Along with Fred Sanders’ Deep Things of God, the prolific Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine is in the running for the most important book of 2010.

There are few more maligned figures than Constantine.   The central critique is that he subordinated Christianity to the interests of the state, using it for his own political purposes.   In its most crass forms, the critique of Constantine barely veils the notion that Christianity would have been better off it would have continued to be persecuted.

Defending Constantine cuts through the historical and theological haze with a clarity that is devastating to the popular caricature of the man.  Leithart’s historical treatment is extensive–he sets up the context for Constantine’s reign by detailing the brutality of the Roman persecutions, such that Eusebius’s over-the-top affirmation of Constantine begin to make sense.  He shifts as the book progresses toward the theology of Constantine, carefully critiquing John Howard Yoder’s anti-Constantinianism theology.

Unlike his critics, Leithart takes seriously Constantine’s Christianity arguing that while an imperfect ruler, Constantine’s writings and policies reveal “a seriously Christian ruler.”  Leithart suggests that Constantine’s own writings indicate that his central conviction was that “the Christian God was the heavenly Judge who, in history, opposes those who oppose him.”

In one of Leithart’s most compelling sections, eh points out that Constantine not only stopped the slaughter of Christians–he stopped the slaughter of animals, ending the sacrifical system that was at the heart of the Roman political theology.  As Leithart writes, “When Constantine began to end sacrifice, he began to end Rome as he knew it, for he initiated the end of Rome’s sacrificial lifeblood and established that Rome’s life now dependend on its adherence to another civic center, the church.”

This is hardly the Constantine of Dan Brown, much less the emerging church. But it is a Constantine that needs to be taken seriously both as Christian and Christian ruler.

Even though I first read Leithart’s book a few months ago, I’m still digesting it.  It’s simply that rich.  Defending Constantine a critical masterpiece that functions as an important dissent from the lazy ahistorical critiques that are so prevalent today.  I have already commended it to several people, and will doubtlessly continue to do so.

With that in mind, I’m giving away FIVE copies of the book.  Leave a comment to enter after:

1)  Following me on Twitter

2)  Following us on Facebook

3)  Signing up by RSS or email

4)  Subscribing to our monthly newsletter

5)  Telling a friend, tweeting about the contest, or sharing the link on Facebook

6)  Donating to Wheatstone Academy (you’ll actually get entered in two giveaways simultaneously if you do this)

Again, only comments below will be counted.  Please put one comment for every form of entry.

Update:  Realized I forgot to put a deadline on this.  It’ll stay open until 12:01 AM CST Saturday morning.  Thanks for all the entries!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Facebook linked!


  2. And Facebook followed!


  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Camille Apple Prieto, Alltop Christianity. Alltop Christianity said: Defending Constantine: A(nother) Giveaway: Along with Fred Sanders’ Deep Things of God, the prolific Peter Leit… […]


  4. You’re already in my RSS reader. Have been for ages.


  5. Posted link on my Facebook and Twitter.


  6. Aaaaand donated.

    As you can tell, I really would like that book. And I need it, since I’ve marinated in Hauerwas for years now, though I’ve always been suspicious of the Constantinian narrative. I’m pretty sure none of us would be Christians with out him.


  7. I’m following “Mere Orthodoxy” on Facebook and I’ve linked to it on my blog (under the right sidebar header “My Blog List”).

    I’m quite keen to read Peter Leithart’s book, particularly insofar as I hear many clergy and laypersons in my church (The Episcopal Church) say things that suggest or outright state that Constantine and that whole period of church history somehow meant the end of “real” Christianity and the rise of an institution interested only in self-preservation and imposing its hollow orthodoxy on all dissenters. The irony is that after that gets kicked around in Sunday school for an hour, everybody goes to worship and we recite the Nicene Creed after the sermon! It seems as though some of us are sawing off the limb on which we sit, perhaps without knowing it. A scholarly defense of Constantine’s importance will be most welcome!


  8. Following via rss feed.


  9. Put a link on Facebook.


  10. And I’ve been following through RSS for a while.


  11. […] Mere Orthodoxy is giving away 5 copies of Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine. […]


  12. Following in RSS and on facebook.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *