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"Converted" but not baptized: Peter Leithart's Constantine project.

Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom is a formidable book. (1) In it, Peter Leithart draws upon a wide reading of both historical and theological sources. He thinks robustly, organizing the historical and theological materials into fresh categories. He writes colorfully and with rhetorical flair. Leithart is self-confessedly polemical, proudly and pugnaciously so. Among conservative American Reformed theologians he is a creative mind who, in this book, gives extended treatment to the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.

Leithart is right to subject Yoder's work to critical analysis. Yoder was a church historian by training, but his interests were wide. He wrote essays and books on matters theological, biblical, ethical, and ecclesial, about all of which he thought historically. Like all historians, Yoder thought not simply in terms of events and texts, but also in terms of periods and paradigms. But unlike many thinkers, Yoder was not content simply to accept the dominant paradigms of his professional peers; he challenged them and proposed alternatives that shifted the terms of the discussion. For Yoder, whose thought was shaped in Europe amid the ruins of World War II, a triumphalist progressive reading of Western Christian history simply did not make sense. In this setting, a "Constantinian shift"--a change of direction so fundamental that he used the terms "fall" and "apostasy"--made sense. (2) In hundreds of essays he inhabited this paradigm, frequently discussing its implications. But Yoder never systematically examined the ancient evidence for the "Constantinian shift," so others need to do the historical reality-testing. As we shall see, Leithart begins to do this testing, but his main concentration is elsewhere--on rehabilitating Constantine the man and critiquing what Yoder called "Constantinianism." In this, Leithart at times sheds some new light on the issues. Leithart has read a lot of Yoder's writings, and his own writings display a breadth of interest that is almost Yoderian.

As Yoder often observed, we learn through conversations. (3) Dialogue is essential. All sides of a debate often bear elements of the truth that, if not equal in validity, are nevertheless necessary. To give voice to all sharpens our understanding and points to wisdom that any one person in isolation may ignore. So Leitharfs book, weighty though it is, inevitably requires a rejoinder. Conversations must go on, and alas Yoder cannot take part. How intriguing it would be to read his response to Defending Constantinel So it has come to others to carry on the Anabaptist side of the conversation. I do so not to defend Yoder, nor to represent what others in the Anabaptist tradition think. Rather, in this essay I present my own point of view, as a historian in the Anabaptist tradition whom John Yoder, in his apostolic mode, many years ago beckoned into the study of early Christianity. To think responsibly about what he called the "Constantinian shift" Yoder knew that he needed the help of others.

In this paper I will start by looking at some contributions that I believe Leithart makes to the discussion. Second, I will consider a topic in which Leithart was intensely interested--Christian attitudes toward and participation in warfare in the early centuries and into the fourth century. Third, I address topics that apparently did not interest Leithart very much in this text--baptism, including the baptism of Constantine and the "baptism of Rome" that Leithart believes Constantine accomplished. Finally, I will turn to the impact of Constantine upon mission within the Roman Empire.

As I proceed, I will contend that in area after area there were numerous shifts between the Christianity that preceded Constantine and the Christianity that came in his wake. These shifts, I will argue, fit into two patterns or gestalts. (4) In the first five centuries of Christianity in the Roman Empire there was a movement from one gestalt--"Early Christianity"--to a second gestalt that took several centuries to take shape, and that many people, including Leithart in the last word of his book title, call "Christendom." Did this gestalt-shift indeed take place, and, if so, how was the shift related to the emperor Constantine i?


Leithart's professed aims are disarmingly modest: to provide "a fairly fair account of Constantine's life and work" (10). In contrast to Yoder, who he claims is interested in Constantine as an idea ("Constantinianism"), Leithart's project focuses on Constantine the man (29). He paints a portrait of an emperor claimant who, at crisis points in A.D. 310 and 312, through dreams and visions "experienced a religious conversion" (96). From these experiences onwards, Leithart says, Constantine was a self-consciously Christian emperor whose mission it was to convert the Roman Empire to Christianity. This required him to work ceaselessly for unity, for, as emperors had long known, the safety of the empire depended upon a unified people offering right worship. Constantine's concern for unity required him to take vigorous measures against heretical and schismatic Christian groups. As to pagans, Leithart argues that Constantine was a "Lactantian Christian," following "a policy of tolerant concord" but using favors, iconography, and the despoiling of pagan shrines to pressure pagans to convert (110). Constantine's fierce statements against the Jews were counteracted by Augustine, who, a century later, rejudaized the faith (136). Similarly, the brutality of punishment that Constantine's laws stipulated was mitigated by spotty enforcement and did not detract from a general "Christianization of law" (232). Constantine appointed Christians to imperial offices; together with the growing number of aristocratic bishops they created a Christian governing class. Constantine granted privileges to the bishops and lavished resources on the church, building elaborate basilicas and creating a new Christianized capital in Constantinople. As Christians participated in military service and supported the empire, Constantine's reign marked an intensification of attitudes and behaviors that were already present. To express Constantine's main contribution Leithart draws on one of the potent words in Christian vocabulary--baptism. With Constantine came the baptism of Rome and then the baptism of the Roman Empire. This baptism involved the empire dying to something old--pagan sacrifice--and being reborn as a Christian society animated by something new--the bloodless sacrifice of the eucharist. Constantine died in 337, within weeks of his own baptism.

In researching Defending Constantine Leithart has read widely in the historical literature dealing with Constantine and his setting in late antiquity. In my view, he makes some valuable points. Leithart gives a detailed account of the persecution under Diocletian, and contends--with some justice, I believe--that Yoder and other Anabaptist writers have paid insufficient attention to the persecution's horrors and to the gratitude that Christians had when the emperor, Constantine, legalized their existence (28). Leithart further points out that at times, in current-day Anabaptist circles, the rhetoric of anti-Constantinianism has led to a lack of sympathetic engagement with the European Middle Ages. (5) And he puts his finger on several tendencies in Yoder's writing that I also find distressing. One of these is Yoder's inclination to equate Eusebius and Augustine (180), whereas, as many scholars have pointed out, Augustine in his mature writings explicitly distanced himself from Eusebius. A second occurs in the passage in which Yoder links Constantine with Charlemagne as emperors who required "that every European must be Christian." (6) And underlying Leithart's critique of Yoder is a challenge: does Yoder take the details of history seriously, or is he so misled by his pacifist commitments and Anabaptist presuppositions that he cannot understand history? "If [Yoder] got Christian history wrong," Leithart comments, "that sets a question mark over his theology" (254). Of course, that challenge can go the other way. Is Leithart influenced by his presuppositions? Does he get history right? If so, or if not, what does that say about his theology?


The debate about whether believers prior to Constantine were antimilitarist is an old one. The correct answer of those who told the story of the Christendom churches has been, "The church was never pacifist." Scholars primarily from the "heretical" traditions--Anabaptists, Quakers, and others--have maintained that the early Christians resisted military service. But things are messier than that. Indeed, there have always been scholars from the Christendom ecclesial traditions who maintained that the position of the pre-Constantinian church--of the magisterium as well as the theologians--was antimilitarist. (7) So in viewing the decision of the Church to justify lethal military service as paradigmatic of a Constantinian "shift," John Yoder was not innovating. And Yoder's case is compelling enough to cause Leithart to devote no fewer than twenty-five pages--an entire chapter of his book--to this issue. (8)

What is Leithart's case? Leithart maintains that he does not need to disprove that some Christians were pacifist before Constantine. Instead, Leithart simply needs to prove that before Constantine there was "diversity and ambiguity" and that after Constantine there was also "diversity and ambiguity." Leithart contends that unlike himself, Yoder must prove that there was a change, and that if he fails to do so, he is "wrong" (278).

Leithart proceeds to make a case for "diversity and ambiguity." He observes that "we do not know whether the church of the first two centuries was pacifist in practice" (261). But in the late second century things clarify. Beginning with the "Thundering Legion" of the 170s, Leithart cites evidence that there were Christians in the Roman legions, in varying numbers depending on the locality. This military service was not, pace Yoder, primarily a part of the civil service; it was engaged in the full range of activities of the legions. Of course, there was "a small, articulate minority" of intellectuals (259) who opposed this participation; these intellectuals are the authorities that pacifists like Yoder quote. But there were other thinking Christians who disagreed with the intellectuals. Here Leithart points to Christian men in North Africa, evidently legionaries, with whom Tertullian debated in his treatise On Idolatry. (9) Tertullian countered them by appealing to the teaching of Jesus, who, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier. But, Leithart argues, it was not primarily the soldiers' killing that offended Tertullian and the other antimilitarist Christians; it was the idolatry--the pagan worship--that was an unavoidable part of military life. Leithart assumes that there were "countless, nameless and forgotten local pastors" who gave the eucharist to "converted soldiers" (261). Constantine, by depaganizing the Roman military, changed things for Christian soldiers. Constantine eradicated sacrifice from the army camps and changed the military flag to the Christian cross. In their military assemblies troops now needed to say only an unoffensive monotheistic prayer, and on Sundays they were free to worship in Christian churches. So, Leithart contends, "many Christians [now] found military service a legitimate life for a Christian disciple" (273). Already in the Council of Aries of 314, the bishops gave their ambiguous blessing to Christians in the legions by forbidding them to lay down their arms, at least in peacetime. By the fifth century Christians were widespread in the Roman military, but Augustine of Hippo, picking up earlier Christian themes, ensured that the soldiers would maintain the love of enemies in wars waged with benevolent purpose for the sake of peace. Thanks to Augustine and the theologians "responsible for ... mainstream Christian views on war," Christian attitudes to war have continued to be ambiguous right to the present (278).


Leithart states his position well. But five flaws distort it. First, Leithart's focus is narrow. His interest extends only to early Christian texts that deal explicitly with military service; he ignores texts that illuminate the Christians' daily practices, liturgical life, and pastoral vision. So he fails to comprehend the early Christian attempt to establish what one could call an ecosystem of peace, which fostered the Christians' approach to many issues, including military service. (10) Samples of this ecosystem are:

* Clement of Alexandria, who around 200 urged Christians, when buying signet rings, to avoid rings with swords and bows, for "we are a people of peace." (11)

* The bishop of the Syrian church of the Didascalia Apostolorum of about A.D. 250, who was ordered to "preach peace" and preside over a liturgical peacemaking process leading to peace in community. "We do not call them brothers until there is peace between them." (12)

* The great theologian Origen, who, in a letter to the historian Julius Africanus, referred to Isaiah and Micah's famous "swords into ploughshares" passage as a thematic text, probably taught in catechesis, for the Christian communities. So Origen could say confidently, "Who of all believers does not know the words in Isaiah?" (13) Indeed, this passage was one of the Old Testament texts cited most widely by the Christians of the early centuries. (14)

* The apologist and catechist Justin, writing in mid-second-century Rome, who saw peace as one of four changes that came with Christian conversion. (15) Referring to the Isaiah/Micah text as a key to the early Christians' self-understanding, Justin confessed: "And we who delighted in war ... have in every part of the world converted our weapons of war into implements of peace--our swords into ploughshares, our spears into farmers' tools." As a result their culture would be different--they would "cultivate piety and justice" and be converted into lovers of their enemies. (16)

* Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, in whose Sunday services the kiss of peace preceded the eucharistic meal, giving Christians who were at odds with each other the opportunity to be "peacemakers." This was important, because Cyprian viewed "peace and brotherly agreement" as the Christians' "greater sacrifice." (17) To the catechists who were preparing candidates for baptism, Cyprian issued instructions to inform the candidates that their behavior would henceforth be unusual: "the believer ought not to live like the Gentiles ... [and] that the example of living is given to us in Christ." (18) Cyprian, like other early Christian leaders, was preparing his community to be an ecosystem of peace.

None of these elements of an ecosystem of peace proves that the Christians of the early centuries were pacifist. However, almost all of these elements either disappeared in the centuries after Constantine or mutated so that their meanings changed fundamentally.


