Another important city of Christianity around this time was Alexandria. One notable Christian theologian in Alexandria was Clement who lived around 150 A.D. to 215 A.D. (not know exactly). He was considered to be the head of the church in Alexandria. He wrote three books about Christianity including the Protrepticus (“Exhortation to the Greeks”), the Paedagogus (“Instructor”), and the Stromata (“Miscellanies”). Here are some quotes from the Stromata on the lake of fire:
“Fire is conceived of as a beneficent and strong power, destroying what is base, preserving what is good; therefore this fire is called 'wise' by the Prophets … We say that the fire purifies not the flesh but sinful souls, not an all-devouring vulgar [earthly, natural] fire, but the 'wise fire' was we call it, the fire that 'pierceth the soul' which passes through it.” - Stromata VII, 2:5-12, Clement
“saving disciplinary, leading to conversion” - Stromata VI, 6, Clement
From these quotes, we can conclude that Clement believed that the lake of fire was not eternal punishment, but a form of purification to convert a non-believer. Clement’s predecessor was Origen who lived around 185 A.D. to 254 A.D. Origen spent the last twenty years of his life in Palestine, where a wealthy patron hired six secretaries to help him write some books. Here’s a few quotes:
“The Sacred Scripture does, indeed, call our God 'a consuming fire' (Heb. 12:29), and says that 'rivers of fire go before His face' (Dan. 7:10), and that 'He shall come as a refiner’s fire and purify the people' (Mal. 3:2,3). As therefore, God is a consuming fire, what is it that is to be consumed by Him? We say it is wickedness, and whatever proceeds from it, such as it figuratively called 'wood, hay, and stubble' (1 Cor. 3:12-15) which denote the evil works of man. Our God is a consuming fire in this sense; and He shall come as a refiner’s fire to purify rational nature from the alloy of wickedness and other impure matter which has adulterated the intellectual gold and silver: consuming whatever evil is admixed in all the soul.” – Against Celsus, IV, 13, Origen
“They are purged with the 'wise fire' or made to pay in prison every debt up to the last farthing […] to cleanse them from the evils committed in their error […] Thus they are delivered from all the filth and blood with which they have been so filthied and defiled that they could not even think about being saved from their own perdition” – On Prayer, XXIX, 15, Origen
So we can see that Origen also agreed with Clement. Origen also saw the lake of fire as God’s refinement, cleansing, and purification of evil and sin.
After Jesus’ death, Christianity was banned by the Roman empire for 280 years. This is ironic because although it was banned it Rome, Rome also had a large amount of Christians. The Christians in Rome were terribly persecuted during this time. Then in 313 A.D., Constantine (272 A.D. – 337 A.D.), the emperor of Rome, legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan. In 325 A.D., Constantine assembled the Council of Nicea, in order to unify Christianity. Constantine believed that Christianity could help unify the Roman empire, which was beginning to divide. The council formed the Nicene Creed which was a basic statement of the Christian faith. However, Constantine himself also had Roman pagan beliefs. He also felt that the Roman empire would not accept a full Christian belief system. So he made a mixture of the two, which contained some beliefs that contradicted the Bible. Here are some of the main pagan beliefs:
1. The Cult of Isis – an Egyptian based religion which worshiped a mother-goddess, replaced Jesus’ mother Mary, so that Mary was now a figure of worship, with titles such as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God,” and “God-Bearer”
2. Mithraism – a popular Roman religion which celebrated a sacrificial meal, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a bull, so now communion, which Jesus meant to be a symbol of his body and blood, was not converted into Jesus’ ACTUAL body and blood, Mithraism also contain several “sacraments” which were later added to Catholicism
3. Henotheism – another popular Roman religion which worships a single supreme god while accepting the existence of other deities such as the gods of Jupiter, Neptune, and several others, so this was adopted into Christianity as worshiping of saints such as St. Paul and St. Peter, even though the Bible says you shall worship God alone (Deut. 6:13)
These adaptations made this new “Christianity” more acceptable to the general public. It is also during this time that many standard Christian practices were established such as using Sunday as the official day of worship, the use of the altar as the focal point of the church, and the sign of the cross. Constantine took the title “Pontifex Maximus” which means highest priest. However, he was NOT a pope. The papacy has still not been established.
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