I used to be a fan of Leithart’s writing. Even a few years ago when he openly attacked Reformed theology in *The Baptized Body,* his writing was cogent and impressive. Something happened between the writing of that book and the writing of this one. Admittedly, Leithart does accomplish a few useful ends in this book. I will list where he is strong and where is his is either wrong, misleading, of inadequate.
1) Leithart does a good job handling the disciples of Yoder
2) Leithart does a good job dealing with the secular scholarship that downplays the obvious persecution of Christians. I like Gibbon a lot, but Leithart ably rebuts him.
3) There remains the fact of a Christian *polis,* and we see such in Constantine.
1) While I side with Leithart over Yoder, it cannot be denied that there was a seismic shift in the Church’s praxis with the advent of Constantine.
2) Further, there was a seismic shift in the church’s eschatology. While some have challenged the ubiquity of premillennialism in the pre-Nicene church, it was there and its eschatology was forward-looking to the reign of Yahweh-in-Christ upon the earth. With the advent of a Christian Emperor over the known world, an emperor who was known as “Equal-to-the-Apostles” (which can still be heard in Eastern Orthodox litanies today), in whose person Empire and Sacras were united (cf Runciman, *The Byzantine Theocracy*), there is little point for the church to retain its premillennialism. Yoder and Moltmann capably document this. In losing its premillennialism, one must acknowledge it lost a lot of its original ethical thrust.
2a) This is a tangential note: In *Against Christianity* Leithart attacks Eusebius for his postmillennial ethics centered in the Advent of Constantine, saying we should have a more Augustinian eschatology centered in the tension of already-not yet. Now Leithart writes a book where he tacitly endorses Eusebius’ eschatology. One of them has to give.
3) Constantine was a bad Christian, if I may not judge. I am willing to concede the point he was a Christian. I can even buy, for sake of argument, the miracle in the sky. But there are significant problems: 1) He put his family members to death (yes, I know it was realpolitik), 2) he postponed baptism based on very bad theology, and 3) He was not always friendly to Nicene Theology (yes, I realize he didn’t understand it, which further underscores my point). These facts to not negate Leithart’s thesis, but they remain tough pills to swallow.
My criticisms notwithstanding, this probably is the best work on Constantine in modern times.