Northwest of Eden #13 The Papal Kingdom (Acts, Qualben, IDB.)

The emerging of an Apostolic Office was based on Jesus assigning the leadership to Simon Peter (Matthew 16:18-19, Luke 22:32; John 21:15-19). Peter envisioned a priesthood of all believers where every person had access to grace by faith (I Peter 2:9). That idea appealed to spirited individuals that could get people to follow them. The common person needed someone to guide him. These spiritual leaders differed in their perceptions what direction Jesus intended to take them. The first troublesome issue was whether to admit Gentiles and James took the helm and laid down the guidelines for admission (Acts 15:12-35). By the time of Cyprian of Carthage (195-258 A.D.) too many views had evolved and required a firm decision as to what a Church was and who was put in charge. He set forth nine legalistic rules that the Church was one and Catholic (universal). To be a Christian, one had to be a Catholic. The Catholic Church consisted of bishops. Bishops were the successors of the apostles and also chosen by Christ. The Catholic Church alone provided salvation. The bishops were a college, the episcopate. All bishops were equal in rank. Rebellion against a bishop was a sin against God. The clergy were best suited to administer salvation and the sacraments. Augustine declared that the authority rested in the office and not in the person that held the office. Original sin required infant baptism and the amount of water was incidental (395 A.D.).
The bishop of Rome was not content with too many bishops. He used Peter to push for a Metropolitan and a Patriarchal Office. Christ had only appointed one man to be the shepherd and that was Peter. He neglected Jesus’ personal delegation of power to all the disciples (John 20: 21-22). That slight oversight would continue to plague Rome. It had to silence violently many that were opposed to the Cyprian and Augustinian dogmas. After seven Church Councils, the Athanasian Creed emerged as the Rule of Faith for the Latin Church or Rome. Jesus was both, human and divine, God was a Trinity and Three-In-One, and man was saved by grace through faith. At this time, five major changes began to transform the Bishop of Rome into the Vicar of Christ with absolute power. First, Emperor Constantine granted Christians the right to follow their faith in 313 A.D. Out of gratitude, Christian soldiers helped him earn military victories and he turned the cross into a sword. In 325 A.D. the Emperor Constantine made Christianity his state religion. At that time the Roman Empire had two emperors. Licinius in Constantinople reigned in the East and Constantine in Rome over the West. There were two Patriarchs, a Greek and a Latin.  Both emperors laid claim to the Roman Empire and both Episcopal seats to the throne of Peter. Constantine defeated Licinius and moved his headquarters to Constantinople where the Greek Christians were more congenial to the Emperor. Second, the move to Constantinople left the Pope in charge of Rome and gave him a free hand to build his power. By the time of Pope Leo the Great (461 A.D.), the Bishop of Rome had become the head of all Latin Catholics. The Pope and the clergy had become the Church or the Body of Christ. The people were merely communicants that could earn their salvation by earning merits, doing penance and purchasing indulgence. To get to Christ, one had to go to a priest, he went to a bishop, who went to the Pope, who went to Mary and she alone could intercede with Christ. 
Three, Constantine’s settling in the Eastern part of the Empire weakened the West. Germanic and Slavic tribes from the North invaded and splintered the Western Empire into smaller states. Pope Leo resisted successfully Attila (452 A.D.) and Geisric (455 A.D.), but in 476 A.D. Odoacer the Ostrogoth dethroned the last of the western Emperors and settled his people in Italy. The invaders could divide the Empire, but not the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope’s followers were solidly behind their leader and they began to convert their invaders to Roman Catholic Christianity. All, except for the Germanic people, endorsed the Roman religion and granted unimaginable power to the Highest Religious Office in Europe. Those that opposed the Papal dogma were labeled, branded and persecuted as heretics. Fourth, while the Pope was too involved in gaining supremacy, he neglected to help his Greek sister in the East that did not agree with his supremacy or his doctrine of the Holy Spirit from being swallowed up by Mohammedanism.  At that time, Rome regarded his Greek competitors that had missionaries all over England, Ireland, Northern and Eastern Europe as more of a threat than Islam.  Rome reconverted the Greek Christians in Western and Northern Europe and Islam assisted the Pope by turning Christians into Muslims, except for Greece and the Slavic people like Russia.
The Roman Pontiff appears to have had a blind eye to the rise of Islam.  But when Islam conquered Africa and invaded Spain, the Pope and his followers began to quiver.  Islam had its own dogma and the Pope or Catholicism, Greek or Latin had no place in it.  It was this religious absolutism that frightened the new Christians in Europe and they began to rally behind a man called Karl Martell, who became Karl the Great or Charlemagne. He defeated the Muslim army while it was invading France. The Pope rewarded him by crowning him as the first Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 A.D.  Charlemagne, a master sword’s man and newly sworn servant to the Pope converted all of Europe to Roman Catholicism by the stroke of the pen. Instead of pursuing and reducing the Muslim threat, he concentrated on enhancing the power of the Papacy and his own Frankish – Roman Empire. He divided his empire into twenty-one Bishop districts and doubled the number of Bishops. These bishops formed the Popes inner circled and Charlemagne’s henchmen. Any individual or movement that did not bow to the Pope’s Catholicism was savagely excommunicated by sending the soul to paradise and the body to hell. This policy of purging the Roman Church continued passed Martin Luther. Down the road, the two powers, Pope and Emperor would end up fighting for supremacy with the Pope as the victor.  Emperors and kings ended up bowing to the popes and begging for being readmitted into the Pope’s favor. Charlemagne was also instrumental in opening the door to image worship and merits for holy deeds. He finalized the split with the Greek Church that held to the idea that the Holy Spirit came from the Father and not the Son. To the Franks and Romans, the Spirit emanated from Father and Son. The split weakened the Greek Orthodox Christians and Constantinople fell into the hands of Islam. Three centuries later, the followers of Muhammad and Allah had grown strong enough to resist the crusades of the Roman Catholic League to free Jerusalem from the Turks. The Pope’s power and policies became suspect when strong voices for change began to rumble in religion and social change. In stead of moving with the time, Rome remained stagnant.