The question of how the church is to exist ‘in but not of the world’ is a much contested current theological debate. To provide answers true to the context in which the Western church now finds itself, it is worth investigating how the question has been answered in the past. In determining what to do today, we must understand how we got here in the first place.
Church and World looks to the fourth century, at the beginning of which people were persecuted for being Christians, and persecuted for not being Christians by the end. The change during the century raised fundamental questions about the relationship between church and state and nature of good government, which are as pressing today as they have ever been. Simon P. Schmidt offers an academic investigation of how three paradigmatic theologians interpreted this so-called Constantinian shift: Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-339), Augustine of Hippo (354-430), and John Howard Yoder (1927-1997). Surprising similarities between the theology of Eusebius and Yoder become apparent, along with the underlying theological structures of how to interpret what it looks like to be a community that follows Christ.
Part I: The Constantinian Shift – An Introduction
1. History and Theology
Part II: An Early Interpretation
2. Eusebius of Caesarea
2.4 Eusebius’s Interpretation of the Constantinian Shift
2.5 The Contemporary Debate
Part III: A Corrective
3. Augustine of Hippo
3.2 Augustine and Eusebius (Exterior Differences)
3.3 Augustine’s Interpretation of the Constantinian Shift
3.4 The Contemporary Debate
3.5 Augustine and Eusebius (Internal Differences)
Part IV: A Current Interpretation
4. John Howard Yoder
4.2 Yoder’s Interpretation of the Constantinian Shift
4.3 The Contemporary Debate
4.4 Yoder and the Ancient Interpretations
Part V: Perspectives
5. Church, History and Theology
5.1 Three Interpretations of the Place of the Church in the World
5.2 The Validity of Theological History-Writing
5.3 A Way Forward for the Church
Endorsements and Reviews
There is no debate that significant shifts happened in theology, ethics, and the relationship of church and world following the advent of Constantine as the first ‘Christian emperor’. The only debate is how we are to understand these changes. This carefully researched and well-organized book is ideal to move this conversation forward. Even where readers disagree – and at places I certainly do – Schmidt carries the discussion forward through a careful naming of the pertinent issues.
Mark Thiessen Nation, Professor of Theology Emeritus, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, author of John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions
How to understand the Constantinian shift has been debated intensively for many years. Schmidt’s substantial contribution to the debate demonstrates how Eusebius, Augustine, and Yoder interpret this shift, illuminating how to be a church in the world but not of the world. This book is a remarkable combination of sober analysis and constructive ambition, letting voices of the past guide the church of the present.
Jeppe Bach Nikolajsen, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Lutheran School of Theology in Aarhus, Denmark, and Adjunct Professor of Missiology at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society in Oslo, Norway