Before Christianity became acceptable rather than persecuted in Rome, the Christians never persecuted a single person over doctrine. Then Constantius the father of Constantine and husband of St. Helen was the first Christian co-emperor, and his story in Eusebius is neglected and very interesting, as, rather than persecute the Christians, he took all those who would become martyrs by refusing to worship the emperor into his service, and dismissed the slavish and the others. Then, as is more well known, Constantine won a battle and attributed his good fortune to the cross of light seen in the sky and posted on his soldier’s shields, and in 1 issued the edict of toleration. But failing to stop there, his son Constantius began some of the worst religious persecutions ever seen. Once Christianity becomes the official religion of Rome, doctrine becomes the ruling opinion, and religious persecution does not cease until Jefferson, Madison and the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. It literally did not occur to anyone, even Plato after seeing Socrates put to death for “impiety,” that political orders might just not impose fundamental opinions about the first things. Roger Williams, the first American Baptist and founder of Providence and Rhode Island, seems to have been the originator of Religious liberty, or what came to be called the separation of Church and State. His followers had to persuade Jefferson and Madison, it was so radical an idea, that establishment of religion might be set aside, though in hindsight, it is the only way the 13 colonies could have joined into a sovereign union without religious wars till one sect prevailed. Luther was one of the first to reject the death penalty for heresy, but his followers persecuted the Anabaptist. It is really Roger Williams to whom we owe religious liberty, even though the latter baptists have similarly imposed religious law and shun dissent. The shunning practiced by other sects, such as even the Quakers, to whom we owe much of the abolitionist and feminist equality now universally taken for granted, practice a rather terrible form of this shunning, as do the Mormons, even though they themselves suffered persecution. Only where the faith is mere tradition do people seem to be able to follow John Locke, who may have himself been an atheist, and hold toleration, except for the intolerant to be a principle.
One can only marvel at this circumstance, and we will spend our lives trying to explain it. Christians have more difficulty loving their neighbor than any other people, or at least as much, as though, despite that little thing about the Samaritan, they were not at all improved in this for having the Messiah himself as a teacher. Indeed, some will even not believe if one were to return from the grave. We come to the conclusion that almost all men are limited to opinion, belief or what Paul calls religion of law. Our paradox of faith and works is necessary because Christians do not distinguish between faith and opinion. But as Platonists, we are led to wonder what it means in the soul to take and hold Christianity as a religion of law. The issue is unexpectedly deep. Following Paul (Romans 2),* we hypothesize that the law makes what Jung calls a shadow, teaching our appetites for example what it means to covet, and really suggesting the forbidden things to the obverse of the imagination. Again strangely, because in the most obvious sense it is not true, nature uncultivated is prior to the law, and even animals “covet,” Paul opens his attempt to explain that he is not saying that the law is sin
…Yet if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me….’
Romans 7: 7-11
It is the law that causes the death that leads to rebirth (Romans 6; John 3, Romans 8:13) by being the guide of penance. And here Paul enters into the more famous “So then it is no longer I that do it…” and “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…” and there is the famous elliptical reference to a thorn in the flesh he suffered, just to keep him from thinking he was a divinity, despite the height and graciousness of his mind: If the Christ is true, he is one of maybe the 6 or 8 greatest minds of all time, and the second greatest of the Christian minds, despite not being an apostle but a persecutor of the Christians while Jesus lived, till he was famously and proverbially knocked off his high horse.
To work our way back to Justin Martyr, we have this amusing theory that our taking Christianity as though it were a “religion of law” in the Pauline sense has caused the anti-Christian motion of the history of modernity. What appears sure is that the medieval persecutions and those following, enacted hypocritically by the doctrinal Christians, caused the reaction of common sense and decent humans to reject Christianity, despite nothing of the sort ever having been taught by the Christ. And now, with our lengthy but unprecedented Christian psychology, the reader might be prepared to see what we are trying to explain about Justin Martyr. For if we are correct, the “Antichrist” can only gain a following or find mankind prepared for destruction because of the failure of The Christians- as would make sense for something that…Is not…” its effect is due to the darkness of the human soul. See if you do not find in this saying the significance that I do. Justin writes:
…We have been taught that Christ is the fist-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every ace of men were partakers; and those who lived with the logos (translated reasonably, or with reason, with the word (John 1) are Christians, even though they have been thought Atheists; as, among the Geeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the babarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and whose names we now decline to recount, because we know it would be tedious. So that even they who lived before Christ, and lived without reason, were wicked and hostile to Christ, and slew those who lived reasonably…
The First Apology of Justin, Chapter 47
Hence, as it is much more clear now, those professing Christianity, and seriously doing all they think needed to save themselves, though not for its own sake, but for self interest, while harming their neighbor, may just not escape the judgement (John 5), but those who finding the mystery are from the world, or, as Plato showed, are turned and drawn up out of the earth as being like a cave, these are saved, As it seems, even if like Noah and Enoch, they did not know the historical name nor speak this correctly, or use the word and name we use as it is not a matter like magic words. Similarly, those who think themselves followers of Krishna, and find the mysteries may also be saved, and by the Christ, even if like Maimonides, they watched the Christians kill and torture their parents, and so thought Jesus to be evil and idolatrously worshiped god. Similarly, Those who love their neighbor and do deeds of Justice, charity and chastity under the name of Mohammed will be judged according to their works, just as Jesus says (Revelation 20), and if the soul is immortal, no deed of justice is likely to pass away. For the teaching is tat the soul is immortal,regardless (John 5), i is immortal life that we find when we turn and call on the name.
