Support the Café

Search our Site

Is Constantinianism all bad?

Is Constantinianism all bad?

“Is “Constantinianism” all bad?” asks this provocative blog piece over at The Christian Century…

Is Constantinianism all bad?

By David Heim in The Christian Century

“Constantinian” has lately been a favored pejorative in theological circles. The term–an allusion to the fourth-century Roman emperor whose conversion to Christianity turned a marginal sect into a state religion–has been used to deplore any alliance between the church and the state or, more broadly, between the church and the dominant political culture.

Thanks to the influence of John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas, among others, anti-Constantinianism has provided an edge of energy to much mainline preaching and theology and has fueled a healthy suspicion about ways that churches can lose their identity by aligning themselves with power or the mindset of modernity.

But is Constantinianism entirely wrongheaded? Don’t Christians want people in power to embrace Christianity and Christian values? Is it a bad thing if they do? Is it impossible or meaningless for them to try?


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Teilhard Lewis

“But is Constantinianism entirely wrongheaded? Don’t Christians want people in power to embrace Christianity and Christian values? ”

I think that an issue lies here in a false conflation. Of course any good Christian hopes that their political leaders and figures of power will accept Christ into theirs lives and live as Christians… but that doesn’t seem to be what Constantinianism is meant to be by most users of the term.

When a political power uses worldly means to force the form of the Christian faith on a people who have not yet found the spirit of the Christian faith, it may do long lasting harm to the actual spread of the Word, and of the Glory of Christ. A true Christian leader would live a Christian life, and allow others to be impressed by his convictions, not ordered to imitate his deeds.

To me, and I suspect many others, when someone speaks of Constantinianism, rightly or wrongly they are speaking of a leader who embraces the outer shape of Christian faith without the indwelling of the spirit, which I would hope no true Christian would desire.

Lois Keen

My argument with Constantinianism was never about the alliance of church with empire, but the forced conversion of entire populations to Christianity without any thought given to the hearts, souls, beliefs and faith of those converted, so Christianity was passed down by people who were not necessarily passionate about Christ but rather Christian out of fear.

On this and other sites we’re on about how to restructure the institution to better serve God’s mission. Part of that has to be to ask ourselves, why are we Christian in the first place? What is the Good News for today? What would be Good News for the person who is “spiritual but not religious”? The person who does not believe he or she needs a savior?

I see a direct link between our present fix as a religion and as a church, and Constantinianism’s forced conversions that left out the link between the human condition and the need for a savior. Under Constantinianism the need for a savior was solely to escape losing everything, even life, for not converting. That’s no basis for a religion and it’s only by an act of God that Christianity has survived until this day.

Gregory Orloff

There’s a big difference between “embracing Christianity and Christian values” and following Christ Jesus. So much of the ugliness on our political and social landscape in America these days, far from the Gospel no matter how much it claims the name “Christian,” is ample proof of that. Christianity is meant to be a matter of following someone who changes one from within — not a mass ideology enforced from above.

Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

The problem is that not all people agree on what is the “true” Christianity. What if the people in power are of a different Christian persuasion than you are? For instance, if Rick Perry is the leader in question I would definitely NOT want his version of Christianity to be the dominant one.

Cullin R. Schooley

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café