The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology edited by Peter
Scott, William T. Cavanaugh (Blackwell Companions to Religion: Blackwell)
Written by a team of international experts, this Companion provides the first
comprehensive survey and interpretation of contemporary Christian political
The Companion comprises 35 freshly-commissioned essays which embody the best current thinking in the field. These essays
The contributors are drawn from various traditions of political theology, but
all of them demonstrate that Christian theology is inherently political, and
that politics is properly illuminated by Christian perspectives.
Excerpt: Not long after
the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Francis Fukuyama declared that we had
achieved "the end of history." In 2001, the collapse of other walls, those of
This Companion operates with an expansive understanding of what is encompassed by the term "political theology." Theology is broadly understood as discourse about God, and human persons as they relate to God. The political is broadly understood as the use of structural power to organize a society or community of people. Under this spacious rubric, politics may be understood for the purpose of a political theology in terms of the self-governance of communities and individuals; or in terms of Max Weber's more circumscribed definition of politics as seeking state power. Political theology is, then, the analysis and criticism of political arrangements (including cultural–psychological, social and economic aspects) from the perspective of differing interpretations of God's ways with the world.
For the purposes of this volume, political theology is construed primarily as Christian political theology. Not only would the inclusion of other faiths have made an already fat volume unwieldy, but the term "political theology" was coined in a Christian context and has continued to be a significant term primarily within Christian discourse.
Within this general framework, the task of political theology is conceived in different ways by different thinkers. For some, politics is seen as a "given" with its own secular autonomy. Politics and theology are therefore two essentially distinct activities, one to do with public authority, and the other to do in the first place with religious experience and the semiprivate associations of religious believers. The task of political theology might be to relate religious belief to larger societal issues while not confusing the proper autonomy of each.
For others, theology is critical reflection on the political. Theology is related as superstructure to the material politico-economic base. Theology reflects and reinforces just or unjust political arrangements. The task of political theology might then be to expose the ways in which theological discourse reproduces inequalities of class, gender or race, and to reconstruct theology so that it serves the cause of justice.
For still others, theology and politics are essentially similar activities; both are constituted in the production of metaphysical images around which communities are organized. All politics has theology embedded within it, and particular forms of organization are implicit in doctrines of, for example, Trinity, the church and eschatology. There is no essential separation of material base and cultural superstructure. The task then might become one of exposing the false theologies underlying supposedly "secular" politics and promoting the true politics implicit in a true theology.
Political theologies vary in the extent to which social sciences and other secular discourses are employed; the extent to which they are "contextualized" or rooted in a particular people's experience; the extent to which the state is seen as the locus of politics; and the ways in which theological resources – scripture, liturgy, doctrine – are employed. What distinguishes all political theology from other types of theology or political discourse is the explicit attempt to relate discourse about God to the organization of bodies in space and time.
The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is meant to serve as a reference tool. Each essay is designed to present the reader with an overview of the range of opinion on a given topic, and to guide the reader toward sources representing those views. On the other hand, the Companion presents original and constructive essays on the various topics by leading voices in political theology today. Our authors have been instructed to be fair, but not to feign neutrality. The views of the author should and do become clear in the course of each essay, and the authors make many original claims that take the discussion of political theology in new and provocative directions. The result, we trust, is a lively argument within a fascinating and diverse group of scholars.
We editors have tried to do our part by arguing between ourselves as much as possible. We first met when one did an appreciative though critical review of a book by the other, and we have yet to iron out all the theological disagreements between us. Our collaboration has just so been congenial and fruitful. We chose to work together in the hope that our differences would make for a richer volume.
of topics and authors has followed the same hope. We have tried to give a voice
at the table to a great variety of different views that accurately reflect the
state of the conversation today. All the same, some readers may be disappointed
by the exclusion of some topics and puzzled by the inclusion of others. Here we
must lament the limitations of space and confess our own personal limitations.
