church and state, the relationship between the religion or religions of a nation and the civil government of that nation, especially the relationship between the Christian church and various civil governments. There have been several phases in the relationship between the Christian church and the state. The uncompromising refusal of the early Christians to accord divine honors to the Roman emperor was the chief cause of the imperial persecutions of the church. After Constantine I gave it official status, the church at first remained fairly autonomous, but during the 4th cent. the emperor began to figure increasingly in religious affairs.
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