Second, Leithart, blinkered by his concentration on texts dealing with military service, fails to acknowledge the many early Christian texts that repudiate all forms of killing humans. He recognizes that the Christians opposed the "spectacles" (lethal combat in the arenas); he acknowledges that they prohibited the exposure of infants and abortion (202, 218, 228). But he does not see that these prohibitions are part of a systematic repudiation of killing. To many early Christians capital punishment and killing in warfare were as reprehensible as killing in the womb or the arena. Unlike Leithart, "Unlettered people, tradesmen and old women" could see this, and they rejected lethal violence in all its forms: "we are altogether consistent in our conduct." (19) The theologian Origen could see this: Christ "did not consider it compatible with his inspired legislation to allow the taking of human life in any form at all." (20) The philosopher Lactantius could see this: "It is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred animal ... [It is] not lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself, nor to accuse any one of a capital charge ..." (21) In these and many other passages, (22) Christian writers comprehensively repudiated killing, anticipating what Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in his Consistent Ethic of Life called the "seamless garment." (23)


Third, Leithart ignores the church orders. (24) These are a genre of ancient texts--from the early Didache through the late-fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions--that purport to be handbooks for leaders, assisting them in regulating the worship, communal life, and ethics of Christian communities. In the second half of the twentieth century, the church orders have come into their own as historical sources; they have been published in numerous editions and studied intensively. The church orders are difficult sources. As "living literature" they were composed by various writers, possibly at differing times and places. (25) But they are important for our purposes here for two reasons: because four of them deal specifically with Christian approaches to military service; and because they are cumulative, with later orders revising the earlier ones. So they enable us not only to get insight into the life of the early Christian communities, including their approach to military service; they also enable us to trace changes in these communities across time, from the second to the late fourth centuries; and they enable us to see whether, possibly, these changes were sufficient to constitute a "shift."

To see what the church orders tell us about the Christian leaders' approach to military service, let us look at four such documents, beginning with the Apostolic Tradition, chapter 16, dating possibly from the early third century in North Africa and Rome. (26)
  Church Order 1, Apostolic Tradition, 16 (mid-3rd c): A soldier who
  has authority, let him not kill a man. If he is ordered, let him not
  go to the task nor let him swear. But if he not willing, let him be
  cast out. One who has the authority of the sword, or is a ruler of a
  city who wears the purple, either let him cease or be cast out. A
  catechumen or faithful [person] if he wishes to become a soldier, let
  them [sic] be cast out because they despised God. (27)

The context of this passage is significant--the provision of guidance for church leaders about admitting people to the church's three-year catechumenate. Instead of welcoming interested persons eagerly, the Apostolic Tradition instructs the teachers to scrutinize the applicants, questioning them and their sponsors about their professional life and their state of life. The scrutiny is intended to discover whether the candidates will be teachable, whether they will be willing to be formed into the values of the Christian community, "whether they are able to hear the word" (AT 15). So the teachers inquire whether the candidates are involved in professions that involve behavior that is contrary to the Christian community's way of life--illicit sex (brothel-keepers, prostitutes); idolatry (sculptors, pagan priests, diviners); and killing (charioteers, gladiators, and soldiers). Note several things:

a. The Apostolic Tradition's concern about soldiers is not whether they will engage in idolatrous acts that are an unavoidable part of military life. It is rather concerned about whether they will kill--if they are ordered to kill, they shall resist the order. If they fail to resist and do take life, they are to be cast out of the catechumenate.

b. Soldiers may be admitted to the catechumenate if they agree not to kill; so the text assumes that it is possible to be in the military without killing, doing the many civil service tasks (e.g., scribes, messengers, accountants) that the third-century legions were charged with doing. (28) It also assumes that it is possible to be in the military without engaging in its idolatrous worship.

c. People already admitted to the catechumenate or already baptized may not become soldiers; if they do so, they are to be cast out of the catechumenate or excommunicated. They have despised God.

John Helgeland, whose research Leithart follows, gives little attention to chapter 16 of the Apostolic Tradition. This passage, he contends, is "very brief"; its meaning is unclear; and its "chief objection" was the military oath. (29) Clearly the text did not pique Helgeland's curiosity. Further, Helgeland ignores three subsequent church orders that embed the Apostolic Tradition and alter it in ways that reflect the changing circumstances in the fourth century. Let us look at these in turn.
  Church Order 2, Canons of Hippohjtus, 13-14 (Egypt, ca. 336-340):
  Concerning the Magistrate and the Soldier they are not to kill
  anyone, even if they receive the order: they are not to wear wreaths.
  Whoever has authority and does not do the righteousness of the gospel
  is to be excluded and is not to pray with the bishop. Whoever has
  received the authority to kill, or else a soldier, they are not to
  kill in any case, even if they receive the order to kill ... A
  Christian must not become a soldier, unless he is compelled by a
  chief to bear the sword. He is not to burden himself with the sin of
  blood. But if he has shed blood, he is not to partake of the
  [eucharistic] mysteries, unless he is purified by a punishment,
  tears, and wailing. (30)

a. In the Canons of Hippohjtus, killing remains the church order's central concern. Even at the end of Constantine's reign, by which time obligatory pagan worship in the legions had long been abolished, the church order commanded the catechumens not to kill, even if they were ordered to do so. Further, in the late 330s, at the very end of Constantine's reign, the Canons of Hippohjtus forbade Christians to join the legions unless they were forced to do so at sword-point.

b. Christians at times did shed blood, possibly at times because they were compelled to do so. If they killed, they were to be excluded from the eucharist until they completed a penitential discipline.
  Church Order 3, Testament of our Lord, 2.2 (Asia Minor? second
  half of 4th c?): If anyone be a soldier or in authority, let him be
  taught not to oppress or to kill or to rob, or to be angry or to rage
  and afflict anyone. But let those rations suffice him which are given
  to him. But if they wish to be baptized in the Lord, let them cease
  from military service or from the [post of] authority. And if not let
  them not be received. Let a catechumen or a believer of the people,
  if he desire to be a soldier, either cease from his intention, or if
  not let him be rejected. For he hath despised God by his thought and,
  leaving the things of the Spirit, he hath perfected himself in the
  flesh, and hath treated the faith with contempt. (31)

The Testament of our Lord instructed catechumens approaching the church to behave according to John the Baptist's admonitions in Luke 3:14 (contentment with wages, no oppression or robbery); but it intensified this instruction by prohibiting killing or being angry. A catechumen or believer who joins the military was to be excluded. Before being baptized catechumens were to leave the military.
  Church Order 4, Apostolic Constitutions, 8.32.10 (Syria, ca. 385): If
  a soldier come, let him be taught to do no injustice, to accuse no
  one falsely, and to be content with his allotted wages; if he submit
  to those rules, let him be received; but if he refuse them, let him
  be rejected. (32)

a. The Apostolic Constitution, the final reworking of the Apostolic Tradition dating from the end of Constantine's century, drops the Apostolic Tradition's clause that prohibits soldiers who want to become catechumens from killing.

b. It makes John the Baptist's counsel in Luke 3:14 the standard rule governing the behavior of Christians in military service; if soldiers refuse these rules, they were not to be admitted to the catechumenate.

These four church orders clearly indicate that in the two centuries from A.D. 200 to 400 Christians made authoritative pronouncements about the participation of believers in military service. They were silent about the possibility that Christians in the legions might engage in idolatrous practices. Instead, they were concerned that Christians in the military might be ordered to kill people, and three of the four church orders forbade it.


But how authoritative were the church orders? Do they enable us to approximate a position of those responsible for the church's teaching and pastoral oversight, of the "magisterium" (to use an anachronism)? According to Paul Bradshaw, the authors of the church orders may have been "indulging in an idealizing dream--prescribing rather than describing." Bradshaw also acknowledges that there was in these sources "undoubtedly some foundation based on the reality either of local tradition or influences from other churches." (33) Alistair Stewart-Sykes, writing about the Apostolic Tradition, sees it as a product of disputes in third-century Rome, which was attempting to construct "a social (or ecclesial) reality" around which Christians could unite, and whose material, particularly concerning the catechumenate and baptism, is "genuinely descriptive because of the extent to which it coheres with later practice." (34) Of course, as Bradshaw and Stewart-Sykes agree, the church orders must be tested by other sources. Stewart-Sykes proposes one--coherence with later practice. Leithart proposes another source of authority--"the countless, nameless and forgotten local pastors" (259). These are by definition an irretrievable source, and thus possibly a mouthpiece for one's own prejudices. But as it happens, one of these pastors was not quite forgotten. Theotecnus was bishop of Caesarea in 260 when Marinus, a Christian centurion, was "outed" by fellow soldiers when he refused to sacrifice to the emperors. A military judge condemned Marinus, but gave him three hours to reconsider. Theotecnus heard about the judge's decision, sought out Marinus, and led him by hand to the church where he placed Marinus directly in front of the altar. Theotecnus pulled Marinus's cloak aside and pointed to his sword. Then he placed "a copy of the divine Gospels" before Marinus, and "asked him to choose which he preferred." Marinus chose the Gospels, whereupon Theotecnus sent him "in peace" to face execution. (35) For this local pastor, the "divine Gospels" trumped the sword. In the case of other pastors this may not have been the case. Considering the pastoral impact of the church orders, Christine Muhlenkamp speculates that when dealing with ethical issues many pastors may have constructed a "soft boundary" between the Christian community and pagan society, in contrast to the "hard boundary" they constructed in cultic/religious issues. (36)

It is unknowable how authoritative these four church orders were. But their substance is distinctive and their extension across time, geography, and languages is impressive. All the church orders attempt to screen potential catechumens for their capacity to hear "the word" of the teachers that will form them, in catechesis, to be Christians. All of them recognize that military service will affect the capacity of candidates to participate in a process of resocialization. (37) Across the fourth century, it is clear that the resocialization was becoming less rigorous; and one critical indicator of this loss of rigor is the nuancing of the approach to killing. Three of the four church orders focus on killing as something that is incompatible with the Word; but the fourth construes the Word to refer to John the Baptist's Luke 3:14 injunctions to soldiers about discontent, injustice, and false accusations. These were matters of spiritual import that had to do with the way of living taught and embodied by the Christian church. The four church orders record changing responses to external circumstances, across a century and a half. Thus, the Canons of Hippohjtus introduced penance for Christians who killed, which Basil of Caesarea's Canonical Epistle refines. (38) The Testament of our Lord introduced Luke 3:14 as the standard, but for catechumens rather than baptized believers.

Only with the Apostolic Constitutions, a considerable time after the Apostolic Tradition and half a century after Constantine I's death, did the church orders rescind the prohibition of killing. In many ways, the community governed by the Apostolic Constitutions was still a counterculture; but it was a community whose members could at last be soldiers who killed. (39) With reference to killing, the church orders document a shift that Leithart, apparently unaware of these sources, was unable to see.


Fourth, Leithart's view of the entry of Christians into the legions is wishful. "When the emperor expunges sacrifice from the army and changes the standard to a Christian cross," he states, then "many Christians" wanted to serve in the military (271). Indeed, "many Christians found military service a legitimate life for a Christian disciple" (273). Studies of the fourth-century Roman legions simply do not bear out these statements. At the end of the fourth century, only a few troops, the emperor's personal bodyguard, carried the Chi-Rho shield. (40) The army was flexibly conservative, motivated by desire to be successful militarily but not by religious zeal of any sort. Throughout the century its commanders were interchangeably pagan, Nicene, and Arian, chosen for military effectiveness and not by creed; and most of the troops, recruited in rural areas where Christianity had made little progress, continued to be pagan. (41) From 416 all soldiers were to be Christians, but members of heretical groups were allowed to serve; (42) and the "conversion" of the legions was very gradual.


Fifth, Leithart argues that between the third and fifth centuries there was a continuity in Christian approaches to military service. There is some truth to this, but he misconstrues it. Following David Hunter, Leithart states that Christians such as Augustine, who justified participation in warfare for a "just" cause, were in "fundamental continuity with at least one strand of pre-Constantinian tradition." (43) This is correct: one can document Christians in 210 who presented arguments similar to those that Augustine offered two centuries later. The question is--who were these Christians and what was their ecclesial status?

