Q. Didn’t the Catholic Church become paganized when Constantine forced everyone to become Christian?
A. If it did, then a Pagan Catholic Church canonized the Bible. So how could we possibly trust a Bible canonized by pagans?
The truth lies elsewhere. The idea that the Catholic Church became corrupted once Constantine legalized Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. is a plausible idea grasped at and promulgated by anti-Catholics. The problem with this is that it does not hold up under scrutiny.
First and foremost, for Protestants and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, is that the Bible they use to formulate their doctrines and all of Salvation History, was canonized by the Catholic Church (Pope Innocent 405 A.D.) long after Constantine legalized Christianity. So, if the Christian Church was sound only until Constantine, then the Bible was canonized by pagans. For more information about the process of canonizaton see my posts on the Old Testament, who decided which books would be in the Bible and Martin Luther’s view.
Secondly, if the Catholic Church had become pagan after the Edict of Milan, then there would have been absolutely no reason for Emperor Julian, the Apostate, to launch a major persecution of the Church in an attempt to restore paganism in 361 A.D.
And finally, the theory by many Anti-Catholics, is that during the first 300 years of Christian history the true Christian faith was alive and well but became corrupted with weird Catholic/pagan beliefs after Constantine, falls apart when one reads the early Christian writings of the first three centuries.
It is a warm thought for many non Catholics to imagine that the early church worship and beliefs were very much like present day Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, or My Church etc. It is thought that the early church did not look anything like or believe anything like what the Catholic Church believes and practices today.
Quite the opposite is true. All of the beliefs of the Catholic Church were present in the very earliest writings of the Church Fathers. So, the unique Catholic beliefs in the perpetual virginity of Mary, her assumption, her immaculate conception, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, purgatory, hell, oral confession to a priest, sacramental baptism, Pope etc. were all believed by the Catholic Church long before she canonized the Bible.
How does one, with integrity, accept the Bible canonized by a Church one deems to be pagan or corrupt and then 1000 years after it is canonized remove seven books out of the Old Testament? On this theory it would be safe to accept the Book of Mormon as sacred but reject the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
On the other hand, if the earliest Christian Church had Catholic beliefs and practices how can a Martin Luther safely throw them out 1500 years later?