Speaker lauds Constantine

Peter Leithart (right), senior theology scholar, talks with Jimmy Davis, vice president for the regional campuses, following his lecture. | Photo by Anne Richoux

By Beth Byrd, Staff Writer

“Why should we be concerned about Constantine?” said Dr. Peter Leithart, senior fellow of theology at New Saint Andrews College in his guest lecture Monday in the Carl Grant Events Center.

While Constantine lived centuries ago, Leithart revealed the Roman emperor’s political and religious significance through the lecture, “The Metapolitics of Christendom: Constantine and the Transformation of Rome.” Leithart drew from his most recent book, “Defending Constantine,” for his lecture.

The lecture focused on Constantine’s conversion, his role in changing the Western world and Constantine’s influence both on the church and state of ancient Rome.

“My book is called ‘Defending Constantine,’ but it is not defending Constantine at all costs,” Leithart said. “He had plenty of faults.”

Leithart first focused on how Constantine’s behavior showed signs of having religious faith.

Constantine refused to offer sacrifices to the god Jupiter after professing to be a Christian. During a time when people lacked religious freedom, he allowed generals to choose whether they would participate in ritual sacrifices, which allowed Christians to join political and military ranks without having to compromise loyalty to God.

In addition Constantine prayed, read Scripture and changed the signs on currency and military gear to Christian symbols.

Leithart talked about what he believes were some of Constantine’s faults as well, which included a domineering personality and a brutal lifestyle. Many people believe Constantine was a political actor who manipulated the growing movement of Christianity for his personal gain, he said.

Constantine thought church arguments directly affected his success as emperor, because he believed God provided blessings based on the church’s unity, Leithart said.

Leithart linked Constantine’s life with contemporary issues facing the church. He challenged Christians to evaluate their roles in church and to consider whether their loyalties lie primarily with the nation or with Christ.

Leithart also gave a lecture titled, “Monsters of Ingratitude,” Tuesday at the Grant Center and spoke during chapel hour Wednesday in G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel.

Leithart and his family live in Moscow, Idaho, where he works as a minister, author, editor and professor.

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