We have seen that around the year 210 the North African theologian Tertullian was engaged in debate with Christians who were serving in the military and were unapologetic about it. Tertullian deployed against them some of his crisp phrases: There is "no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament. ... One soul cannot be due to two masters." But Tertullian was disconcerted when he found that the soldiers were also developing their own point of view. According to his report they were thinking of biblical stories in which they found precedents for their military sendee: Moses carried a rod; Aaron wore a buckle; John the Baptist wore leather; Joshua led a line of troops; the Israelite people warred; the centurion of Matthew 8 believed; and John the Baptist (in Luke 3.14) gave to the soldiers who came to him "the formula of their rule." Tertullian was incensed by the soldiers' arguments; he accused them of "sporting with the subject." To him it was clear that Christ had taken away the sword from all Christians. "How will a Christian war, nay, how will he serve even in peacetime, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away?" Christ, in disarming Peter, has disarmed every soldier. (44)

We go forward to 419, still in North Africa, where Augustine of Hippo was corresponding with Boniface, Count of Africa. Augustine urged Boniface not to "think that it is impossible for anyone to please God while engaged in active military service." Where did Boniface get that idea? Might it have been a deep part of the early Christian tradition? (45) In any event, Augustine attempted to dissuade Boniface from his scruples by providing a succession of biblical exempla similar to those that the legionaries offered to Tertuilian: David, and other righteous men in the Old Testament; the faith-filled centurion; and John the Baptist, "the friend of the bridegroom," who told the soldiers (in Luke 3:14) to do no violence and be content with their wages. At this point Augustine altered his idiom and drew from the Ciceronian well: "Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity." (46)

Boniface, perhaps swayed by Augustine's reasoning, stayed in the imperial service. The arguments that Augustine used were in part a recent addition to Christian ethics (the just war ideas), but in part they were old, having been aired in North Africa over two centuries earlier. So there was continuity. But who was it that used the arguments? In 210 it was Christian laity, probably soldiers, who appealed to Joshua, the centurions, and Luke 3:14, while the leading theologian in the province, Tertuilian,

articulated the position of the church to correct them. In 419 it was the leading theologian in the province, Augustine, who appealed to the same biblical passages to justify military service in a church that was rapidly becoming society-encompassing. Over this period much had changed: the church orders had become more accepting of conventional values, Christian approaches to killing had changed, and the church's ecosystem of peace had been degraded. So Augustine was in continuity, not with the deep Christian moral tradition, but with the argument of the laity in the legions. (47) This represents a shift--a shift from the gestalt of early Christianity to another gestalt--Christendom. (48)


Constantine's Conversion

A second gestalt shift has to do with baptism, a subject that evidently does not interest Leithart in this book. It takes him 298 pages to get to Constantine's baptism, and then he devotes only slightly more than a page to it. In view of his professed interest in Constantine the man, why is Leithart so uninterested in Constantine's baptism? Why does he give more space to the medieval Acts of Sylvester, which gives a legendary account of Constantine's baptism, than he does to Eusebius's Life of Constantine, which gives a streamlined but liturgically credible account of the actual events (298-300)?

In other ways, however, Leithart gives remarkable prominence to baptism. Not to the rite and its preparatory catechesis, and not to the actual baptismal practice of the fourth-century churches--to these he pays no attention at all. No, Leithart is interested in the idea of baptism, not its ritual embodiment or even its sacramental theology. In Defending Constantine baptism functions without a rite, without an "effective sign," and without faith. It is a symbol of Christianizing change. And in Leithart's prose baptism makes for arresting rhetoric. The baptismal theme takes on many forms. Thus, Leithart tells us that in 312 at the battle of the Milvian Bridge "Rome had been baptized in the Tiber" (69). Later, he informs us that Rome's baptism involved tire baptism of public space, the baptism of the aristocracy, the baptism of historical writing, and, not to be too modest about it, the baptism of the entire Roman Empire (125, 227, 250, 324). In this baptism, "something happened, some border was crossed ... [and] this something made things Christian" (324; italics Leithart's). Like all baptisms, of course, this baptism was only a beginning. "It was, like every baptism, an infant baptism" (324). So of course the baptized cities, persons, and empire need teaching or paideia (204). But the baptisms set a new trajectory---in this case, into a world without sacrifice. So Leithart entitles his final chapter, the longest in the book, "Rome Baptized." Underneath this grand talk about baptism, what was happening on the ground? As best we can tell, what was Constantine's baptism like? And what was going on when Rome was "baptized," or the Roman aristocracy was "baptized"?

For Constantine's baptism, Leithart sets the scene. While advancing on Rome in 312, Constantine, an ambitious claimant of the imperial throne, had "mystical experiences." On the eve of a battle Constantine had a vision of a cross of light in the sky upon which he saw the inscription, "Conquer by this." (49) "For fourth-century Christians," Leithart asks, "how can that be anything other than a sign of conquest by the cross?" (78) This vision presaged Constantine's victory over his rival Maxentius and his conquest of Rome. The following year Constantine legalized Christianity and by 324 he had become sole emperor by defeating his rival Licinius. What Constantine experienced in 312, Leithart claims, was "a religious conversion" (96).

What impact did Constantine's "conversion" make on his life? According to Eusebius, Constantine put "the trophy of the cross" on his battle flags; because of its apotropaic powers, he always used the "saving sign" at the head of his armies for protection. Constantine felt that he needed help to understand his experience, so he summoned Christian priests, asking who this god was and what the vision might mean. His consultants talked about "the Only begotten Son of the one and only God," and "began to teach him the reasons for his coming." In some detail they explained the "story of his self-accommodation to human conditions." Constantine listened. But then, at the point at which Christian catechesis would customarily begin, the teachings were broken off. Eusebius seems to indicate that it was Constantine who decided to end them: "he made up his mind." (50) But why did Constantine decide this? Was it because he as emperor was too busy? Was he unable to adjust his life to the church's well-established convictions? Did the churchmen precipitate the decision by deciding that they, although attracted by the idea of having Constantine in their midst, were not persuaded by his radical transformation of the cross from a gesture invoking the Spirit's protection of the individual into an instrument of military conquest? (51) Were bishops unwilling to change their ethical standards even for the emperor? What a pregnant moment! What if Constantine, in response to the bishops' initial catecheses, had submitted himself to the Christians for teaching and apprenticeship? What if he, like all catechumens, had made initial steps into a society that was not replicating or validating the dominant societal structures, but querying them and inventing alternatives to them? Of course, if Constantine had entered the Christian community a rival might have killed him. But is it better for a Christian to kill other people, as he himself did, (52) than to be killed by them? Earlier Christians had said to those who threatened them, "You can kill us, but you cannot do us any real harm." (53)

According to Eusebius, Constantine decided it was safer to be self-taught. He would study by himself in his palace. He would have no teacher, no sponsor who would teach by embodiment as well as conversation; he would "personally apply himself to the divinely inspired writings." (54) He would be a Christian autodidact. He would have priests in his entourage to advise him, and he would foster due rites and fight heresy. But he would not be baptized. So, according to standards of the early church that were still operative, Constantine had not been converted.

What then are we to make of Constantine's "religious conversion" of 312? (55) This expression is anachronistic. According to the teachings of the Church conversion could not have been merely the result of a vision; nor was it just "a moment of psychological conviction." (56) Conversion was more serious than that. It was the fruit of a journey of change that culminated in baptism. According to Robert Finn, "the task of conversion was to reshape an entire way of living and system of values." (57) Wayne Meeks calls this journey "the resocialization into an alternative community." (58)

This journey was time-consuming and humbling. According to the church orders, which fit well with other evidence from Origen and Cyprian, a person who wanted to become a Christian, or who had had a mystical experience, would come to the Christian teachers and ask to become someone who was taught--a catechumen. As we have seen, admission to the catechumenate was not automatic. The church leaders examined the candidates to see if they were living in a way that would allow them to hear the word. Or were they living in ways that enmeshed them in idolatry, immorality, or violence? If so, they must go away, change their behavior, and apply again. The church was confident enough in the truth of its teachings and in its numerical growth that it did not have to water down its requirements. When the catechumens began to receive instruction, they left an old world, marked by spiritual bondage and addictive behavior, and entered a new, liminal world learning and unlearning. (59) The great third-century catechist Origen compared the entry into the catechumenate to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, leaving the bondage of Egypt for the liminal space of the Wilderness. (60) There, often daily and over a substantial period of time, the teachers gave the candidates a new narrative (the stories of Israel and Jesus) and a new way of living characterized by Jesus' teachings in which they experienced a freedom that the old order had denied them. (61) Sponsors embodied the Christian way so that the candidates, who were their apprentices, could imitate their lives; the sponsors also observed and encouraged the changing behavior of their charges.

When the candidates seemed ready, the sponsors brought them to the teachers who examined them and their sponsors to find out whether the candidates had lived like a Christian. In Egypt, late in Constantine's reign, the questions included: "[Have you] hated vainglory, despised pride, and chosen for [yourself] humility. ... Are you in two minds, or under pressure from anything, or driven by convention?" (62) If the bishop was satisfied with their answers, the candidates were admitted to final instruction in which they learned to pray the Lord's Prayer and to understand the Creed. The journey of conversion came to completion in baptism, the watery rite in which the candidates left the liminal space and crossed the Jordan into the promised land. (63) The baptism was ritually memorable, with exorcisms, anointings, and a threefold immersion in lots of water. As Origen graphically put it, the Egyptians (the rulers of this world) are hot on your heels and want you to go back into their slavery. "But you descend into the water, you leave it safe and sound. Washed from the stains of sin, you come up again a 'new man,' ready to 'sing a new song.'" (64) There is jubilation as the congregation embraces the baptizands, enveloping them in a new family in which they are brothers and sisters; prays with them; kisses them; shares the eucharist with them; and with special food--milk and honey-symbolizes that the candidates have entered a new world. They will now live by different convictions and be animated by a different story. Then, and only then, are the candidates converted. Outsiders look at the new believers and want to imitate them and become Christian, because "the progress of those who have been illuminated is high and better than the common behavior of people." (65)

So was the unbaptized Constantine then a Christian? Leithart calls him "a seriously Christian ruler" (82); indeed, "not just a Christian; he was a missional Christian" (88). Leithart is often convincing when he sees Constantine attempting, according to his own lights, to rule in Christian ways. He rightly emphasizes Constantine's role in the Council of Nicaea, with its attempts to determine orthodox doctrine and the date of Easter so there would be homonoia (concord) on matters religious. (66) Leithart devotes pages to Constantine's acts of benevolence toward the church, his lifting of tax burdens from churchmen, his building projects in Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Further, Leithart discusses Constantine's legal reforms, his attempts to improve justice for women and poor litigants. Leithart acknowledges MacMullen's evidence for the growing use of torture and capital punishment under Constantine, and observes that "many of his decrees suggest a horror show." But he argues that it is not clear whether the prescribed punishments were enforced. (67) In all of this, Constantine was exploring ways to rule as a new kind of Christian--self-taught, solitary, and unbaptized. He wanted at the same time to be Christian and emperor, without deconstructing his old world and being resocialized into a new world. He wanted to set his own terms.

As to Constantine's religious life, his position was anomalous. He did not belong to the church. He could invite the bishops to his palace and receive them at his splendid table. (68) But they could not invite him to their awesome table to receive the eucharist. (69) So Constantine, instead of gathering with the faithful on Sundays, engaged in private worship in his imperial quarters, where "the body of persons assembled ... was in all aspects a church of God"--without the eucharist, to which the church could not admit him. (70) According to Eusebius, when at home, Constantine shut himself into places in the imperial palace where he "would converse with his God alone." (71) On his final campaign against the Persians, Constantine took bishops along with him to "fight at his side with supplications ... to God the giver of victories" in a tent "to form the church." (72) Clearly Constantine continued to engage in self-catechesis. In his Oration to the Assembly of Saints (possibly of 325), Constantine was able to discourse learnedly about Christianity. "We have," he insisted, "received no aid from human instruction"--a claim no early-fourth-century Christian could or would make! (73) The content of the address is that of a thoughtful, intellectually gifted man who had not received catechesis. He differentiates himself from the "saints" whom he is addressing: "Compare our religion with your own. Is there not with us genuine concord, and unwearied love of others?" Constantine knows that his behavior has been objectionable to many of his hearers, and he is defensive: "surely all men know that the holy service in which these hands have been employed has originated in pure and genuine faith towards God. ..." (74)

In 337 an illness persuaded Constantine that his death was approaching, so he sacrificed his two-mindedness and approached the churchmen in order to "purify himself from the offences which he had at any time committed." (75) In the words of Averil Cameron and Stuart Hall, "Constantine becomes a catechumen." (76) In the account that follows, all of the traditional elements of the baptismal journey were present, telescoped by the time pressure of Constantine's illness. Constantine knelt on the floor before the churchmen, confessed his sins, and, for the first time, was prayed for, accompanied by the laying on of hands. Constantine told the bishops that he had long "thirsted and yearned to win salvation in God ... [and to be] hereafter numbered among the people of God." Constantine was tired of praying by himself. In the future he wanted to "meet and join in the prayers with [the people] all together." And he resolved to live according to "rules of life which befit God." The churchmen responded by providing as much "preliminary instruction" as time permitted, and then performed the "customary rites" (evidently of exorcism, baptism, and anointing) by which Constantine was "initiated by rebirth in the mysteries of Christ." Constantine's experience of the baptismal liturgy was profound. He exulted in the Spirit, "awestruck at the manifestation of the divinely inspired power." And he responded to this experience ethically. Like the early Christians he refused any longer to wear the purple robe that signified wealth and dominance. And he sang a new song full of praise for what God had done: "I know that now I am in the true sense blessed, that now I have been shown worthy of immortal life, that now I have received divine light." (77) Not previously. Finally, in the last days of his life, Constantine became a Christian, twenty-five years after what Leithart calls his "conversion." (78)

This is an unsettling thought. According to Jesuit liturgical scholar Edward Yarnold, it is "startling." "It implies, for example, that Constantine presumed to sit among the bishops at the council of Nicaea and direct their deliberations when he was not even a catechumen." (79) That Constantine was committed to using the Christian Church as a means of bringing about concord, homonoia, in the Roman Empire makes sense. (80) It also makes sense that Constantine therefore saw his task as promoting the Christian Church, whose membership at his accession was at most 10 percent of the empire. His granting of privileges to churchmen, building monumental structures, excoriating schismatics, and persecuting heretics also makes sense. But he was not doing these things as a Christian. And if, as Leithart puts it, Constantine was involved in "baptizing Rome," he was doing the baptizing as an unbaptized person.

