Notes on Ireneaus to Grotius
John C. Rankin
(April 21, 2015)
Oliver’ O’Donovan (along with his wife Jean Lockwood O’Donovan) provides an invaluable sourcebook in Christian political thought from A.D. 100-1625, in his work Irenaeus to Grotius. His thesis is that we need to be re-instructed by a re-engagement with patristic, medieval and Reformational political thought. O’Donovan gives background to his theological construction, and likewise, makes such history more widely accessible. He chooses his parameters, post New Testament to the early modern, for so much of the material is either a) not factored into modern political theologies and/or b) represents some writers little known, including the need have some works translated into English for the first time.
In his up-front summations of each writer, he gives excellent summations of history, context and the arguments of the given selection, which is an eclectic and inclusive canon from the larger ekklesia within the Western tradition. For our purposes here, we will attempt a succinctly sufficient overview of the sixty writers and central subjects they address, along with bracketing some commentary.
All writers assume the Creator and his creation in Genesis 1-2, the reality of the fall in Genesis 3, and the hope of redemption initially promised in Genesis 3, with the conflict between sin and redemption until the end of John’s apocalypse; either explicitly often, or implicitly. Their references are in a wide range of contexts, and in various chosen language. They are all addressing prior problems in political theology, being in the proper sense responsive or reactive to the inherited discourse, and all seek to identify how the reign of God interfaces with a broken world. And we see the cascade that results from the unpreparedness of the martyr church for access to political power. Yet in it, we also see – unlike any non-biblical political theology or philosophy – a concern for the advance of the Gospel into people’s lives that emphasizes love for neighbor, even requiring princes in polities not structured biblically, in my estimation, to be people of high moral and accountable character.
Right off, O’Donovan states: “For a millennium and a half, from the patristic age to the early modern period, the themes of creation, fall, Christology, the church, and eschatology, and the appeal to a wide range of Old and New Testament texts, dominated the way political discussion was discussed” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. xv). In other words, church history is rooted in the territory of creation, sin and redemption.
With the advent of Constantine, there are two sharply distinct interpretations of the pre-Constantinian age. Eusebius views it as the age of mission, with the triumphal march of monotheism, whereas Ambrose views it as an age of martyrdom; in other words, progress versus conflict. This duality and many elements of attempted synthesis never depart Christian political thought. Eusebius proves to be wrong, and Ambrose closer to the mark.
Part 1 is “The Patristic Age.” Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165), roots himself explicitly in the One who “formed all things out of unformed matter,” and his membership is in a kingdom not of this world. Ireneaus of Lyon (ca. 120/140-ca. 202/203) addresses the “economy of salvation” where the defining sequence is creation, incarnation and judgment, and he places the question of political rule in the category of “Satanology.”
For Tertullian (160-220), the church is a martyr church, and the idea of the church as a political society is rejected. “One state we know, of which we all are citizens – the universe” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 26). He opposes Christians serving as military officers, and speaks of how Christ gives a greater forbearance than the terms of lex talionis (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) in the church, but in matters of the political order, it is “by the ear of vengeance that iniquity is kept in check” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 29).
Clement of Alexandria (150-215) argues that political authority in the world falls short of the divine Word. The question is to what extent, post Mosaic law, can society succeed apart from the use of force. His goal is a united polity, followed consistently.
In Against Celsus, Origen (182-254) comes to believe the emperor is raised up by God, and that the Christian faith serves moral and social cohesion. He believes Rome’s destiny is for a universal empire, served by Christian conversion of her peoples. Priests, who, by their “prayers destroy all daemons which stir up wars, violate oaths, and disturb the peace, are of more help to the emperors than those who seem to be doing the fighting” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 44).
Lactantius (240-320), adviser to Constantine, believes Christianity, rooted in “one ancestor,” is the only alternative to a corrupt culture. Says O’Donovan concerning him: “In Divine Institutes, Book 3, he opposed restrictions on private property in the name of “equality” advocated in Platonic context, “But would you entrust a kingdom to this champion of equal justice, who would take this man’s property and give it to that man, and who would prostitute the chastity of women, going further than any king, any tyrant indeed, has ever gone!” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 48). [In other words, he opposes what later is advocated in modern socialism.] In Book 5, he speaks of the loss of how to distinguish good and evil [to be reviewed in Genesis 2:9], and how “the primitive age” in restored in Christ. In Book 6, he cites the image of God in countering the “Epicurean swerve” of proto-macroevolutionary thinking, speaking of one man from whom all humanity comes.
Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-ca. 340) aims to recover the first three hundred years of the church’s history. He views Constantine as the ideal Christian emperor who can promise the end of war [verging idolatry]. In a Speech for the Thirtieth Anniversary of Constantine’s Accession, he says: “And surely monarchy far transcends every other constitution and form of government; for that democratic equality of power, which is its opposite, may rather be described as anarchy and disorder. Hence there is one God, and not two, or three, or more; for to assert a plurality of gods is plainly to deny the being of God at all. There is one Sovereign, and his sovereign Word and Law is one … (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 60). This is an early advocacy of a comprehensive monism that becomes a part of church history’s interface with political theology.
Ambrose of Milan (ca. 340-397), opposes the Eusebian emperor-theology, and defiantly challenges the competence of the emperor’s court in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. He vehemently opposes usury and price-fixing. At one point, when Emperor Theodosius is guilty of a slaughter of innocents in Thessalonica, Ambrose refuses to celebrate Mass in his presence, exacting penance first. In Letter 7 he states: “It is not nature, then, that makes a man a slave, but folly; and it is not emancipation which makes him free, but learning. Esau, after all, was born a free man and made a slave. Joseph was sold into slavery and was appointed to a position of power, ruler of those who had purchased him” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 80). In Letter 50, he calls for mercy toward condemned prisoners, believing in their potential for reform.
John Chrysostom (ca. 349-407) is bishop of Constantinople, and like Ambrose, criticizes private wealth and usury, seeing the church as providing social welfare. In terms of a church-state model, he supports the Greek Church’s idea of government as a direct mediation of God’s providence and rule; everyone is to submit to the governing authorities but priests can prevail over judges in spiritual persuasion on behalf of condemned prisoners, allowing an appeal for clemency to the emperor. He points out the sin of King Uzziah, who as king, seeks to claim the prerogative of a priest. “The king, then, is entrusted with care of our bodies, the priest with our souls” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 98).
In the Eleventh Homily on The Acts of the Apostles, Chrysostom uses Acts 4:32-37 as an economic model where the church shares all things in common: “So what happens when the money runs out? Do you think it could run out? Would God’s grace not prove infinitely greater? Would not God’s grace be poured out abundantly? … Is it more costly for them to eat together and live under one roof, or to live separately?”(O’Donovan, Ireneaus, pp. 100, 101). He also says that anyone who has private wealth cannot be good. [First, this usage is contra the exigent employment of such sharing that defines the context; second, this is not what the text says as it also affirms the assumption of private property rights for Barnabas, as well as for Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-4); and third, Chrysostom does not pose the question of what makes the larger oikonomos work, that which would show the folly of the example he defines.]
Augustine of Hippo (356-430) claims papal supremacy over secular authority, and the civil magistrate contributes “terror” to the lawless so the lawful can live more peacefully. Thus, the state should intervene against heretics so as to guard the church, a position followed by the church for years, but challenged in the medieval period, opposed by Martin Luther and finally excised from the church in the modern era [being in fact an unbiblical ethos]. Just war theory is rooted in an act of love for neighbor, and in seeking secular power to intervene against human slavery, and the order of the Christian household is a paradigm for the city’s social order.
In On Free Choice of the Will, Book 22, real evil in war is not a matter of actions in protection of civil order, but rather its love of violence, cruelty in revenge and on outward. “If it is supposed that God could not enjoin warfare because in after times it was said by the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but if any one strike thee on the right cheek, turn to him the left also’ (Matt. 5:39), the answer is, that what is here required is not a bodily action, but an inward disposition” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 118). [Augustine makes this critical observation, but without any exegesis of the text, something Luther later partially improves upon.] Augustine extols the priestly duty to intercede for condemned persons, he affirms military service for the Christian, believes that legal complaints between Christians should be resolved in the church, but they can also use the courts on behalf of others.
In the City of God, Book 2, Augustine speaks about the nature and limits of law. The concern is not to make people virtuous but merely quiescent, and law in addressing economic harm to neighbor does not proscribe moral harms to the self. There is no liability in the courts if the well-being others is not infringed, and there is freedom do with the self, dependents, consenting associates, and “sexual satisfaction” in the open market is not to be infringed. “Let the gods have all the worship they want, and all the games that they want, to enjoy them with (and at the expense of) their worshipers, just so long as they ensure the satisfactory state of affairs against threat from enemies, plague, or disaster” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 138). [Here, Augustine is ethically dichotomous; namely, he uses the state to remove the religious and political freedoms of heretics who nonetheless might live or pursue moral lives, while at the same time, he intercedes for condemned prisoners, and advocates a de facto libertine/libertarian ethos for sexual sins.]
