A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was writing about the idea of the loss of truth. There is no question that we now live in an age when the classical sense of truth (or what I call TRUTH) has been lost being replaced by opinion. Then I became consumed in editing my manuscript for my novel Ristretto Rain, which I’ve now finished, and it is off to the editors. The original task of exploring this topic was so daunting that I have decided to take just one avenue of discussion and that’s how the Christian community (over time) has been engaged or disengaged in the pursuit of TRUTH. None of the things I share, I believe, are out of the mainstream and any professor of these histories would agree.
This article relates my general theme of the loss of TRUTH. I felt like I needed to explain the stance of the WEBB (white evangelical baby boomer) Christians within the historical context of the movement, and in the end, I will connect it to this loss of TRUTH. I will point out again that I was a WEBB for more than twenty years so my statements should be taken as from an insider.
The City of God (English translation of the original Latin, Dē cīvitāte Deī contrā pāgānōs) was one of the classic books of Christian theology, written in the early 5th century by Augustine of Hippo (aka, Saint Augustine). In the year 410 the city of Rome was sacked by the Germanic tribe called the Visigoths. This invasion and sacking were a profound shock felt throughout the Roman Empire. This shock was felt most intense by the Christian community within the Roman Empire. In the year 313, emperor Constantine had declared Christianity legal and then later the official religion of the Roman Empire, replacing—an often—antagonistic polytheistic religious system.
It didn’t take long for the Roman Empire to become blended (in a very unhealthy way, in my opinion) with Christianity. For one, the emperor, while knowing almost nothing about the Christian faith, placed himself as the head and authority of the church, shaping up until modern times. From that day forward, the “Roman Catholic Church” continued with these influences. The protestant faiths did their own unholy blending with secular culture, but that’s another story.
The Roman Christians made the huge assumption in the fourth century that the Roman Empire was the same as God’s Kingdom. That they were synonymous. They also assumed that God would protect this empire because it was special. Almost every Christian nation has made the same assertions throughout history including the “America First” evangelicals.
Peter’s Great Sin
I am often a critic of the organized Church, while recognizing the Church’s great contribution to societies, it has also done many great mischiefs throughout its history. I believe that the root of most of the mischiefs was this mixing of earthly and spiritual kingdoms. Peter’s (upon whose faith Jesus said he would build his Church) did the original sin reflecting this confusion in the Garden of Gethsemane when he drew a sword. See John 18:10 (NIV): Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
In the fifth century, as the visible kingdom of the Roman Empire started to crumble, it didn’t make sense to the Roman citizens who didn’t believed that the very powerful and world-wide (the then known world) empire could fall but it was eternal. The Roman Christians had theological reasons to believe the Roman Empire could not fail. They believed that either God was going to come in at the last minute to save the empire, so they thought, or Christianity itself was going to fail. They had this position because they had confused the earthly empire of the Romans with God’s spiritual kingdom.
Augustine of Hippo was concerned about this discouragement and fear. So, while covering many topics in his book, his major thesis was proving, correctly, that God’s kingdom was not of this world and was not synonymous with any human institution.
In the eighteenth chapter of the book of John Jesus had the following conversation:
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Like I said, throughout the Church’s 2000-year history, most of its greatest mistakes continued in this vein of Peter’s original misconception. The Church blended with the Roman Empire, the monarchs of Europe (even evil Kings), all the way down to the German Lutheran Church, at large, got right in bed with the Nazis and now the WEBBS in bed with the Republican Party. Peter and the Church since (not all churches of course) fall for this corruption because of the enticement of wealth and power.
Next time, I want to jump ahead to a phenomenon of the American church of the twentieth century and the historical story of how it has tried to create a worldly empire.