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Early Christendom: Chrysalis of the West

Early Christendom: Chrysalis of the West

Western civilization, which emerged during the late Roman imperial period, is a mixture – perhaps even a synthesis – of Roman and Christian elements. The advent of Christianity rejuvenated the Roman world by introducing a dynamism and resilience which enabled the adoption and spread cultural, moral, and technological innovations within a Roman legal and administrative architecture. Which, through the generations, have transformed everyday life nearly everywhere. [This article is drawn from the first part of chapter 3, “Early Christendom,” of Crossed Swords: Entanglements Between Church and State in America (unpublished dissertation, University of Oregon, 1984), 87-104.] 

So powerfully did the transformational grammar of the new religion, Christianity, change the western world that Arnold Toynbee has described the church as “the chrysalis out of which our Western society emerged.”[1] Historians have both praised the church for preserving the artifacts of the pagan cultures it converted and faulted it for absorbing too many of their elements into its life’s blood. While Pitirim Sorokin regarded the resulting fusion as a genuine synthesis, others have just as firmly maintained that Christianity created an unstable syncretism, pointing to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment as evidence of cultural disintegration and growing secularization.[2] But this has always been a source of disagreement, even among Christians themselves, and the debate continues unabated.

Each new school of thought or theory of history – for example, Augustine, Dante, Gibbon, Burckhardt, Spengler, and Toynbee – has signaled a new point of departure for evaluating the story of its own generation.[3] Every redefinition of the present or future requires a revision of the past.

History provides no clear answer as to whether the survival of pre-Christian institutions, literature, and art forms represents a vindication of these pagan cultures or attests even more to the transforming power of Christianity. But despite periodic revivals of nature cults, Teutonic folklore, Druid rituals, and similar atavisms, attempts to turn back the clock have never enjoyed more than limited success. Perhaps it is best to conclude that the transformations are still continuing and that their significance will become clearer only after many more revisions of the past.

Early Christian art, literature, and music certainly bear the imprint of the cosmopolitan life of the Roman Empire.[4] But more importantly, the church itself first had to pass through a trial by fire before serving as a crucible for refining and recreating the stagnating Roman world. In doing so, the church imparted a forward momentum to what has become western – and now world – history. 

Rise of the Roman Empire 

The civil government and religion of ancient Rome grew out of an early monarchy which, according to tradition, was overthrown and replaced by a republic in 509 B.C. Afterwards, the traditional power of sovereignty – the imperium once exercised by the king – was shared by two consuls, each of whom was elected to office for a year. Among the prerogatives of the imperium was the auspicium – the taking of auspices or omens – in order to discover whether the gods favored or opposed particular public acts. A separate college of augurs supervised the auspices. For the Romans, religion was social in character and a special branch of administration – directed by a college of priests – supported its public celebration. This college of priests was headed by a popularly elected pontifex maximus – the “great bridgemaker” between man and the gods – who took responsibility for the public calendar and who appointed the chief celebrant of the sacrifices, the rex sacrorum. Special priestly fraternities were given charge of particular ceremonies.[5]

Roman religion was animistic in origin, political in orientation, and highly liturgical in its celebration. It embraced a variety of cults, including the popular household cults, but had more of a practical than a moral or inspirational appeal. Above all, religion symbolized unity in the state and the family. By encouraging the most exacting standards in the performance of rituals, this civil religion promoted a strong sense of duty and respect for law. Indeed, the priests were both custodians of religious law and, like clerics during the Middle Ages, experts in legal transactions. Their influence in public affairs was considerable.[6]

As Rome grew in its power and reach, foreign cults began to be introduced; the syncretism of Roman religion likewise increased, as did public skepticism. The numbers of priestly colleges multiplied even as respect for religion declined. Public as well as private rites fell into decay and disrepute. Licentious religious practices, such as the Saturnalia and the Bacchanalia, grew in popularity and came to be tolerated by the authorities. Educated Romans like Cicero, however, were drawn instead to the skeptical rationalism of the Stoics, who cultivated philanthropic and cosmopolitan ideals but did little to stem the demoralization that was overtaking the republic.[7] 

