Tag Archives: church and state

New books: We’ve gotten both the Emperor Constantine and the whole Reformation wrong

Two books have just arrived (it’s good to be a blogger and get free books; now if only I had time to read and review them all), and I look forward to dipping into them.

First, Peter Leithart of New St. Andrew’s College in Idaho has written a defense of Constantine–the “first Christian emperor,” whose name has become, especially thanks to the work of Yoder and Hauerwas, a curse-word on the lips of many Western Protestants. The book is titled Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom, and it has surprisingly shot up to a sales ranking of better than 5,000 on Amazon.com (pretty stunning for a history book), and the #11 position on the Amazon.com church history bestsellers list. Continue reading

New monastic Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove retells monastic history

Though the following is a critical review, I want to be clear: I am deeply sympathetic with the aims and perspectives of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. I just think we need to be historically responsible when we compare new and old movements.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, “A Vision So Old It Looks New” in Monasticism Old and New (Christian Reflection, Baylor University, 2010 issue)

This article was adapted from Wilson-Hartgrove’s book New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2008).

In his introduction to this issue of Christian Reflection, Robert Kruschwitz summarizes this article : “In A Vision So Old It Looks New (p. 11), Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove explores how monasticism over the centuries has offered a powerful critique of mainstream culture. Tracing its origins from Antony and the fourth-century desert Christians, through the medieval monasteries inspired by Benedict of Nursia, to the intentional communities of radical Protestant Reformers, he shows, ‘In every era God has raised up new monastics to pledge their allegiance to God alone and remind the church of its true vocation’” (8).

Wilson-Hartgrove opens the article: “It is hard to be a Christian in America today. . . . The church in America is not living up to what it claims to be. Somehow we have lost our way.” (11) Especially he gives examples of behavior: spousal abuse, racism, hypocrisy in areas of sexuality. We ain’t that different from secular society, or sometimes worse, in many of those areas. Continue reading

When world leaders pray (part II): Charlemagne through Elizabeth I

To be clear, the events that triggered this pair of posted articles, and the articles themselves, emerged back in 2003. But the shelf-life of the historical material in these posts is, hopefully, still not exceeded:

When World Leaders Pray, Part II
Tony Blair’s spin-doctors worried when he recently “outed” himself as a Christian. But what impact has Christianity really had on our leaders?
Chris Armstrong

Several weeks ago, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated he would be judged on the Iraq war by “my Maker.” This gave some of his closest advisors fits. But the record shows that some of the West’s greatest leaders have been praying people—and that this has not necessarily been a bad thing.

In the last post, we looked at the Roman emperors Constantine, Theodosius I, and Justinian I. This week, we jump forward in time to three pious European leaders: the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, the French King Louis IX, and England’s Elizabeth I. Continue reading

When world leaders pray (part I): the record of Constantine and a couple of other “Christian Roman Emperors”

My students and I have been talking a lot lately about the role of secular leaders vis-a-vis the church–especially the early church. A while back some words of British Prime Minister Tony Blair launched me into some research and reflections on this same topic–and a brief survey of the records of emperors Constantine, Theodosius I, and Justinian I. The results follow:

(Then, not content with putting together one article on this, I went on to look at some later leaders–so this post will be followed by a “part II“):

When World Leaders Pray
Some observers are upset with Tony Blair’s recent public avowal of faith. But what impact has Christianity really had on our leaders?
Chris Armstrong

“Humility, conscience, and responsibility.” These are the traits London Times writer Michael Gove believes political leaders learn when they submit themselves to God.

Gove made this statement last week after Tony Blair publicly stated that he would be judged on the Iraq war by “my Maker.” Blair’s closest advisors flinched—believing such an admission of faith by a Prime Minister “plays badly.” These are the same advisors who insisted the PM not end his Iraq war broadcast with “God bless you,” because “people don’t want chaplains pushing stuff down their throats.”

Sadly, the British spin-doctors are probably right to worry. After all, ever since the European public found out about the Bible study classes being held at the White House, many have been convinced Bush is “a fundamentalist crazy.” “To listen to the European reaction,” says Gove, “one might have thought they were bringing back witch trials in Massachusetts.” Continue reading

Malcolm Muggeridge on the “weird little dane”–Soren Kierkegaard

As promised, here’s Mugg on Kierkegaard:

St. Mugg’s Wrestling Prophets, Part II: The “Weird Little Dane”
How a struggling soul built a bridge to Christ for those caught in the world’s snares.
Chris Armstrong

“One of the oddest prophets ever.”

This is how the late Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) begins his short portrait of Soren Kierkegaard. And it is an apt beginning to a strange but wonderful tale. Continue reading