Bonds of Imperfection: Christian Politics, Past and Present

Bonds of Imperfection: Christian Politics, Past and Present

Bonds of Imperfection: Christian Politics, Past and Present

Bonds of Imperfection: Christian Politics, Past and Present

Synopsis

Two of today's leading experts on the Christian political tradition plumb significant moments in premodern Christian political thought, using them in original and adventurous ways to clarify, criticize, and redirect contemporary political perspectives and discussions. Drawing on the Bible and the Western history of ideas, Oliver and Joan Lockwood O'Donovan explore key Christian voices on "the political" - political action, political institutions, and political society. Covered here are Bonaventure, Thomas, Ockham, Wycliff, Erasmus, Luther, Grotius, Barth, Ramsey, and key modern papal encyclicals. The authors' discussion takes them across a wide range of political concerns, from economics and personal freedom to liberal democracy and the nature of statehood. Ultimately, these insightful essays point to political judgment as the strength of the past theological tradition and its eclipse as the weakness of present political thought.

Excerpt

The essays collected here are explorations in ‘the political’ — in political agency, political action, political institutions, and political society — from a perspective formed by the Bible and the Latin theological tradition. All the essays engage at some level with contemporary understandings and issues, and all bring to bear in a critical and constructive manner the theological resources of the older tradition. There is, nevertheless, a shift of emphasis between Parts 1 and 2: from recovering significant theoretical moments and strands of the Christian political past to analyzing present thought and practice in their light.

This collection forms an accompaniment to our compilation of texts, From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought which intended to provide extensive access to the tradition with the aid of translations, introductions, and commentary. In that enterprise we were naturally constrained from undertaking more sustained analysis of individual thinkers and more developed arguments about specific issues. It is a selection of these that the following essays offer, with, we hope, a progressively unfolding coherence, even though their composition spanned more than a decade of our intellectual labor. It need hardly be said that the material in From Irenaeus to Grotius is capable of inspiring many other discussions than those we have taken up here.

The engagement with contemporary approaches, ideas, and institutions is pre-eminently but by no means exclusively critical, while that with the older tradition is largely constructive. If there is an imbalance here, it may be viewed as a corrective to a consensus within and without the church that regards the prevailing liberal-democratic institutions of the West as wholly normative for

1. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999). Throughout these essays, we have noted translations of primary sources referred to in From Irenaeus to Grotius (IG).

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