The Caesars 

A period of increasing turmoil began during the tribunates of the Gracchus brothers (133-132 and 124-121 B.C.) and climaxed with the dictatorship of Sulla (82-79 B.C.) following a military coup. It was not many years later that Julius Caesar began advancing his ambitions by first recognizing and then feeding a growing popular hunger for religious worship and lavish spectacle. After being elected aedile in 65 B C., Caesar used this office of public works to great effect as the master of public games. Two years later, he was elected pontifex maximus for life and inaugurated a career of acquiring public offices to support his climb to power. Following a civil war, during which his army defeated the forces of the Senate, Caesar set Rome on the road to empire when he assumed dictatorial powers, encouraged a religious revival centered upon himself, and displayed the public munificence of a monarch. As Arthur E. R. Boak and William G. Sinnigen have noted: 

“Honors to match his extraordinary powers were heaped upon him, partly by his own desire, partly by the servility and fulsome flattery of the Senate. He was granted a seat with the consuls in the Senate, when not a consul himself; he received the title of parent or father of his country (parens or pater patriae); his statue was placed among those of the kings of Rome, his image was placed in the temple of Quirinus; the month Quintilius, in which he was born, was renamed Julius (July) in his honor; a new college of priests, the Julian Luperci, was created; a temple was erected to Caesar’s Clemency and a priest (flamen) appointed for the worship there; and he was authorized to build a house on the Palatine with a pediment like a temple. Most of these honor8 he received after his victory over the Pompeians in Spain in 45.”[8] 

Caesar hoped to heal the Roman world by pursuing a generous policy of conciliation, clementia, toward his opponents. His policy succeeded better than he ever knew. Even after his assassination, his memory still commanded public reverence and divine honors continued to be heaped upon him. Ethelbert Stauffer comments: 

“The Roman people glorified the dead Caesar in a unique passion-liturgy, which echoes the ancient eastern laments for the death of the great gods of blessing, and many of whose motifs show an astonishing connexion with the Good Friday liturgy of the Roman mass. ‘Those whom I saved have slain me,’ they sang in the name of the murdered man. And Antony declared before the temple of Venus, where the son of the goddess lay in state: ‘Truly the man cannot be of this world whose only work was to save where anyone needed to be saved.’”[9] 

Octavian, (43 B.C.-14 A.D.) who was Julius Caesar’s grandnephew and adopted son, capitalized on his family name by converting it into a lifelong mission to remake the fallen republic into an empire with himself as its imperator. Although he did not hold a definite office or title at first, Octavian, who later took the name Augustus, came to be known as the princeps, the first among citizens. In a bid to revive the ancient virtues, Octavian resorted to social legislation designed to restore family life, reestablished the priestly colleges, repaired the crumbling temples and shrines, and redirected the new religious impulses into serviceable channels. Syncretism became more prevalent. A policy of official tolerance or indifference enabled oriental religions to win acceptance even in Rome, except for those cults that unduly disturbed the peace and morals of the citizenry.[10]

In deference to Roman custom, Augustus was careful not to covet royal prerogatives or divine honors, although he did not discourage the growth of an imperial cult in the provinces as a means of binding the empire to himself. The provincial councils were eventually given the responsibility for maintaining this cult of Roma and Augustus, as it came to be known, which had the advantage of linking them more directly to the Principate. Consequently, the emperor came to be worshipped throughout the empire.

Ernest Barker took notice of the Roman emphasis on political salvation and argued that political unity came to be equated with and dependent on loyalty to Caesar: 

“The general religious reformation of the Augustan age inspired Virgil: it had little abiding result in the mass. But the worship of the deified ruler continued and grew. Caligula and Nero pretended to a present divinity; but generally the emperor was elevated to the rank of divus, and made the object of a cult, after his death; and during his life it was his genius which was held to be sacred. Here was found the basis of allegiance. The oath of officials and soldiers was associated with the genius of the present emperor and the divi Caesares of the past.”[11] 

Similarly, as the empire expanded, political unification required a common citizenship which, in turn, required the abolition of national and class differences. Military service became a chief avenue to Roman citizenship. In due time, suffrage was extended to provincials. Emperors such as Hadrian and Septimius Severus deliberately abolished privileges exclusively enjoyed by Italians, at first extending Roman colonization throughout the empire and then admitting provincials to citizenship. policies came to fruition with the Edict of Caracalla of 212 A.D., which granted Roman citizenship to all freeborn members of communities within the Empire. Hand in hand with a common citizenship, a common legal system – the ius gentium – was extended throughout the empire.

