The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and is credited (by
some) as being responsible for Christianity flourishing. But, Constantine
chose one form of Christianity and killed anyone who practiced any of the
other forms. What about these other forms? Combine this with the crusades
and we get the classic line “history is written by the victors”. How can
this be a valid religion when it has thrived by butchering anyone who
dared speak against it? Note: I was raised a Christian and was faithful
well into my college years. But as I started asking the hard questions, no
one had answers. Even now, I want to believe, but it would be a lie to
blindly say I believe.

You have a lot of questions here. Let me attempt to address
them one at a time if I can. To begin, your facts on Constantine are
close to correct, but include some misconceptions. It is debatable
whether Constantine ever became a Christian. He was only baptized while
nearly on his deathbed. One could argue that Constantine was similar to
Ronald Reagan in that he very wisely played the religion card to his best
political advantage. His mother was a very passionate believer in Christ,
but his attitude was ambivalent, despite politically supporting the
church. He was not against forming alliances with pagan rulers and did
not fully reject the pagan influence in the empire.

Second, he did take the side of the Trinitarians over the
Arians in the doctrinal disputes of his time. In fact, he called the
council of Nicea in order to suppress Arianism. However, Constantine
himself did not actively persecute to death the Arians. I know of no
example recorded in history of Constantine having anyone put to death for
their religious beliefs, although he may have looked the other way a few
times when others did such things. What happened is that out of
political expediency, some of the tribal chiefs who fought the empire took
on the Arian heresy as a political expediency. Constantine did fight wars
with Arian tribal leaders, but not principally as a religious conflict.

Whether Constantine’s efforts led to the flourishing of
Christianity is debatable, depending on one’s perspective. Because of his
edict of toleration and political support, millions poured into the
church, but at the same time the standard of morality and conviction of
the church took a massive turn in the wrong direction. I believe one
could make a stronger case that despite any sincere thoughts on his part,
Constantine’s actions did more to destroy the church than any persecutions
of his predecessors. Again, that is a debatable statement, but it is my

“What about the other forms?” You will have to decide for
yourself, after studying the various controversies of the early church.
In the early church there were the Docetists, the Gnostics, the
Nestorians, and so forth. The specific heresy in the time of Constantine
was Arianism. This sect held that Jesus was not co-equal with God, but
that he was actually the first creation of God. This is the view of the
Jehovah’s Witness sect. You can decide for yourself, but I would have to
say that I believe Constantine was right; whatever his reasons for coming
down on the side of what we would now consider orthodox theology.

In my opinion, it does not really matter much at all what
Constantine’s or anyone else’s opinion of the day was. What is important
is what is written in the Bible, as this is the inspired word of God.
Bottom line, whether Constantine was right or wrong does not affect me at
all, except as an historical point. What is important is that I seek the
truth and obey it. I believe with all my heart and mind that the Bible is
the inspired word of God and that is enough to settle any of the doctrinal
disputes of the 21st century or the first few centuries.

Switching subjects, in my mind, the crusades have nothing
whatever to do with Christianity. They were called by arrogant and
totally apostate men who had the gall to call themselves Gods vicar on
earth. The history of the Roman Catholic church in the Middle Ages is a
litany of greed, sexual immorality, murder, power politics and every form
of worldliness which completely excludes these people from being able to
claim to be followers of Jesus. The horrors committed in Jesus’ name have
absolutely nothing to do with true Christianity. I am ashamed that people
have performed such atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ, and as far as
I am concerned the “Christian” leaders of the Middle Ages will have to
make account to God for their blasphemies and gross sins. Again, what we
need to do is to look to Jesus and ask how it is that we should live. In
doing so, you will discover immediately that the Roman Catholic church was
apostate and has no validity at all to represent God to lost humanity. By
the way, the Catholic Church lost the crusades. Within 150 years of the
First Crusade, the Arabs completely recovered the territory won by the
crusaders, except for the island of Cyprus. In this case, history was
written by the losers!

I would say that you are asking absolutely valid questions.
When one looks at history, it is difficult or impossible to ignore the
shameful acts committed in the name of Jesus. I strongly suggest you put
these acts aside and look at the pure, inspired words of God in the
Bible. If you will come to faith in the Bible and do what it says, you
will come to understand God’s will for your life. I would refer you to
John 8:31,32 in which Jesus said that in order to fully understand his
teachings we must be willing to do what he says. I strongly encourage you
to continue to ask all the hard questions, but also encourage you to
separate the truth, as expressed in the words and the life of Jesus
Christ, from the unfortunate bad examples of hypocritical people who would
take the name Christian.

John Oakes, PhD

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