01 October 2010

Book: Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom

Just published: Peter J. Leithart, "Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom" (InterVarsity Press, September 2010):


Publisher's description: "We know that Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313; outlawed paganism and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire; manipulated the Council of Nicea in 325; exercised absolute authority over the church, co-opting it for the aims of empire[.] And if Constantine the emperor were not problem enough, we all know that Constantinianism has been very bad for the church. Or do we know these things? Peter Leithart weighs these claims and finds them wanting. And what's more, in focusing on these historical mirages we have failed to notice the true significance of Constantine and Rome baptized. For beneath the surface of this contested story there emerges a deeper narrative of the end of Roman sacrifice – a tectonic shift in the political theology of an empire – and with far-reaching implications. In this probing and informative book Peter Leithart examines the real Constantine, weighs the charges against Constantinianism, and sets the terms for a new conversation about this pivotal emperor and the Christendom that emerged."

Endorsements: "This intelligent and sensitive treatment of one of the great military emperors of Rome is a trustworthy entrée into Roman history that loses none of the romance and rambunctiousness of the events of the era of the civil war, but which also explains why Constantine matters: why he was important to the ancient world, why he matters to the development of Christianity (a catalyst in its movement from small sect to world-embracing cultural force). It does not whitewash or damn on the basis of a preset ideology, but it certainly does explain why Constantine gained from the Christians the epithet 'The Great.' For setting the record straight, and for providing a sense of the complicated lay of the land, this book comes most highly recommended." (John A. McGuckin, Columbia University)

"An excellent writer with a flair for the dramatic, Peter Leithart is also one of the most incisive current thinkers on questions of theology and politics. In this book, Leithart helpfully complicates Christian history, and thereby helps theologians recover the riches of more than a millennium of Christian life too easily dismissed as 'Constantinian.' If the Holy Spirit did not simply go on holiday during that period, we must find ways to appreciate Christendom. Any worthwhile political theology today cannot fail to take Leithart's argument seriously." (William T. Cavanaugh, DePaul University)

Peter J. Leithart is Senior Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrews College and pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, both in Moscow, Idaho, USA.

No comments:

Post a Comment