The emerging imperial system gave practical expression to the ancient Stoic dream of reason, as Ernest Barker observed: 

“In its passion for equality ... imperialism came close to Stoicism, which proclaimed the equality of citizen and alien, man and woman, bondman and free, while it cherished a peculiar regard for the sapiens who had attained to high rank in the service of Reason.”[12] 

The Empire Within 

The birth of Christianity in Judea on the frontiers of the empire introduced a discordant note in the imperial program of universal harmony under the pax Romana. Perhaps it was also the Roman kind of peace Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). The Christian insistence on holiness in worship and the exclusiveness of the truth claims of Christ (John 8:32, 14:6) could only bring further division to a world Christians still regarded as separated from God by sin. If Christianity was to conquer, it first had to divide. The faithful were instructed to forsake competing allegiances as part of the cost of serving their Lord (Luke 12:51-53, 14: 25-35). This requirement precluded participation in the state religious observances.

The elevation by Christians of a particular religious belief over the interests of the public order represented a disturbing novelty for the pragmatic Romans, who were accustomed to a tradition that viewed religion simply as a means to bind society to the natural order. What interested the Romans was not belief but loyalty. Their toleration had its limits.[13]

Popular hostility provoked by the withdrawal of Christians from the public life of their communities led to trouble almost from the start. The exclusion of non-Christians from communion celebrations and other Christian gatherings stirred suspicions of conspiracy and even accusations of child murder.[14] Several instances of mob violence are recorded in the New Testament, including a protest in Ephesus by craftsmen whose trade in idols suffered as a result of Christian proselytizing (Acts 19). It is no wonder that Christians came to be regarded as troublemakers by the authorities. According to Tacitus, Nero (54-68) used this bad reputation against them by blaming them for setting the great fire in Rome in the summer of 64 A.D. After that incident, it became common to identify Christians as sorcerers. The authorities charged many of them with odium generis humani: hatred of the human race.[15] As Boak and Sinnigen indicate, such religious crimes were severely punished: 

“The Romans regarded worship of the state gods, including participation in the imperial cult, from a political standpoint and considered refusal to share in such worship as treason (maiestas). For this the punishment was death. It was furthermore a proof of atheism, which might also be regarded as treasonable. On the other hand, the Christians looked upon the question as a matter involving their souls’ salvation. They felt that to worship the state gods and acknowledge the divinity of the princeps would be to commit idolatry and sacrilege. They could pray for the emperor but not to him. These attitudes could not be reconciled. On another ground the Christians were for a time liable under the law of treason, namely, as forming unauthorized religious associations.”[16] 

By contrast, Judaism, though equally troublesome, was generally tolerated as a religio licita – a licensed religion – despite its similar refusal to worship the state gods. It was an exception that proved the rule. Leo Pfeffer has remarked the limits of Roman toleration: 

“Only the Jews were able to escape. Their adherence to Mosaic monotheism, which prohibited any form of idolatry, made it impossible for them to participate in emperor-worship. The Romans could destroy their temple, burn their cities, and scatter them throughout the empire, but it could not overcome their recalcitrance. Ultimately, a modus vivendi was arrived at: the Jews were not required to pray to the emperor, but only for him, and to contribute like all other citizens, to the upkeep of the public temples.”[17] 

Perhaps more indicative of the main purpose behind these laws was the regulation that licensed religions were not permitted to proselytize.[18] Like the Christians themselves, the Romans actively discouraged competing loyalties. Roland Bainton believes that the most threatening aspect of Christianity for the Romans was its rapid spread through mass conversions, such as those described in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:41; 4:4). If Christians continued to reject the imperial cult, the Roman government “would be confronted with one of three alternatives; to exterminate the Christians, to abandon the imperial cult and secularize the state, or make Christianity itself the state religion.”[19] 

“The conflict became sharper than in the case of Judaism for the Christians added to the Jewish formulation ‘Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord’ the further confession, ‘Christ is Lord.’ Not only the God of heaven and earth but a malefactor crucified by the government of Rome was declared to have an authority exceeding that of the emperor of Rome. The cult of Christ and the cult of Caesar were incompatible.”[20] 

