1. Caesar is not an archetype.

2. Constantine is not an archetype.

3. Empire is not an archetype.

4. The state is not an archetype.

5. Combining all of these non-archetypes together will not produce an archetype which one might then set against “the lordship of Christ” (whatever this frequently pompous-sounding phrase might be taken to mean, as if all “political theologians” were actual forerunners of the eschaton).

6. What’s that? You aren’t an economist? Well then, why do you try so hard to sound like one?

7. And wait — there’s more? You also have no academic training whatsoever in economics — neither at the graduate level nor even at the undergraduate level? Well then, why do you write as if you do?

8. Theological study does not equip theologians to approach any other academic subject or field — for example, economics or political theory — from a privileged position.

9. All education requires toil. If a theologian wishes to write about economics (for example), then he or she must undertake the same toil as an economist, mastering the same body of knowledge according to the same academic standards. This applies to all other academic subjects and fields as well.

10. If theological education does not endeavor to teach according to these same standards, and if it does not require its students to adhere to these same standards, then it will degenerate into merest mechanical preaching.

11. Today, political protest is for people who want to hear themselves speak (or chant, or yell), as if complex issues might be oversimplified and reduced to nothing more than slogans. Thus protest today is not a form of political engagement but a form of political neglect — and, in extreme instances, political abuse.

12. The Christian is called to seek and embody far more than the activist’s will to power.

13. Learn to think historically and logically or you will not be able to think at all. Only small minds are impressed with big fat books animated by speculative theses and punctuated by esoteric terminology.

14. While perusing the tomes of knowledge, one should constantly hear an echo of the voice of God: “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down its tongue with a cord?” (Job 41:1ff.)

15. If education does not produce a profound sense of one’s own finitude, then one deserves to hear only the judgment of God: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)

16. The context of theology is never the Academy (and never a culture, and never a polis) but always and only the Church in the world.

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3 Comments on "Some theses on ‘political theology’"

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3 years 2 months ago
Ben, your thinking here in fact privileges current divisions in academia, embracing secular claims as normative. Caesar, Constantine, empire, and the state may not be archetypes, but any scholar well-read in the field of political theology over the last fifty years recognizes them as technical terms — as metaphors invoking decades of disputation about the relation between church and state. They are a helpful shorthand as long as one is well-read in the field and so knows how these connotations have been qualified through argument already. “Lordship of Christ” is similarly well-established symbolic language arising from studies, in particular, of… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago

[…] Some Theses on ‘Political Theology’, which argues that too much contemporary ‘political theology’ is based upon a pervasive […]