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Lent Group – Perspectives on Church and State
15th March 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
How we got here: from Constantine to the Reformation
For most of its first three hundred years, Christianity was one religion among many in the Roman Empire, often persecuted, with no formal relation to state power. Then, in 312AD, the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and took the Empire with him. Rome became Christian.
For the first time Christianity became identified with the life, political and social, of a major state. That changed everything, and a new pattern was established that dominated most of Europe for more than a thousand years. The state could never ignore the Church, and the Church sought, in power and practice, to conform the state to itself.
Then, in the 16th century, the Reformation threw all these matters into the air. Should the state take sides in the new Protestant-Catholic division, or was it the duty of the secular power to rise above these differences? Should Christians have any dealings at all with state power? What loyalty did they owe to their rulers? Europe fought over these questions for a century and a half.
This week we shall be looking particularly at state religion, its nature and justification, and at the independence of secular power. Should the Church seek to make the state Christian, and does the state have a duty of neutrality in matters of faith?