Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book Review: Defending Constantine

It has taken a while but we finally have a book that presents the Emperor Constantine in a more objective light than what we usually get: an evil secular/worldly emperor who co-opted the Church and imported the Church-state problem to the rest of the world! Or as Leithart says in the introduction, Constantine has been called an anti-Semite, heretic, and a hypocrite. Constantine has been blamed for a lot of things and now with the diligent work and research of Prof. Peter J. Leithart we have a new take on this important figure in Church History.

Leithart is a senior fellow at St. Andrews College in Moscow Idaho and serves as the pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow. He is also the author of Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture.

Defending Constantine must have been a labor of love. Well researched with copious notes and references, clean crisp prose, and a good storyteller, Leithart brings Constantine to life for his modern readers, placing him in his cultural, social, and religious context. People generally refer to Constantine as a power hungry emperor who called the First Ecumenical at Nicea and eventually accepted Jesus Christ, reluctantly of course, on his deathbed. Not so says Leithart. Constantine was truly interested in theological matters and took much time to reflect upon the work of Nicea and the immediate aftermath. He was concerned about the future of the Church and the rise of heretical teachings.

In fourteen chapter Leithart goes through the evidence, parsing the great historians Eusebius and others showing us what Constantine actually was like and the legacy that he left behind. One major theme woven throughout the text is the relationship between Church and State, and the political impact of ones theology.

Defending Constantine is not a quick read. One has to read slowly, taking in all of the evidence and lengthy argument which Leithart presents. Defending Constantine is a book that I wish I had in seminary, it would have made Church History courses a lot easier! I hope that seminary students read Defending Constantine, not only will it make their life easier, it will certainly give them an alternative view of Constantine and his life.

If you are interested in Church History in general or the Emperor Constantine in general go out and get yourself a copy of Defending Constantine, it will fill your historical and theological appetite!