Quotes About the Fall of the Church
Quotes about the fall of the Church. Because of differing perspectives on the church and on the interpretation of Jesus' promise that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church, I have tried to identify whether the quotes on this page are from Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox sources.
Did the Church Really Fall?
It's my opinion that the Church fell during the time of Constantine. My strongest evidence for this is the incredible difference between the history of Eusebius, written during Constantine's reign in A.D. 323, and the history of Socrates Scholasticus, written around A.D. 440. Eusebius' history concerns persecution, disputes with heretics, and great men of God; the sort of thing you'd expect in a church history. Socrates' history, covering the time after Constantine, is instead full of intrigue, violence, and stories like these.
However, that's not my only evidence. The quotes that follow are also evidence of the fall of the Church during Constantine's reign.
Please note that there was a lot leading up to this fall. I talk about those things in the section on the Nicene Era.
You can also see quotes about modern Christianity. It's May 14, 2009 as I write this, and I'm just starting that section today, but I'll include quotes both good and bad as time passes. This quote section grows overall every week.
John Wesley, d. 1791
I shall ... likewise contract the question itself to the first three centuries; for I have no more to do with the writers or miracles of the fourth than with those of the fourteenth century.
You will naturally ask: 'Why do you stop there? What reason can you give for this If you allow miracles before the empire became Christian, why not afterwards too?' I answer: Because, 'after the empire became Christian' (they are your own words), 'a general corruption both of faith and morals infected the Christian Church; which by that revolution, as St. Jerome says, "lost as much of her virtue as it had gained of wealth and power "' (page 123 [of Dr. Middleton's book]). And this very reason St. Chrysostom himself gave in the words you have afterwards cited: 'There are some who ask, Why are not miracles performed still Why are there no persons who raise the dead and cure diseases' To which he replies, that it was owing to the want of faith and virtue and piety in those times. (Letter to Dr. Conyers Middleton. Jan. 4, 1749. Par. 3-4. In James, J. (Ed.), The Wesley Center Online. Web Article. 1998. Retrieved Oct. 29, 2017 from http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1749/ . Parentheses in original, brackets mine)
Philip Schaff, 1875
Philip Schaff was a highly respected Protestant historian. His 8-volume History of the Christian Church is still in circulation today.
From the time of Constantine church discipline declines; the whole Roman world having become nominally Christian, and the host of hypocritical professors multiplying beyond all control." (History of the Christian Church, vol. III, p. 8)
Socrates and Sozomen [5th century historians] ... date the decline of discipline and of the former purity of morals from [the removal of the office of penitential elder (who heard confessions) in A.D. 390]. But the real cause lay further back, in the connection of the church with the temporal [secular] power. Had the state been pervaded with the earnestness and zeal of Christianity, like the Genevan republic, for example, under the reformation of Calvin, the discipline of the church would have rather gained than lost by the alliance. But the vast Roman state could not so easily and quickly lay aside its heathen traditions and customs; it perpetuated them under Christian names. The great mass of the people received, at best, only Johnís baptism of repentance, not Christís baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. (History of the Christian Church, vol. III, sec. 68)
A.W. Tozer, d. 1963
A.W. Tozer was Protestant.
Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender. (Unknown)
Justo Gonzalez, 1984
The sorry state of the church during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries gave impetus to various movements of reform. (The Story of Christianity, p. 342)
This situation changed drastically with the advent of Constantine and the peace of the church. Now one could be both a good Roman and a good Christian. Following the lead of the emperor, the Romanized classes flocked to the church. Others from the same social strata who had been converted earlier saw this as a positive development, for their earlier decision was now corroborated by that of other important people. But Christians from the lower classes tended to see the new developments as a process of corruption of the church. What these Christians had always hated in the Roman empire was now becoming part of the church. Soon the powerful—those who controlled politics and the economy—would also control the church. (The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. Ch. 16)
Justo Gonzales, 1987
Justo Gonzales is a Protestant historian.
