2 weeks ago I landed a gift certificate to Amazon for answering some questions about Salesforce. And the first book I downloaded to my kindle was…Defending Constantine???
What am I thinking? I am a fan of Hauerwas, Yoder, Ellul and other theologians who have held him (or the “ism” that follows him) as one of the primary sources of so many of Christianity’s ills. And I am one who is uncomfortable with the ‘invisible church within a church’ dualities that exist today. Such a defense seemed to me near impossible.
But I decide to give it a shot for a few reasons:
1. Peter J Leithart wrote a an article some time back that has informed my thinking on Islam as much as any other work full stop: Mirror of Christendom
2. Peter is not only a first rate theologian and historian, he is also quite a polemist. And I’ve got a soft spot for people who try to take on some of our deepest held mythologies, and do so as modern Jeremiah’s. (a few examples 1 2 3)
3. I’ve been on quite a kick the past few months reading histories of such as Byzantium , God’s Battalions that focus on the history of the church between 300 and 1,400 - a time I must confess I’ve not focused on in the past.
And I’ll take Peter’s book over all the rest. It is a paradigm shifting text.
Beginning with a detailed history of the Martyred Church of the 3rd century and how that led up to Constantine, then a through look at the life of the man from many angles (including the flattering and ugly), then a study of what he did and did not do with church councils, and finally a true polemic deconstructing the subtile and extremely influential theology of Yoder’s interpretation of theology and history.
“Through Constantine, Rome was baptized into a world without animal sacrifice and officially recognized the true sacrificial city, the one community that does offer a foretaste of the final kingdom.”
I’ve walked away from few texts that gave me a greater appreciation and understanding for our past, as well as a hope for our future than this one.
Defending Constantine? I’ll go to bat for him.