Century of Crisis: Books 1 – 4
The century between AD 284 – 384 brought with it some enormous changes for Christianity. It is safe to say that probably no other century in history has influenced God’s people to the degree that this one did.
We still live with some of the repercussions of that century today. Yet many Christians know very little about it. This series of books looks at the Century of Crisis through the eyes of the emperors of the time, as well as the eyes of common church members and leaders.
AD 284: Countdown
This is the story of two people. Though they never met, they were indirectly involved in each other’s lives. One was rich, and one was poor. One was powerful and the other was nobody. One was a commoner who became emperor of the Roman empire, the other was born a commoner and remained one. Most important, one was a pagan and the other was a Christian.
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AD 312: Toleration
What happens when the world’s most powerful man decides to support the cause of a lowly Galilean carpenter? And why would some Christian leaders resist this idea?
Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to acknowledge Christianity’s right to exist. He claimed that Jesus had given him a vision that led to his victory over the superior armies of his arch-enemy Maxentius. Soon anyone who wanted to get anywhere in the upper levels of the Roman government had to identify as a Christian.
Can Christianity survive under the patronage of a Roman emperor? And what happens when people resist the changes he wants to make? Will the Church be able to maintain the concepts Jesus taught during the heady years when Christianity turned into a social club patronized by the world’s most powerful soldiers and politicians?
STAGE: Submitted for review and editing.
AD 361: Sabotage
What does the church do when the emperor turns his back on Christianity because of the hypocrisy of family members who profess Christianity but don’t practice it? Does it learn any lessons from this?
Constantine’s youngest son, Julian, turned against Christianity and determined to wipe it out. Some of his earliest memories were of his family being slaughtered at the orders of his “Christian” half brothers. He was determined to return the Roman Empire to its golden years of paganism. However, he only had about three years to accomplish his grand experiment.
Most people thought the years of persecution were just memories. Now the church was faced with an emperor who had some different ideas about persecution. At first, it seemed like this wasn’t so bad. But Julian was no idiot—he had been raised in the church and he had some shrewd ideas about what it would take to destroy it.
How will the church cope with needing to send their children to a school taught by pagans? How will they react when a bishop is replaced by one who teaches heresy? And what are they going to do when they discovers that the protection of law and order no longer applies to Christians, even though it continues to protect their pagan neighbors against them?
STATUS: Research and writing
AD 380: Deceived
How long can the church survive with two powerful rulers; an emperor and a bishop who both feel that they have the divine right to make decisions? What happens when they clash and the bishop excommunicates the emperor? And what happens to the ordinary people who just want to be part of God’s kingdom and follow Jesus?
Theodosius became emperor in 379 and in 380 he issued the edict that eventually resulted in Christianity becoming the only legal religion in Rome. But Theodosius found himself locking horns with the empire’s most powerful bishop, Ambrose.
Ambrose was a very rigid protector of the Catholic church. When Theodosius punished some Catholic radicals for burning a Jewish synagogue, Ambrose came to their protection. Theodosius backed down, probably marking the first time that a bishop won a political victory of this magnitude over an emperor.
But like usual the common people take the brunt of it all. Can they stay in a church that is becoming increasingly politicalized? And if they decide they can’t what are the options?
It was not a decision that anyone made lightly. Some decided one way, and some decided another way. The repercussions of these decisions lasted for an entire millennium.