Saturday, July 27, 2013

Constantine Revisited: O’Donovan, Leithart, Yoder, Hauerwas and the Constantinian Debate

Oliver O’Donovan has argued that Constantinian Christians were not attempting to promote the kingdom of Christ by worldly means. On the contrary, they believed that 'those who held power became subject to the rule of Christ.' And this is precisely what the 'martyr church' was aiming at with its witness unto death: 'This was the logical conclusion of their confidence in mission, the confirmation of what they had always predicted. The kings of the earth had come to bow before the throne of Christ, and the empire they had served had lost its most powerful agents.' Christendom meant not 'the church’s seizing alien power' but 'alien powers becoming attentive to the church.' Invoking the martyrs without also invoking this hope is an insult to the memory of the martyrs. -- Rev. Dr. Peter J. Leithart in Against Christianity
“Trial and Error” A Yoderian Rejoinder to Leithart’s DEFENDING CONSTANTINE by John C. Nugent

Peter Leithart’s Response to John Nugent’s “Yoderian Rejoinder”

Defending Constantine? A Critical Engagement of Peter Leithart
Against Christianity and For Constantine: One Heresy or Two?
by Mark Thiessen Nation - The Emperor’s New Clothes: A Review of Defending Constantine by Branson Parler

The Mennonite Quarterly Review, October 2011

Hauerwas review of Leithart in The Christian Century by Stanley Hauerwas

Leithart’s Defending Constantine Revisited by Roger E. Olson

Dr. Adam DeVille's Eastern Christian Books
Constantine the Emperor: Debating the Legacy

Nonsense on Stilts
While this myth of imperial control has certainly been popular, it was long ago debunked by the historian Francis Dvornik in his "Emperors, Popes, and General Councils," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 6 (1951): 1-23; and more generally in his books on the councils and the papacy. Basing himself on the 1931 study of Constantine by N.H. Baynes, Dvornik showed convincingly that Constantine was not a power-mad despot simply using Christianity to advance his own agenda but a sincerely convicted believer concerned about truth (a notion utterly foreign to Fuller). Dvornik--and others since then--further showed that Constantine, and the other emperors, never had the kind of power to dictate doctrine that many have falsely attributed to them. Caesaropapism, in a word, is bunk.
Constantine Reconsidered

Constantine: Co-Equal to the Apostles?

Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church

Stanley Hauerwas on War

FTs - Recovering Christendom by Gilbert Meilaender

Oliver O’Donovan on political theology
Two views of modernity
The political theology of Oliver O’Donovan and the political philosophy of Leo Strauss

Perhaps a comparison with John Howard Yoder (and especially Yoder’s classic work, The Politics of Jesus, Eerdmans) may be instructive. O’Donovan and Yoder seem poles apart. Yoder is the trenchant critic of Christendom, O’Donovan a defender of it (or at least a version of it).

But in fact the similarities are more striking than at first might be apparent. Both have a deep and sustained critique of empire. Both see the church itself as a political institution whose primary political responsibility is to be the church, to reflect the Christ-event in its own life. Both argue that in this way it will impact the surrounding culture.

The difference is that O’Donovan is more optimistic about what can be achieved in this way. The conversion of the powers can happened. It has happened. And it has left behind some positives legacies in Western culture.

O’Donovan is optimistic because the resurrection and ascension are to the fore in his theology. (As an aside I was blessed reading The Desire of the Nations for this reason: I was left optimistic about my own spiritual growth and that of others because of this resurrection-based hope.) O’Donovan critique of Yoder is, therefore, that he is too negative (151-152). --Tim Chester in his review of O'Donovan's book below
The Desire of the Nations

Beyond the suspicion of politics

The Revelation of God’s Kingship

The politics of Jesus and dual authority

The Triumph of the Kingdom: Christology and Politics

The political character of the church

Reclaiming Christendom

The legacy of Christendom

The corruption of Christendom

Appraising The Desire of the Nations – Part One

Appraising The Desire of the Nations – Part Two
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