Tolerance has not only existed in the 20th-21st century, but also during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. In the same way that tolerance has negatively impacted the church in our contemporary period, tolerance has had a harmful impact upon the church in previous centuries. In both cases, doctrinal distinctives have been confused, and false doctrine has been accepted.
The fundamental driving force of tolerance is that it is to be used as a unifying element; it is used to eliminate differences and to subsume these differences into a unity. In order to produce this unity in the context of religion, doctrinal differences are disregarded and doctrinal similarity is emphasized. The resulting religion becomes a series of moralistic social customs, and it’s doctrines have no purpose other than accomplishing pragmatic goals. Constantine used religious tolerance in order to help unify the Roman Empire and eliminate conflict. At that time the Roman Empire was under extreme pressures from various barbaric tribes, who would eventually dissolve the empire at the beginning of the 5th century, only decades after Constantine’s rule. Constantine realized that religion could culturally, socially, and religiously unite these barbarian hoards and help to bring them under Roman rule:
“Constantine was conscious from the beginning of the enormous value that religion could have as a unifying element in an empire hounded by grave external and internal problems…Constantine was conscious of the importance of forcing a new religion that was monotheistic and that would integrate all of the subjects of the empire” (Vidal 68).
Monotheism displays a greater unifying effect than pagan cults, since it posits a single, transcendent god that is the creator of all things, instead of several rival gods that all compete for human attention. The most readily available and wide-ranging monotheistic religion of that time was Christianity. Therefore, Constantine decided to make Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire to accomplish this unification. However, in order to coerce the pagan subjects of the Roman Empire to convert to Christianity, he distorted Christianity to incorporate familiar pagan practices:
“Constantine repressed all efforts at division at the heart of Christianity…He tried to fused Christianity with pagan cults…In an attempt to convert Christianity into the ideological base of his empire, Constantine was able to introduce ceremonies, viewpoints, beliefs, and practices into its heart which originated in paganism” (Vidal 69-70).
While Constantine also sought to end theological division within Christianity itself:
“In another summons [Constantine] wrote: ‘such is the regard I pay to the lawful Catholic Church that I desire you to leave no schism or division of any kind anywhere'” (Christ & Civilization 33).
This importation of paganism into the church resulted in what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church. Papists worship Mary and their version of the saints to this day because Constantine took the old pagan idols and gave them Christian names. Instead of the female goddesses like Diana of the Ephesians (Acts 19), they were turned into Mary, and subsequently the pagan worship of these goddesses was given a Christian label. Cesar Vidal documents this distortion of Christianity in more detail in his small book called The Myth of Mary. Familiar pagan goddesses like Isis, Demeter, and Cybele were morphed into Mary, so that pagans could be assimilated into a false, homogenized version of Christianity while maintaining forms of their goddess worship.
Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313 helped to stop Christian persecution, but the toleration caused the church to be accepting of false doctrine. It was not true tolerance, since doctrinal division within the church was not to be tolerated. The toleration did not make it so that all religions were tolerated within the Roman Empire, but made it so that the church was coerced by the state into accepting heresy and paganism.
The Roman Catholic Church is now utilizing this same method of pseudo tolerance. Papists deny justification by faith alone, evidenced by their continued affirmation of the Council of Trent, and therefore they deny the Gospel. As the Council of Trent says:
“If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.“
Knowledgable Christians realize that true papists are unbelievers who are members of an apostate and ridiculous organization that has been responsible for the murder of millions of Christians throughout the centuries. It’s popes claim divine rule and absolute authority over the entire earth:
“In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent claimed that the pope has ‘all power on Earth….All temporal power is his; the dominion, jurisdiction, and government of the whole Earth is his by divine right” (Ecclesiastical Megalomania 131).
They have realized that in order to gain more influence over protestants and other Christian groups, it is necessary to not emphasize the differences between our religion and theirs, but to emphasize our similarities. They want to reduce our distinctions in order that we can be united and subsumed under their authority once again. Rather than calling protestants heretics and unbelievers, as they have done in the past like in the Council of Trent, Papists now say that “the Catholic Church accepts [those raised as Christians outside the Roman Church] with respect and affection as brothers” (Catechism). Papists pretend to be open and accepting so that we will eventually submit to their theocratic rule and damnable doctrine. Kenneth Copeland along with the rest of the word of faith movement have vocalized their submission to Rome, along with Rick Warren. Warren’s rhetoric follows the same line of thinking as I have described; he deemphasizes all differences between evangelical Christians and papists, while focusing only on our similarities.