In the City of God, Book 4: “Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale. What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention … For it was a witty and a truthful rejoinder which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great. The king asked the fellow, ‘What is your idea, in infesting the sea?’ And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, ‘The same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate; but because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor’ ” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 139).
In the City of God, Book 14: “We see that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching to the point of contempt for God, the heavenly city by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self.” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 143). In Book 15, Augustine divides the human race accordingly, and contrasts Abel as a citizen of the City of God, and Cain of the city of man. “Scripture tells us that Cain founded a city (Gen. 4:17), whereas Abel, as a pilgrim, did not found one … The first founder of the earthly city was, as we have seen, a fratricide; for, overcome by envy, he slew his own brother, a citizen of the eternal city, on pilgrimage in this world” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 144, 146). Isaac and Ishmael are likewise contrasted. [This use of allegory proves common in church history, and is also prone to eisegetical inserts.]
Paulus Orosius (ca. 375-418), in his seven-volume Anti-Pagan History, covers the fall of Adam to A.D. 417, arguing that sinful human nature is in need of the providential discipline of “alternating good and evil.” Providence is thus seen in Babylon, Macedon, Carthage and finally, a glorified Rome. He embraces the empire of Pax Romana that unites pagans and Christians in a simple monotheism of “one God, one human race, one church, one seat of earthy power” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 165). [Here, the original definition of good and evil (Genesis 2:9) begs definition, and the method of a comprehensive monism again intrudes.]
Part 2 is “Late Antiquity and Romano-Germanic Christian Kingship.” With the gradual decline of the Roman Empire, separate political and ecclesiastical domains emerge between the eastern and western ends of the Mediterranean. In the West, political identity lies in the collapse Rome’s administration and the rise of Germanic kingdoms. In the East, maintaining the imperium of Constantinople is the ever weakening goal in the face of Persian intentions, followed by the surprise of Islam’s birth and expansions.
There are three epochs. First is Late Antiquity, in which the “apostolic primacy” of the bishop of Rome gains ascendency, and with it a separate yet reciprocating tension between priestly and imperial spheres of jurisdiction, where the “spiritual” superiority of the church is declared. The Justinian Code emerges, where the emperor, in protecting the church, is above the law. Second is the Post-Justinian “Dark Age,” where the episcopacy becomes the model of rule within Christian society, insisting that secular rulers both imitate and revere spiritual rulers. Political rule is thus a ministry of the church.
And third is the Carolingian Empire, in the eighth century, where a forged document called The Donation of Constantine claims that Constantine transfers ecclesiastical authority to Rome, in the fourth century, prior to moving his royal court to Constantinople. The Roman bishop thus asserts temporal authority over all Christendom. With the later ascendency of the Frankish Charlemagne, he is thus anointed, crowned and proclaimed king through an act of the episcopacy – Charlemagne as the new Constantine. The Carolingian prelates also believe that their actions, in anointing secular rulers, are not subject to the pope. A properly instructed monarch vindicates the right, punishes the wrong and thus protects the Christian moral order.
Gelasius I (d. 496) is pope for his last four years, and faces the conflict between the Chalcedonian and Monophysite confessions over the nature of Christ. Eastern emperor Anastasius heads a church confessing Chalcedon, but leans toward Monophysitism, so Gelasius intervenes and takes “authority” as the universal pope, declaring that the sacred and political must be separated, that the church has authority over the state in theological matters.
In the Bond of Anathema: “… it is clear that secular power cannot ‘bind and loose’ a pontiff” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 179). This language is taken from the words of Jesus to Peter (Matthew 16:18-19) and used across papal history as a singular clause to claim total authority, in the claim that the bishop of Rome uniquely inherits this mantle, and interprets it in contrast to secular and other churchly power apart from the context in Matthew. [Gelasius here evidences a clear point in the cascade of reactions in his opposition to secular power.] In Letter to Emperor Anastasius, the “two rules” doctrine is stated: “Two there are, august Emperor, by which this world is ruled: the consecrated authority of priests and of the royal power. Of these the priests have greater responsibility, in that they will have to give account before God’s judgment seat for those who have been kings of men” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 179).
Agapetos (fl. 530), a deacon of Hagia Sophia, exalts the place of the emperor and presents the rationale for a welfare state. In Heads of Advice: “In the substance of his body the king is the equal of all men; in the authority of his position he is like God over all … Count your kingdom safe when you rule with consent … The treasury of benevolence is never spent. In giving, we receive, in distributing we gather” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 184, 185, 186). [And again, the intrusion of socialism.]
Justinian (482-565) is self-consciously a Christian emperor (527-565) who understands his theological identity in government. His legal corpus, the Justinian Code, provides the basis for what centuries later becomes known as “civil law.” He uses the law against heresy and schisms, and directly opposes the “two rules” of Gelasius, claiming jurisdiction over ecclesiastical estates, but within practical restraints.
In Codex I.5.18: “And finding many astray in various heresies … they may not summon a public assembly for irreligious and contemptible discourse or practice [opposite the biblical love of hard questions]; and that they may not lawfully be able to transfer property … save that the person …shall embrace the orthodox faith … only the orthodox children shall inherit from their father and mother …” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 191-192). [Thus, the use of state power crushes not only religions and political liberty, but economic liberty as well.] In Codex III.1.14, judges who are under oath to Roman law must have a copy of the Holy Scriptures placed before the bench.
Gregory I (540-604) becomes pope in 590 at the theoretical founding of the Romano-Germanic kingship, advancing a biblical (cf. Romans 13:1-7) and Augustinian basis for government equally applicable to royal and ecclesiastical concerns. An emperor seeks the righteousness of his subjects, and gains an eternal royal soul accordingly. Gregory also sees wicked rulers as God’s punishment on a people who in their own corruptions invite tyranny, giving the example of Saul.
Isidore of Seville (ca. 560-636) gives the church a theory of law. It involves a twofold definition of divine and human; three classifications of ius naturale, ius gentium and ius civile; law’s normative character and coercive purpose; and the placement of canon, statute and reason over unwritten custom. Natural law remains the transcendent norm given its instinctive power, and thus, reflects a prelapsarian Adamic state devoid of private property, slavery and political rule. [So whereas he roots himself in creation, sin and redemption, he also interpolates a lack of private property in the Garden sans any textual explanation.]
In Sentences, Book 3: “Servitude was imposed upon the human race by divine decree as a punishment of the first man … Though Original Sin has been canceled for all believers [God still imposes deterrence] … making some slaves, others masters, so that the masters’ power may restrict opportunities for the slaves to do wrong … It is a failure on the princes’ part when corrupt judges are appointed in defiance of God’s will in Christian nations” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 206, 208). In Etymologies, Book 5: Moses is the first to publish divine laws; all laws are either divine or human; right, law and morality have distinctions; rights are natural, civil or international.
In O’Donovan’s earlier observations about Isidore, and through the eyes of Rufinus is his commentary on Gratian’s Decretum, he notes the assumption of four “somewhat discontinuous” modes in humanity: “… those of created, fallen, redeemed, and perfected human nature. Each mode had its distinct ethical, legal, and institutional determinations” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 237). Created community begets children per natural law, and serves “unrestrained freedom of persons,” and the common possession of material goods. Fallen community, in contrast, introduces the ius gentium (law of nations) and the ius civile (civil law). These are secondary refractions of the natural law, and establish private property, and the inequality between master and slave, the ruler and ruled, and the “positive” legal curtailment of individual freedom. Redeemed community is constituted In Christ with the “gospel law of faith, hope, and love.” This is raised its highest possible level in the ascending clerical, monastic, and mendicant disciplines. Temporal jurisdiction is understood to be closely aligned, but it is not coterminous with the positive law and its service to fallen human nature. It applies to matters of private property and privilege, and protection of human life and its necessities. Spiritual jurisdiction, on the other hand, extends to “those institutions and communities constituted by the laws of created, redeemed and sanctified human nature: marriage and family, monastic community and religious confraternity, churches, charitable and educational institutions” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 238). The method of creation, sin and redemption.
As the iconoclastic controversy breaks out under Emperor Leo III, explained as necessary to convert Jews and Muslims, John of Damascus (670-750) is an administrator under the caliph in Damascus, but later becomes a monk and priest under the patriarch of Jerusalem. He fiercely opposes Leo as a heretic, and justifies a distinction between the Old and New Testaments that permits icons. In Second Speech against Those Who Reject Images, John says that “Kings have no rights to make laws for the church … Kings have responsibility for political welfare, pastors and teachers for the state of the church” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 213-214).
Jonas of Orléans (ca.780-842/43) in The Institution of the King, advances Gelasius’s dualism so as to incorporate the king within the church, subjecting him to priestly oversight. The monarch receives authority directly from God, but for divine purposes, especially to defend the church. [Indeed, when the church depends on the state for identity or protection, it is a weak church.]
In On Christian Rulers, Sedulius Scottus (fl. 840-860), an émigré Irish scholar in France, insists on the piety of the king, his service is to protect the church, and thus he ministers by governing. He itemizes requisites for godly governing such as heeding divine counsels over human ones, reliance on prudent counselors, truth, patience, generosity, affability in speech, correction or suppression of evil men, friendship with good men, modest taxations, and equality of justice between the rich and poor. This language is a good example of the relentless emphasis, across church history, on the need for Christian rulers to be godly in conduct toward their subjects, and across a range of polity interpretations.
The Donation of Constantine is a letter by a Roman cleric ca. 755/760, purporting to cede authority over the Byzantium church in the fourth century, in Constantine’s name, to the Church of Rome. Rome takes full advantage of what is proven to be a ruse in the fifteenth century. The letter roots itself in a declaration that the keys given to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 refers to the Roman pontiff, and also proclaims that he is also “over all the churches of God in all the world” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 229).
Part 3 is “The Struggle over Empire and the Integration of Aristotle.” From the eighth century onward, the claims of the papacy grow, served by justification in the Justinian Civil Code, and as it interfaces with political power in the “plenary indulgences” offered to those who join the First Crusade. A papal political theology emerges en route to a doctrine of papal infallibility, one where papal dignity oversees spiritual and temporary rule, in a growing hegemony of Rome with its legal and administrative centralization of power. In the thirteenth century this is challenged by the Franciscan mendicancy.
Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, a power struggle between empire and the Roman Church becomes locked in a competition between competing expansive desires. Gregory VII strives to fulfill “Rome’s universal mission of Christianizing conquest,” being the final monarchy of the visions in Daniel 8-9. He thus battles French and German kings over their lay investiture, i.e., the asserted power of kings to appoint clerics, viewing such as Satanic in pretense. There is kickback in royal assertions to supremacy, that of “law-centered” versus “Christ-centered.” Aristotle reenters the equation as the Latin West applies his naturalism to ethics, law and politics, so that a natural law theology of a distinct nature from that of patristic theology emerges. [In fact, what biblically original ideas do we see in church history relative to political theology, and is not the periodic retreat to Aristotle – understanding his many good observations, but still within pagan presuppositions – a confession of the same?]
Gregory VII (Hildebrand, ca. 1015/28-1085), is pope from 1073 until his death. He is the architect of the papal church, makes relentless claims to Rome’s total authority, and roots his (doctrine in the “power of the keys” adapted from Jesus’s words to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 [but without defining the context, and attributing to it extraordinary top-down power to one man]. “[T]he programmatic bent of his mind and totalitarian bent of his will are also evident … For Hildebrand the warring kingdoms of Christ and the devil, of obedient love of God and tyrannous self-love, are coterminous with the church militant that is obedient to Petrine authority [,] and the community of ignorance and refusal of papal sovereignty, in bondage to humanly invented substitutes” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 241).
In Dictatus Papae, Hildebrand lists 27 one-sentence imperatives, including: 1) the Roman Church is founded by God alone, 2) the Roman pontiff alone is to be called universal, 9) his feet along are to be kissed by all princes, 12) he may depose emperors, 19) he is judged by no one, and 22) the Roman Church has never erred, nor ever will. In Letter 8.21, Gregory VII defends his prerogative to excommunicate Henry IV of Germany over the matter of appointing bishops: “Let kings and princes fear lest the higher they are raised above their fellows in life, the deeper they may be plunged in everlasting fire” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 248).
Norman Anonymous (fl. Ca. 1100) is the attributed author of thirty-four anti-papal tracts in the face of Hildebrand. His royalist theology is set against Hildebrand’s use of the “power of the keys.” Earthly kings rule over the entire body of Christians, and have authority to institute bishops. In The Consecration of Bishops and Kings: “But when a priest is instituted by a king, it is not by human power that he is instituted, but divine. For the king’s power is God’s power, the king’s by grace … Peter and the other apostles received the keys of the kingdom from Christ before they entered the priestly office but when they were already partners in Christ’s rule of his disciples, which shows that these keys belong properly not to priests but to kings” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 256, 258). [Here, Norman makes an intuitive counter-claim to the nature of the “keys,” one that is diagnostically accurate, but still presupposing a definition of the priesthood not presumed in the text itself, and without any further attempt at exegeting the whole passage.]
Honorius Augustodunensis (ca. 1080/90-1156) is a popular theological writer, in Canterbury then likely in an Irish monastic community. He believes that the priesthood’s superior jurisdictional authority, beyond establishment in Christ, is also divinely revealed in history. He expands the eighth-century Donation of Constantine beyond ecclesiastical domains to all empires, and the Donation is less a gift to Pope Sylvester II in the eighth century than a restitution of what history proves.
In Summa Gloria he begins with the assumption of a clergy/laity distinction, rooted thus: “Adam begat two sons from his wife, as Christ ordained the clergy and people should take their origin from his spouse the church. Now each son represented one of the two orders in the work he did” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 261-262) – Abel as a shepherd and Cain as a farmer, the former the priestly, the latter the people. Of Cain: “Also, is it not written that he begot children, since the priestly rule of the Church is kept separate from carnal union; he [Abel] was killed by his brother since priestly rule is often oppressed by royal rule. On the other hand, Cain, who cultivated the land and founded a state in which he was also king, showed forth the type of royal rule” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 262). [Language is imported based on later assumptions about the priestly and royal, including the introduction of the question of celibacy.]
The same allegorical pattern is seen in the sons of Noah, Shem and Japheth; and the sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. “Thus it was that from the time of Moses right unto the time of Samuel the people of God were governed not by kings but by priests, and the judges, who seemed to have command of the people in secular matters, were controlled in everything by the decree of the priests. However, when the people refused to be governed by the gentle rule of the priests …” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 264), they invite the kingship of Saul on forward, as Honorius argues for the separation of priestly and kingly rule, with the former being superior.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) founds of the most successful Cistercian house in Europe, respects papal government and its boundaries placed on Roman rule, but also deeply opposes papal collusion with worldly greed, especially of prelates in their ecclesiastical appeals system. In On Consideration, Book 2, writing of the pope: “It is hardly fitting for you to be found relaxing in luxury or wallowing in pomp … Go out into the field of your Lord and consider how even today it abounds with thorns and thistles of the ancient curse” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 272).
John of Salisbury (1115/20-1180), an ecclesiastical bureaucrat, is regarded as having written the first treatise on political theory. He opposes the internal intrigues of the priestly court, and in drawing on classical sources, envisions an organic and harmonious whole, while he also broaches the question of tyrannicide. The sword of the prince comes from the Church, and a tyrant “is for the most part even to be killed.”
Rufus the Canonist (fl. 1150-ca. 1191) teaches canon law at Bologna, and is responsible for revolutionizing medieval canonist study. He systemizes and looks for discernible principles to simply an increasingly complex corpus, and uses creation, sin and redemption as his method, making analogy with it and natural law, civil law and the law of nations. He begins in the Preface to Summa Decretorum: “Before the Fall the human creature enjoyed an exalted dignity, upheld, as it were, on two strings, the rectitude of justice and the lucidity of knowledge. The one served to protect his engagements with human beings, the other gave him access to heavenly mysteries. But through the mounting envy of the Devil, the rectitude of his justice was dragged down by the oppressive weight of vice, and the light of knowledge darkened by the fog of error … Yet since the law did not achieve perfection, as the Apostle testifies, in the fullness of time God sent his Son, through whom he instituted for us a law of life, a spotless law converting souls (Ps. 19:7), which, in a happy expression, we call the Gospel” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 299). [Rufus makes intuitive assumptions here, but without defining his choice of language from the text.]
In Part I: “Natural law is a kind of natural propulsion, implanted by nature in each human being, to do good and to avoid evil … This natural law, though, was surrounded by such confusion as a result of original sin … Later natural law was reestablished through the Ten Commandments written on two tables, yet it was not restored completely … To remedy this, the Gospel was substituted, in which natural law was restored entirely, and so, perfected” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 300). [Substituted in the sense of a swap, or rather, fulfilled in redemptive trajectory?] The forcible repulsion of violence and overcoming of injustice is ascribed to natural law, and the laws of worldly leaders is to be judged as to its fidelity to “the Gospels and the canons.” [Rufus introduces the language of the “two tables,” to which we will return later, likewise the matter of the devil’s agency is foundational in my own political theology.] In Part 2, no laws congruent with natural law can be dispensed with, whereas in the simplification of canon law, others can; and “just war” is defined and defended.
Nikephoros Blemmydes (1197-1272) lives in Nicaea after Constantinople is captured by the Crusaders in 1204. He is a monk who begins in court circles. In Adrias Basilikos, he sums up the Byzantine view of the king (basileus) as the embodiment of the state, the foundation for society through the political and economic provisions – a thought completely distinct from the Latin West. “If then, the king transcends all men, and philosophy transcends all sciences and art … Kingship is the image and power of God, and philosophy is in the image of God’s wisdom … a king is the foundation of a people … and should constantly be hearing solemn hymns in his own praise” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 307, 308). [Modern socialism again gains advance notice, and it is pure idolatry for a king to receive such hymns. And too, the king, being above a philosophy that governs the sciences, is in contrast to a theology underneath God that proves to be the “queen of the sciences.”]
Bonaventure (1217-1274), is elected minister general of the Franciscans in 1257, and faces increased relaxation on the Franciscan vow of poverty, so that the movable goods of the monks belong to the pope, immovable goods to their donors. This contrasts with the original idea that the mendicants are to live in perpetual poverty and be sustained by continual begging. Bonaventure argues theologically and legally that the practice of absolute poverty is central to Christ’s teaching and example. He defines four communities where each has difference sources of right: natural necessity, brotherly love, worldly civil society and ecclesiastical endowment to a community holding them as dedicated to God. “Thus he portrayed the Minorite [Franciscan friar] ‘way’ as a recovery of the original and just use of the earth’s bounty belonging to Adamic community – not, however, a direct return to prelapsarian nature but a restoration mediated by participation in the Cross of Christ” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 311). [This is an economics that also makes absolute Christ’s incarnational purposes en route to the cross, but does not address what makes for an economically prosperous and just society that can produce enough surplus to sustain those who beg.]
Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274) has three areas in his organization of political thought – rule, law and justice. He advocates the necessity of free political rule, opposite servitude, rooted in prelapsarian innocence, yet continuing in the postlapsarian world.
In terms of rule, the chief concern is the common good, maintaining the need to redress “crimes against faith,” recognizes the issue of tyrannicide, but he does not formally endorse it. In the matter of law, his method proves to be creation, sin and redemption, or as O’Donovan puts it: “the working of created nature, sinful disposition, or justifying and sanctifying grace” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 324). Natural law is primary, and in the face of sin, the coercive power of law is in place. With respect to justice, issues such as slavery and usury are central.
In Summa Theologiae 1a.90-102 (On the First Making Man), Aquinas says there is a “necessary disparity among men” even before the fall, in terms of man and woman, master and slave, that in such a state of “innocence,” such control is assumed, noting that social life is not possible “unless one of their number were set in authority to care for the common good … [and] if there were one man more wise and righteous than the rest, it would have been wrong if such gifts were not exercised on behalf of the rest … This is ordained by the natural order, for thus did God create man” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 328). [But, here, Aquinas does not show how women are subjugated in the order of creation, nor even of the existence of slaves, and the question arises as to how one man might rule “over” another.]
In Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, Book 2, civil disobedience toward unjust authority is necessary, as in martyrdom. In On Kingship, Book 1, there are three forms of unjust government – tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. “Therefore, since the rule of one man, which is the best, is to be preferred, and since it may happen that it be changed into a tyranny,” a lawful means must be in place to remedy the situation, but tyrannicide is “not in accord with apostolic teaching” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 332, 333).
In Book 2: “Looking at the world as a whole, there are two works of God to be considered: the first is creation; the second, God’s government of the things created” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 336). A kingdom is established in creation and it is ordered: “[We] observe that difference species are distributed in different parts of the world: stars in the heavens, fowls in the air, fishes in the seas, and animals on the land … Moses has minutely and carefully set forth this plan of how the world was made (Gen. 1:1-31)” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 337). [This observation of speciation is important, and will later be revisited.] From this starting point, Aquinas moves to the need to distinguish spiritual from earthy things; kingdom authority thus belongs to priests not kings, to the pontiff as chief priest and successor to Peter, and all Christians and kings are to be subject to him, with the city of Rome as the seat of power. Royal power is to serve eternal beatitudes under the pope.
In Summa Theologiae 1a2ae.90-108 (On Law), Aquinas says that the commonwealth cannot flourish unless the citizens are virtuous, rooted in the unalterable realities of natural law, and a king is to serve this goal. He says that law cannot envisage every particular case, thus the common welfare is in view for the majority of cases, and then dealing with exceptions. The “best form of constitution [is] a mixture of monarchy, in that one man is at the head, of aristocracy, in that many rule as specially qualified, and democracy, in that matters can be chosen from the people and by them” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 353). [The observation about general law and application to particular cases begs further definition and reconciliation, to which we will return later. As well, the instinct of checks and balances on power arises in most forms of political theology in church history, testifying to a deeper reality of plurality and accountability in leadership, so even in the instance of one man being in a primary role, it is a matter of service, not domination.]
In Summa Theologiae 2a2ae.23-46 (On Charity): A just war requires a) the authority of the ruler, b) an unjust attack against the domain and c) right intention for good purpose or to avoid evil. In Summa Theologiae 2a2ae.57-122 (On Justice): The ius gentium is a natural right, but not a positive right (the nations have not assembled to articulate and agree to it). The community of goods is part of natural law, but its distribution is part of positive law, including the goodness of charity. “Nevertheless, profit, which is the point of commerce, while it might not carry the notion of anything right or necessary, does not carry the notion of anything vicious or contrary to virtue either … Marking a charge for lending money is unjust itself, for one party sells the other something non-existent, and this obviously sets up an inequality which is contrary to justice” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 360-61). Aquinas represents an early trajectory away from viewing money and private wealth as evil, but in all cases the church opposes any predatory financial practices (despite the many hypocrisies that are known to be thus). [The question of interest as referring to something “non-existent” deserves further redress].
Giles of Rome (ca. 1243-1316), as a theologian and diplomat, gives an apologia for extreme papal heirocracy. His political cosmology is rooted in “the two swords,” as he makes his argument from nature and Scripture: “… that ‘the order of the universe … requires the lowest things to be brought to the highest through an intermediary,’ which, transposed to the political order, requires the earthly spiritual authority to mediate between the inferior temporal and divine authorities” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 363). In On Ecclesiastical Power, Part 3, the church, i.e., the pontiff, can appoint or depose political leaders “just as the church transferred even the empire from the East to the West …” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 371).
James Capocci of Viterbo (d. 1308) is more moderate in tone while defending papal supremacy. In On Christian Government, Parts 1 and 2, he speaks of parallel distinctions between “natural” priesthoods and kingships, as human institutions; and “spiritual” priesthoods and kingships, as divine institutions. Temporal kingship is to be governed by the papal church.
Part 4 is “Political Community, Spiritual Church, Individual Right and Dominium.” The battle between Boniface VIII and Philip IV, king of France (and others including Edward I of England) is protracted in power claims against power claims. First, Philip resists undue papal meddling, being supported by many French clergy; then Boniface issues a bull forbidding governments from taxing clergy without the approval of Rome; in 1302 Philip imprisons a bishop for treason; later the same year, Boniface issues his Bull Unam Sanctam declaring extreme papal authority, but it is rejected by the Estates General and many French clergy; in 1303 Boniface confirms the disputed choice of Albert of Hapsburg as Holy Roman Emperor, as ruler of all other rulers including Philip, all under the pope; Philip accuses the pope of various crimes including heresy; the Colonnas Italian nobility seizes Boniface, treats him harshly, he is rescued, but is physically and psychologically broken, and dies shortly thereafter.
With this drama, papal domination is over. The growth of European nation-states is a harbinger toward increasing secularism, as interdependence between political theory and ecclesiology continues, but with a marked difference, namely, the idea that general concepts and principles are now equally applicable to both parties. The idea of political community, in the Aristotelian vein, reasserts itself where the people are the sovereigns for political authority and law, a self-sufficient polity. All rulers in the church and civil sphere are said said to receive their authority directly from God. The direction toward a nonjurisdictional church, toward a more totally spiritualization of identity, now begins. The rights of individual power in the polis thus grows in assertion.
John of Paris (ca.1250-1306), in reaction to Bull Unam Sanctam writes On Royal and Papal Power. He opposes the papal “plenitude of power,” and in specific, the pope’s authority over monastic property. Paris points out the text of the Donation of Constantine does not include France [a technical point], and a pope is subject to being judged when in error.
Dante (1265-1321), living in the tumultuous Italian states in face of centralized Rome, opts for the latter. In Monarchia, he makes three principal arguments. First, the universal monarchy is needed to bring human freedom and peace. Second, the Roman people have universal empire and the right to rule by divine and natural right. And third: “[T]he goals and foundations of empire and church are so disparate, their earthly heads must be independently constituted and must act independently. In defending the full scope of the emperor’s temporal jurisdiction, he undermines the papal claim of ‘plenitude of power’ ” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 414). In Book 1: “… all concord depends on the unity of the wills … But this is impossible unless there is one will which dominates all others and holds them in unity … Consequently a Monarch is essential to the well-being of the world (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 421, 422). [The coercion of monism continues …].
Marsilius of Padua (ca. 1275/1280-ca.1342/1343) in Defensor Pacis (“Defender of the Peace”), earns the anathema of John XXII, and has to flee for his life, in his advance of secular political monism over and against hierocratic papal monism. He works with the Averrroist (Islamic/Aristotelian syncretism) idea of keeping a distance between living well in this world versus the one to come; with Augustine’s advocacy for the temporal government holding primary judicial authority in determining and punishing wrongdoers, increasing it to exclusivity; and Aristotle’s view that the people are the original and perpetual source for political authority and law. In opposing papal plenitude and in advancing a nonjurisdictional ecclesiology rooted in Scripture, he anticipates the Reformation. In Discourse 1: “For a defect in some proposed law can be better noted by the greater number than by any part thereof, since every whole, or at least every corporeal whole, is greater in mass and in virtue than any part of it taken separately” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 433). [An excellent metaphor for the wisdom for checks and balances on power].
In Discourse 2: “… that the priesthood or the priestly office of the New Testament was first established by Christ alone, who, however, renounced all secular rulership and temporal lordship … determination of doubtful questions belongs only to a general council composed of all Christians or of the weightier part of them, or to those persons who have been granted such authority by the whole body of Christian believers (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 447, 450).
William of Ockham (ca. 1285-1347) is first an Oxford theologian (nonpolitical) and that of a refugee to Munich (political). He dies excommunicated and unreconciled with Avignon Pope John XXII over his view that John is heretical in the dispute concerning the evangelical poverty of the Franciscans. Ockham argues for an original “natural right” of Adamic nature in creation relative to the legal rights of ownership, and refuses to identity it with regal or imperial law. He elevates epistemology over political authority, defining both in nonabsolute and less institutional ways. This opens the door to regular believers to intervene in matters of heresy. Papal authority is to be limited, and Roman Christians have an original natural and divine right to elect the pope. The rights and freedoms of humankind are rooted in the Adamic community, and “On these grounds he argues explicitly for the rights of unbelievers, not subject to papal rule, to exercise jurisdiction and ownership … he extols the gospel law as the law of freedom” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 456-457).
In A Dialogue on Papal and Royal Dignity, In Part 3, Treatise 1: “But if the church had power to change a regime that has begun to be less beneficial … it has power to change rule by one into rule by many” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 460). In Treatise 2, Ockham argues that the form of government assumed to exist in the state of innocence is not better than that in the fall or in glory, because before the fall there is no need for government; and too, peaceful coexistence with unbelievers is possible. [And this is an assumption – no government in Eden, sans evidence from the text.]
In Eight Questions on Papal Power, Question 2, Ockham argues that property or power comes “immediately from God” and there is no papal authority to claim the power to define property rights over the Franciscan mendicants, and to make such a claim is heretical. The pope can only be a mediator and steward of a trust given him by them. In A Short Discourse on the Tyrannical Ascendency of the Pope, Book 3, Ockham argues for a common lordship in the state of innocence, that it would have continued sans the introduction of sin, and unbelievers are not to be deprived in the freedom to establish jurisdiction.
Nicolas Cabasilas (ca. 1322-ca. 1392) is a spiritual writer who interfaces with the politics of civil war within Byzantium, and in his polemics, he attacks the expropriation and taxation of monastic lands by (unidentified) lay and clerical persons. In Rulers’ Illegal Outrages against Sacred Property: “Monasteries possess landed property, dwellings, villages, estates, and similar sources of revenue. These should be left for the use of the monks to whom the original donors donated it … I would agree that rulers have a right to manage subjects’ property, but this does not extend to private, only to common property … Very well, examine both sides of the case … How could there ever be a stable form of government which made it impossible to live in freedom? Freedom has no equivalent, no exchange value in the life of men, whether in currency, lands, or honor” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 477, 479, 480). Here, Cabasilas makes a robust call in the middle of controversy: examine both side of the case. [This instinct is deeply rooted in the definition of human freedom in the level playing field presented in Genesis 2:16-17 between akol tokel and moth tamuth (and will be exegeted accordingly), that which is radically fulfilled by Jesus in his Passion Week debate, and thus proves to be the paradigm for changing any human political paradigm for the penultimate best (also to receive due attention)].
John Wyclif (1330-1384) writes much on political theology in the civil war period between the English crown and the papal court, with special concern about church taxation. He roots his political theology in God’s original grant of lordship to Adam, and in addressing the realities of the sinful necessity of civil lordship thereafter, views the monarch as having divine mandate, and equates slavery and political subjection in the same class.
In Divine Lordship, Wyclif views property as sinful, in particular among lords, and “Moreover, our Savior and the apostles did not desire to have a proprietorial lordship, but a communicative one, benefitting the condition of pilgrims on the way to acquiring an eternal lordship” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 487). But later, he moderates his views, so long as civil property is not used to dispossess others in need. In Civil Lordship, he roots the same concern in Matthew 6:33 (“Seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God, and all these things will be added to you”). He challenges any papal attempt to “improve upon Christ’s law” and take ownership of gifts given to monasteries. In The Truth of Holy Scripture, all goods given to the church by secular lords are for the clergy to protect “primitive religion,” who thus become lords of the gifts as stewards.
Again, in Civil Lordship: Wyclif, in opposing heritable claims to power, states: “But since the Fall the succession of generations always involves a breach in charity (as is proved by the fact that original sin obstructs charity). Since the Fall, therefore, no one has succeeded to a continuous lordship … From this we conclude that every Christian king, knight, or civil lord of any kind owes more to his spiritual Father (his principal Lord by hereditary succession) than to his earthly father” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 508).
In The King’s Office, Wyclif states: “So God must have two representatives (vicarii) in his church, the king in temporal matters and the priest is spiritual. The king must restrain the disobedient with severity” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 509). And again, in Civil Lordship: “If the temporal lord does not treat his slave as he would wish to be treated in similar circumstance, he lapses from charity, an so from civil lordship; but since “slave” and “master” are correlative terms, the slave ipso facto lapses from civil slavery” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 512).
At the end of the fourteenth century, Byzantium is reduced to little more than Constantinople, is under pressure from the Turks, Russia is under the Mongols, and the Orthodox kingdoms of Serbia and Bulgaria waver between Greek and Latin allegiance. Finances are perilous, and Antonois IV (Patriarch 1389-1397) writes Basil 1 of Moscow, reasserting his position in Letter 447: “The holy emperor has a great position in the church; he is not like other rulers and local princes are; and this is because the emperors, from the beginning, established and enforced true religion in all the inhabited world; they convoked the ecumenical councils … My son, you are wrong to say, ‘We have a church, but not an emperor.’ It is not possible for Christians to have a church and not an emperor. Church and empire are entirely one and interwoven, and cannot be separated (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 515, 516). Opposite Gelasius.
Jean Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429) is central in the diplomatic missions to heal the papal schism between Rome and Avignon, calling a council for that purpose. He affirms the papal plenitude of power, defines the church as clerical [elite] and not as the whole company of believers (as per Marsilius, Ockham and Wyclif). A central concern is to end “schism, heresy, clerical immorality, papal usurpation, and other violations,” which includes the condemnation of Wyclif and Jan Hus as heretics.
In On Church Power and the Origin of Law and Right, he maintains that church power is supernatural in origin, legitimate to the end of time, and is formally and subjectively resident in the Roman pontiff. “Three types of secular community are distinguished in Aristotle’s Politics (1279a32ff.): kingdom, aristocracy and what he calls by the general term ‘polity,’ which we can translate ‘timocracy’ [landowners]” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 528). Analogously, the papal, collegial, and synodal government (i.e., of a General Council) exists within the church. “The papacy is like a monarchy, the college of cardinals like an aristocracy, the General Council like a timocracy. Or, more accurately, it is like the perfect political community which is a blend of all three” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 529). [This has some sense of checks and balances, but still, a plutocracy with one ruler in their midst is in control.]
John Fortescue (ca. 1395-1477), influential theorist of English Common Law, addresses a political theology that a) grounds kingship in the law of nature, and b) makes a distinction between “royal rule” and “royal and political rile.” He uses natural law to address the matter of royal succession, where natural law is superior, being the original justice, remains unchanged by the sin of Adam, applying now to the fallen world. In this context, he subordinates women to men per natural law [exegesis of Genesis 1-2 shows otherwise], excluding them from the exercise of royal power and passing it along to progeny. “Royal rule” originates in conquest and subjection; whereas “royal and political rule” is the result of free political association, where the law serves the common good.
In The Nature of the Law of Nature and Its Judgment upon Succession to Sovereign Kingdoms, Part 1, kingly power is congruent with the law of nature, “the state of innocence,” and the law of nations did not then exist. Sin intrudes, but does not change the law of nature, as divine providence is firm and immutable. In Part 2, he says the woman is given the greater punishment for her sin, as the war between her seed and the serpent’s seed is prophesied, and woman is fixed in the law of nature to always be under the power of the man – i.e., before and after sin – though multiplied in the latter since her transgression was a presumption “to direct the man.” [This view of women carries with it presuppositions upon the text that prove not to be there, and will be examined in due course.] In A Treatise in Commendation of the Laws of England, Fortescue affirms Augustine in the nature of a society being organized by consent of the people for the common good, also with the need for it to be governed by one who is normally called a king (rex, a regendo).”
