but the latter to the good. ... For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned. ... And, therefore, when we suffer such impious things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God. We do not act as those persons who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, who rage without restraint against those who do not worship them. -Lactantius*
This was the way things were until October 28th, 312 A.D. when Constantine had a dream in which he saw the Greek letters Chi-Rho suspended in the sky as a voice told him, "In this sign you shall conquer." The letters were the first two in the Greek word for Christ –"Christos."
This is the first justification of force we have on record by a Christian. 280 years after Jesus uttered the words that Paul would later reiterate in what we now call Romans 13 (which Lactanius references), "Love your enemies....do good to those who persecute you...bless and do not curse."
So lets say someone has a dream in which God tells them to act in direct opposition to the way the church has operated since the time of Jesus Himself, walking in what they called "The Way" of Jesus. We might call this against Christ, in other words, anti-Christ.
From 312, with the exception of some wonderful pockets of church history, the bulk of the church has bound itself to the sword and governmental enforcement of morality by the edge of that blade. Unbelievers and believers alike have been legislated, forced, and manipulated into following "The Way" whether they wanted to follow Jesus or not.
Again, "For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned."
Only in the last 100 years has the church hold on government been wrenched away. My estimation is that the culture wars of the last 40 years in North America is the last stand, maybe even the death rattle, not for the bride of Christ (by no means), but for Constantine's heritage. Something I hope and pray that I get to see undone in my lifetime.
I'll tell you why on Wednesday. Stay Tuned.