Official persecution of Christians probably did not begin until the time of Nero but was then pursued sporadically for the next two centuries, although directed mainly at the church leadership. Trajan legalized the persecutions and outlawed the profession of Christ’s name. Offenders were ordered to recant by reviling Christ and worshiping the emperor. Those who refused were put to death. But Roman policy appears to have varied from emperor to emperor, and provincial governors were generally left to their own discretion.[21]

By the third century of the Christian era, more systematic proscriptions were adopted. Septimius Severus (193-211) favored a policy of religious syncretism and was even prepared to admit Christianity into the Roman pantheon. But after being rebuffed in this attempt, he issued an edict forbidding conversions to Christianity and Judaism. The persecutions under Severus were followed by a time of comparative peace during which the church prospered and even owned property like any duly licensed corporation. But the years 249-260 were marked by particularly severe persecution after Decius and Valerian inaugurated what Roland Bainton has called a “policy of extermination.”[22] Decius (249- 251) required all residents to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods and secure a certificate of compliance subject to official inspection. Valerian (253-258) summoned church officers for immediate trial and even had Christians harried out of the catacombs. According to Kenneth Scott Latourette: 

“Christians were threatened with the death penalty if they so much as went to any of the meetings or services of the Church or even visited a Christian cemetery. Apparently the point of the measure against Christian conventicles was that they were still illegal, and the reason for action against Christian cemeteries was that, to have organizations which were within the law, Christians had formed themselves into burial associations, bodies which could obtain legal recognition.”[23] 

Following the capture and enslavement of Valerian by the Persians, his son, Gallienus (253-268), issued an Edict of Toleration in 261. Thus began a generation of peace for the church, during which the Christians grew greatly in numbers and influence. Except for a brief period of persecution under Aurelian (270-275), Christians were allowed to worship without interference. All this while the empire was crumbling under the strain of economic and military disorder. Small farms gave way to large estates – latifundi – that employed slave labor. The treasury was depleted by the expense of quelling the incessant riots and border wars. Nearly a score of emperors rose and fell during the fifty years from 235 to 285.[24]

Finally, an experienced military commander, Diocletian (284-305), emerged as sole emperor in 285 and steered a new course toward political and economic centralization. Diocletian skillfully neutralized potential rivals by creating a system of shared leadership: the Tetrarchy , or Sacred College. He strengthened the military and the bureaucracy, then brought their power into check with a new secret police. He met the expense of maintaining this garrison state by introducing a brutal system of tax farming, then forcing the curiales – municipal councilmen – to make up any deficits. Sons were required to follow their father’s occupations. Monetary reform was soon followed by stringent price controls. Norman Cantor depicted Diocletian as an eastern potentate: 

“He worked to reform the imperial system and produced a great totalitarian structure similar to that of Egyptian despotism, with Constantine putting the finishing touches to this monstrous edifice. The emperor was elevated to a sacred position in the oriental manner, with an elevated throne, diadems, and imperial robes, acc~5ding to the established court rituals of the orientals.”[25] 

Toward the end of his reign, Diocletian suddenly moved with unparalleled severity against the church, which by then had become a “state within a state” that reached even into the imperial family. A series of edicts were issued in 303 and 304, ordering the burning of Christian churches and books, the removal of Christian officeholders, the imprisonment of clergymen, and the imposition of compulsory sacrifices. These persecutions continued for several years after Diocletian left office. According to a contemporary historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, the soldiers soon grew weary of the slaughter. In the judgment of Charles Norris Cochrane, Diocletian’s reign conclusively demonstrated the bankruptcy of the old order: 

“For, with his abdication in 305, the Sacred College, which was the crown and apex of his administrative system, dissolved into discordant and warring factions; and, six years later, the edicts of persecution were suddenly revoked. Making a virtue of necessity, various emperors and aspirants to the purple embarked upon a competition in which they sought to outbid one another for Christian support.”[26] 

Following a long period of civil strife, Constantine (307-337) – the son of a member of Diocletian’s Tetrarchy – triumphed over the last of his rivals after having his soldiers carry a Christian insignia into battle. From that day onward, the interests of church and state became increasingly entangled. 