For Nicholas of Kues (1401-1464), church councils are more “certain” and “infallible” than papal decrees, and political representation inheres in the bond of mutual consent, as in marriage. The authority of rulers resides in free and public consent. In The Catholic Concordance, Book 2, he says all are equal in power (potentes) as rooted in natural law, and the ruler cannot violate it, nor overrule canon law. [Checks and balances on power and a prelude to the consent of the governed.]
Part 5 is “Renaissance, Reformation, and Radicalism: Scholastic Revival and the Consolidation of Legal Theory.” In the late fifteenth century the next sea change begins within the migrations of political theory. The tradition of the theocratic kingship is still strong, but there begins to emerge a newer concept of political sovereignty – moving from the pre-modern into early modern. The Renaissance revives political writings such as utopian speculation and sermonic satire. The biblical humanist and Reformers focus on the original Hebrew and Greek texts, confronting ecclesiastical hermeneutics of the papal church head-on. Thomistic legal and political theory gains revival, as the neo-scholastics move toward the concept of a Christian commonwealth of nations. Here, such nations are equal in matters spiritual and secular with papal authority. Political authority as rooted in the consent of the governed strengthens its foothold. Northern humanism satirizes the corruption of the papal church, and poses the question on how political society can conform to the teachings of Christ. The Reformers wrestle over a separation between the secular and the spiritual versus their synchronicity.
Thomas More (1478-1535) is a Catholic martyr to Henry VIII is refusing to take an oath to royal supremacy. He engages both Greek philosophy and Christianity in a rational search for spiritual freedom, for a holiness that challenges the complacency that affects most of society, in particular the pride that property and wealth afford. His work, Utopia (Greek u + topos means “no place”), is a satire of a self-selecting island nation, micro-managed, organized through extreme egalitarianism, with no private property, minimal laws, minimal work schedules, permitts divorce, forced celibacy for those guilty of premarital sex, enforced sameness in dress, internal passport for travel, rotating houses for all, a variety of pagan religions (atheism discouraged) and structured slavery; all this represents the “perfect” society. More, in a letter to one Raphael within, challenges him to rethink its folly. The satire is in line with humanist writings designed to cause reflective thinking within the culture, and most critically, in the absence of private property, More believes no society can prosper.
In Utopia, Book 1: “But I am of a contrary opinion, quoth I, for methinketh that men shall never there live wealthily where all things be common. For how can there be abundance of goods or of anything where everyone withdraweth his hand from labour? Whom the regard of his own gains driveth not to work, but to the hope that he hath in other men’s travails maketh him slothful” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 567). In sum, if such were a reality, the Utopians would “change their mind if they lived there” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 569).
Erasmas (1466/69-1536) of Rotterdam, scholar, humanist and dedicated to the Greek text of the New Testament, extols the ideal of a Christian prince as one of virtue, wisdom, lover of peace and abhorrent of war in Europe, which had become an “armed camp” in pursuit of pettiness, territorial expansion and unrestrained warfare among princes and nations in pursuit of despotic power. He seeks the dismantling of empire through intermarrriage, inheritance and treaties in a stable network of various polities.
In The Complaint of Peace: “Every Christian word, whether you read the Old Testament or the New, reiterates one thing: peace with unanimity; while every Christian life is occupied with one thing: war … Does not the very decision to call the Christian people a church imply a common purpose? What is there in common between the church and an armed camp? … if you have ever seen towns in ruins, villages destroyed, churches burnt, and farmland abandoned and have found it a pitiable spectacle, as indeed it is, reflect that all this is the consequence of war” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 575, 576, 578).
Martin Luther (1483-1546) is, of course, the final catalyst for what becomes the Protestant Reformation; in his passion for a theology of grace, and deep opposition to corruption within the Roman Church, including the sale of plenary indulgences to restore Rome’s finances and underwrite the rebuilding of St. Peter’s basilica. An institutional codification in opposition to the papacy thus comes to pass, and Luther defines his doctrine of “two kingdoms” where a believer is a full member of both church and the civitas, being two souls simultaneously – the Christ-person subject only to Christ’s commands, and the Weltperson, entangled within a network of societal obligations. [This two-souled reality is rooted in James 1:6-8 for a “double-minded man” who is unstable due to doubt, namely, the Greek term used by the apostle is di-psuchos, of “two souls.”] Luther notes the internal entanglement of such a balancing act.
In Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, Luther supports the sword of civil law existing “from the beginning of the world.” It is necessary after Cain kills Abel, and in the wake of the flood, quoting Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” The “children of Adam” are divided into two kingdoms, those of God and those of the world, with the former being in no need of “prince, king, lord, or law” except that the world is now under sin. There can be no compulsion to believe in the Gospel, and heresy cannot be restrained by force of the civil law. Temporal authority thus has its limits. [Luther here too assumes no need for human government in the order of creation, but without defining it in the text.]
In The Sermon in the Mount, Luther quotes Matthew 5:38-40: “You have heard that it was said: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you: Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well […] ” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 597). He says this text is greatly misunderstood, being too strict in the face of social evil as it were. He thus references John 18:22- 23, where Jesus does not offer his other check after being struck by an official of the high priest Annas. Though this may appear inconsistent, Luther says the context indicates that the sermon is only addressed to Christians. [First, the Sermon on the Mount is not addressed to Christians, but to his Jewish disciples before the resurrection and before their latter identity as Jewish Christians among Gentiles. Second, Luther makes good reference to John 18, but could have translated the Greek terms involved. In Matthew, the term is rapizo for an open-handed slap meant to induce shame. In John, rapizo is used first for the action of the official, but the context shows it to mean the backside of an open hand to cause injury. This is seen as Jesus challenges this “strike” as against the Law of Moses (“testify as to what is wrong”), using the term dereis for being “struck” or “beaten” with force: “Why did you strike me?”]
For those who serve the work, or who do the work of a ruler or a judge: “This would mean that the two persons or the two types of office are combined in one man …There is no getting around it, a Christian has to be a secular person of some sort … he is not doing this as a Christian, but as a soldier or judge or lawyer (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 598, 599, 600). [This language profiles the depth of the struggle for a person to tap dance between situational identities; “double-mindedness” being required for Christian discipleship.]
In Trade and Usury, marketplace maximizing of profits is scorned. Rather, temporal authorities should regulate what profit is necessary to afford an adequate living, computed in an egalitarian way relative to any laborer’s wage, and trading companies are viewed as “a bottomless pit of avarice and wrongdoing,” being monopolies, and thus, should be forbidden by law. [Accordingly, Luther advocates a stringent market socialism that has litttle place for economic liberty.]
Francisco de Vitoria (ca. 1483-1546) is a Spanish Dominican theologian who rejects papal political imperialism, believing his authority to be spiritual only. He thus affirms the rights of non-Christians, especially in terms of Native American peoples, who are made equally in God’s image, and hold just title (ius gentium) to their lands. In The American Indians, he affirms, as per Aquinas, that “barbarians” possess true dominion as do Christians, with concomitant economic liberties, and cannot be robbed of their property. The patrimony of the church is not subject to the emperor, the emperor is not master of the world, and “barbarians,” if in rejecting faith, give the Spaniards no pretext to attack them or conduct a “just war” against them.
The Schleitheim Articles (1527) are attributed to Michael Sattler, ex-prior of a Benedictine monastery, and equals a theological statement that later becomes central to Anabaptist churches. It focuses on adult baptism, complete separation from the “world,” rejection of the use of the civil “sword” in its stated pacifism, and likewise, rejection of any civil oaths. In The Brotherly Agreement of Some Children of God Concerning Seven Articles, Sattler articulates “the ban.” “We simply will not have fellowship with evil people, not associate with them, nor participate with them in their abominations … According to Paul’s prescription (1 Tim. 3:7), the shepherd in God’s community should be one who has a completely good reputation among those who are outside the faith” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 634). [This is a contradiction. How is a good reputation possible among those whom you want nothing to do with, and whom you designate as evil according to no ethical criteria?] Sattler rejects the possibility of a Christian magistrate; the sword punishes and kills evildoers, but the Christian only uses words of admonition. “Worldly people are armed with spikes and iron, but Christians are armed with the armor of God – with truth, and with justice, with peace, faith, and salvation, and with the word of God” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 636).
Hans Hergot (d. 1527), a printer in Nürnberg, is executed (the same day Michael Sattler is burned at the stake) for distributing a tract concerning a radically egalitarian and agrarian society, in the genre of early sixteenth century humanist, Lutheran, mystical and apocalyptic strains that merge into the German Peasants’ War and the development of Anabaptism. In The New Transformation of Christian Living, Hergot calls himself “an ordinary man,” saying God will humble all “estates, the villages, castles, nunneries and monasteries,” and abolish all private property. Spiritual and secular authorities will pass away, as both pope and emperor are “dismissed.” All people “will wear one kind of garment which has been produced on the Common in the colours of white, grey, black and blue” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 641). A new tightly organized system of rule is instead put in place, delivered in the imperative tense that obedience to this new order is expected, up front, without question. [This is a nadir in the reality of reactions to reactions, becoming its own intolerant monism, sans any concept of the love of hard questions, and without biblical references given.]