There is no question, for example, that, although the volume contains some
voices from the two-thirds world, the volume as a whole is weighted toward the
world we know best, and more accurately reflects the state of the conversation
The volume is organized into five sections. The first addresses some of the primary resources of the Christian tradition to which theologians appeal in constructing political theologies: scripture, liturgy, Augustine, Aquinas, and some of the great theologians of the Reformation. The second surveys some of the most important figures and movements in political theology. We have included a broad range of methodologies, ecclesial traditions, geographic and social locations, to give a sense for the diversity of political theologies. The third section consists of constructive essays on single theological loci, such as Trinity, atonement, and eschatology. These essays draw out the political implications of select Christian doctrines. The fourth section addresses some important structures and movements (postmodernism, globalization, etc.) from a theological point of view. The fifth section, finally, provides one Islamic response and one Jewish response to the essays in the volume. If Christian political theologians hope to witness to a better world, they must do so in conversation not only with each other, but with those of other faiths, especially the Abrahamic faiths. It is our hope that this volume contributes in some way to that witness.
Religion and Politics in the United States, 4th Edition by Kenneth D.
(Rowman & Littlefield) On the day Wald signed a contract to produce this
Religion and Politics in the United States, CBS News led its evening
broadcast with two stories about religion in politics. The first reported how
religious conservatives were pressuring President George W. Bush to ban medical
research using stem cells taken from discarded embryos. Despite the promise of
the new technology in fighting injury and disease, opponents claimed that
extracting cells from embryos amounted to terminating human life. That story was
coupled with reports about an alleged deal between the White House and the
Salvation Army. The religious charity was told that it would be granted
permission to ignore state and local legislation against employment
discrimination if it supported President Bush's proposal for federally funded
"faith-based" social services. According to the Salvation Army, it wanted to
deny employment to gays because they did not follow Christian teachings on
marriage. Before the broadcast concluded, the anchor informed viewers of a new
effort to amend the U.S. Constitution by defining marriage as a union between
one man and one woman. The proposal, aimed to forestall gay marriages,
originated with conservative religious groups and the key supporters were
heavily drawn from major religious denominations.
stories attest to the continuing significance of religion as a political force
in American life. The topic remains the consuming passion of Wald’s academic
career. During his early years as a scholar, he worked to persuade colleagues in
political science that they could not draw a complete portrait of American
politics without paying attention to the religious factor. In the past few
years, the message has been welcomed by audiences beyond the academic world. In
1999, at the invitation of the United States Information Agency, Wald toured the
People's Republic of
Despite the passage of fifteen years since the first edition of this book, the topic remains vital and relevant. The new edition is warranted by new developments in the subject, of course, but also by the continuing progress of scholars who study religion and politics. If the first edition was top heavy with unpublished studies or research reports buried in obscure journals, the fourth edition rests on a substantial body of scholarship appearing in books from respected publishers and articles in the discipline's top journals.
The central argument of this book is that religion is more important in American politics than most people realize but in different ways than they imagine. That is, religious influences are visible in all aspects of political life—the ideas about politics we entertain, the behavior of political elites and ordinary citizens, the interpretation of public laws, and the development of government programs. In making the case for this claim, Wald takes a social scientific perspective on religion. There is not yet a better way to express that concept than the words of Cushing Stout: "To be a historian is to seek to explain in human terms. If God speaks, it is not through him. If He speaks to others, the historian cannot vouch for it. In this sense the historian is necessarily secularist."
comment suggests, the social scientific approach refuses to explain religion in
terms of supernatural forces, insisting instead on finding human causes for
patterns of human behavior. Likewise, most social scientists resist the opposite
tendency to reduce religion to a biological or genetic trait. Supernaturalists
may explain the survival of religion as God's will while some natural scientists
might attribute the persistence of religion in society to the sound dietary
principles and healthy lifestyles of believers. While both these explanations
may be true and useful, the social scientist prefers to emphasize the operation
of human consciousness and choice. Thus chapter 1 invokes neither the hand of
God nor the principles of evolution to explain why religion prospers in
begins with two chapters that establish the framework for studying the
relationship between religion and politics in the
teaches religion and politics soon encounters strongly held views. In some
quarters, any connection between religion and politics is considered suspect if
not dangerous outright. Religion is fine, I'm occasionally told, as long as it
keeps to its proper sphere. As a Chinese student put this attitude to me in a
question, how can it be healthy to allow such "superstition" to rule political
life? Surely the events of
Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies by David Theodore Koyzis (InterVarsity Press) Just a few years ago, the world seemed to be locked in a standoff between two superpowers and their respective ideologies. But the end of the Cold War has brought about more than the triumph of some political ideologies and the disappearance of others. Rather, the collapse of communism has created a vacuum being filled by various alternative visions, ranging from ethnic nationalism to individualistic liberalism. Furthermore, political leaders continue to debate the range and scope of government and conflicting views of liberty, responsibility and national identity, challenging and rethinking the underlying assumptions of the dominant ideologies of the West.
But political ideologies are not merely a matter of governmental efficacy and pragmatism. Rather, political ideologies are intrinsically and inescapably religious – each carries certain assumptions about the nature of reality, individuals and society, as well as a particular vision for the common good. These fundamental beliefs transcend the political sphere, and the astute Christian observer should thus discern the subtle ways in which ideologies are rooted in idolatrous worldviews.
In Political Visions & Illusions, political scientist David Koyzis surveys the key political ideologies of our era, including liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. Each philosophy is given careful analysis and fair critique, unpacking the worldview issues inherent to each and pointing out essential strengths and weaknesses. Koyzis concludes by proposing alternative models that flow out of Christianity's historic engagement with the public square, retrieving approaches that hold promise for the complex political realities of the twenty-first century.Writing with broad, international perspective and keen analytical insight, Koyzis offers a sound guide for all students of modern political thought.
Political Theologies in Shakespeare’s England: The Sacred and the
State in Measure for Measure by Debora Kuller Shuger (Palgrave)
offers a defining reinterpretation of English political thought in the aftermath
of the Reformation. Debora Kuller Shuger focuses not on the tension between
Crown and Parliament but on the relation of the sacred to the state. The book
examines Measure for Measure, for the issues at the heart of this play
also shape the deep structure of English politics in the aftermath of the
Author Introduction: The earliest recorded performance of Measure for Measure took place at Whitehall on 26 December, 1604, opening the first full‑scale Christmas revels of the new king's reign. The play must have been composed shortly before this performance, since it alludes to events that had occurred as recently as the beginning of December. Shakespeare may well have written Measure for Measure for this at once sacred and state occasion. The political theme dominates from the outset, its importance signalled by the opening line of the Duke's first speech: 'Of government the properties to unfold.' Measure for Measure is the only Shakespeare play to begin with this sort of overt thematic statement; it is also the only one to have an (equally thematic) biblical titles ‑ a yoking of government and Gospel recalling the king's promise in the medieval English coronation oath to observe both 'justice and mercy ... that by his merciful dealing with others, the God of mercy may take commiseration upon him. Measure for Measure's unusual opening, with its braiding of rule and religion, sets up what follows, for the play, as I will show, is a sustained meditation on its own political moment ‑ the political moment of James's accession, but also, and more significantly, of the Reformation's aftermath.
Moreover, because the play is a meditation on its political moment, it offers itself as guide and witness to that moment. Since my argument presupposes this claim, it is worth dwelling on a little longer. The book does not present a reading of Measure for Measure in the ordinary sense; it says virtually nothing about imagery, irony, or characterization; some chapters, particularly the first, do not mention the play for considerable stretches. The book is not about Measure for Measure, but rather uses the play (together with its primary source, George Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra) as a basis for rethinking English politics and political thought circa 1600. 1 became interested in the play precisely because it raised various questions of a broadly political nature: Why does Shakespeare associate Puritanism with sexual regulation? Jonson's Puritans are obsessed with roast pig and encroaching popery but not with punishing (nor, for that matter, obtaining) illicit sex. Why would a play specifically about secular government focus on this? Or, granted that the Duke's friar robes are a plot device allowing him to prowl through Vienna undetected, why does he take on the role of confessor, spending a good deal of on‑stage time attempting to prepare his subjects for death? He does not perform any other sacerdotal office. He does not offer to marry Claudio and Juliet or celebrate Mass for the prisoners. Why is the state, figured by its ruler, associated with the sacrament of penance?
The play directed attention to these issues, and raised the possibility that they had political significance. Nor was it only these. The work said, as it were, 'I am about equity, justice, pardons, about sexual regulation, sacral kingship, the enforcement of good faith promises, about what to do with unrepentant felons and discarded whores, the inseparability of private morals from public justice, and, above all, about the relation of the sacred to the state. These are political issues. Forget Parliament. Forget classical republicanism. Only look for yourself, and you shall find that all is as I have spoken.' When I tried to follow this directive ‑ when I looked at sixteenth‑century English writings on the state, crown, courts, church, on religion, law, and polity ‑ I found what the play hinted I would find. What it said was politically significant, was. The Puritan demand for sexual regulation was linked to a specific political theory, the state's spiritual jurisdiction did have a penitential character, and so forth. This book emerged from my sense that every line of inquiry Measure for Measure suggested panned out. The lines of inquiry led in various directions ‑ from Plato's late dialogues to sixteenth‑century Chancery procedure ‑ but again and again the material that turned up was sufficiently complex and central to suggest that the play was not simply alluding to this or that recent event, but mapping the deep structure of English politics c. 1600: in particular, the binary structure of ideas and practices defining two opposed visions of Christian polity. The play is about the nature of Christian rule. As this implies, Measure for Measure construes the deep structure of Tudor‑Stuart politics in radically different terms from those found in more recent histories of the period, not only because the latter know about the constitutional struggles to come, but also because they define the political in a way that excludes the religious ideals that unfold at the dead center of early modern thinking on government and its properties.It is the ideals that are excluded more than religion per se. Machiavelli's contempt for political thinkers who pay more attention to what should be than to what is still has teeth, as does his conviction that what is, rather than being the imperfect realization of what should be, bears no relation to it ‑ except that of bleak truth to sentimental pretense. And yet Machiavelli's greatest work, The Discourses, is itself from beginning to end an attempt to delineate what a republic should be. (That Machiavelli's ideal horrified a good many does not make it any less an ideal.) Nor is Machiavelli, at least in this respect, atypical. Early modern political discourse endeavors to describe what something ‑ a commonwealth, a ruler, an institution ‑ should be. Its premises are those of Aristotelian teleology, which identifies a thing's nature with its end and perfection, so that to ask what, for example, a republic is and to ask what a republic should be turns out to be the same question. It is Machiavelli's question. Virtually all Tudor‑Stuart political writings are idealizing ‑ as opposed to descriptive (how a specific thing behaves) or theoretical (how a class of things behave): More's Utopia, Milton's Ready and Easy Way, Harrington's Oceana, Starkey's Dialogue between Pole and Lupset, King James's Basilicon Doron, Baxter's Holy Commonwealth, Fuller's Holy State, Bacon's New Atlantis, Floyd's Picture of a Perfect Commonwealth, Marsilius's Defensor Pacis (not a Tudor‑Stuart work but Englished by order of Henry VIII), Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Erasmus's Education of a Christian Prince. Even ostensibly descriptive works such as Smith's De republica Anglorum, Lambarde's Archeion, and Coke's Institutes betray the shaping presence of a normative vision throughout. Early modern political writings are profoundly and pervasively concerned with what should be because, to a very great extent, the political divisions of the age centered on conflicting ideals (in contrast, for example, to the political conflicts of the fifteenth century). The Reformation shattered whatever consensus there had been ‑ probably a quite strong one over what a Christian life, a Christian church, and a Christian kingdom looked like. In Peter Lake's words, 'relations between the holy and the social were on the move,' as were those between the holy and the state, and people disagreed profoundly about whither these movements should tend.' The articulation of what should be characterizes post‑Reformation political discourse precisely because that was the issue.
insert content here