Results of state established religion by
by Rit Nosotro
Theodosius and Fu Jian in the late 4th century
Compare the establishment of sole legal religions such as Christianity by Theodosius I in 379, and Mahayana Buddhism by the proto-Tibetan politico-military genius, Fu Jian in 382. What was the result of a politician centralizing religion and sweeping away opposition?
The establishment of sole legal religions, such as Christianity by Theodosius I in 379, and Mahayana Buddhism by Fu Jian in 382, though they were for a short time successful, were short lived in time span, based on unbiblical principles, and completely thrived on fear rather than true faith.
Both of these campaigns, which occurred in the same time period, rose quickly
to power, and then were extinguished rapidly after the death of their leaders.
While Theodosius’ campaign covered the great empire of Rome, Fu Jian’s
campaign, who was a proto-Tibetan politico-military genius, covered only the
Former Qin State in China, both attempts at state controlled religion were not
lasting. Lasting just twenty years, the Mahayana Buddhism theocracy state government
collapsed after Fu Jian’s death in 391. A war broke out between neighboring
states, and the Northern Empire fell. Buddhist monasteries around the state,
which were built by Fu Jian were destroyed by the Huns from the Northeast. Although
for a short time Fu Jian constructed the strongest and most effective state
in China at that time, it quickly fell. In contrast, Theodosius’ campaign
was destroyed not by military means but by the change of power to a non Christian
line of Caesars after his death and the Hunnish and Alan peoples. Poets say
that the life of Theodosius “lay like a ruined sea wall within the barbarian
tide.” These two phenomenally strong crusades lasted but a little time
then crumbled into nothingness, because they were based on unbiblical principles
Although these two religious were partially successful and did unite nations or states, they were based on motives which were ungodly and principles which were unbiblical. Fu Jian’s purpose behind his campaign was the desire for power. This military genius, who had planned and won many wars, brought the state of Former Qin together under one religion not for moral or religious purposes, but the desire to have a stronger state than any other at that time in Asia. In 379, when Theodosius decided to unite the Roman Empire under the Holy Catholic Church, it was a decision of faith, but also one of foolishness. The emperor had grown up a devout Roman Catholic and did desire for it to be the prominent religion in Rome, but also at that time, Rome was dying. The empire was filled with illiteracy, slaves, hunger, old families and citizens and most of all, an air of lethargic distaste had weaved it’s way throughout the whole empire. “Over this spreading stagnation the great Theodosius had sought to throw his fabric of a Christian empire.” (Constantinople, Birth of an Empire Lamb, Harold, See Works Cited) In the end, Theodosius had not really desire to Christianize Rome for the good of the people or to spread the gospel, but to conceal a growing problem in a dying nation. After the Christianization process, “The empire was not made up of not Roman citizens, but of some Orthodox believers in a religion.”
In addition to being short lived and principally unsound, these two attempts at legal, government based religion thrived only on fear by the people. When Theodosius made Roman Catholicism the religion of Rome, he penned the Edicts of Theodosius, which were laws regarding the religious participation in the Empire. The penalties for not following Catholicism were incredibly harsh and overbearing. These people were compelled to worship God by force and consequence; a practice frowned upon by the Bible. The Bible teaches that one must choose to follow Christ and that religion should not be forced upon a person. Even Jesus, when ministering to a man, and the man rejected His teaching, Jesus did not force the man but simply walked away, knowing full well that the Holy Spirit would work through the soul of the unbeliever. Though the threats of Theodosius were seldom carried out, the laws were there to scare people into Christianity, which is an unbiblical concept, and fruitless in spreading the true Gospel of Christ. Fu Jian’s idea of spreading the religion of Buddhism was equally wrong. He looked upon it as an opportunity to gain military, political, and social power by uniting the Former Qin state under one religion rather than for a belief in unity under one god.
These two exceedingly powerful men with brilliant ideas both strayed in the wrong direction in establishing sole legal religions for several reasons. Both of these campaigns lasted little time and fell into nothing following the death of their leader, and were started on the basis of unsound principles mainly directly relating to the leaders’ own personal desires. Lastly, though these ideas were successful, they were only so on the basis of fear by the people. All in all, these two endeavors were essentially fruitless because they were done for the glory man rather than for God.
1. What denomination of Christianity did Theodosius advocate in his lifetime?
(a) Greek Orthodox
(c) Roman Catholic
2. What type of Buddhism did Fu Jian issue as state religion of the Former
3. Theodosius was emperor of :
1. Ph.D. Combee, Jerry H. History of the World in a Christian Perspective.
Pensacola, A Beka Book, 1995
2. Lamb, Harold Constantinople Birth of an Empire New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1966
3. Levy, Patricia Tibet. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation; Times Books International
4. Zevin, Professor Jack (General Editor) The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World. New York: Kingfisher. Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 1992
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