Stephen Gardiner (1497-1555) serves King Henry VIII’s break with Rome in his claim of supremacy over both lay and clerical orders, diplomatically but sill contra Lutheran theological construct of the two kingdoms. In On True Obedience, the king is declared head of the realm and of the church, consistent with the master over the servant, and “the right of the husband’s superiority over the wife.” [Again, this is a supposition to be biblically challenged.] Romans 13:1-4 is emphasized.
Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) is central in his personal presence in major religious colloquies, shaping international Lutheranism in its ecumenical dialogue with Zwinglian and Calvinist reform, along with Catholicism. He seeks to harmonize revelation and reason in a biblically topical methodology. The grasp of natural law in creation, the darkening of human sin and the dialectic of law and gospel are central, with political obedience to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue.
In Loci Communes (1555), he affirms the division of the Law of Moses into three parts: lex moralis, lex cerimonialis, and lex judicalis. “In Moses it is written that God commanded him to make two stone tablets on which God then wrote the Ten Commandments (Deut. 4:13; 10:3f.). This is significant, for the two tablets indicate a distinction among the commandments. The first three commandments speak of the true knowledge of God … the following seven commandments constitute the second” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 653). The fourth commandment of honoring parents is understood as the basis for government authority. [As we will examine, there are no such “two tables,” so that such a distinction in moral and social teaching is arbitrary. The two tablets Moses brings down from Sinai are rooted in the practices of covenantal law, where there is one copy each, for both suzereign and vassal, and in this case, both are housed in the Ark of the Covenant where Yahweh and Israel meet. In other words, each tablet has all Ten “Words” (the literal Hebrew debarim in Exodus 20:1) on it, not three on the one, and seven on the other.]
The assumption of creation, sin and redemption is seen clearly: “In the office of preaching in his Church God wants us to proclaim what he is and how he ennabled human nature in creating it in his own image. But against God’s will, human nature fell away from God, and is no longer the image of God … Christ himself said: Preach in my name repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 657). He also affirms private property with “correct usage.” [But we are still in the image of God, broken though it is (e.g., James 3:9).]
John Calvin (1509-1564) implements a reintegration of the political and ecclesiastical communities, contra Anabaptistic separation and Lutheran coziness, renovates a Gelasian model of two rules, makes them more parallel in nature, yet rooted in a collegial clerical order as the starting point that eventually binds “together the civil and ecclesial realms in a single overarching unity in revelation and salvation” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 664); e.g., his experiment in Geneva. He begins with a “prepolitical” view of the creation order, dimly reflected in fallen human nature, redeemed in the progress through the Law of Moses to the arrival of the Gospel in Jesus Christ. Creation, sin and redemption as method.
In matters of civil law, the first priority is to demonstrate to people their sinfulness, to restrain evildoers, and to teach the elect the process of sanctification. “His consideration of law is primarily concerned to refute the view that Christian politics should be ruled by ‘the law of Moses’ rather than by ‘the law of nations’ (4.20.14)” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 665). But only the moral element of the Law remains in force, sans the ceremonial and judicial. [Though Calvin identifies creation, sin and redemption clearly, he starts with sin in his preaching. But how can anyone grasp the nature and depths of sin, apart from first knowing the image of God in creation, and thus, the hope in redemption? This is the error compounded across the whole history of Christendom, and in all assumptions concerning political theology.]
In Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), Book 3, Chapter 19, Calvin identifies the spiritual and civil kingdoms, and “there exists in man a kind of two worlds, over which different kings and different laws can preside. By attending to this distinction, we will not erroneously transfer the doctrine of the gospel concerning spiritual liberty to civil order” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 668).
In Book 4, Chapter 20, he identifies two extremes, rebellion against princes, or flattery of them. Magistrates do honorable work, but need to be accountable to the church. “Monarchy is prone to tyranny. In an aristocracy, again, the tendency is not less to the faction of a few. While in popular ascendancy there is the strongest tendency to sedition” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 671). God can punish tyrants by Christian or worldly means, citing Moses to Pharaoh and Cyrus to the Medes on behalf of the Jews.
In Letters of Advice 6.1 (On Usury), usury, deception and tyranny are bedfellows. But there are honest business practices, and Calvin makes seven stipulations: 1) no interest from the poor; 2) no neglect of the poor in concern for gain; 3) obedience to the Golden Rule; 4) what is borrowed must be increased by its use; 5) practices do not come from the world, but the word of God; 6) the common good not private advantage is in view; and 7) all within the law.
John Knox (1505-1572), as an exile in Geneva during the reign of Mary Tudor Queen of Scots, concentrates on the “first table” of the Decalogue, argues for the permanent public office of the prophet in the face of violation of God’s law by human law, and the universal city duty to suppress idolatry. English law is accordingly judged guilty in allowing female rule and adherence to “popish religion.”
In The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, he refers to Mary as a “Jezebel” and wicked woman, “a traitoress and bastard.” [A deep and unbiblical misogyny is in place.] In The Appellation of John Knox from the cruel and most unjust sentence against him by the false bishops and clergy of Scotland to the nobilities and estates of Scotland, Knox calls for “true” religion for civil and ecclesiastical rulers, the punishment of malefactors in service to the innocent, and that “false” church leaders – giving space to Satan and malicious men – should be punished with death. In Letter To His Beloved Brethren the Community of Scotland, there is a distinction between kings and the common people, his subjects, “yet in the hope of the life to come he hath made all equal” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 693).
John Ponet (ca. 1514-1556) advocates resistance to blasphemous tyrants in his opposition to Mary Queen of Scots. In A Short Treatise of political power, and of the true Obedience which the Subjects owe to Kings and other civil Governors, with an Exhortation to all true natural Englishmen, he proclaims how Greece, Assyria and Rome have all passed away, but that the law and Gospel remain. He sums up the essence of biblical faith in loving God and neighbor and in the Golden Rule, and in matters of law, but also cites Genesis 9:6 in finding it lawful to kill a tyrant “as Moses had to kill the Egyptian, Phineas the lecherers, and Ehud King Eglon, with such like (Exod. 2:11f.; Num. 25:7f.; Judges 3:14-22); or be otherwise commanded or permitted by common authority upon just occasion and common necessity to kill” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 701).
Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603) gives theological leadership for Presbyterian polity within English church reform under Queen Elizabeth I, giving limit to “common reason” and where civil polity should reflect the “spiritual” polity of a well-ordered church that submits to God’s revelation, thus instituting God’s law. He is in virulent debate with Anglican establishment churchman John Whitgift who says the church should reinforce the monarchy. In The Second Reply against the Second Answer, Cartwright affirms the judicial law of Moses as the norm, and accordingly “… a stubborn idolater, blasphemer, murderer, incestuous person, and such like should be put to death” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 706).
Vindiciae, contra Tyrannos (1579) is the work of a writer using the pseudonym of Stephanus Junius Brutus, published in Edinburgh as a French Huguenot response the Henry III’s Catholic policy of intolerance following the huge 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Massacre. Civil authority is delegated by divine authority, any pledge to a king is thus provisional, and royal tyranny is a felony against the people. “Brutus” argues that the scepter of the ruler is established by the election of the people “to the end that the kings should acknowledge that after God they hold their power and sovereignty from the people [as David is anointed by Samuel] … for it was the people who made the king, not the king the people” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 718, 720). Consent of the governed.
Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) is the leading Spanish scholastic concerned with the ius gentium in rebutting the exclusion of the unbaptized from exercising true political authority as per a theology of “dominion by grace,” thus opposing the Spanish conquest and enslavement of the American peoples. He roots international obligations of equity toward the gentium not in natural law, but in the “habitiual conduct of nations” and a polity’s “natural right” to defend itself against tyranny, i.e., “positive law.” A just war theory is also in place, and innocents are protected.
In Laws and God the Lawgiver, Book 2, the law of nations is rooted in positive law, for though similar to natural law, it is not unchanging in nature and scope: “… the law of nations is not observed by all nations all the time … The conclusion would seem to be that the law of nations is quite strictly human positive law” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 728). This provides for giving ambassadors immunity and security.
In Book 3, the subdividing of the nations is a post-Adamic reality, and Adam is endowed with domestic not political primacy. Thus, it is positive law that governs the nations, not natural law. “… in Holy Scripture … this power viewed as such, is from God … that once power has been transferred to the king, he is then God representative whom we are bound to obey by natural right” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 736). [But is Adam only limited to the domestic, as it were, and is not the oikonomos presupposed for Adam’s ordination to fill and subdue the earth?] In The Three Theological Virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity: On Charity, Disputation 13, War, war is not intrinsically evil and thus not forbidden to Christians, defensive war is sometimes permissible and even required, and offensive war is not intrinsically evil. War is only possible as a last resort, needs legitimate authority, have just cause and reason, and must be properly and fairly conducted.
