The Vindication of Constantine | Christianity Today

Many evangelicals view the fourth-century conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine as an unfortunate chapter in church history, one that sabotaged the purity of the early church and ushered in the corrupt Middle Ages. Peter J. Leithart believes this version of church history is a myth. In Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom (IVP Academic), Leithart shows that the early church was not as united as we think, nor was Constantine the villain many have made him out to be.

Along the way, Leithart teases out contemporary implications regarding the church’s role in the world, implications that distance him from scholars like John Howard Yoder. Defending Constantine could have been called Dismantling Yoder, for although Leithart’s primary purpose is to vindicate Constantine, he devotes significant effort to pointing out the cracks in Yoder’s Anabaptist perspective on Christendom.

Read the rest: The Vindication of Constantine | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

1 thought on “The Vindication of Constantine | Christianity Today

  1. pentamom

    I wonder if one of the problems we have with Constantine is that we look at his life and we say, “No real conversion would look like that” when what we mean is, “No real person converted and then discipled in a PCA or SBC church in the last couple centuries would live like that.”

    The fourth century didn’t have the additional 1600 years of the development of public Christian piety and culture that we have to lean on, that makes certain aspects of the Christian life ridiculously obvious to us, and makes it difficult for us to fathom how he could be a Chrstian and do THAT, or think that THAT was the right way to be a Christian king. Following Keith Mathison, if postmillennialism is to be understood as the doctrine of sanctification as applied to the whole Body, the Church was in its toddlerhood in the fourth century, and an emperor who lives a fairly morally sloppy life while seeking the glory of Christ in some pretty ham-handed ways is what you would expect to see. Or at least, you shouldn’t rule it out. Certainly there were men living holy lives, but probably not many ones who had been raised to believe they stood in the place of the gods to rule all the earth by right.

    That said, I hardly know what to believe on the subject. I’m just much slower to dismiss the validity of Constantine’s conversion because he doesn’t look like what our pastor would look like if HE was the emperor of Rome.


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