Defending Constantine

I love subversive, revisionist histories so I am very excited to read Peter Leithart's book Defending Constantine. I have always been inclined towards the view that Contantine's "conversion" was a bad move for Christianity. It seems to be pretty much standard that modern Christians have to reject Constantine and his effect on the church. The story is usually told as a Fall narrative — where everything went wrong. So, I followed the crowd because life is short and I don't have time to research the history myself.

However, I have also felt that I am very much working with caricatures of history and that the truth is a lot more murkey. So I was very excited to see a book coming out and taking the opposite view. I picked up a copy and am reading it at the moment.

I am also currently reading Leithart's book on Athanasias and that is excellent. The guy knows what he is talking about. So I am looking to have my caricatures about Constantine challenged and for a bit more grey and a bit less black and white. Not sure where I'll end up on this one but I'm looking forward to the adventure.


David Reimer said…
Thanks for posting these impressions. Leithart first hit my radar with an excellent (IMO!) article in JSOT of all places ("Attendants of Yahweh's House: Priesthood in the Old Testament", Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 85 (1999), p 3-24).

Impressive range from an impressive writer!
James Goetz said…
I find it amusing that many reject everything about Constantine except paying homage to the Nicene Creed that was pounded out at Constantine's council. He was disturbingly murky, but not entirely black in a black and white world. I shall read this book. :-)
James Goetz said…
Also, the Edict of Milan was awesome. But the eventual state enforcement of Christianity was the huge problem, which went against the tone of the Edict of Milan.
Alex Smith said…
Funny only a few days ago my cousin Luke recommended I read this (I suspect because of a debate we had over Talbott's comments on Constantine in "The Inescapable Love of God"). I really look forward to hearing what you make of this book.
Robin Parry said…
I'm about five chapters in and it is fabulous so far. Can't say it makes me like Constantine (I wouldn't want to go to the pub with him) but I 'get" him more.
Bobby Grow said…
I've read both of these books by Leithart as well (just recently the one on Athanasius). And I think both books were excellent! I particularly liked his Athanasius work, and his opening in Augustinian tune ... that was sweet!
Robin Parry said…

Both books are superb.

I absolutely loved "Defending Constantine" and found myself surprisingly sympathetic to many of his ideas. I thought it was a very balanced assessment of Constantine.

The part where I found myself most uncomfortable was towards the end. I felt that his political theology had too much of a supersessionist element.

Yes, that Augustinian opening to the Athanasias book was excellent.

I am a fan of Augustine. Am currently reading (a) The Confessions, (b) The City of God, (c) On the Trinity. I just wish he wrote a bit less (esp. in the City of God. I swear that I run the risk of being crushed to death by my copy when I read it in bed).

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