What then do Leithart's baptismal phrases mean? Leithart assures us that he is interested in studying the fourth century as a historian, but for him baptism "has become more an idea than [reality]." (81) So Leithart brandishes baptismal phrases as slogans: "Rome had been baptized in the Tiber" (69); "He [Constantine] had baptized public space" (82); "The baptism of the aristocracy." I propose in light of recent scholarly research to look at these slogans--the baptism, of Rome (including the baptism of public space) and the baptism of the aristocracy. In both cases we shall see that reality--what actually was happening on the ground --was more intriguing, credible, and complex than Leithart's slogans would indicate.

The Baptism of Rome

"The baptism of Rome." According to Leithart, this happened already in 312 when Constantine, after his victory at the Milvian Bridge, entered Rome with his troops carrying the labarum--the cross-bedecked battle standard. Begun in victory, this "baptism" of Rome continued through Constantine's building policy. Constantine was "a great builder of churches, Christian churches," not least in the imperial capital of Rome (121, italics Leitharf s). These were large buildings, whose basilica form and splendid ornamentation communicated Christianity's triumph in the Roman world. The buildings replaced domestic structures, where Christian churches had earlier met, because "domestic spaces could no longer house the crowds," and because Constantine's Christianity was to be public, not private. According to Leithart, through commissioning monumental buildings Constantine "baptized public space" (125).

To some extent this picture is true. Constantine did indeed sponsor an elaborate and expensive building program in Rome. Already in 313 Constantine began construction of a large basilica, St John Lateran, completed in 319. In subsequent years he built seven more basilicas--an impressive statement of the importance of the church to his program for the empire.

But the picture is more complicated than this. For example, consider the location of the eight basilicas. One of them, St John Lateran, was built just inside the city walls where it served as "the first building in Rome to be specifically designed for the needs of the Christian community." (83) The other seven were scattered outside the walls, six of them around the southern and eastern edges of the city and one of them--St. Peter's--in the northwest. Significantly, all of them were built on private imperial property. None of them was built in city center, the historical and ceremonial showplace area with its capitol, administrative buildings, forums, and great temples. Constantine was proud to build in the public center of Rome; he erected the baths on the Quirinal, his triumphal arch, the Basilica Nova, and the colossal statue of himself, crowned by his six-foot-high head. But he built no church there. (84) Private patrons renovated existing house churches, and in 336 Pope Mark constructed San Marco, the first papal construction in central Rome. But visually these efforts were modest, hardly rivals to the venerable structures that the pagans were rebuilding and restoring. (85) According to Richard Krautheimer, "The Roman Forum in particular seems to have remained a pagan preserve." And the new churches around the city's fringe "were hardly visible to Rome's casual visitor." (86) Why not visible, if Constantine was baptizing Roman public space?

Because of pagan opposition. The religious and administrative center of Rome was controlled by the senatorial aristocracy, and these aristocrats during Constantine's reign were "overwhelmingly pagan" in their sympathies. (87) Constantine had already offended them in 312 when he entered Rome with the labarum. (88) So, to avoid offending these locally dominant figures, Constantine built his huge basilicas on less visible lands that he, not the Senate, controlled.

Further, of the eight basilicas that Constantine constructed, only one--Saint John Lateran--was constructed primarily for services of eucharistic worship. Even St. Peter's, which was adaptable to eucharistic worship, was "founded by Constantine primarily as a covered cemetery and funeral hall" on the site of the martyr's tomb. (89) Tire other six basilicas were huge U-shaped structures, covered cemeteries with table-like graves similar to those on which for centuries Romans had funerary feasts on anniversary days, months, and years. Christian Romans also celebrated feasts at graves, but they liked to bury their dead near the graves of martyrs (ad sanctos), which they believed would be spiritually beneficial to them. Depending on the family, these feasts had more or less relationship to the Christian faith; they were often occasions of intemperance and inebriation. (90) One basilica for eucharistic worship; six for refrigeria, or funerary feasts; and one (St. Peter's), a hybrid. What an odd way for Constantine to balance his building projects, the monumental face of his "baptism" of Rome.

Constantine built in this way because he was facing not only the opposition of Roman aristocrats; he also was facing the footdragging of the Roman populace. And this footdragging did not happen only in Rome. Leaders in many parts of the empire encountered similar opposition to their attempts to Christianize recalcitrant locals. In 395 Augustine, newly appointed as bishop of Hippo, attempted to forbid locals from filling "the whole space of a great basilica ... with their mobs of feasters and drinkers." (91) Riots ensued, because the people had been feasting and drinking at tombs for centuries. The reason the bishops had let these observances into the churches in the first place is intriguing. According to Augustine, it was because "with the advent of peace," when Constantine came to the throne and persecutions ended, many pagans were put off Christianity by the church's disapproval of their pagan feasting and drinking. So bishops decided to incultur ate--to insert Christian values into Roman culture by allowing Christian feasting and drinking "in honor of the holy martyrs." Pagan and Christian funerary banquets, according to Augustine, were "equally lavish." When Augustine tried to get his flock to sing psalms instead of feast, the North Africans argued with him. Why pick on us? How about the Romans, who in the basilica of St. Peter engage in "daily wine-drinking"? Augustine's response was lame: the Romans include "many carnal-minded people," especially pilgrims, who violently cling to their abuses; and further, in Rome, St. Peter's was on the other side of the city, a long way (five kilometers!) from the bishop's seat at St John Lateran, and therefore much too far for him to give it personal attention. This struggle --so illuminating, so messy--went on well into the fifth century. (92) Why do I mention it? Because Leithart contends that "the very form of Christian church buildings" communicated something crucial about the church's identity (122; italics mine). Correct, but the "form" that these buildings communicated was more populist, less orthodox, and less controlled from the top than Leithart imagines. The "form" of these buildings tells us that where emperors and other powerful people exert pressure, top-down, to secure the conversion of people, the results will inevitably be messy. Instead of a baptism of Rome we get a process of inculturation involving the "assimilation" into Christianity of pagan practices. (93)

The Baptism of the Aristocracy

"The baptism of the aristocracy." Here we come to Leithart's other Roman baptism (227). Leithart devotes less attention to Constantine's approach to aristocrats than to buildings, but he observes that when Constantine appointed men to high office he preferred Christians. His favor to bishops, which he showed by giving them financial benefits and assigning them judicial responsibilities, was a part of his policy of "creating a Christian governing class." And by the end of Constantine's century, bishops such as Ambrose were the dominant figures in their cities, visible embodiments of the baptism of the aristocracy (226-227).

Once again, Leitharfs rhetoric--and "baptism" makes for wonderful rhetoric--is undercut by reality. There is good evidence that Christianity made progress in "the urban middle class"--the curiales--from the late third century and throughout the fourth century. (94) And a growing number of curials were found not only in the imperial civil service but also among the church's bishops. But the empire's 2,000 senators were slow to be baptized as Christians. Michele Salzman's research indicates that "aristocrats from Rome and Italy were predominantly pagan well into the last decades of the fourth century." (95) No wonder Constantine hesitated to challenge the Roman senators who wanted to keep Christian buildings out of the pomerium, the enclosed pagan space at the heart of Rome. (96)

And yet gradually changes were taking place in the aristocracy. Rita Lizzi Testa chronicles the privileges that Constantine granted to bishops--financial subventions, free travel by imperial post, exemptions from public civic duties--and shows that these, by the end of the fourth century, had led some senatorial aristocrats to convert to Christianity. (97) Also effective to this end was the increasingly harsh antipagan legislation of the second half of the century. The example of Christian emperors also was persuasive; many aristocrats looked upon Constantine's successors as "exemplars of how to be aristocratic and Christian at the same time." (98) Sermons by bishops such as Ambrose of Milan and Maximus of Turin persuaded aristocrats that areas they had worried about--including their wealth and their violence--were not issues they would need to address en route to Christian conversion. According to Maximus, conversion did not require an aristocrat to simplify his lifestyle--it was enough if he engaged in almsgiving, which he could, of course, repeat when necessary. (99)

For many aristocrats, violence was as much of an impediment to conversion as wealth. (100) One such as Volusian, who in 411-412 was engaged in conversations with Augustine. This pagan aristocrat, Augustine discovered, was deterred from conversion because the church's teachings about violence were "not adaptable to the customs of the state." In a succession of letters, Augustine corrected Volusian, telling him that Christians were to be governed, not by spineless love, but "by a sort of kindly harshness" for the benefit of others. (101) Sermons and dialogues such as these produced what Salzman calls "respectable, aristocratic Christianity." It was not necessary to be resocialized to become a Christian; indeed, "for the majority of fourth-century aristocrats Christianity did not entail a radical reorientation from their previous way of life." (102) So, by the century's end, senators began to join curials as candidates for baptism. Some pagans who doubted the wisdom of becoming Christian were pushed over the brink by the severity of Theodosius I's antipagan laws. (103) By the mid-fifth century, the aristocrats who remained pagan were few and beleaguered. What Leithart calls the "baptism of the aristocracy" had taken place, but not until long after Constantine's death and at considerable cost. And the question remains: to what extent did the Christianization of the aristocrats result in an "aristocratization" of Christianity? (104)

Fourth-Century Baptismal Practice

So we have the baptism of an emperor, the "baptism of Rome," and the "baptism of the aristocracy." Now we turn to baptism itself. Constantine spent twenty-five years avoiding this rite and the journey of resocialization that preceded it; and Leithart is equally loathe to deal with it. Why? As we have noted, Leithart is happy to talk about baptism in grand, rhetorical terms--baptism not in relation to the experience of individuals and communities but of grand collectivities. For him, these baptisms represent breakthroughs that establish new trajectories. Of course, they were incomplete: "all baptisms," he asserts, "are infant baptisms" (341).

