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Church History: The Age of the Christian Roman Empire (312-590) Part 2
Dn. Mervin Lin
3 March 2020
Monasticism began to appear during this period. It became a substitute for spiritual testing in the wake of declining persecutions. Although there were some who practiced asceticism to flee the corrupted church. Eventually, the monks in this movement became scholars for the church. One of the most popular orders in monasticism was found by Benedict. His rule became the ascetic blueprint for most of Western Europe. Although monasticism was created under a flawed view of human life, it rendered the Middle Ages tremendous service through its missionary force and scholarly endeavours.
When Rome fell to the Visigoths in 410 AD, the Romans started to doubt the decision made by the emperors to turn to the Christian God. A North African bishop by the name of Augustine would answer these doubts. Augustine is mostly known for his teachings on the doctrine of grace. He believed that man has no power or worthiness in himself, but his salvation is fully from God.
His answer to the fall of Rome was that earthly cities will rise and fall, but the City of God is everlasting. This spiritual vision gave others hope during the early Middle Ages as they lived through the woes of the world.
In 452 AD, Rome faced another crisis in the form of Attila the Hun. When Bishop Leo was successful in negotiating peace terms with him, it represented an important stage in the history of the papacy. The bishop of Rome now assumed a political leadership role that was vacant due to a weakened Roman Empire.
Leo is credited for providing the theological basis of the papal claim. This is the claim that Peter was the founder of the church in Rome, hence her bishops were successors to Peter’s authority. Up until the time of Constantine, there is no evidence that the bishop of Rome exercised jurisdiction outside of Rome. However, over time churches in major cities rose to prominence over other minor cities. Rome and her bishops rose to major importance on this development.
Leo would save Rome again, this time from the Vandals. By now, all Romans knew what their bishop had done for them and began to acknowledge him as their Pontifex Maximus. The church was now firmly set on a trajectory where political and religious authority were inseparable.
Dn. Mervin Lin