I saw a show on History Channel to today that talked about Emperior Constantine and his Christian conversion. The historian there claimed that Constantine actually faked Christian beliefs and that "his version" of Christianity was based on well known pagan beliefs. Allegedly he pretended to be Christian to gain support from his troops(some of which were Christians). It was also said that what we believe now, reg Jesus, is actually came from earlier pagan god(i forget the name he was quoting) Did anyone see this show or have an opinion?
The History Channel is mostly garbage when it comes to the issue of Religion. Especially Christianity.
Read this book:http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Constantine-Twilight-Empire-Christendom/dp/0830827226 (Defending Constantine)
it was written by a Presbyterian, but it's pretty good. I plan on giving a review in a week or two.
I don't think Constantine faked his Christian beliefs. The empire was only 10 to 15 percent Christian, and most of his soldiers were not Christian. He saw Christians get killed under the reign of the pagan Emperor Diocletian. Constantine was a soldier in his army. Also, his father showed mercy to the christians in his region, and so when Diocletian allowed him to rejoin his father in the north west.....near where Britain is today.....I think....I have to re-read that part in the book. But his father's dealing with christians could of had an influence on Constantine, as well as the harsh and severe treatment he saw by the senior Emperor......Diocletian....back when he was a soldier of his in the Eastern region of the Empire. Constantine was able to see the ruins of Jerusalem, and other cities like Antioch, Byzantium.......etc. And he saw the harshness of how christians were treated.
I could be wrong, but I think there are two different accounts of his famous vision. It seems as if it took some time for Constantine to understand the meaning of the vision, but there is no reason to assume that he wasn't sincere.
When he defeated one of the minor Emperors in the west at Rome, he got rid of the victory pagan sacrifices. If he faked being a Christian then why would he openly offend the Roman Senate by doing so? He got rid of Roman Sacrifices. If he wasn't sincere then why would he change Roman custom to do that? Also, he was known to preach or give lectures about God in his court. He seemed to care alot about not offending God.....for he read how God judged the kings of the world in the Old Testament. He also wanted a unified Church (The Donatist and Arian issues)
because of this very reason.....he didn't want to offend God. Just like alot of Roman leaders before him, he was somewhat superstitious. He wanted God to be pleased with the Roman Empire and with him. And so I think he was really sincere. He had to walk a tight rope because 80 to 85 percent of his citizens were still pagan. And so he made Christianity acceptable, but he didn't make it the state religion.....that happened after his reign. He set the Empire in the direction of a christian course, but like the Emperors before him, he let the governers of certain regions enforce his decrees. This is why we see inconsistency in actual practice. Constantine didn't want to convert the pagan population by force. His goal was to convert them through persuasion. Through Christian unity, church buildings, moral example, and argumentation. If you think about it, Constantine was alot more humane than later kings. The Franks and Saint Vlad were pretty harsh to their subjects compared to Saint Constantine. I think we should keep that in mind.
But yeah, read the book! It's a good read and it will help with alot of your questions. Oh, the reason why Saint Constantine waited to get Baptized at the last minute was because of a popular belief that sins can't be forgiven after water Baptism. Or that sins could be forgiven only once or twice after water Baptism.
Constantine saw himself as a very sinful man, and so he wanted to make sure that all his sins would be forgiven and that there wouldn't be a chance to sin again after water Baptism.......and so he waited to be Baptized shortly before death.
Orthodoxtv use to have a 30 minute video about Saint Constantine. http://www.orthodox.tv/thesaints.php#stconstantine (St. Constantine:
The Emperor Who Freed Christianity)
Also, in regards to the Zeitgeist nonsense, an Anglican on youtube did a good job in debunking it:http://www.youtube.com/user/labarum312#g/c/3816CCC6BFA0F976 (Contra Zeitgeist)
I hope this helps!