The two sovereignties 

“As history both before and after proved, the state could not conquer religion by force; it could achieve its purpose only by collaboration, alliance, and corruption.”[27] This remark by Leo Pfeffer indicates a danger that perennially confronts the church, but it also implies that the contest is an unequal one in which the state holds the higher terrain. This was definitely not the case at the time when Constantine embraced the cause of the church as his own and brought an end to the official persecutions. By that time, the church already held the higher moral ground. The empire was foundering. Morale was low. By contrast, the remarkable steadfastness of many Christians in the face of martyrdom had made a favorable impression on the general populace. The proscriptions became unenforceable in many parts of the empire. Christians were hidden by their neighbors or received protection from government officials, including a member of the Tetrarchy. By 311 even the mortally ill emperor Galerius (305-311), who was held responsible 99 for initiating the persecutions, finally conceded Christians the right to practice their religion and rebuild their churches, stipulating only that they pray for his well-being and not offend the public order.[28] 

The Constantinian Establishment 

The admission of the church to full legal rights under the empire was concluded in 313 with the Edict of Milan, which removed all legal disabilities that had been placed on Christians, restored Christian officials to their former status, guaranteed freedom of religious assembly, provided restitution of l ands and buildings that had been confiscated, and recognized the church as a corporation with a right to own property.[29] Within a few years, the church exercised unaccustomed power and influence through the favor shown by Constantine. But end of its outlaw status soon posed a new set of challenges to its integrity and independence. M. Searle Bates provides a capsulized account of this sudden reversal of roles: 

“Favor was soon advanced to privilege and privilege to prestige that approached exclusive power. For Constantine considered Christianity as a means of unifying the complex empire and, in turn, required of loosely organized churches an approach to uniformity. Within seven years from the first legal toleration great edifices were erected under imperial auspices, the clergy were freed from the public burdens that weighed so heavily on others of means and standing, and private heathen sacrifices were forbidden. Two years later urban populations were forbidden Sunday work.”[30] 

Only a universal church could provide the kind of religious foundation required by a universal empire. The habit of state-supported religion has ever proven a difficult one to break. No firm precedent for religious liberty had ever been established. Wars and persecutions had left the state exhausted and in need of a new basis for political unity. Christianity was the natural choice to fill this vacuum. The eventual marriage of church and state, however, radically altered the character of each. If, as Ernest Barker maintains, the empire was to be united on the basis of a community of religion 

“…Christianity, with its aspiration towards the Gentiles and its vision of an oecumenical Church, was ready to constitute the basis. It offered itself as a world- religion to hold together on the ground of religious unity an empire which was doomed to dissolution if it sought to remain on the ground of political unity. The emperors accepted the offer. They became the powers ordained of God for the guidance of things temporal in a new empire now conceived as a Christian society. They did not realize, nor did the Church itself realize, that as the Christian society elaborated its own principle of life, a new ecclesiastical emperor would arise in the Pope, and a new struggle of Church and State would ensue, in which secular emperors and kings would seek to vindicate an independent political sphere against the claims of a theocracy. These results lay in the future. What happened in the reign of Constantine and his successors was that the essential unity of the empire should henceforth be found in a common allegiance to the Christian creed.”[31] 

Although Christianity places a strong emphasis on personal responsibility and self-government, the pressures of prolonged persecution favored a trend away from independent congregational church polities toward a centralized episcopal system. Bishops and deacons, while still freely chosen by the congregations, were entrusted with increasing authority. By the fourth century, a clear distinction between clergy and laity was firmly entrenched.[32] 

Uneasy Partnership 

As with each subsequent phase of their relationship, the initial alliance was an uneasy one in which the boundaries between church and state were repeatedly tested to determine a workable separation of powers between them. By 399, the church had won recognition of its general right of sanctuary.[33] A few years later, Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, laid the foundation for a Christian theory of the state by relating the church’s struggle with the state to the larger contest between two cities: the city of God and the city of man. He believed that Christianity provided the true basis for the commonwealth toward which the empire was being drawn: 

“So long … as the heavenly City is wayfaring on earth, she invites citizens from all lands and all tongues, and unites them into a single pilgrim band. She takes no issue with that diversity of customs, laws, and traditions whereby human peace is sought and maintained. Instead of nullifying or tearing down, she preserves and appropriates whatever in the diversities of divers races is aimed at one and the same objective of human peace, provided only that they do not stand in the way of the faith and worship of the one supreme and true God. … Thus, the heavenly City, so long as it is wayfaring on earth, not only makes use of earthly peace but fosters and actively pursues along with other human beings a common platform in regard to all that concerns our purely human life and does not interfere with faith and worship.”[34] 

