Monday, September 10, 2012

England, Constantine, Pagans, Etc.

Pope Gregory The Great Sends St Augustine To England 
I got a wide ranging comment from someone who calls themselves Hornblower. I decided to reply and made it its own post. 
Interesting - but.... Catholicism is the Johnny-come-lately in Christianity. The Popes are in reality figureheads supported by an intense series of myths, and it is only in understanding these myths that the complete error of Roman Catholicism becomes apparent.
Catholicism was started by Christ. That is the claim the Catholic church makes. If you are assuming they were started later you are begging the question. The question being whether they are who they claim to be.

Popes are not just figureheads. They have real power in the church. They appoint bishops. They define the official teaching. They canonize saints. A figurehead ruler is someone like Queen Elizabeth II who has no real power.
Note 1. Constantine's mother was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog (Brychan ap Brecon), the Christian king of one of the British kingdoms.
If this is true then what does it show?  Constantine was a Roman emperor. He had no official authority in the church. He was not even baptized until late in his life. Even if he was a pope, who his mother was would not matter much. The graces of leadership in the church are not conferred at birth based on who your parents are.
Point 1. Britain was Christian before Constantine, and hence before there was such a thing as a pope.
Note 2. King LLeirwg declared all Britain for Christ in 156 A.D.
Point 2. Britain had already been Christian a long time.
Note 3. The oldest known Christian construction is a beehive hermitage near Llan yr Angel Aber Cowyn. This dates from approximately 38 A.D.
Point 3. Christianity had a presence in Britain just after the Crucifixion.
I have seen evidence that Christianity was in parts of England before St Augustine of Canterbury arrived in the 6th century. He is traditionally credited with converting England but that is likely an exaggeration. Christianity had probably made it there before that. Still 38 AD is pretty early. Even 156 sounds too early.  Again, what do you think we believe about Constantine? There are no articles of faith about Constantine.
Note 4. Constantine was a pagan, who was converted by his mother. However, he refused to let go of most of the Roman pagan festivals and practices. Instead he incorporated them into his new ersatz form of "Christianity".
Christians during Constantine's time had  been living their faith illegally for centuries. They were quite used to defying Roman emperors. Why would they suddenly obey this one and let him redefine their faith? Not only that, guys like St Athanasius and St Augustine were not able to see this.

There are quite a few Christian writings from before Constantine. It is not like the church didn't exist before then. There was obviously the New Testament but even outside of that we have documents that show there was no major doctrinal shift at the time of Constantine. Sure the faith was legalized and that meant the church changed in some important ways but it did not deny its old teachings or make up new ones out of thin air.
Point 4. Roman Catholicism is predicated substantially on pagan rites and beliefs.
This is repeated over and over again. It just isn't true. In fact, Marcion was excommunicated for trying to bring in pagan ideas. Gnosticism was a pagan idea but it was a heresy the church fought. The bishops who remained in control were the ones who wanted nothing to do with paganism. 
Among the pagan rituals Constantine introduced was:
1) the doctrine of the trinity: this came from several pagan sources, for example the worship of Mithras and also from Isis Osiris and Horus.
We have many of the writings of the church fathers at the time they were developing the doctrine of the trinity. They talk endlessly about scripture and tradition. They don't talk about pagan gods at all. So when you say the doctrine of the trinity "came from several pagan sources" you are making an assertion that goes against all the data. There is just no evidence of early church leaders holding these things in high regard. That is not where they went for truth about God.

