Constantine the great ruled the Roman Empire in the early fourth century C.E. from 306 until his death in 337 C.E. He became the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity and legalize the Christian religion. One of the most significant accomplishments during Constantine’s rule as Roman Emperor was the reversal of the Christian persecutions that were put in place by previous Emperor, including Diocletian’s great persecution of 303 C.E. There was great controversy concerning Constantine’s conversion because he never declared Christianity as his official religion of the realm.
The date of his conversion has been debated and might have also been influenced by his mother Helena, who was a Christian as well. Most likely it occurred following the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 C.E. In 313 C.E. he legalized the Edict of Milan, where it ordered the removal of penalties for confessing to Christianity and the return of confiscated property to the Christians. The conversion of Constantine to Christianity might have Constantine convened the first ecumenical council in 325 C.E. known as the council of Nicea, which was to establish a unified doctrine for the religion. Constantine was influential in the development of religion in many ways, including legalizing Christianity. Ballimes, Victoria, J. Encyclopedia of Global Religions. “Constantine (ca. 272-337 ce).” Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc, 2011. http://www.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=htpp://www.credoreference.com/entry/sagegr/constantine/ca-272-337-ce (accessed January 25, 2013).
The Impact of the Fall of the Western Empire on the Church During the multi-sided civil war which followed, Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 C.E. Constantine moved his capitol in 330 to the ancient Greek city of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople (city of Constantine). The Roman Empire was completely divided. Its western half succumbed to barbarian invaders over the course of the fifth century. Rome itself was sacked in 410, and again in 455. The last Roman Emperor in the west was destroyed by the Goth in 476.
The Catholic Church became the heritage and authority of Rome. In 800 C.E., Charlemagne would be crowned emperor by the popes, but the early Roman Empire in Germany would claim to be the truesuccessor. Charlemagne was a great king, but his empire was a pale shadow compared to what Rome was in military, power, literacy, culture, and wealth. For the next 600 years, Western Europe faced invaders and vandals and many others from different areas such as Arabs and Muslims from the south and east, and Vikings from the north. This led to a decline in agriculture, road system, travel, social, as well as a decline in the political system. Poverty was on the rise with frequent famine and outbreak of murderous religious hysteria. Nolan, Cathal, J. Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations. “Roman Empire.” Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2002. www.credoreference.com/ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/entry/abcintrel/roman-empire (accessed January 26, 2013).
The Role of Heretical Christianity on the Advent of Islam
The advent of Islam recreated a situation for the church, one that it had faced earlier in the doctrinal debates of the third and fourth centuries with the Gnostics, Montanist and other groups. The Gnostics claimed superior revelation that they alone were the true spiritual successors of Christ and the apostles, while the Catholics made the same claims to counter the Gnostics. The Medieval writers, especially in the eleventh century, faced a similar challenge from Islam. Muslims argued that the prophet had received a direct revelation from God (Allah), which superseded that of the Jews and Christians. They maintained that Muhammad was the fulfillment of a family, beginning with Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and ending with Jesus.
Muslims accepted Jesus as a righteous prophet, but they did not embrace the Christian belief in Christ’s divinity and His equality with the Father. Peter, the Venerable, wanted to set the record straight about the origins of Islam in regards to the story about the heretical Nestorian monk Sergius. After Sergius was expelled from the church, he traveled to Arabia where he met Muhammad and led him into error of Nicolatianism taught by his master Nicolas of Antioch. Peter noted that the Islamic Heresy against Christians was brought about by Muhammad. Ferreiro, Alberto. “Religion and Theology History.” American Society of Church History (March 2003).http://www.liberty.edu.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search
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