Rome fell in 476 A.D. to barbarian invaders and continued its demographic decline. By the end of the century, Pope Gelasius I (492-496) had redefined the relationship of church and state by enunciating the “two swords” doctrine: 

“The spiritual power keeps itself detached from the snares of this world and, fighting for God, does not become entangled in secular affairs, while the secular power, for its part, refrains from exercising any authority over Divine affairs. By thus remaining modestly within its own sphere, each power avoids the danger of pride which would be implicit in the possession of all authority and acquires a greater competence in the functions which are properly its own.”[35] 

But entanglements were not so easily avoided in practice and Gelasius has sometimes been interpreted as implying the final authority of the church over the state.[36] Joseph Lecler, has commented on the continuing importance of the doctrine: 

“The division of sovereignty is a permanent antidote against every tyrannical will. Thanks to it, authority has to become again what it was before the fall: no longer a brutal and selfish domination, but a service rendered for the sake of the common good.”[37] 

The Holy Roman Empire 

The dangers posed by repeated barbarian invasions on the Italian peninsula and the Byzantine emperors’ inability to offer protection compelled the papacy to take a more independent political course. When Pepin the Short (741-768), the major domus – head of the palace – of the last Merovingian monarch, decided to create a new kingdom of the Franks in the West, he sought the approval of the church. An accommodation was reached which strengthened the hand of both the Pope and the new king. Pepin was anointed as the Patrician or Defender of the City of Rome, then drove the Longobardi out of Ravenna, the civil capital, in 755 and bestowed it and six urban districts on the papacy. Pepin’s son, Charles, was later summoned to assist Pope Leo III (795-816), who had been forced to flee Rome in 799 after a riot. The following year, Charles – Charlemagne as he came to be known – was crowned as the first western emperor by the grateful pontiff. Charlemagne (800-814) was deeply influenced by Augustine’s concept of a Christian commonwealth and envisioned the global extension of the church by means of the new empire.[38]

Charlemagne’s successors fell far short of showing his aptitude in leadership and the Frankish empire never went much beyond the planning stage. The attempt to wed all Christendom into one earthly realm was never consummated. But a later duke of Saxony, Otto I (936-973), revived the original idea when he demanded coronation as emperor at the hands of the reigning pontiff (962). By so doing, Otto acknowledged the symbolic importance of the cooperation of the empire and the church as God’s chosen vehicles to rule the earth. Thus began the migratory Holy Roman Empire – the First Reich – and its vision of a universal new Jerusalem.[39] John W. Burgess maintains that the “emperors recognized the necessity of the consecration and coronation of each emperor by the bishop for his empowerment to interpret the divine commands and execute them in secular matters.”[40] The bishops similarly recognized the hereditary descent of the imperial office as an equivalent to apostolic succession. The emperor claimed the title "Vicar of Christ."[41] 

Aferword, 2023 

A new chapter opened as the West was transformed by the spread of the Gospel through missionary and monastic initiatives, the rise of Christian kingdoms, and the series of educational, agricultural, commercial, scientific, and industrial revolutions which followed. The medieval period has gotten a bad rap ever since the early Renaissance scholar Petrarch called it the Dark Age. No amount of proof to the contrary has restored its reputation.

Nevertheless, enormous strides have been made toward better understanding the historical record. The historian David Gress criticized the Great Books program which, in the aftermath of the First World War, downplayed the German and medieval contribution to the West while over-crediting the classical Greek element.[42] Both then and now, the rise of the West, phoenix-like, out of the ruins of Rome is a seldom-told-story because it contradicts what David Gress calls the Grand Narrative, a modern origins myth which M. Stanton Evans earlier called the Liberal History Lesson: “Freedom, democracy, and intellectual inquiry allegedly flourished in the pagan era, only to be crushed to earth in the Christian Middle Ages.”[43] It is a notion that still dominates academia, the professions, the media, and other hives of humanitarian sentiment who are susceptible to revolutionary schemes.

Indeed, Gress pointedly raised the question in 1998 whether the West has a future. Of the four groups which took a skeptical view at the time, it is the radical left, which today sets the terms of debate, as the most radical voices have done in the past. 

