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Why Christians Persecuted Christians

Catholics persecuted Protestants, and Protestants persecuted Catholics. Protestants even persecuted other Protestants.

By Colin Standish

Soon after Constantine rode triumphantly into Rome as the new emperor, he proclaimed the greatest level of religious freedom Christians had ever experienced. While Constantine’s edict of toleration in AD 313 ended Diocletian’s ten years of unimaginable atrocities, it also ended nearly three centuries of the persecution of Christians by pagan Roman emperors.

If Christians were grateful for Constantine’s liberation, imagine their ecstasy when a few years later he professed conversion to Christianity and declared it the new religion of the Roman Empire. Yet it was just this situation that sowed the seeds for a vastly greater persecution when Christians would persecute fellow Christians. 

A Divided Family

Shortly after Constantine, two groups developed among Christians over the issue of who constituted the members of Christ’s church. One group, led by the Donatists of North Africa, believed that the church consisted of a small remnant

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  1. Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, The Christian Hymnary Publishers, 1963.

  2. Ibid.

Image credits

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About the author

The late Dr. Colin Standish was a psychologist, educator, administrator, author, and ordained minister of the gospel who served as president of several Christian colleges.