What do Julian the Apostate and Toothpaste have in common?

You cannot put toothpaste back in the tube very easily once it has been squeezed out. So much so, that it has become an analogy for all things that are difficult to undo once done. So much so, it suggests the universe was designed in such a way that once toothpaste is squeezed from the tube, it goes against the design to force it back in. So much so, one might say it is God’s will that once toothpaste has been squeezed from a tube, it is not worth the effort to force the toothpaste back into the tube.

Other things are not like that. On a societal level, some changes, once made are resisted and eventually return to their original state. The attempts to convert the United States to the metric system comes to mind. Whereas others (like the toothpaste analogy) once made are extremely difficult to unmake and therefore the suggestion is that it is not worth the effort to unmake them or perhaps they should not be unmade.

The Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity is an interesting example. In 313 the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan whereby the Roman Empire would treat Christianity benevolently as a matter of policy. This cleared the way for Christianity to replace the old religion of paganism. Fifty years later the Emperor Julian who ruled from 361 to 363 attempted to bring the Roman Empire back from Christianity to paganism. It did not work. The new religion of Christianity had in a mere fifty years had taken hold. Julian’s successor easily reversed this short lived policy and the Roman Empire remained Christian until it fell. Christianity went on to become the driving force of European civilization. Once Christianity had been squeezed from the tube it was very difficult to put it back in.

Why are some things more difficult to put back into the tube once squeezed out? One can postulate that Truth is the reason. That is, what has been squeezed from the tube provides a more clear picture of the world than what existed before the squeezing. The Romans and Europeans who inherited the remains of the empire saw that there was a greater truth to Christianity than paganism had to offer.

Of course Christianity survives to this day but there is a sense that it has (at least in its current form) passed its peak. Something else has been squeezed from the tube. That has provided a more clear picture of the world (at least in some respects). Whatever has been squeezed from the tube, it seems unlikely and perhaps impossible that it can be forced back into the tube as some would want. The question is, does the degree of difficulty mean that it is God’s will that it be so?

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