But how does this relate to what was happening on the ground, in the experience of individuals and communities? In an article in 2003, Leithart shows that he knows far more about the practices of the ancient Greco-Roman Christians than he indicates in Defending Constantine. In the article he asserts that pedobaptism was the practice of the apostolic church. But he recognizes that, across the early Christian centuries, all baptisms were not infant baptisms; indeed he concedes that "adult baptism very early became the model for Christian initiation." (105) Although there were areas in which children and infants were baptized, the third- and fourth-century churches primarily baptized adults. Further, Leithart notes that the practice of believer's baptism was reflected in the baptismal liturgies extending into the early Middle Ages. These liturgies at times allowed for the baptism of children who were too young to speak for themselves, but they were clearly "designed with adults in mind." (106) According to Leithart, this regrettable reality happened when the Christians succumbed to the "alien influences" of Stoicism and the mystery religions. (107)

So what was going on? Earlier, when we looked at the background to Constantine's baptism, we saw that baptism customarily happened as a result of choice--the choice of a candidate to apply for catechesis in a church, and the choice of the teachers to admit the candidate to the catechumenate. Throughout the catechumenate these choices were reaffirmed--daily as the candidate decided to follow "the example of living [that] is given to us in Christ" (108) as taught by the community, and at nodal points when the community's leaders decided whether the candidate should be baptized. The purpose of the catechetical process was profound: "to re-form pagan people, to resocialize them, to deconstruct their old world, and reconstruct a new one, so they would emerge as Christian people who would be at home in communities of freedom." (109) The process culminated in the ritual watershed of baptism, in which the new Christian emerges as a reborn human, a person "of choice and of knowledge." (110)

Choice and knowledge--these emphases continued for centuries after Constantine. They were present even at exceptional third-century baptisms that were not adult baptisms: in the baptism of newborn infants (more common in certain Christian communities than others); and also in the baptism of sickly children who were about to die. (111) Even in these cases, parents were choosing, without constraint by law or social convention, to have their children baptized. In the fourth century, thanks to the emperor's legalization and promotion of Christianity, the number of baptismal candidates increased markedly. As a result, fourth-century churchmen made adjustments to the classical pattern. Increasingly they admitted newborn infants to the status of catechumens. (112) In order to motivate the catechumens to choose to enroll as illuminands (serious candidates for baptism) they invented a new genre of evangelistic sermons, "exhortations to baptism," that enticed and terrified the ditherers. (113) Catechists no longer used the scrutinies to weed out unsuitable candidates; instead they made the scrutinies into exorcisms and ethically "lowered the hurdles," welcoming people who came with mixed motives. (114) Formation now had to do less with the apprenticeship of candidates who were learning how to live as Christians than with doctrinal instruction. (115) To impress the candidates with the seriousness of baptism, churchmen heightened the emotional temperature of the initiatory rites by drawing on the mystery religions. They hoped that this inculturation would make the baptismal ceremonies "awe-inspiring," terrifying the candidates into life-transforming conversion. (116) The baptism of children (many of them ill, just before their deaths) and of infants continued to occur, as they had in the first three centuries, but believer's baptism remained the norm. (117)

In the early fifth century the baptismal norms began to change in the West. Augustine of Hippo, embroiled in controversy with Pelagius, highlighted the radical nature of original sin that in his view made infant baptism imperative for infant salvation. This led to what David Wright has called a "baptismal revolution" (118) in the West. As Augustine's views spread, loving parents felt the pressing need to baptize their infants quam primum, as soon as possible. A parallel movement towards infant baptism was taking place in the East, though without the sense of fevered immediacy.

Whatever the theology, the change occurred gradually; the baptism of adults, in the West as well as in the East, continued to be common into the sixth century. In a law of A.D. 529 establishing Christian religious uniformity, Justinian I ordered all pagans within the empire to be baptized, including specifically "children of young age." (119) In a society in which the law required everyone to be baptized, infant baptism made sense. In Christendom, though not before, every baptism was an infant baptism.

In recent years scholars of many traditions have charted these developments. According to Anglican liturgical historian Paul Bradshaw, in the fourth and fifth centuries there was a shift "From Adult to Infant Baptism"; Roman Catholic scholar Alfons Fiirst called this "a fundamental change in initiation ... from adult baptism to infant baptism ..." (120) David Wright, a professor of patristic and reformed theology at the University of Edinburgh, called these changes "a massive baptismal reductionism." (121) When infant baptism was universalized many things were lost: the trust in God's patient love, so parents did not need to be frantic to have their newborn children baptized; the initiatory journey culminating in the rich baptismal liturgies in the paschal feast of Easter or in Pentecost; and above all, the connection of baptism with catechesis.

Leithart says grandly that "Rome had been baptized; now it needed to begin the slow work of Christian paideia" (204). (122) This is a sad sentence. Leithart shows no awareness that paideia was not Christian, but was a nonconfessional "neutral space" for the raising of young men from elite families. (123) He can cite no evidence that the post-Constantine church used the traditions of paideia for the training, pre- or post-baptismal, of Christians. (124) He does not recognize that as infant baptism was universalized, the paideia of the elite withered; so also, more important, did the catechesis that had formed all candidates to become Christians. (125) Baptism, which in early Christianity had been the ritually rich culmination of a process of resocialization, became in Christendom the ritually trivial sign of socialization--of compulsory belonging to a wider society whose deep cultural motifs, rooted in a millennium of development before Christianity's arrival, had immense, unmonitored power. (126)

So we return to the question of gestalts. A gestalt is the product of many constituent parts. We have looked at military service, and have argued that it was one of these constituent parts of the shift from the gestalt of early Christianity to the gestalt of Christendom. Baptism was a second constituent part, (127) which established the connective tissue that held the gestalts together. But there were many other constituent parts in this gestalt shift, which together brought about "a fundamental reorientation in the relationship of church and world." (128) Each one of these constituent parts is worth careful study. (129) Of these, we shall look briefly at one--mission.


The shift of gestalts, and the role of Constantine in effecting these, becomes especially clear in the all-important area of mission. Leithart attacks Yoder for suggesting that the orthodox, Nicene Christians were less effective in mission than their heterodox rivals; and in general Leithart's arguments on this issue seem historically sound (e.g., 290). But as Leithart recognizes, the real issue is not about mission on the imperial frontiers but about mission within the imperial heartlands--"the conversion of the empire" (292). Leithart informs us that at the time of Constantine's accession to the throne 10 percent of the imperial populace was Christian. This percentage may inflate the number of Christians, (130) but it certainly indicates that since Pentecost the church had undergone spotty but remarkable numerical growth. What difference would Constantine make to the mission of Christians within the empire to their non-Christian neighbors?

As in other areas, in mission there was a gestalt-change. Prior to Constantine, Christianity was not a publicly acceptable religio; it was an extralegal superstitio that had to remain low-key and meet in private because it challenged commonly held convictions. The church grew, not because imperial campaigns promoted it, but despite the fact that imperial authorities opposed it. The church grew not because Christianity was a way to prosperity or respectability, but because the Gospel made a practical difference to people's lives so that people espoused the message freely. As liberated and transformed people, the Christians were attractive. (131) Pagans were both irritated and intrigued when they heard Christians say that "they alone knew the right way to live." (132) A North African Christian asserted, "We do not preach great things; we live them." (133) As Lactantius put it, "religion cannot be imposed by force ... we teach, we prove, we show." (134) The attraction of the Christians, who embodied an alternative way of living and were known to possess spiritual power, was sufficient to persuade large numbers of people to undergo the rigors of the Christian journey of catechesis leading to baptism. And the catechesis was rigorous because the Church's bottom-up missional approach depended on it to form attractively distinctive Christians.

With Constantine the Church's missional approach began to change-- from bottom-up to top-down, from attraction to advantage. (135) As emperor, Constantine, even though unbaptized, identified himself with the church, and others came to identify the church with him. The number of Christians continued to grow, but for a new reason: because Christianity was the religion that the emperor promoted. Ambitious people saw that identifying with Christianity was a prudent career choice. (136) The jewel- and mosaic-encrusted basilicas that Constantine constructed conjured an ambience of energy and imperial favor. (137) The privileges, tax exemptions, and gifts that Constantine showered on clergy were designed to make Christianity attractive to ambitious people. An edict of 320 granting tax exemption to clergy stated the strategy: "that the church's assemblies may be crowded with a vast concourse of peoples." (138) According to Eusebius, the specifying of Sunday as a work-free day of prayer had the same function: "by encouraging this he [Constantine] might gently bring all men to piety." (139) Leithart recognizes this strategy and claims that it worked: "Under Constantine's power of concord, the church was flooded with new converts, not through coercion but by force of imperial example and patronage" (145).

But Leithart does not state that under Constantine missional strategy changed, nor does he weigh its costs as well as its benefits. Of course, Christians did not cease to be attractive overnight; but with the top-down approach to mission Christians no longer needed to be attractive. Fourth-century catecheses shifted focus from equipping catechumens to live in a countercultural way rooted in the "rules of faith" to protecting the catechumens against all forms of heterodoxy without preparing them for distinctive Christian living. (140) So when the catechumens were baptized they were no longer people who had been formed to live a distinctively Christian life. Contemporaries soon observed that some converts were hypocrites; already in the late 330s Eusebius noticed "an unspeakable deceit on the part of those who slipped into the Church and adopted the false facade of the Christian name." (141) In North Africa Augustine referred to "those who call themselves Christians"; he observed that pagans simply called them "bad Christians." (142) When the emperors' support of the church was strong, these "interested conversions" were tolerable. (143)

The new missional strategy required the adherence of society's natural leaders. Constantine wooed these leaders, especially the elites who were becoming the church's bishops, and this led to a change in episcopal lifestyle. In the 240s the high-flying Carthaginian rhetorician Cyprian was attracted to the church because he felt imprisoned by his opulent lifestyle; unlike the Christians that he knew, he was "glittering in gold and purple, and has been celebrated for his costly attire." Cyprian viewed this luxury as slavery, which held him in bonds. Through catechesis and baptism, Cyprian was set free to wear "ordinary and simple clothing." (144) In 258, when Cyprian as bishop of Carthage was beheaded, he was wearing a simple cloak and dalmatic--but no purple. (145) Fifty-four years later, when the newly victorious Constantine invited bishops to dinner in his Roman palace he discovered that they were living in the tradition of Cyprian--their "appearance was modest as to style of dress." (146) In 326 a bevy of bishops were summoned to a banquet in Constantine's palace in Nicomedia to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his accession. According to Eusebius, "Guards and soldiers ringed the entrance to the palace, guarding it with drawn swords, and between these the men of God passed fearlessly, and entered the innermost royal courts. Some of them reclined with [Constantine], others relaxed nearby on couches on either side." (147) Eusebius does not tell us what clothing they were wearing, but we may speculate that it was no longer "modest." Were they, the Apostolic Tradition (chap. 16) to the contrary, wearing purple? In the 380s the pagan Ammianus Marcellinus noted that the Roman bishops' lifestyle had escalated, "wearing clothing chosen with care, and serving banquets so lavish that their entertainments outdo the tables of kings." (148) By 430 the bishops' dress had become so opulent that a countermovement began; clerical clothing originated as an attempt to recover the clergy's earlier simplicity. (149)Romanizing the bishops and Christianizing the aristocracy---these processes, which began under Constantine, resocialized the bishops; and their thought as well as their clothing and comportment were those of an aristocracy that benefited from imperial approval. Were the poor still in church? No doubt some were. But it is notable that the clergy's sermons were primarily directed toward the concerns of other members of the elite, and they paid little attention to the faceless poor. (150) Constantine, by shifting the missional focus to wooing the aristocracy, has moved us far from the liberated simplicity and downward mobility of the aristocratic convert Cyprian.

What about the conversion of the masses in the empire, who were still committed to various forms of paganism? Leithart is helpful in dealing with the complexities of Constantine's approach: providing ''limited freedom for paganism while simultaneously pressuring pagans" (140). He gives suitable emphasis to Constantine's "Letter to the Eastern Provincials" in which Constantine, following Lactantius, repudiated coercion of non-Christians while espousing the goal of "concord" in whose unity pagans would someday be included (110; VC 2.56). Constantine's vision was magnanimous: "Let no one use what he has received by inner conviction as a means to harm his neighbor ... It is one thing to take on willingly the contest for immortality, quite another to enforce it with sanctions." (151) It is not clear that Lactantius would have seen Constantine's plundering the pagan shrines for precious metals as consistent with this vision, or his prohibiting pagans from engaging in sacrifice. A policy of "tolerant concord" could be predatory, but vastly less so, Leithart points out, than the persecution of pagan emperors like Diocletian (152). And gradually, as the century progressed, many pagans enrolled their names for baptism and became Christian.

