Separation of the church and state is not a new concept. Within the past two thousand years of Christian history however the strategies and ideas of Christian leaders have changed several times. During the time that Christ walked the earth we can anecdotally perceive a very adversarial relationship between Jesus’ ministry and the local Jewish and Roman governments. This type of relationship continued for the first three centuries of the Christian Church. There was an almost total separation between the emerging Christian Church and the ruling governments at the time due to consistent and violent persecutions of the Christian Church and Christians personally. This persecution continued in spite of the efforts of Paul, Tertullian and other early church scholars to justify Christianity to the Roman Empire. This current climate of persecution saw Christendom spread far and wide across the known world and saw no headway in the relationship between church and state. (1)
The situation changed drastically after Constantine winning the final decisive battle of Milvian Bridge in 312CE became the sole Roman Emperor. In 313CE, Constantine legalized and legitimized the Christian faith as an acceptable practice within the Roman Empire. It is noted by the historian Eusebius that Constantine’s mother Helen was a Christian and it was through her influence that Constantine took these steps and ultimately became a Christian himself. Constantine also changed the nature of the relationship between church and state. With a strong Emperor on the throne of Rome, a state sponsored religion becomes a tool for unity and control. This is the change in relationship that Constantine fosters. For the purposes of this discussion, this idea of the sep...
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...ith the discovery of the New World, once again the balance shifts back to a church dominate relationship with the Puritans and other religious groups seeking freedom in the New World. However, the rise of self and the rise of freedom forever alter the balance and separation issue for the church and state. Today a sort of détente exists between the church and state. Each side continues to seeking the dominate position within the relationship but each side constrained by law from interfering to greatly with each other. The issue of separation of church and state is not the simple issue it is portrayed as today. This is a complex issue with a history that dates back well over two thousand years and while discussed at length there are now easy answers too even today.
Miles, Margaret R., The Word Made Flesh
Gonzalez, Justo L., The Story of Christianity V2
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