Having said that, it would not be troubling to me if some pagan beliefs were somehow similar to Christian beliefs. It would not prove the Christians just copied the pagans. Another possibility is that both were getting their revelation from the same source, namely God. We believe Jesus is God's best and most complete revelation of Himself. We don't believe God could not or would not have revealed himself to another group in a lesser way. So seeing Christian truth in other religions just means those other religions got some things right.
2) Walking around the outside of the Church on Easter Sunday morning: this is worship of the pagan god Baal.
Do Catholics do this? Nobody told me. 
3) Christmas: Yeshua ben Yusef (or bin Miryam) was born in 4 B.C. in September, but the pagan rites of winter sacrifice to make the crops grow again had to be retained, so the date was moved to nearer midwinter.
You need to read this from Mark Shea.
4) Yeshua ben Yusef was crucified on a Wednesday, on the eve of the high Sabbath, on the 14th of Nisan. Hence the prophesy is true, since from Wednesday to Saturday is three days. From Wednesday to Saturday is a day and a half. Three days He was in the Tomb, but the entire concept of Easter had to be altered to fit in with pagan rites of Spring.
There was a controversy about when to celebrate Easter. The East and the West churches has a big difference over it. Again, you look at the arguments they made and you don't see any concern with fitting the pagan rites of spring. There was concern with the Jewish passover. Should Easter follow the passover? It does. But that is because Christians believe in a legitimate connection between the two.
5) the doctrine of Transubstantiation was invented at Nicaea. It is completely without Biblical foundation and was intended to provide a mystical bond. Equally the concept of the sacrament of the communion is a fallacy, built upon the same demands of mysticism. All that Yeshua did was to say 'every time you sit down to eat, remember me – raise your glasses to my memory' - the rest is made up.
Nicaea? I think the word "Transubstantiation" was first used by St Thomas Aquinas. He was way later than Nicaea. The doctrine existed in a simpler form from the beginning. St Thomas just gave it more philosophical depth. St Justin Martyr, St Ignatius of Antioch and, of course, the gospels teach that Jesus said "This is my body" and He meant it literally.
6) nowhere in the Bible is Miryam described as a virgin. She is called a young woman: sometimes translated as a maiden – having the same sense in english as young woman. Furthermore, Yeshua was by no means her only child, and yet romanism expects to change every aspect of reality to fit its concept of a mysterious myth led religion.
 Matthew was quoting Isaiah. Isaiah wrote in Hebrew and used a word that can mean virgin or young woman. The best version of Matthew we have is in Greek. The Greek word does mean virgin. There is some evidence that Matthew might have been originally written in Hebrew. If it was that version has been lost. Still people can suppose that Matthew originally quoted Isaiah in the Hebrew and used the word that need not mean virgin. It would make the passage quite strange. Why would he note that Jesus was born to a young woman? That is not much of a sign of anything. The early church has always seen that passage as noting a virgin birth. Besides, Luke also mentions Mary was a virgin.
7) most of the books of the New Testament were ignored or destroyed because they did not fit with Constantine's concept of the new religion which he was creating.
 This is just silly. Constantine didn't have strong opinions about doctrine. Books were ignored because they were expensive to copy so only the most valuable, that is those best connected with the apostles, were reproduced.
8) Peter could not have laid his hands on the next Pope – because there wasn’t one for more than 300 years. Furthermore, there has never been a ‘single line of succession’ of popes until relatively modern times. There have been three female popes, and during one period, there were five popes claiming the title at the same time.
You can find the list of popes here. There has been a lot of things said about the papacy. The question is if it is true. You seem content to believe any bad thing anyone says about the office. But if the office is true would you not expect some lies to be told? Would you not expect some people to falsely claim to be pope? Would you not expect myths about Pope Joan or whatever to appear? So the existence of this kind of thing is not really evidence that there is no legit office. In fact, if the office was not legit you would expect it to be impossible to construct a list of popes back to Peter.
9) finally, the Coptic Church is both older and truer to primitive Christianity than Rome.
OK, become Coptic then. The Coptic church was started in 451 AD. Even if you hold to the silly notion that the Catholic church was started by Constantine that would still make the Catholic church older.
So now tell me - from where does the much vaunted "authority" of the Roman church come?
 From Jesus. That is what we have always claimed. Catholics don't believe in a church started by Constantine. That religion is a straw man. It does not exist in the real world. It is an urban legend.
It is a complete fake: a botch up of everything Constantine decided was a good way of not offending any of Rome’s old pantheon. The Augustine mission to Britain was to achieve agreement with this much older Church, and every new Pope upon his accession used to acknowledge the seniority of the British Church. [NOT, you will note, the Church of England which is even newer than the papists.]
You seem to think that when the gospel came to England is important.  England is a big place. Just because St Augustine went there does not mean he encountered any Christians that may have been there. He talked about converting non-Christians. I believe him.

France has traditionally been thought of as the church's eldest daughter. This is because of the conversion of Clovis around the year 500. Some other countries converted earlier but to an Armenian faith rather than orthodox Christianity. But which country received the faith first is not really an important part of the faith. If we are wrong about that and England was first that would not disprove the Catholic faith.


  1. Your questioner seems to be confusing the English with the Britons. There were Britons in Great Britain before the invasion of the English, also known as the Angles and the Saxons. The Anglo-saxon invasion in the 5th century was a catastrophic blow the Britons, many of whom were Christians. There were few if any Christians among the English. The Southeast corner of Great Britain became known as England, and it had become a pagan country. The Britons, and with them the Church, held out in Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland.

    The Church in those lands had only modest success evangelizing their enemies in the centuries following the invasion. However, Saint Augustine of Cantebury had tremendous success in his evangelization, and it is largely due to his missionaries that England became a Christian country.

  2. Thanks for that Figulus. Good to get the connections straight. Constantine's mother was St Helena. I went to Israel in my protestant days and heard a lot about her there. She was a Briton? Was she Christian while Constantine was growing up? Interesting stuff.