This collection of essays continues a long and venerable debate in the history of the Christian church regarding the legacy of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. For some, Constantine's conversion to Christianity early in the fourth century set in motion a process that made the church subservient to the civil authority of the state, brought a definitive end to pacifism as a central teaching of the early church, and redefined the character of Christian catechesis and missions.
In 2010, Peter J. Leithart published a widely read polemic, Defending Constantine, that vigorously refuted this interpretation. In its place, Leithart offered a thoroughgoing rehabilitation of Constantine and his legacy, while directing a rhetorical fusillade against the pacifist theology and ethics of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.
The essays gathered here in response to Leithart reflect the insights of eleven leading theologians, historians, and ethicists from a wide range of theological traditions. They engage one of the most contentious issues in Christian church history in irenic fashion and at the highest level of scholarship. In so doing, they help ensure that the "Constantinian Debate" will continue to be lively, substantive, and consequential.
Stanley Hauerwas John D. Roth John Nugent Alan Kreider Mark Thiessen Nation William T. Cavanaugh D. Stephen Long Jonathan Train Branson Parler Timothy J. Furry Charles M. Collier Craig Hovey J. Alexander Sder Peter J. Leithart
Endorsements & Reviews-
"Does Constantine's 'baptism' of Rome mean the fall of Christianity, or is it the model to follow today? Polemical writing usually produces more heat than light. But to Leithart's great credit, Defending Constantine has resulted in a Yoderian rejoinder that is both nuanced and insightful. Constantine Revisited makes clear the possibility of charitable dialogue about the implications of the confession that the church is the true polis created by God in Jesus Christ." --Hans Boersma, Regent College
"A wonderfully insightful book on what Yoder means--and does not mean--by Constantinianism. It's not about Constantine, but idolatry in the fusion of church and state and the loss of the gospel vision. Yoder's argument will be answered by diagnosing how Christians rightly witness to the state, or wrongly give their mission over to the state. . . . Great truth, great insight here." --Glen Stassen, Fuller Theological Seminary
"This is what an academic dispute should look like--passionate, wide-ranging, respectful, and surprising. John Roth and his contributors help all of us--in churches, the academy, and in larger society--see what's at stake in how Christians understand their relationship with the paradoxical figure and era of Constantine. Far from being a stale debate about times and issues long gone, this is a vital and important exploration of crucial importance to contemporary concerns and viewpoints on all sides of the many issues involved. This is an easy book to recommend with enthusiasm." --Michael L. Budde, DePaul University
John D. Roth Stanley Hauerwas Peter J. Leithart
John D. Roth is Professor of History at Goshen College, where he also serves as editor of The Mennonite Quarterly Review and director of the Mennonite Historical Library. He is the author of numerous books and articles on subjects related to the Radical Reformation and contemporary Anabaptist and Mennonite theology, including Teaching that Transforms: Why Anabaptist-Mennonite Education Matters (2011).