Although the Roman Catholic Church uses tolerance as a unifying tool for the time being, it longs for the day when it will be able to wield totalitarian power without using tolerance. Tolerance is just a tool they use to increase their power, and once they gain more influence, tolerance goes by the wayside, as the Metropolitan Conference of Bishops is quoted as saying:
“Pope Leo XIII did not sanction toleration except when required by circumstances, to avoid greater evils; he further stated that, the greater the toleration granted the less perfect the society” (Ecclesiastical Megalomania 178).
Pope Leo XII looked forward to the day when the papacy would reign supreme, and all people would be subject to it once again. Since toleration is less perfect, the truly perfect society is therefore a complete despotism. This type of pseudo tolerance always leads to a form of totalitarianism by its very nature, becoming the opposite of what it claims to support.
Not only has the Roman Catholic Church used tolerance to increase its power, but advocates of radical Islam have done the same. David Wood has demonstrated this same tendency of Muslims in the west to use pseudo tolerance and their democratic freedoms in order to impose their ideology upon others and gain power. Wood labels pseudo tolerance as the first step in the islamization process:
“When Muslims are completely outnumbered and can’t possibly win a physical confrontation with unbelievers, they are to live in peace with non-Muslims and preach a message of tolerance. We see an example of this stage when Muhammad and his followers were a persecuted minority in Mecca. Since the Muslims were entirely outnumbered, the revelations Muhammad received during this stage…called for religious tolerance and proclaimed a future punishment (rather than a worldly punishment) for unbelievers.”
In order to gain prominence, radicals must never openly declare their radical ideas, since no one would accept them if they did. However, if these same radicals engage the public with a more inclusive message, then they will be more accepted. Robert Spencer calls this tactic Stealth Jihad, while David Wood describes it as the first of three stages of Islamic Jihad. The first stage of jihad, when Muslims are in the minority in society, is to implement this tolerance ideology that I have previously described.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a perfect example of this tactic. CAIR claims to be a civil rights organization that advocates for justice and understanding between Muslims and the rest of America. In reality, CAIR is a Muslim Brotherhood front group that has been linked to Hamas, one of the largest Islamic terrorist organizations in the world. Since CAIR is now known to be linked to terrorist organizations, the FBI has formally severed its communication with them. CAIR’s true agenda is to subject the whole world to Islamic rule, as Omar Ahmad, CAIR’s cofounder, is quoted as saying:
“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant…The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
Ahmad has since denied these claims, since they are detrimental to CAIR’s agenda to secretly propagate Islamic radicalism under the guise of tolerance and civil rights.
Tolerance ideology is alive and well. Papists and Muslims alike have used this tactic in order to confuse their opponents so that they may exercise their authority over them. The purpose of tolerance is to eliminate distinctions in thought and to attack anyone who maintains these distinctions. In the context of the Roman Catholic Church, both in the 4th century and today, these distinctions relate to doctrines. By deemphasizing doctrinal distinctions, Papists attempt to present themselves in a more favorable light so that Christians will accept their religion and authority. In the context of Islam, organizations in the west like CAIR deemphasize and even lie about Islamic doctrine, and pretend to support civil rights, when in reality their goal is to impose Islamic law. The goals of both of these ideologies is totalitarianism. The path to this utopian despotism that they both dream of is through the methodical implementation of tolerance. In light of this, Christians must be on the alert. We must separate from darkness, maintain clear judgements and distinctions, and not be taken captive to this worldly philosophy.
Robbins, John W. Christ & Civilization. 2nd ed. Unicoi: Trinity Foundation,
Robbins, John W. Ecclesiastical Megalomania: The Economic and Political Thought of the
Roman Catholic Church. Unicoi: Trinity Foundation, 2006. Print.
Vidal, Cesar. The Myth of Mary. Chino: Chick, 1995. Print.