The end of the Early Church period was when the Christianity was made the official state religion. After this happened we see a beginning of a total dynamic shift in the forward motion of the church. This dynamic shift led to many of the corruptions that the world has come to despise in the church. So I submit that it is better for the Church to be under persecution from the Government, than to be supported by it.
Christianity, the belief system that Jesus death and resurrection founded was a “religion” that has nothing to do with political or social standing. All of the disciples were men who were social rejects of their day; men who were common workers and some were the political ‘yes’ men. Jesus was not welcomed by the political institution of Judea of his day. We see that he had to leave regions as different political leaders wanted to kill him. We also see that his death was a result of conflict with the Jewish leaders. So even from the beginning of the Christ movement approval of the state was not the primary issue.
Jesus said that blessed are those who are persecuted in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matt 5 & 6. Looking back to the early church once again, Tertullian said that the blood of the martyrs was the reason the early church grew. So we see that persecution for the early church was what made Christianity. Our Western culture has become a culture of comfort; we are used to going to church and sitting in a soft pew and we forget that this is not how it has always been. Places where there is great persecution today are where see the largest growth rate in the church. So while our culture has avoided persecution, the church historically has not; this shows the western thinker’s bias.
The Bible when dealing with persecution discusses the importance of overcoming persecution. At the time when the New Testament was written, Christians expected to be persecuted. Jesus in his teaching called for his disciples to “take up their crosses and follow him”, Paul says that to live is Christ and to die is gain. This makes perfect sense as 11 out of 12 disciples were martyred. Since its beginning the leaders and members of the church have been persecuted and killed for the truth of the gospel.
Persecution brought to the church a sort of trial by fire. When the faith of those who go to death because of a powerful belief in Jesus can be seen; witnessing ceases to be an issue. On the other hand when a person grows up in a church where real faith is not modeled, witnessing becomes near impossible.
A real faith cannot be induced by anybody else; it must be a heartfelt decision. To become a part of the church for the wrong reasons is the equivalent of not joining at all. In a country where Christianity is the supported by the state, people join the church for the wrong reasons, and they damn themselves along the way. In a country where Christianity is attacked by the state, those with wrong reason for being a Christian are weeded out.
While being in a country where the government enforces the state religion as Christianity does give the outward appearance of having more Christians, outward appearances mean nothing, as Christianity is about an inner relationship. This is why I believe that it is better for the State to be against Christianity, than for there to be a state supported church.