Toleration: Positive or Negative for the Christian Church?

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In early Europe, the main idea of toleration was to permit various religious communities to continue worshipping their way. The problem is that over the years, the definition of the word "tolerate" has been misused. The word, tolerate really means "to bear or permit". It means, “to allow to be done or occur.” (Random House 1382) However, the word tolerance means, “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.” (Dictionary.com) How one answers the question, "Toleration: Positive or Negative for the Christian Church?" depends on which definition of tolerate we are talking about. Before 65 AD, the Roman government considered a Christian a member of the Jewish sect. After Romans recognized that Christians were not Jews, the governing authorities began to prosecute Christians. Although most Christians martyred before 300 AD, were killed by their neighbors instead of the Roman government, official opposition by the government gave psychological approval to the lynch mobs who did much of the killing. (Spickard 39) During the early years, the Roman government looked upon the Christians as "atheists" because they withdrew from polytheism as they did not believe in all the Roman gods. However, in 313 AD, Emperor Constantine moved Christianity from being considered illegal to being tolerated in his Edict of Milan. Constantine actively supported the church. This gave Christianity the same sanction as other religions of the time. Christianity was now tolerated. They could build churches and inherit land and create legacies for the Roman Church. Theodosius I was able to finalize this movement toward Christianity with the forbiddance of worshipping the old gods. With his mandate, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. (Sherman 178) With the Empire and the Roman church merged they became a major force in the world. The Roman...
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