[During the reign of Constantine] these new conditions also had their negative consequences. In the first place, there soon began mass conversion that inevitably detracted from the depth of conviction and the moral life of the church. Secondly, the imperial protection made it easier for the powerful to join the church and to seek to retain and exert their power within the community of faith. Finally, the same protection, which gave Christians the possibility of developing their theology to an extent that was previously impossible, also implied the possibility of imperial condemnation or favor to one theological position or another, and this in turn gave theological controversies a political dimension that they had not previously had. (A History of Christian Thought. Volume 1: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon.(p. 262). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.)
E. Glenn Hinson, 1994
E. James Hinson is a Protestant historion who graduated from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.
As more and more converts flooded the church in the two long eras of peace (212-249; 260-304), the question of Christian lifestyle grew increasingly vexing. The large number of apostates during the persecutions under Decius and under Diocletian illuminates the fact that many had not thought through their commitments. Fleshing out this point are canons of the Synod of Elvira in Spain held in 305 or 306. If the canons represent actual cases, as is likely, they point up the grave difficulties many converts, including clergy, had in sorting out what distinguished Christian from pagan even in elementary ways. Some upper-class converts could not decide whether they could continue to function as flamines, offering sacrifices to the gods or preparing for public games. Divorce, adultery, fornication, and sodomy were common. Parents sold their children into prostitution. Some intermarried with pagans, Jews, and heretics. Both clergy and laity exacted interest from borrowers. Some failed to attend church regularly. Others still kept idols in their homes. An adulterous catechumen conceived a child and had it killed. Some served as informers during the persecution under Diocletian. Such problems mounted higher and higher after Constantine as the constituency of the churches multiplied many times. (The Early Church. [Abingdon Press: Nashville] 1996. p. 143)
The previous quote on persecution in the third century takes on more meaning in regard to the "fall of the church" in light of Hinson's take on persecution in the second century, which now follows.
The steadfastness of large numbers of Christians in persecution is in itself an interesting phenomenon that has received several explanations. Some scholars have pointed to analogous accounts of Greek and Roman heroes, but the analogies break down when motives are closely examined. Others have emphasized instead the conditioning process that converts went through in the catechumenate that prepared them for such opposition. Although this would offer a partial explanation, it too overlooks the deeper theological perspective out of which the martyrs themselves acted. The martyrs belonged to the lineage of Jewish martyrs and inherited from Judaism the idea of martyrdom as personal witness to the truth of their faith over against heathendom, the hope of personal resurrection and vengeance on apostates and persecutors in the hereafter, and the view that the true oppressors were not earthly powers but cosmic and demonic ones. It was not by chance that pictures of Daniel among the lions and the three "children" in the fiery furnace turned up frequently in the catacombs, for the stories of the Maccabean era fed the Christian faithful just as they had fed the Jewish people. (The Early Church. [Abingdon Press: Nashville] 1996. p. 73)
Tom Lee, 2009
This quote is from an article on an Australian Catholic site. The site says it is a discussion Catholic spirituality, faith, and theology, but it is very liberal, and the Roman Catholic Church should not be held responsible for it. Further, the history in the article is not very deep. With this guy you'll need to assess on your own based on other history sources(such as the Nicea pages on this site), whether his opinion is correct. His last reference to a comparison between Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the Nicene Creed you ought to be able to judge for yourself.
[Author is referring to Constantine's reign after the Great Persecution ended.] Delivered from physical danger at the hands of the State, the Church was soon torn by theological dissension within; the almost inevitable outcome of its changed character. Having assimilated Hellenic philosophy and ethics and social forms, the Church also assumed a new frame of mind that shifted the emphasis from conduct to belief. The total contrast can be seen by comparing the Sermon on the Mount, which came at the beginning, and the Nicene Creed, which finalized the initial stage of the theological process of elaboration. The former is a sermon on ethics; the latter is a dogmatic, metaphysical credo, unrelated to conduct, in which contentious ideas and surmises with no provenance in Jesus' teaching became improbable dogmas. (The Conversion of Constantine, Part 17.2, from www.catholica.com.au)