Defending Constantine is a phenomenal new book by Peter Leithart that seeks to rehabilitate the reputation of the first Christian emperor of
This book is probably not for everyone. It is closely reasoned and heavily footnoted, and thus requires time to digest and work through. It is very well-written and engaging, and I appreciate the fact that Leithart avoids any sort of sweeping generalizations. History is complicated, and he is determined to bring as many of the particular facts as possible to the table for discussion. There are at least two distinct groups of Christians that I believe need to read this book.
First of all, most Protestants who are thoughtful about their faith and interested in Church history ought to read this book. Protestants by and large, whether descended from Luther and Calvin or from the Anabaptists, have a “fall” view of Church history. The idea is that the apostolic and early Church was a “pure” Church, and at some point, the Church fell away from faithfulness and from the gospel only to be restored when this or that man came along more than a millennium later to call everyone back to the mythical golden age of the Church. Many will trace this “fall” of the Church to around the time of
Secondly, Christians who are involved in politics or would like to be involved in politics ought to read this book. Many Christians today have bought into the idea that the political realm is atheological and that Jesus has nothing to say to power. Christian must be willing to take their place at the table and argue for policies that uphold a neutral “public space,” which is devoid of any specific theological content. Furthermore, Christians who reject this myth of neutrality are often seen as dangerous theonomists who would bring about a reign of terror and intolerance if they ever gained political power. However, in
From beginning to end Defending Constantine is packed with insights about the fourth century Church and empire. My favorite chapters however, come near the end, and discuss the relationship of the early Church to the military and empire. I encourage those who fall into the two categories above or those who are simply interested in the history of God’s people to read Defending Constantine by Peter Leithart.