CH101 - The Fourth Century
The Church Established, 303 - 400 A.D.
Constantine and Faith
It is important to realize that Constantine always pushed for peace and unity in the church. He was not as concerned with the theological or doctrinal issues as he was to push for unity. We will see later in the discussion on the Council of Nicea that Constantine's goal was unity in the church.
Constantine, Faith and the Sun God
Many critics of Constantine maintain that his actions towards the Church were motivated by his political aspirations. It is commonly asserted that his Christian profession was not genuine, and that he continued to worship the Sun. The records actually show that Constantine seemed to act in genuine Christian charity while at the same time continuing to embrace various aspects of Sun worship. But it must also be remembered that prior to Constantine early Christians co-opted aspects of Sun worship.
Clement of Alexandria portrays Christ, like the Sun-god, racing his chariot across the sky. Many pagans accused the Christians of Sun worship because they met on Sunday mornings - the early Christians did this to celebrate "the Lord's Day" as opposed to the Jewish Sabbath. Early in the fourth century the birthday of the Sun-god was co-opted as the day to celebrate the nativity of Jesus - there is no clear record of who started this tradition.
Considering these facts, perhaps it is less striking that Constantine continued to use the Sun on his coins and other imperial emblems. It was very clear, however, from his various letters that he considered himself a Christian and the imperial leader of the Church. It is true that Constantine was not baptized until he lay on his death bed, but this was not uncommon due to the issues of second repentance. The record on Constantine, like that of all Christian history, is mixed. We will see more of his Christian faith in the discussion of the Nicean Council.
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