Justin is the first Christian to read Plato, and he does not assume what Augustine assumes, that every believing Christian is of higher rank than Plato, perhaps the greatest writer of all time. Nor does he assume what Dante assumes in, as we think obscenely, placing Plato and Socrates in Hell. Indeed, we set Dante aside at this page, as a mere poet who did not really understand, and only now, reading Romeo and Juliet, have come to return to him, realizing that he never read Plato at all, as Plato was simply not then available at all. It is a revolution, not so much in understanding Christianity, but in understanding the relation of Christianity to the rest of humanity and thought, of faith and reason and human history. Just as, prior to the end of the days of persecution and the enthronement of Christian dogma, all the Christians were Chiliasts, believers in a literal millennium, and after Augustine none of them were, due to a Flattery of Rome, so prior to this change** all Christians had access to this teaching that Christianity is not a law in the same way that the Mosaic and Mohammedian are laws, to prepare for the Christ. Not a jot need be removed from Mosaic law, and still Jesus frees the adulteress, technically contrary to law, and contrary to the assumption that the Bible is the word of God and cannot be contradicted. The five things Jesus says “you have heard of old” are Mosaic teachings, and when the teaching of Jesus supersedes these Mosaic teachings, he supersedes the teachings of Moses (Matthew 5-7), as the Jews think impossible but the Christians accept, or more accurately ignore, as we also ignore the theoretical difficulty of the post- Pentecostal disagreement between Paul and Peter, when the Apostles first realized the universal implications, if Jesus were not sent only for the Jews, but for all mankind “universally,” as we say. This is not a Pauline invention, but was also known to John, and John agreed. For the Old Testament, contrary to the “word of God” religion of law Christian cults, is only the law for the Jews, while the Noachite law is universal. So too, the peoples of the west have developed the common law with effort, because after Jesus, we who are not Jews are on our own regarding law, though taking Moses, Abraham and Noah, and perhaps Theseus, but but Romulus and not Numa , as guides.
And many readers notice the monotheism of Plato’s Socrates, which would be strange indeed if his talk about “The God” were for the sake of appearance. Why innovate to appear to uphold custom, as those who think “religion” can be assumed to be an instrument of politics?
The usual explanation refers to the descent of Jesus into the underworld to free those like Noah and Abraham, without these doing anything different during their lives. But from the perspective outside time, we can say, with the apostle Phillip (Nag Hammadi manuscripts), that from the beginning, the Christ lays down his life for man, or that he way through death is always, in being, apart from conventions made by man, and in this sense apart from names.
And so it becomes clearer that salvation is not a matter of being born and raised by accident in the right tradition, but that these things are similar to the religions of those considered “pagan.” The splintering of the protestant sects makes this point only more obvious, that men are limited to opinion, and that they hold to this as though it were being, though it is at best a gateway. All men have a tradition, and very few even question these enough to reject some vary contradictory points. Nor is salvation likely to depend upon the slight differences in doctrine that have grown up. The division between eastern and western churches, for example, simply grew with time, and yet, after a millennium, these no longer accept one another’s sacraments. But it is a blessing to have the sacraments, as these communicate to the soul the mysteries, like a breeze bringing access to healthy places.
*Paul, strangely, teaches, after his teaching against homosexuality in Romans 1, (following Jewish Mosaic and Noachite law- a point so fundamental that Jesus never mentioned it)- teaches, as we read, that the worse sin is in those judging the homosexuals. “for in passing judgement upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. And he does not say if you are, he says you are. We reason, or hypothesize, that it is not only that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory…(3:23), but that moral indignation is an anger demonstrating faction in the soul, and un-transformed appetite in the one seized by indignation. Otherwise the appetites and the shame that keeps the appetites from ruling the young, as distinct from genuine evil where one intends to harm another, whether for their own advantage or worse from sheer malice- The appetites are literally a joke, and the proper subject not of tragedy but comedy. Our subjection to the ignoble things of the body is a joke, and precisely because, unlike the necessary bodily things that we hide, these things are, avoidable or almost entirely avoidable, and base! The virtuous soul is entirely free of them, though this is rare, and our “self-esteem” leads us to fool ourselves!
**The fist two sections of the Bob Dylan song “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” corresponds, perhaps intentionally, to these two phases of Church history.