This morning I finished a highly anticipated book: Liberty in the Things of God by distinguished historian Robert Louis Wilken.
I wrote my dissertation on how the architecture of Christian theology provides an account of religious liberty, and I relied on some of Wilken’s work in the course of my research. Among those are a chapter in this volume and this short little volume.
So I was really excited to learn that Wilken was devoting a whole chapter to the idea of the Christian origins of religious liberty. I was under the impression that the book might explain, theologically, why Christianity came to be the world’s first proponent of religious liberty. While the book did so in a minimal sense, the book was less theological exposition than it is was an episodic narrative providing historical snapshots that capture the development of religious liberty throughout Christian history.
Wilken does not do much as far as developing a biblical basis for religious liberty, albeit themes from Matthew 22 seem to be consistent throughout. Rather, he points to Tertullian and Lactantius as the first Christian voices that present an account of what we would come to know as religious liberty, and how themes from their initial arguments were extrapolated into a working doctrine of religious liberty through the development of church history.
As this is not intended to be a book review in the purest sense, let me just say that I think this is probably the best one-volume book that exposes the reader to a wide snapshot of how religious liberty came to be understood through church history. It is imminently readable and does not bog the reader down with information unnecessary to the broader thesis.