“Never before the twentieth century had any civilization produced within itself as powerful, as varied, or as wide-ranging a tradition of radical self-criticism as that of the West… [Some] were more or less overtly hoping for the end, in some cases the violent end, of their own civilization. The West, according to the more outspoken members of this fourth group, was, of all civilizations, uniquely rapacious, racist, sexist, exploitative, environmentally destructive, and hostile to all human dignity. It was unredeemable. Only if the West went down to destruction could the rest of the human race hope to survive. The historian Arthur Herman referred to the ‘sadistically redemptive’ outlook of those who, in this tradition, denied the West a right to a future.”[44]

It is here that the battle is joined for a future of economic, educational, and political freedom against the shadowy machinations – the long march through the institutions – of what Thomas Hobbes called “the restless desire of power for power.” 


[1]Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1935), 58.

WWilliam Carroll Bark, Origins of The Medieval World (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1958), 101.

[3]Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1938), 699-705.

[4]Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1960), 18- 23.

[5]Arthur E. R. Boak and William G. Sinnigen, A History of Rome to A.D. 565, 5th ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1965), 68-70.

[6]Ibid., 95-99.

[7]Ibid., pp. 169, 260-61. See Ernest Barker, Church, State, and Education (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1957), 6-11; E. L. Hebden Taylor, The Christian Philosophy of Law, Politics and the State (Nutley, N.J.: The Craig Press, 1966), 17-36.

[8]Ibid., 238.

[9]Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars: Historical Sketches, trans. by K. and R. Gregor Smith (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press), 52.

[10]Boak and Sinnigen, op. cit., 269-71, 279-82.

[11]Barker, Church, 19-20.

[12]Ibid., 22-23.

[13]Tertullian took pains to deny that any disloyalty was intended by Christians: “We must needs respect the Emperor as the chosen of the Lord, so that I might say that Caesar is more ours than yours, appointed as he is by our God.” T. M. Parker, Christianity and the State in the Light of History, Bampton Lectures (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1955), 1.

[14]Boak and Sinnigen, op. cit., 399- 400.

[15]Ibid., 400.

[16]Ibid., 400.

[17]Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom, revised ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967), 11, 18.

[18]J . Marcellus Kik, Church and State: The Story of Two Kingdoms (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1963), 27. 116.

[19]Roland H. Bainton, Early Christianity (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1960), 23.

[20]Ibid., 23.

[21]Boak and Slnnlgen, op. cit., 400; Kik, op. cit., 30-37.

[22]Bainton, op. cit., 27.

[23]Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), 89.

[24]Norman F. Cantor, Medieval History: The Life and Death of a Civilization (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963), 28-29. See Thomas Prince, A Chronological History of New-England in the Form of Annals (Boston: Kneeland & Green, 1736), 36- 38.

[25]Ibid., 29.

[26]Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine (London: Clarendon Press, 1940; Oxford University Press, 1957), 175-76.

[27]Pfeffer, op. cit., 13.

[28]Stauffer, Christ, 262; Boak and Sinnigen, History of Rome, 431-32. Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), 15, excerpts the text of Galerius’s Edict of Toleration.

[29]Cochrane, Christianity, 176.

[30]M. Searle Bates, Religious Liberty: An Inquiry (New York: International Missionary Council, 1945), 134.

[31]Barker, Church, 35.

[32]Latourette, History of Christianity, 133. See Verna M. Hall, comp., The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America: Christian Self-Government, American Revolution Bicentennial Edition, ed. Joseph Allan Montgomery (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1975),18-20, 117.

[33] Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1973, s. v. “Sanctuary,” by Helen Silving.

[34]Saint Augustine, The City of God, abridged, trans. Gerald G. Walsh, Demetrius B. Zema, Grace Monahan, and Daniel J. Honan (Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, 1958), 465.

[35]Joseph Lecler, The Two Sovereignties: A Study of the Relationship Between Church and State (London: Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1952), 19.

[36]Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church and State 1050-1300 (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 10-11, 118.

[37]Lecler, op. cit., 21.

[38]Cantor, Medieval History, 216-25; John W. Burgess, The Sanctity of Law: Wherein Does It Consist? (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1927), 27-30.

[39]Rosenstock-Huessy, Revolution, 488-90.

[40]Burgess, Sanctity, 3.

[41]Later popes challenged the emperors claim and transferred the title “Vicar of Christ” to themselves. See R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (New York: Penguin Books, 1970), pp. 104-05. 

[43]Evans 15.

[44]Gress, 14.



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