The Story of Clovis

"With the conversion of Clovis, there was at least one barbarian leader with whom the Bishop of Rome could negotiate as with a faithful son of the Church. It is from the orthodox Gregory of Tours that most of our knowledge of Clovis and his successors is derived. In Gregory's famous History of the Franks, the cruel and unscrupulous king appears as God's chosen instrument for the extension of the Catholic faith. Certainly Clovis quickly learned to combine his own interests with those of the Church, and the alliance between the pope and the Frankish kings was destined to have a great influence upon the history of western Europe." James Harvey Robinson, History of Western Europe, pp. 35, 36.

Clovis' outstanding contribution to the advancement of the papacy was his defeat of several Arian kingdoms. The term "Arian" was applied to Christians who did not accept the Catholic creed established by the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381. Until Clovis' conversion from paganism to Catholicism in 496, none of the Germanic kingdoms had accepted the Catholic creed. The form of Christianity held by those kingdoms can be traced back to the missionary endeavors of Ulfilas, a fourth century Christian who developed the Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible into the Gothic language. Ulfilas' roots were from Asia Minor where a simpler form of New Testament Christianity was practiced, compared to the ecclesiastical Roman religion. His family was captured by the Goths who at that time resided outside the Roman Empire, and as a result, Ulfilas was unaware of the theological hair-splitting between homoousian and homoiousian that caused so much debate in the Roman church.

A distinction must be made between the teachings of Arius in the early fourth century and the so-called "arianism" of the fifth and sixth centuries. Arius, whose views were rejected by the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, taught that Jesus, being totally and essentially distinct from the Father, "does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time, and before ages, as perfect God." The prevailing position at Nicea, on the other hand, taught that Jesus was begotten of the Father's substance. See a summary of the Nicene controversy. During the half-century following the Council of Nicea, the theological politics experienced a gradual evolution, culminating in the Creed of Constantinople in 381, which declared the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to be three separate, identical beings, "truly distinct one from another" (Handbook for Today's Catholic), yet forming one God. Those who continued to hold that the Son is begotten "of the substance of the Father" as had been declared at Nicea, were now labeled as "Arians." The Goths and other Germanic Christians of the fifth and sixth centuries, although they were not a part of the 4th century debates, were classified in this category.

Clovis' object was to establish the Creed of Constantinople throughout Europe through the armed conquest of all territories held by the "Arian" Goths. The most decisive point in his campaign was the defeat and expulsion of the Visigoths from Gaul in the war of A.D. 507/508.

"It is evident, from the language of Gregory of Tours, that this conflict between the Franks and the Visigoths was regarded by the orthodox party of his own and preceding ages as a religious war, on which, humanly speaking, the prevalence of the Catholic or the Arian creed in western Europe depended." The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. I, p. 286.

By this victory, "it was decided that the Franks, and not the Goths, were to direct the future destinies of Gaul and Germany, and that the Catholic faith, and not Arianism, was to be the religion of these great realms." Richard W. Church, The Beginning of the Middle Ages, p. 39.

"Thus when Clovis and the Franks defeated the Arian Visigoths and drove them into Spain, it was also a theological victory for the bishop of Rome." William H. Shea, Bible Amplifier, Daniel 7-12, p. 220.

The creed which was upheld by the armies of Clovis "took away the daily" by denying Jesus His continual mediatorial position. It undermined the fundamental Biblical truth that "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," who is "the only begotten Son of God." 1 Timothy 2:5; John 3:18. This Biblical truth is the basis and foundation of Christ's mediatorial role.

Additional Study:
What Happened in A.D. 508?
The Biblical Doctrine of God