Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rethinking Constantine

What’s wrong with the church today?  Some will tell you that it goes way back to the fourth century.  In the minds of many, the greatest villain of church history is not a Nero, Domitian, Mao, or Hitler.  The greatest villain of the church is Constantine.  Peter Leithart hopes to balance that perspective.

In his book, Defending Constantine, which I hope to review sometime next week, Leither remarks:

   For Constantine and the emperors who followed him, after kissing the Son and Lord, it made sense to do homage to Jesus by supporting his Queen, the church—building and adorning cathedrals, distributing funds for poor relief and hospitals, assisting the bishops to resolve their differences by calling and providing for councils. Constantine did not always show restraint. Sometimes he took over business that belonged to the King and Queen alone. But if we want to judge Constantine fairly, we have to recognize that the Queen often had issues. A queen’s bodyguard ought to keep his hands off the queen, but what does he do when she turns harp and starts scratching the face of her lady-in-waiting?

   Once they noticed there was a Queen in their midst, some emperors and kings were often not satisfied with kissing the Son. Some could not keep their hands off her. Some wanted to steal a kiss or two from the Bride and seduce her. Plenty did, but it is important to notice the difference: adorning and protecting someone else's queen, even protecting her from herself, is not the same as raping her.   (Leithart, Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom , p188-89)

This has been an enjoyable and enlightening read thus far.  Any student of the early church should certainly read this book.  It’s available at Amazon for only 16.93 (it’s well worth that price).

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