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The Edict of Milan and Us [blog]

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Edict of Milan is a name of  a proclamation that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire. It was the result of a political agreement made in Milan between the Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius in February 313. The proclamation granted all persons freedom to worship whatever deity they pleased, assured Christians of legal rights (including the right to organize churches), and directed the prompt return to Christians of confiscated property.

359492_nis-beta-2_fToday, on 6 October 2013, there will be a central ceremony in Niš, Serbia, of this great anniversary. Niš is a city where Constantine the Great was born around 280 A.D, roughly four centuries before the Slavs came from the north-east and settled at the Balkan peninsula. Great leaders of the Orthodox churches are there: the Russian patriarch, the Ecumenical patriarch, the Serbian patriarch and a number of metropolitans from various lands and countries. The Catholic church is represented by the Milan archbishop Scala, Belgrade archbishop Hocevar and also a number of bishops and monsignors from neighboring countries. There seems to be great declarations of Christian unity.

Even the citizens of Niš organized last night a candle vigil. Five thousand of them created a human cross. Great symbolism in the days when more than 50 countries in this world still persecute Christians for their beliefs, forbid conversions and arrest and jail their leaders. This world seems to need another proclamation from its political leaders, but we will never see it again.

What is also noticeable here, that there are no representatives of the protestant churches, or evangelicals. Apparently, they did not exist in the days of Constantine the great. But the same could be argued for the Orthodox and Catholics, right? And what we will do about constantinism?359494_nis-beta-1_f

Constantine’s achievement was greatest in social and cultural history. It was the development of a Christianized imperial governing class that entrenched the privileged position of Christianity. Encyclopedia Britannica states that it was: „this movement of fashion, rather than the enforcement of any program of legislation, that was the basis of the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Emerging from it in the course of the 4th century were two developments that contributed fundamentally to the nature of Byzantine and Western medieval culture: the growth of a specifically Christian, biblical culture that took its place beside the traditional Classical culture of the upper classes; and the extension of new forms of religious patronage between the secular governing classes and bishops, Christian intellectuals and holy men. Constantine left much for his successors to do, but it was his personal choice made in 312 that determined the emergence of the Roman Empire as a Christian state“.

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2 thoughts on “The Edict of Milan and Us [blog]

  1. I didn’t know about this history. Very good reminder to consider and compare to today’s events. The USA is moving in the opposite direction, however The Lord is building his church and Kingdom.

    • Thank you Daniel. For just a bit more on Constantinism:

      “Constantinism” is a term in theology and refers to the ecclesiology created as a result of the conversion of Constantine to Christianity. Christianity had previously been a radical, counter-cultural movement. The larger pagan society/state had been hostile to Christianity and its values. With the conversion of Constantine, Christians were expected to support the values of the broader society and the goals of the state in exchange for Imperial protection and patronage. This ‘Constantinian’ condition of the church continued throughout most of Western history and also very notably in Eastern Europe, during which one was thought to be a Christian simply by being born within an officially Christian society.

      Constantinism has greatly led the church astray be diluting the power of the gospel message by making a nominal Christianity possible and prolific. Christianity was triumphant — in a way — by the conversion of Constantine, but perhaps not in a way that really mattered.

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