Two New Books

Here are two books that I’m looking forward to. The first should be of interest to everyone and that is “Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom.” Here is the description from IVP:

We know that Constantine

  • issued the Edict of Milan in 313
  • outlawed paganism and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire
  • manipulated the Council of Nicea in 325
  • exercised absolute authority over the church, co-opting it for the aims of empire

And if Constantine the emperor were not problem enough, we all know that Constantinianism has been very bad for the church.

Or do we know these things?

Peter Leithart weighs these claims and finds them wanting. And what’s more, in focusing on these historical mirages we have failed to notice the true significance of Constantine and Rome baptized. For beneath the surface of this contested story there emerges a deeper narrative of the end of Roman sacrifice–a tectonic shift in the political theology of an empire–and with far-reaching implications.

In this probing and informative book Peter Leithart examines the real Constantine, weighs the charges against Constantinianism, and sets the terms for a new conversation about this pivotal emperor and the Christendom that emerged.

If you check out either Amazon or IVP you can read the preface and other bits to get a feel for where Leithart is going. I read his “Solomon Among the Postmoderns” and found it to be enlightening, readable, and enjoyable and I suspect his next book will be the same.

The second, while probably of more interest to those who study the Early Church is “Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Early Church.” Here is the description from Catholic University of America Press:

The meaning of “tradition” is broad. It can refer to the deposit of faith or the “Apostolic Tradition,” to Scripture as the most perfect expression of what is handed over from Christ, or to the disciplinary and liturgical practices of the Church. It can also refer more broadly to those theological and doctrinal teachings, inherited by one generation of ecclesiastical writers and passed on to another generation of theological heirs. The Fathers themselves were always acutely aware of the traditions they stood within and especially of their relation to the Apostolic Tradition.

Tradition and the rule of faith are particularly apt themes for this collection of studies. The essays are written in honor of Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J., renowned American patristic scholar whose research and writings have focused on this particular theme. The volume brings together some of the most prominent scholars from the U.S. and abroad, specializing in different areas of patristic studies, to address tradition and the rule of faith.

Tradition is increasingly becoming important for Evangelicals and any book that deals with tradition in the Early Church is warmly welcomed.


3 thoughts on “Two New Books

  1. That first one sounds absolutely intriguing. A good, scholarly account is sorely needed in the evangelical world. I remember doing some reading last semester that critiqued the “Constantine ruined the real church,” position and thinking afterward, “This is good, but it really needs some better support and stronger arguments.”

    • I’m glad to hear someone else is interested in this subject. 🙂 It really is hard to find someone who doesn’t blame Constantine for all the Church’s problems. Two important facts have helped to keep me from falling into this problem. First, according to Rodney Stark in his book “Cities of God,” when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, almost (or more than) half the Empire had become Christian; so, it’s not a case of Constantine “making” the Empire Christian (besides, Theodosius was the one who made Christianity the official religion, not Constantine). Second, the Trinitarian party at the Council of Nicea were the minority–it wasn’t an issue of the powerful and popular opinion forcing out the alternate views. I hope his book provides more information and clarifications such as my two points–it’s always nice to have a position that’s based on evidence. :).

      • Wow, it’s good to have that information and it will be good to see it elaborated upon. I knew about Theodosius, but not about the other details!

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