But what about the heretics? Leithart notes that "by 324 heresy had officially been declared illegal. . . . Heretics were exiled, and Arms's books were burned, just as the anti-Christian treatise of Porphyry was destroyed by imperial order. Constantine's religious policy created an 'atmosphere' of hostility to heresy as much as to paganism" (130). Leithart seems quite unshocked by these sentences. Using imperial power to enforce orthodox doctrine (of the moment) by exiling Christians who disagreed with it--should truth that was not to be imposed on pagans be imposed within the church, and by the emperor? The burning of the books of heretics as well non-Christians--to what conflagrations might Constantine's letter of 333 ordering the burning of "licentious treatises" lead? (152) Indeed, it seems clear that the "atmosphere" of hostility to heresy (130, 303) that Constantine fostered was far more emotionally charged than the "atmosphere" of hostility to paganism. Why? Possibly because Constantine knew that he would have to coexist with pagans, who in circles that counted--the aristocracy, the civil service, the army--were numerous and influential. So Constantine could not promote his overriding goal of homonoia (concord) by exiling pagan aristocrats. As he forbearingly stated his attitude to paganism, "It is one thing to take on willingly the contest for immortality, quite another to enforce it with sanctions." (153) But to Constantine the heretics were despicable; and any Lactantian rationale that emphasized the fruits of people's beliefs ("we teach, we prove, we show") (154) was incomprehensible to him. According to Stuart Hall, it is likely that since Constantine's accession the nonorthodox Christians were gaining in strength. So there was an urgency in Constantine's letter after 330 to assorted heretical groups. The letter was an "imperial assault on voluntary Christianity." (155) Constantine berates the Novatians, Valentinians, Cataphrygians, and the rest: You gather, he writes, "not only in public but also in houses of individuals or any private places" to pursue "superstitious folly." "Everything about you is contrary to the truth." Despite "a pretext of godliness" you "wound innocent and pure consciences with deadly blows ... Why should I go into detail? ... Why should we endure such evils any longer?" Constantine saw himself in a prophylactic role--protecting healthy people from being "infected as with an epidemic disease," an image that heresy hunters would use throughout the Christendom centuries. (156)

So instead of inviting the heretics to engage in a "contest for immortality" with Catholics, Constantine waded in with sanctions. He did not exile the run-of-the-mill heretics; exiling was for big fish such as Arius and Athanasius. But he punished their "accursed and destructive divisiveness" by forbidding them to meet and by ordering their domestic meeting places confiscated for the use of the Catholic Church. The Christianity that Constantine promoted would be orthodox in belief and unitary in structure, and would meet not in houses but in duly sanctioned church buildings where there could be proper controls. Constantine's Christianity would be a religio, and he would suppress Christian groups that smelled of being a superstitio. Leithart comments that "domestic spaces could no longer house the crowds" (122). This may have been true in places, but it was not the point. Domestic spaces continued to provide attractive settings that housed voluntary Christian groups, and Constantine was determined to suppress this by confiscating the structures. Houses had been the matrix of early Christianity's growth. Christians had met in houses--in "inconspicuous community centers,' (157) in which the life of a nonrhetorical, interactive, mutually-supportive Christianity could be fostered. But Constantine, no doubt in agreement with many bishops, was repelled by a nonhomogeneous Christianity in which uncontrolled groups could grow because of their intrinsic attractiveness. Far better to have supervised Christians than free Christians! Far better to have pagans than sectarians! To be sure, as Leithart comments (130), it is not clear that Constantine's letter of the early 330s was enforced. And conventicles remained around for a long time, which I take to be a tribute to the viability of their medium, which was no doubt a part of their message. (158) They are the remnants of the missional methods of a previous gestalt--powerless Christians who attracted people precisely because they embodied Christian convictions that powerful, increasingly coercive Christians did not. Of course, as Leithart indicates, only at the end of Constantine's century, with Theodosius I, did the Diocletian-like Christians come into their own (145), beginning by attacking the heretics and then turning to the pagans. (159) But the die had been cast earlier. As Daniel Sarefield comments, "On many issues of religion, Constantine set precedents for later Christian emperors." (160) And at the century's end one could learn about the heretics, not by their books, which Christians had burned, but from a new genre of literature--short, distilled, antiheretical handbooks, written by the heretics' enemies--which enabled one to categorize the heretics and to dismiss their errors without considering their arguments. (161)


Why devote so much attention to Leithart's Defending Constantine? Because of its intrinsic merits, but especially because it will be an important voice in today's debate about the use of history as a resource for Christian life and mission. The background to this debate is a widespread awareness in many societies that Christendom has waned and that Christianity is in crisis. Can the Christian past point a way forward? For centuries, while representatives of the Christendom churches have justified the established structures, thinkers in the nonconformist Christian traditions have called the Christian churches to rediscover the radical convictions of the early Christians. In the twentieth century something new happened: in response to the sense that Europe was a "mission field," Roman Catholic thinkers began a movement that had parallels with the primitivist impulses of the nonconformist Protestants. The French poet Charles Peguy gave it a name--ressourcement--and it became a movement that found in the patristic sources "a more profound tradition," one that would influence the second Vatican Council and alter the shape of Catholic worship and life. (162) In recent years Evangelical scholars have also discovered ressourcement, leading to the "deep church" movement in England and the Ancient/Future movement in North America. (163) Evangelicals and Catholics committed to ressourcement have varying emphases; but in general they believe that "the tradition of the early church"--encompassing both the pre-Constantinian and post-Constantinian periods--constitutes "an incomparable source for the contemporary renewal of the church." (164)

Yoder and Leithart represent perspectives on ressourcement that agree only in part with the Vatican II/Evangelical model. Yoder sees the pre-Constantinian church, far more than the post-Constantinian church, as a helpful source for contemporary Christian renewal. It was not that he idealized the church before Constantine; he devoted many pages to describe ways in which it was "beginning to drift." (165) Nevertheless, he saw the pre-Constantinian church as having a distinctive gestalt. It was voluntary, it was countercultural, and its approach to mission was bottom-up. The sacerdotal priesthood, infant baptism, and participation in the state's violence of later Christianity had their roots in the earlier centuries, but they were not characteristic of its gestalt. These changes were already compromising the early Christian vision; but it was Constantine who began a "fundamental reorientation in the relationship of church and world" that within several centuries of his reign had led to Christianitas--Christendom. (166) This reorientation, Yoder was convinced, represented a "fall" or "betrayal." (167) Christians today can of course learn from the texts and documents of the later early church--nascent Christendom. But the task of Christians in a post-Christendom world is especially to retrieve the Christianity of the marginal earlier Church under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Yoder is far from alone in articulating this vision. (168) This is the ressourcement of uncompelled and uncompelling radical Christianity.

Leithart, by contrast, departs from the Vatican II/Evangelical model by showing little interest in the pre-Constantinian church. In Defending Constantine he dismisses any sense of loss or fall through Constantine's emergence on the Christian scene. If the church of the early centuries had an approach to baptism that was rooted in "choice and knowledge," it was captive to error, a product of "alien influences" from which Augustine rescued the Church. (169) If Christians in the early centuries, especially intellectuals, thought that Christians should be committed to nonviolent discipleship, this was a deviation that Augustine and Ambrose corrected (276-277). But when Constantine "converted" and Christianity became top-down, Leithart gets animated. "Something had changed ... Something new was being born. Rome had been baptized" (238). With the emergence of Constantine, a "revolution" occurs (248). With Constantine we get not a fall but a quickening, and the history of the church really begins. Of course what happened under Constantine was only a beginning--it was, after all, an "infant baptism"--but Christianity was now free to grow up as a distinctively Christian civilization. Leithart does not carefully analyze the development of this Christendom gestalt. Indeed, his language of "the baptism of the empire" renders superfluous

careful thought. But it is not hard to discern what Leithart values: a Christianized social order in which the evangel is infused into the very structures of civil order; armies that have the cross on their shields; a "creedally-based empire," with a government that backs up the church's position with sanctions; a city in which the eucharistic blood of Jesus provides "a brake on bloodshed." (170) This is heroic rhetoric that begs for reality-testing.

The Christendom era was of course a mixture of good and bad. Like Menno Simons and John Howard Yoder I am grateful to live in a world shaped by the Nicene Creed and the biblical canon. (171) And I am profoundly shaped by theological, spiritual, and artistic fruits of the Spirit's work in Christendom. But today the Christendom system throughout the world is in various states of disintegration. Leithart is convinced that nihilistic politics, apparently brought in by the Enlightenment, led to a crumbling of the Christian city and an exclusion of Christian convictions from its public life (340). Western civilization has "apostatized" (341). (172) The only escape from this massive crisis is a ressourcement--going back to the political theology and Christianized polis of Christendom. To go back will require re-evangelization (evidently of the West), a revival of a purified Constantmianism, and the willing submission of modern civilization to be baptized. Leithart backs up this altar call with a warning: if this doesn't happen, "we are facing nothing short of apocalypse" (340-342). This is the ressourcement of the Christendom movement of the American Right, both Reformed and Catholic.

Leithart's prescription makes me suspicious and uncomfortable. As a historian I am not convinced. Yoder was not working with the same degree of detail as is Leithart, but Leithart's repeated claim that "Yoder lost the historical argument" is unwarranted (333). Further, I am repelled by Leitharfs Christendom gestalt, so confident, so untroubled by compulsion, so peremptorily benevolent--and so different from the gestalt of the early Christians. I fear that if a new Constantine gets to power, he (I imagine it will be a he) will silence pagans and heretics of every sort, to the loss of all Christians who seek to be orthodox, whose thought has repeatedly benefited from dialogue with people who disagree with them. (173) I thank God that Christendom is not retrievable. But, having learned from Yoder that vigorous conversation leads to truth, I find it salutary to listen carefully to Leithart, a brilliant controversialist, an uninhibited advocate of Christendom, and a writer with whose work I have found it stimulating to interact. If conversations with him continue, I believe it will be to our mutual benefit.

(1.) Peter Leithart, Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Daion of Christendom (Downers Grove, iii: IVP Academic, 2010) [hereafter cited as DC].

(2.) In using these terms, Yoder recognized that he was aligning himself with a tradition that went back to the Middle Ages.--Yoder, Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution, ed. Theodore J. Koontz and Andv Alexis-Baker (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2009),

(3.) John Howard Yoder, Body Politics (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1992; Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001), 47-70; Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 22-29.

(4.) A "gestalt" is "a structure, configuration, or pattern of ... phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts."--Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 2003), 525.

(5.) One might note that many Christian traditions have difficulty connecting with Christians prior to the point at which their heroes enter the scene; even Reformed Christians have not always sympathetically engaged with the Middle Ages.

(6.) John H. Yoder, The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical, ed. Michael G. Cartwright (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994), 254; Leithart, DC, 112.

(7.) Georges Fritz, "Service Militaire," in Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique 14 (Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1941), cols 1972-1981; also the Reformed scholar Jean-Michel Hornus, ft is Not Lawful for Me to Fight: Early Christian Attitudes Toward War, Violence, and the State, trans. Alan Kreider and Oliver Coburn (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1980.)

(8.) Leithart, DC, "Pacifist Church?" 255-278.

(9.) Tertullian, De Idololatria 19.

(10.) Everett Ferguson, "Love of Enemies and Nonretaliation in the Second Century," in The Contentious Triangle: Church, State and University, ed. Rodney L. Petersen and Calvin Augustine Pater (Kirksville, Mo.: Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1999), 92.

(11.) Clement of Alexandria, The Pedagogue 3.5.57. For comment, see Paul Corby Finney, "Images on Finger Rings and Early Christian Art," in Studies on Art and Archaeology in Honor of Ernst Kitzinger on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday, ed. William Tronzo and Irving Lavin (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1987), 185. Finney adds, "images of behaviors incompatible with Christian morality are off limits" (186.)

(12.) Didascalia Apostolorum 2.57, 2.49.

(13.) Origen, Letter to Julius Africanus (ca 240) 15.

(14.) Gerhard Lohfink, '"Schvverter zu Pflugscharen': Die Rezeption von Jes 2, 1-5 par Mi 4, 1-5 in der Alten Kirche und im Neuen Testament," Theologische Quartalschrift 166 (1986), 184-209.

(15.) Alan Kreider, Worship and Eva)igelism in Pre-Christendom (Cambridge: Grove Books Ltd, 1995), 15; and Kreider, The Change of Coiwersion and the Origin of Christendom (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1999; Eugene, Ore.: Wipf and Stock, 2006), 2-7.

(16.) Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 110; 1 Apol 14-15.

(17.) Cyprian, The Lord's Prayer 23.

(18.) Cyprian, Ad Quirinum 3.34, 3.39. For an analysis of Cyprian's catechetical program, see Andy Alexis-Baker, "Ad Quirinum Book Three and Cyprian's Catechumenate," Journal of Early Christian Studies 17:3 (2009), 357-380; also Everett Ferguson, "Catechesis and Initiation," in The Origins of Christendom in the West, ed. Alan Kreider (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001), 239-242; Kreider, Change of Conversion, 29-32.

(19.) Athenagoras, Legatio 11, 34-35.

(20.) Origen, Contra Celsum 3.7.

(21.) Lactantius, Div Inst 6.50.15-17.

(22.) Arnobius, Adv Nat 1.6; Cyprian, De Patientia 14; Justin, 1 Apoi 39; Tertullian, Apol 37.

(23.) Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Consistent Ethic of Life (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1988), 13. See also Rob Arner, Consistently Pro-Life: The Ethics of Bloodshed in Ancient Christianity (Eugene, Ore: Wipf & Stock, 2010).

