What we therefore must do now is to show the preparation of Christian theology in the world situation into which Jesus came. From this point of view – which is only one point of view: the theological – the understanding of the possibilities of a Christian theology is provided. It is not, as some theologians want to believe – contrary to Paul – -that the revelation from Christ fell like a stone from heaven: here it is, and now you must take it or leave it – But there is a universal revelatory power going through all history and preparing that which is considered by Christianity to be the ultimate revelation.
The genuine situation into which the New Testament event came was the universalism of the Roman Empire. This meant something negative and something positive, (as do all these things I will now mention) at the same time. Negatively it meant the breakdown of national religions and cultures. Positively it meant that the idea of mankind as a whole could be conceived at that time. The Roman Empire produced a definite consciousness of world history, in contrast to accidental national histories. World history is now not only, in the sense of the prophets, a purpose which will be actualized in history, but now it has become an empirical reality. This is the positive meaning of Rome. Rome represents the universal monarchy in which the whole known world is united. This idea has been taken over by the Roman church, but applied to the Pope, and is still actual within the Roman church, and still means that Rome claims the monarchic power over all the world – following the Roman Empire in this. It is perhaps an important remark generally that we should never forget that the Roman church is Roman, that the development of this church is not only influenced by Christianity but also by the Empire which was Rome, by the greatness that was Rome, by the idea of law that was Rome. All this is embodied also in the Roman church, after it took over the heritage of the Roman Empire. We should never forget this situation; and we should ask ourselves; if we are tempted to evaluate the Roman church more highly than we should: how much Roman elements are there in it, and how much are they valid for us in our culture? – as we should do the same with Greek philosophical concepts which created the Christian dogma, and we should also ask: to what degree are they valid? It is not necessary to reject something because it is Roman or Greek, but it is not necessary, either, even if sanctioned by a dogmatic decision, to accept something because the church has accepted it, from Rome or Greece.