“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them.”
In the 4th century Emperor Gratian’s removal of the pagan altar of victory from the Senate was the occasion for a great debate between Symmachus, the leader of the pagan aristocracy, and the ablest Italian ecclesiastic, Bishop Ambrose of Milan (St. Ambrose). Symmachus was the classical Liberal in this debate and was arguing against Ambrose that all the ancient pagan religions should be reinstated in Rome and Christianity not be allowed to be the unique religion of the people. Symmachus had all the liberal qualities that arise when liberals are in the minority. Symmachus was tolerant, generous and simply wanted fairness. Symmachus argued that many roads lead to God — why should the old religion of Rome, under whose aegis the Roman state had prospered, not be left in Peace he reasoned.
“We demand then the restoration of that condition of religious affairs which was so long advantageous to the state. Let the rulers of each sect and of each opinion be counted up; a late one(3) practised the ceremonies of his ancestors, a later(4) did not put them away. If the religion of old times does not make a precedent, let the connivance of the last(5) do so….
(Formerly our Emperor) enquired about the origin of the temples, and expressed admiration for their builders. Although he himself followed another religion, he maintained its own for the empire, for everyone has his own customs, everyone his own rites…. Now if a long period gives authority to religious customs, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, and to follow our ancestors, as they happily followed theirs….
Let me live after my own fashion, for I am free….
We ask, then, for peace for the gods of our fathers and of our country. It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road; but this discussion is rather for persons at ease, we offer now prayers, not conflict.”
Read those words of the champion of the pagan cause, Symmachus again, and ask yourself how similar they sound to modern day Symmachus like Christian clergy.
“Well, Christians should step back for a moment and recognize that there is something important here at stake. There is no reason why Christians should argue against having a Muslim holiday on the school calendar if there is a significant group or percentage of Muslims in the community – that would simply be fair and it would simply makes sense. We should not claim the privilege of having our religious holidays on the calendar and consider it some kind of Christian victory to keep other religious holidays off the calendar.”
Albert “Symmachus” Mohler
“We express a passion for the supremacy of God… by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order-not because pluralism is his ultimate ideal, but because in a fallen world, legal coercion will not produce the kingdom of God. Christians agree to make room for non-Christian faiths (including naturalistic, materialistic faiths), not because commitment to God’s supremacy is unimportant, but because it must be voluntary, or it is worthless. We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism.”
John Symmachus Piper
Contrary to Symmachus of old, and modern day Symmachus’, Ambrose was the man who stood upon the principle that Christianity as the one true religion must by necessity eclipse all other religions as the God of the Bible eclipses all other gods. Ambrose dealt with Symmachus’ arguments one by one exposing the fallacy in each of them. In that context he addressed Theodosius as to the need to put away the old pagan of religions as they were empty and ineffectual rites. In 392, after Theodosius gained control of the whole empire, he issued an official proscription of paganism, forbidding anyone in any place whatsoever, even in private, to exercise any of the ancient rites of the ancient religion. This action supporting the Christian faith the “Christian” clergy Piper and Mohler would be aghast over.
Ambrose argued against Symmachus, Piper, and Mohler such,
But, says Symmachus, Piper, and Mohler, let the altars be restored to the images, and their ornaments to the shrines. Let this demand be made of one who shares in their superstitions; a Christian Emperor has learnt to honour the altar of Christ alone. Why do they exact of pious hands and faithful lips the ministry to their sacrilege? Let the voice of our Emperor utter the Name of Christ alone, and speak of Him only, Whom he is conscious of, for, “the King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.”(1) Has any heathen Emperor raised an altar to Christ? While they demand the restoration of things which have been, by their own example they show us how great reverence Christian Emperors ought to pay to the religion which they follow, since heathen ones offered all to their superstitions.
I have answered those who provoked me as though I had not been provoked, for my object was to refute the Memorial, not to expose superstition. But let their very memorial make you, O Emperor, more careful. For after narrating of former princes, that the earlier of them practised the ceremonies of their fathers, and the later did not abolish them; and saying in addition that, if the religious practice of the older did not make a precedent, the connivance of the later ones did; it plainly showed what you owe, both to your faith, viz., that you should not follow the example of heathen rites, and to your affection, that you should not abolish the decrees of your brother. For if for their own side alone they have praised the connivance of those princes, who, though Christians, yet in no way abolished the heathen decrees, how much more ought you to defer to brotherly love, so that you, who ought to overlook some things even if you did not approve them in order not to detract from your brother’s statutes, should now maintain what you judge to be in agreement both with your own faith, and the bond of brotherhood.
Now, it is true that our leaders are hardly Christian but the principle we see in Ambrose is a Christian contending that the one true faith should be honored as the recognized unique faith of the people. This is contrary to the argument that Symmachus, Piper, and Mohler (and all of R2K) advance when they contend that the one true faith of the people is that all the faiths are equal and should be equally honored.
Who will you stand with? Christian Ambrose of Milan or the consummate Liberals Symmachus, Piper, Mohler and R2K?
The full discussion between Symmachus and Ambrose can be found here,