(24.) For a critical survey of the church orders, see Paul F. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy, 2nd ed. (London and New York: SPCK and Oxford University Press, 2002), chap. 4. For studies that recognize their importance in studying the early church's approach to military service, see John Howard Yoder, "War as a Moral Problem in the Early Church: The Historian's Hermeneutical Assumptions," in The Pacifist Impulse in Historical Perspective, ed. Harvey L. Dyck (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 101-102; Hornus, It is Not Lawful for Me to Fight, 158-168; Alan Kreider, "Military Service in the Church Orders," Journal of Religious Ethics 31: 3 (2003), 415-442.

(25.) Bradshaw, Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, 91-92.

(26.) The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary, ed. Paul F. Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson, and L. Edward Phillips (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 93; Maxwell E. Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation, rev. ed. (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2007), 100-101.

(27.)1 cite the English translation of the Sahidic (Coptic) rendering of the Greek original; parallel translations in Arabic and Ethiopic have small but significant differences--The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary, 88. The Arabic and Ethiopic renderings were even more severe than the Sahidic, and thus possibly older. See Eoin de Bhaldraithe, "Early Christian Features Preserved in Western Monasticism," in Kreider (ed)., Origins of Christendom, 170-172.

(28.) Ramsay MacMullen, Soldier and Civilian in the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963), 155-157, 176; Henri Secretan, "Le Christianisme des premiers siecles et le service militaire," Revue de Theologie et de Philosophic 2 (1914), 345-365; Willi Rordorf, "Tertullians Beurteilung des Soldatenstandes," Vigiliae Christianae 23 (1969), 109-110. This would make sense of the position worked out by the bishops at the Council of Aries (314), in which Christians in the legions were forbidden to lay down their arms in time of peace; but presumably were allowed to lay them down in time of war, when they might have had to use them lethally--Hermann Dorries, Constantine the Great (New York: Harper, 1972), 112, whom Leithart cites on p. 275, gets this right.

(29.) John Helgeland, "Christians and the Roman Army from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine," in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt, II (Prinzipat), 23.1, ed. Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1979), 752. See also John Helgeland, Robert J. Daly, and J. Patout Burns, Christians and the Military: The Early Experience (London and Philadelphia: SCM Press and Fortress Press, 1985), 36, which, following Dom Gregory Dix's edition (ed. Henry Chadwick [London: SPCK Press, 1968], puts articles 17-19 (Dix's numbering) "in the context of idolatry," translates as "execute" the Sahidic word (Latin occidere) that Bradshaw, Stewart-Sykes, Botte, and Cuming translate as "kill," and contends that "the train of thought before and after rules out the taking of life in combat as its meaning." Helgeland, Daly, and Burns do not mention the three later church orders that revise this clause: the Canons of Hippolytus, the Testamentum Domini, and the Apostolic Constitutions.

(30.) English translation by Carol Bebawi, in The Canons of Hippohjtus, ed. Paul F. Bradshaw, 2nd ed. (Bramcote, Notts.: Grove Books, 1987), 18.

(31.) English translation in Testament ion Domini, ed. James Cooper and A.J. MacLean (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1902), 118. I accept the dating and geographical locating of this text by Grant Sperry-White, The Testamentum Domini: A Text for Students, xoith Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Bramcote, Notts: Grove Books, 1991), 6.

(32.) English translation in Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, ed. James Donaldson, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 495.

(33.) Bradshaw, Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, 95-96.

(34.) Alistair Stewart-Sykes, ed. Hippolytus, On the Apostolic Tradition (Crestwood, N.Y.: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001), 50.

(35.) The Martyrdom of St Marinus, in The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, ed. Herbert Musurillo (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 241-243.

(36.) Christine Muhlenkamp, '"Nicht Wie Die Heiden.' Studien zur Grenze Zwischen Christlicher Gemeinde und Paganer Gesellschaft in Vorkonstantinischer Zeit," Jahrbuch fiir Antike und Christentum, Erganzungsband, Kleine Reihe 3 (Miinster: Aschendorff, 2008), 204.

(37.) Wayne A. Meeks, The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993), 163-164.

(38.) Basil, Ep 188.13.

(39.) On countercultural aspects of the Apostolic Constitutions' approach to conflict, see Alan Kreider, "Peacemaking in Worship in the Syrian Church Orders," Studia Liturgica 34:2 (2004), 183-187; on the church's fear of the army, see Apostolic Constitutions 8.12 --we pray "for the whole army, that they may be peaceable towards us ..."

(40.) Hugh Elton, "Warfare and the Military," in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, ed. Noel Lenski (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 336.

(41.) Roger Tomlin, "Christianity and the Late Roman Army," in Constantine: History, Historiography and Legend, ed. Samuel N.C. Lieu and Dominic Montserrat (London: Routledge, 1998), 30, 36; Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizi7ig the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400) (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 45.

(42.) Codex Theodosianus 16.10.21 (416); 16.5.56 (428.)

(43.) David G. Hunter, "A Decade of Research on Early Christians and Military Service," Religious Studies Reviexv 18: 2 (1992), 93; cited by Leithart, DC, 259n.

(44.) Tertullian, De Idololatria 19.

(45.) See the similar reactions of the aristocratic Volusian (Jesus' "preaching and doctrine are not adaptable to the custom of the state") with Augustine's rejoinders. Augustine, Ep 136.

(46.) Augustine, Ep 189, to Boniface.

(47.) If a century from now diocesan bishops and ethicists at the Gregorian University provide thoughtful justification for artificial birth control, there will be a similar example of continuity, in which theologians and hierarchs eventually bless the views and practices of lay people and make it the church's position. Continuity, in which change filters upwards, is nevertheless a shift.

(48.) Yoder saw the change regarding war in a large, gestalt-like context: "What has changed is ... the entire setting in which doing God's will can be thought about." --Yoder, "War as a Moral Problem," 104.

(49.) Eusebius, Life of Constantine (henceforth VC) 1.28. I always cite this work in the edition of Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall, Eusebius: Life of Constantine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). For an earlier, somewhat different report, see Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 44. Leithart's pages (73-79) that harmonize the two accounts by positing two separate incidents (in 310 and in 312) reflect recent scholarship and may be correct.

(50.) VC 1.32.3.

(51.) For elements in this shift in the use of the cross, see Stefan Heid, "Kreuz," in Reallexikon fur Antike und Christentum, 21 (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 2004) cols 1123-1130.

(52.) Leithart, DC, 227 ("scandalous exercise of power by Constantine" in killing his wife, Fausta, and son, Crispus), 230. Cf. Ramsay MacMullen's estimate. "The empire had never had on the throne a man given to such bloodthirsty violence as Constantine."--Cliristianizing, 50.

(53.) Justin, 1 Apol 2.

(54.) VC 1.32.3.

(55.) Leithart, DC 96, quoting T. D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 275. Barnes is an eminent ancient historian who has often said this kind of thing.--e.g., "The Conversion of Constantine." Classical Views n.s., 4 (1985), 372; "The Constantinian Reformation," in The Crake Lectures, 1984: A Classical Symposium held September 27-28 in conjunction with the opening of the Crake Reading Room, Mount Allison University (Sackville, N.B.: Crake Institute, 1986), 46.

(56.) Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 43.

(57.) Thomas M. Finn, "It Happened One Saturday Night: Ritual and Conversion in Augustine's North Africa," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 58:4 (1990), 609.

(58.) Meeks, Origins of Christian Morality, 26.

(59.) See Kreider, Change of Conversion, chap. 3, "The Journey of Conversion.

(60.) Origen, Horn on Exodus 5.5.

(61.) Kreider, Worship and Evangelism in Pre-Christendom, 21-26.

(62.) Canons of Hippohjtus 16.

(63.) Origen, Horn on Joshua 4.1.

(64.) Origen, Horn on Exodus 5.5.

(65.) Canons of Hippolytus 19.

(66.) VC 3.20.3.

(67.) Leithart, DC, 198-200, commenting on Ramsay MacMullen, "What Difference did Christianity Make?" Historia 35 (1986), 322-343.

(68.) VC 3.15.

(69.) In third- and fourth-century Christian worship services, only catechumens and baptized believers were admitted to the service of the Word; and the eucharist began only after the unbaptized catechumens departed--Kreider, Change of Conversion, 22-26; Thomas M. Finn, From Death to Rebirth: Ritual and Conversion in Antiquity (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1997), 191-193, 201-203.

(70.) VC 1. 17.3.

(71.) VC 4.22.1.

(72.) VC 4.56-57.

(73.) Constantine, Oration 11.

(74.) Ibid., 25-26.

(75.) For Constantine's journey of conversion, see VC 4.52-64.

(76.) Cameron and Hall (eds)., Eusebius: Life of Constantine, 340. Almost a century ago Pierre Batiffol advanced the idea that Constantine became a catechumen just before his baptism. --"Les Etapes de la conversion de Constantin," Bulletin d'ancienne litterature et d'archeologie chretienne 3 (1913), 264. More recently, a world authority in fourth-century Christian initiation came to the same conclusion.--E. J. Yamold, "The Baptism of Constantine," Studio Patristica 26 (1993), 98.

(77.) VC 4.63.1; italics mine.

(78.) Of Constantine's baptism, Leithart writes (300): "Constantine seemed to believe there was a basic incompatibility between being an emperor and being a Christian, between court and church, warfare and prayer, the purple and the white. It would be an ironic conclusion: Constantine, the first anti-Constantinian. Constantine the Yoderian." On the contrary, how much more accurate it would be to rewrite this Leithart passage as follows: "the church believed that there was a basic incompatibility between being an emperor and being a Christian, between court and church, warfare and prayer, the purple and the white." Thus Constantine, in affirming the church's teaching and the ethical dimension of baptism by rejecting the purple, was far from being the first anti-Constantinian; he was simply becoming a Christian.

(79.) Yarnold, "Baptism of Constantine," 98.

(80.) Ramsay MacMullen, Constantine (London: Croom Helm, 1969), 165: "[Homonoia] is the key to his whole Church policy."

(81.) This is what Leithart says Yoder and others have done to Constantine, "who has become more an idea than a man." --DC 29.

(82.) Generally when Leithart refers to the Constantinian baptisms (of Rome, the aristocracy, historical writing, the empire) he uses the passive voice and indicates no agent. But here (125) Leithart uses the active voice and sees Constantine as the baptizer, which I find theologically and liturgically astonishing.

(83.) John Curran, Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 96.

(84.) Richard Krautheimer, "The Ecclesiastical Building Policy of Constantine," in Constantino il Grande dall'antichita all 'umanesimo: Colloquio sul Christianesimo nel mondo antico, (Macerata: Universita degli studi di Macerata, 1993), 545.

(85.) Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 50.

(86.) Richard Krautheimer, Rome, Profile of a City, 312-1308 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980), 30-35.

(87.) Krautheimer, "Ecclesiastical Building Policy," 531. By the 350s and 360s, Christianity began to make inroads into aristocratic circles, especially among women.--Cameron, Last Pagans, 187.

(88.) Krautheimer, Rome, Profile of a City, 31.

(89.) Ibid., 26.

(90.) Ramsay MacMullen, The Second Church: Popular Christianity AD. 200-400 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), 76-89, for a reconstruction of these funerary meals/observances.

(91.) Augustine, Ep 29, to Alypius.

(92.) MacMullen, Second Church, 62.

(93.) Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997), chap 4.

(94.) Claudia Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 183-184.

(95.) Michele Renee Salzman, The Making of a Christian Aristocracy (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002), 77. See also Claudia Rapp, "Bishops in Late Antiquity: A New Social and Urban Elite?" in Elites Old and New in the Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East: Papers of the Sixth Workshop on Late Antiquity and Early Islam, ed. John Haldon and Conrad Lawrence (Princeton, X.J.: Darwin Press, 2004), 155.

(96.) Krautheimer, Rome, Profile of a City, 31.

(97.) Rita Lizzi Testa, "The Late Antique Bishop: Image and Reality," in A Companion to Late Antiquity, ed. Philip Rousseau and Jutta Raithel (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2009), 531. She notes, "That did not always mean an authentic and deep conversion."

(98.) Salzman, Making of a Christian Aristocracy, 199.

(99) Lizzi Testa, "Late Antique Bishop," 532; Salzman, Making of a Christian Aristocracy, 208.

(100.) See Alan Kreider, "Mission and Violence: Inculturation in the Fourth Century -Basil and Ambrose," in John Corrie and Cathy Ross, eds., Mission in Context: Festschrift for Andrew Kirk (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, forthcoming.)

(101.) Augustine, Epp 135-137.

(102.) Salzman, Making of a Christian Aristocraaj, 202.

(103.) Ibid., 79-80.

(104.) Ibid., 201.

(105.) Peter J. Leithart, "Infant Baptism in History: An Unfinished Tragicomedy," in The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, ed. Gregg Stravvbridge (Philippsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2003), 251.

(106.) Ibid., 253.

(107.) Ibid., 250,255-256.

(108.) Cyprian, Ad Quirinum 3.39, which Simone Deleani claims is at the heart of Cyrian's catechesis: Deleani, Christum sequi: Etude d'un theme dans I'oeuvre de saint Cyprien (Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes, 1979), 13-15; Kreider, Change of Conversion, 32.

(109.) Kreider, Worship and Evangelism in Pre-Christendom, 23.

(110.) Justin, 1 Apol 61, cited by Leithart, "Infant Baptism in History," 258.

(111.) Maxwell E. Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation, rev. ed. (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2007), 91-92; Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009), 370-379.

(112.) Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, 628; the most famous infant catechumen is Augustine of Hippo (Confessions 1.11.)

(113.) Everett Ferguson, "Exhortations to Baptism in the Cappadocians," Studia Patristica 33 (1997), 121-129; Kreider, Change of Conversion, 59-60.

(114.) Cyril of Jerusalem Cat 1.5; Paul F. Bradshaw, "The Effects of the Coming of Christendom on Early Christian Worship," in Kreider (ed.), Origins of Christendom in the West, 276.

(115.) Johnson, Rites of Christian Initiatio, 98.

(116.) Bradshaw, "Effects of the Coming of Christendom on Early Christian Worship," 277; Edward Yarnold, "Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries in the Fourth Century," Heythrop Journal 13 (1972), 247-267.

(117.) Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, 626-633, 379.

(118.) David F. Wright, "Augustine and the Transformation of Baptism," in Kreider (ed)., Origins of Christendom, 306-308; David F. Wright, What Has Infant Baptism Done to Baptism? (Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster Press, 2005), 9.

(119.) Codex Iustianianus 1.11.10. The baptism of infants quam primum (as soon as possible) did not become normal practice, in the West and in the East, until the sixth century.--Peter Cramer, Baptism and Change in the Early Middle Ages, c.200-c.1150 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 138.

(120.) Paul F. Bradshaw, Early Christian Worship (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1996), 31; Alfons Fiirst, Die Liturgie der alien Kirche: Geschichte und Theologie (Munster: Aschendorff, 2008), 169.

(121.) David F. Wright, "Augustine and the Transformation of Baptism," in Kreider (ed)., Origins of Christendom, 310.

(122.) Paideia "implied a full and rounded educational process, the training of youth up to maturity physically, mentally and above all, morally."--Frances Young, "Paideia --What Can We Learn from the First Four Centuries?" in Essentials of Christian Community: Essays for Daniel W. Hardy, ed. David F. Ford and Dennis L. Stamps (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 229.

(123.) Peter Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 125.

(124.) Historians discussing the paideia of early Christians deal almost entirely with fourth-century Christians who were baptized as adults. -Young, "Paideia --What Can We Learn from the First Four Centuries?" 229-240; Averil Cameron, "Education and Literary Culture," in The Cambridge Ancient History, ed. Averil Cameron and Peter Garnsey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 13: 665-673.

(125.) Brown, Power and Persuasion, 125, 131-132; Johnson, Rites of Christian Initiation, 119; Kreider, Change of Conversion, 71-79.

(126.) James C. Russell, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).

(127.) Yoder briefly discussed baptism's importance in the "shift" in his Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution, ed. Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2009), 60.

(128.) Ibid., 57.

(129.) For a summary of "characteristics" that shape a distinctive Christendom gestalt, see Kreider, Change of Conversion, 91-98. Yoder gives eight "Social Axioms of Establishment" whose gestalt is different from the gestalt of the early centuries --"Primitivism in the Radical Reformation," 82-83.

(130.) MacMullen, in his Second Church, 98-104, suggests a downward revision of numbers commonly accepted; cf. Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), 4-13.

(131.) Alan Kreider, "They alone know the right way to live': The Early Church and Evangelism," in Ancient Faith for the Church's Future, ed. Mark Husbands and Jeffrey P. Greenman (Downers Grove, 111.: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 169-186.

(132.) Origen, Contra Celsum 3.55.

(133.) Minucius Felix, Octavius 38.5.

(134.) Lactantius, Div Inst 5.20.

(135.) By the reign of Theodosius I at the end of the century the Church's missional approach had moved from advantage to compulsion, whose seeds had already been evident in Constantine's reign.

(136.) Salzman, Making of a Christian Aristocracy, 199.

(137.) Dominic Janes, God and Gold in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 113.

(138.) CT 16.2.10

(139.) VC 4.18.2

(140.) Everett Ferguson, "Catechesis and Initiation," in Kreider (ed.), Origins of Christendom, 229-268.

(141.) VC4.54.

(142.) Augustine, Sermon 198 (Dolbeau), 9,10.

(143.) Clifford Ando, "Pagan Apologetics and Christian Intolerance in the Ages of Themistius and Augustine," Journal of Early Christian Studies 4 (1996), 201.

(144.) Cyprian, Ep 1, Ad Donatum, 3-4.

(145.) Acts of St Cyprian, 5.3 (Musurillo, Acts of the Christian Martyrs, 174-175.)

(146.) VC 1.42.1.

(147.) VC3.15.

(148.) Res Gestae, 27.3.14-15

(149.) Leon Cristiani, "Essai sur les origines du costume ecclesiastique," in Miscellanea Guillaume de Jerphanion (Rome; Pont. Institutum Grientalium Studiorum, 1947), 69-79.

(150.) Boniface Ramsey, "Almsgiving in the Latin Church: The Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries," Theological Studies 43 (1982), 252-254. See also Edmund Hill, "Translator's Note," Augustine, Sermons 1, The Works of Saint Augustine, 3.1 (New York: New City Press, 1990), 165: "it's quite clear, again and again, that [Augustine] is in fact addressing himself to the men of the congregation . . . [indeed] to the upper class men in the congregation." Also MacMullen, The Second Church, 14-15,148.

(151.) VC 2.60.

(152.) Socrates, HE 1.9. Daniel Sarefield, "Bookburning in the Christian Roman Empire: Transforming a Pagan Rite of Purification," in Violence in Late Antiquity: Perceotions and Practices, ed. H.A. Drake (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006), 333

(153.) VC2.60.

(154.) Div Inst 5.20.

(155.) VC 3.64-65. For comment, see Stuart G. Hall, "The Sects Under Constantine," in Voluntary Religion, ed. W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 5. Leithart dates Constantine's letter against the heretics at around 324 (129). I think that Hall (10) makes a credible case for dating it "after 330."

(156.) VC 3.64-65.

(157.) Krautheimer, Rome, Profile of a City, 33.

(158.) CT 16.2.23 (376); 16.5.6 (379); 16.5.48 (410); Sozomen, HE 2.32.

(159.) Against the heretics, 380 (CT 16.1.2); against the pagans, 392 (CT 16.5.42.) An edict of 382 provided for "inquisitors" who were to make sure that there were no "secret and hidden assemblies" of heretics (CT 16.5.9).

(160.) Sarefield, "Bookburning," 333. The precedents that Constantine established apply also to another hugely important issue--Christian approaches to Judaism. I can comment on this only briefly. Leithart is aware of Constantine's "violently prejudicial language" against the Jews, but does not quote it. He contends that Constantine's legislation "changed the lives of Jews very little," and concentrates his attention on Augustine of Hippo who "re-Judaized" Christianity by emphasizing the importance both of the Old Testament and the Jewish people in God's salvific purposes (131-136). Leithart is right to point to Augustine, but Augustine should not distract us from listening to Constantine. In his post-Nicaea letter on the celebration of Easter, Constantine calls the Jews "bloodstained men ... [who] are as one might expect mentally blind"; they are a "detestable mob," a "nation of parricides and Lord-killers," whose traditions prevent people (including Quartodeciman Christians) from joining in what was most important to Constantine--a tidy, homogeneous, unified public religious culture in which "everyone everywhere" agrees and worships together--VC 3.18-19. In a letter of 329, Constantine calls the Jews a "feral" and "nefarious sect." (CT 16.8.1), though at least he did not call for them, like the heretical "sects," to be "eliminated like poison." --VC 3.61; (Eusebius's words)! Augustine's theological contributions state counterthemes, but they did not prevent Constantine's virulent anti-Jewish language and policies from having a portentous future. According to Guy Stroumsa, in the years after Constantine, "things began to change ... [T]he Jews saw a series of grave infringements upon their rights and social status, limiting in drastic ways their integration into society. Judaism was now tolerated, at best, only because the Jews cherished the Old Testament. ..."--Guy G. Stroumsa, "Religious Dynamics Between Christians and Jews in Late Antiquity (312-640)," in The Cambridge History of Christianity, II: Constantine to c. 600, ed. Augustine Casiday and Frederick W. Norris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 151.

(161.) Judith McClure, "Handbooks Against Heresy in the West, from the Late Fourth to the Late Sixth Centuries," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., 30, no. 1 (1979), 186-189; Brent D. Shaw, "Bad Boys: Circumcellions and Fictive Violence," in Violence in Late Antiquity: Perceptions and Practices, ed. H. A. Drake (Burlington, Vt: Ashgate, 2006), 180,196.

(162.) John W. O'Malley, What Happened at Vatican II (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2008), 40.

(163.) In the United Kingdom, see Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church, ed. Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton (London: Paternoster Press, 2007); in the U.S., see the many writings of the late Robert Webber and, in particular, Tory K. Baucum, Evangelical Hospitality: Catechetical Evangelism in the Early Church and Its Recovery for Today (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2008).

(164.) Mark Husbands, "Introduction," in Husbands and Grcenman (eds)., Ancient Faith for the Church's Future, 11, 12. I am not convinced that it is useful to speak of "the tradition of the early church" of the first five centuries. To speak of a univocal early church tradition downplays regional as well as chronological variation; discounts the possibility of major changes in Christianity when it aligned itself with imperial power; and privileges the later "fathers" such as Augustine as summations of early Christianity. It rarely entertains the possibility that the later writers--at least in some instances--may have deviated unhelpfully from earlier positions.

(165.) Yoder, Christian Attitudes, 48-56, quote at 49. I spend a lot of my scholarly energy documenting early Christianity's often less-than-ideal reality.

(166.) Yoder, Christian Attitudes, 57; Yoder, "Primitivism in the Radical Reformation," in The Primitive Church in the Modern World, ed. Richard T. Hughes (Urbana, 111.: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 81, 83,

(167.) Ibid., 91-92.

(168.) For a statement of the priority of retrieving the emphases of the second and third centuries, see the Cuban-American church historian Justo Gonzalez, The Changing Shape of Church History (St Louis: Chalice Press, 2002), 37.

(169.) Leithart, "Infant Baptism in History," 250, 259.

(170.) DC 232, 271, 292, 303, 340.

(171.) Cf. Alain Epp Weaver, "Missionary Christology: John Howard Yoder and the Creeds," MQR 74 (July 1998), 411-440, and Thomas N. Finger, "Christus Victor and the Creeds: Some Historical Considerations," MQR 72 (Jan. 1998), 31-51.

(172.) Leithart's critique of Yoder is not that Yoder finds an "apostasy" or "fall" in history; it is that Yoder finds the fall in the wrong place --in the fourth century instead of in some unspecified century in modern times. It would be helpful to understanding Leithart's argument if he were to describe the fall more precisely and at greater length.

(173.) Robert L. Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 204. This point keeps recurring. Thus, R.P.C. Hanson writes, "Christianity needed its [pagan] critics and profited from them,"--"The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century A.D."--The Making of Orthodoxy: Essays in Honour of Henry Chadwick, ed. Rowan Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 153; Mark Edwards, Catholicity and. Heresy in the Early Church (Farnham: Ashgatc, 2009), chap. 1. As we engage in dialogue, Yoder would remind us to keep in mind the categories of heresy and apostasy, for in our conversations faithful belief and faithful practice both matter.--The Ecumenical Movement and the Faithful Church (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1958); reprinted in Radical Ecumenicity: Pursuing Unity and Continuity after John Howard Yoder, ed. John C. Nugent (Abilene, Texas: Abilene Christian University Press, 2010), 193-221.

* Alan Kreider is a professor of church history and mission (retired) at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind
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