Richard Hooker (1554-1600) serves the theological consolidation of the Elizabethan Church of England – against Papal, Presbyterian, Puritan and Anabaptist interests – putting his conception of Christ’s law above human law. He defends Anglican discipline and the civil power of “ecclesiastical dominion,” the status quo, and approves of “parliaments, councils and like assemblies” to the extent they support the royalty.
In Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Preface, he maintains that controversy ends only when proper authority and its processes of judgment reaches a decision, and is accordingly obeyed: “Things were disputed before they came to be determined; men afterwards were not to dispute any longer, but to obey” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 746). [This is a form of tyranny, and the opposite to a biblical love of hard questions as we will look at later.] In Book 1, Hooker notes that “man’s ‘depraved mind” reflects the presupposition of corrupted human nature, and thus: “… we may not deny but that the law of nature doth now require of necessity some kind of regiment … Hereupon hath grown in every of these three kinds of distinctions between primary and secondary laws; the one grounded upon sincere, the other built upon depraved nature” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 749, 752).
Johannes Althusius (1557-1638), Dutch thinker, straddles the late medieval and early modern developments, appropriating French Huguenot thought, and applies scientific reasoning to a normative and institutional order. He calls for a social union and a political union, a federal or covenantal order that joins society and polity into one pluralistic order via covenantal associations. All covenants are rooted in that God’s covenant with Israel per “the two tables of the Decalogue.” [Here again the “two tables” fallacy percolates.] In Politica Methodice Digesta, he states: “Politics is the art of associating (consociandi) men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 759). [This is a classic definition of politics in theological context.] All government is a matter of imperium and subjection, beginning with Adam, who is made “master and monarch” of his wife, and all else follows this pattern in the political order, and as such is the predicate for Romans 13:1. [But here again, the order of creation, unexegeted, is misused.]
William Perkins (1558-1602), a Puritan and preaching theologian at Cambridge, emphasizes a definition of equity in the Christian oikonomos, in marriage and the civil society. He calls for a sense of equity in private and public, the private informs the public, and is thus properly the business of a Christian. In A Treatise of Christian Equitie, he addresses the nature of extremity and mitigation: “To put this person [a thief] to death for this fact is the extremity of the law … the principal rules of equity must they fetch from our law, considering that the law without equity is plain Tyranny” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 775, 777).
In 1606 the Houses of Convocation produces a series of canons that come to define Anglican orthodoxy. O’Donovan says: “Anglican political theology began to emerge that was at once more romantic and more defiant than that bequeathed by the Reformation. Deeply authoritarian, monarchist by conviction rather than default, it associated royal power with the patria potestus that belonged to Adam as a gift of creation, and linked it as the senior partner in a collaboration with priestly authority that had descended unbroken since the first moments after the fall” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 778). [Here again, an unexegeted assumption.] Popular sovereignty is a threat. “An Erastian seniority of secular rule is unflinchingly maintained against a background of primeval history that finds monarchy in Adam from creation, but priesthood consequent upon the fall … It is from nature, rather than history, that it derives the Erastian partnership of civil and ecclesiastical authority, which, one instituted, continues throughout sacred history, with variation but without alteration” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 779-780).
In Concerning the Government of God’s Catholic Church and the Kingdoms of the Whole World, Book 1 speaks of the foundation of the Trinity, the priority of imitating Scripture beginning with creation; but with the sin of Adam and Eve, pace the law of nature remaining, civil magistracy continues and the “two tables” of the Decalogue is central.
Hugo Grotius (1583-1646), Dutch polymath, is the epitome of a Renaissance man, advances a unity of theology, law, philosophy and history as effective, opposing the division between dogmatic and practical impulses within theology. Natural religion is central where natural law is a proof that God is active and indispensible. The state of humanity among pagan tribes [being newly discovered …] is subject to the same political constitutions in the Christian world pace Natural Right. But there is no “state of nature,” no normless and presocial human existence that precedes and thus needs to instruct human social order. Such “natural Right” exists apart from any concept of God, thus showing God’s sovereignty.
In The Right of War and Peace, Prolegomena, the mother of “natural Rights” is human nature, and “civil Rights” is the result of obligations created by agreement. In Book 1, society is of two kinds, first, “a society of equals, e.g., brothers, citizens, friends, allies; and a society of unequals, Aritstotle’s kath’ huperochēn, as of father and children, master and servant, king and subjects (NE 1158b12)” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, pp. 797). Thus, there are two types of justice. In Book 2, per Augstine’s maxim that “every punishment that is just is a punishment for sin” (On Free Choice 3.18.51), capital punishment is a public and not a private matter. In The Satisfaction of Christ, whereas economic ownership is a matter of private benefit, punishment is not: “… the virtue displayed in waiving a right of ownership or credit is called ‘liberality’; and it is different from the virtue exercised in remitting punishment, which is ‘clemency’ ” (O’Donovan, Irenaeus, p. 820).
As we can adduce from these sixty writers, the method of creation, sin and redemption is explicitly noted often, and implicitly assumed everywhere else. Yet, the very text of Genesis 1-3, while referred to in atomistic bites, is never truly exegeted. There are ex post facto assumptions brought to the text to justify one sort of polity or another, as we have noted. In all the issues addressed, the church across the years wrestles with an indeterminacy between order and freedom, and to address this in the original biblical definition of the boundaries of freedom, located in Genesis 2:16-17.
So many dualities, many interfacing, have been identified in this review, e.g., the definitions of good and evil, life and death, imago Dei and sinful nature, freedom from or freedom for, the power to serve or the power to dominate, men and women, martyrdom and mission, Christ and Satan, angels and demons, spiritual war and earthly war, pacifism and conquest, church and empire, church and state, common and private property, orthodoxy and heresy, monism and plurality, freedom and coercion, freedom and slavery, economic freedom and socialism, natural law and positive law, separation of church and state, unity of church and state, papal power and congregational power, totalitarianism and checks and balances, perfect and imperfect, righteousness and corruption, clergy and laity, libertarianism and statism, hard questions and silence, submission to tyrants and tyrannicide, the tri-tensions of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, the prophetic and the acquiescent, etc.
We can also note eighteen named dualities that seek to define the context and reactive nature of political theology: 1) “two identities” for the church between Eusebius and Ambrose (the age of mission and the age of martyrdom); 2) the “two cities” of Augustine (the city of God and the city of man, two competing loves, with the church living in both, faithful to both but serving alien functions in the latter); 3) the “two rules” of Gelasius (instead of one rule for both church and state, there is a separation between the sacral and royal, with the priesthood being superior spiritually); 4) the “twofold” definition of Isidore (divine and human); 5) the “two orders of Honorius (clergy and laity); 6) the “two swords” of Giles of Rome (the pope in charge of both politically); 7) the distinctions between “natural” and “spiritual,” between “human” and “divine” for Capocci (relative to priesthood and kingship both); 8) the “two representatives” in the church, of Wyclif (king and priest); 9) the “two kingdoms” of Luther (an internal dichotomy of obligations); 10) the “two tables” of the Decalogue per Melanchthon and others (three laws on the one for religious devotion, and seven on the other for civil law, as it were); 11) the “two worlds” of Calvin (each with its own king and laws, spiritual and secular); 12) the “primary and secondary laws” of Richard Hooker (rooted in the sincere and the depraved); 13) the “two kinds” of society of Grotius (equals and unequals), 14) thus with “two types” of justice (private and public); along with 15) “the division” (between dogmatic and practical impulkses in theology) 16) two kinds of freedom (freedom from and freedom for); 17) “two forms” attempted as a Christian witness to world peace (empire and papacy); and 18) the “two eras” of O’Donovan (the present and the future).
The first seventeen exist in the unresolved conflict of reactions to reactions, as the church seeks how to interface with the political, and all resonate with the question of order and freedom; and the eighteenth is true and eschatological. Thus, how to we honor O’Donovan and live in the presence of the future insofar as possible? And accordingly, do we know how to advance justice and mercy for all people equally within the political order as intrinsic to the kingdom of God? As per Paul’s argument in Ephesians 2:14, do we have the vision to see dividing walls (between Jew and Gentile then, applicable to all divisions) removed, so that the “two” can become one?
We can simplify the struggle of the church across these years this way: 1) church over state; 2) church compromising with state; and 3) state over church. None of these is satisfactory, remaining imprisoned in reactions to reactions. There is also a historical arch, as it were: monism, to quasi-monism, to quasi-consent of the governed, to full-consent of the governed, to the deconstruction of all of it. Where do we satisfactorily land? How central are the words of Jesus to the disciples in Mark 10:42-44? The context is political theology, and Jesus reverses the human definition from a “power over” to a “power for.”
And yet, despite the ever-rolling cascade of the reactive represented in these competing dualities in a broken world, the proactive of the Gospel ceaselessly percolates. Can we serve the fullest eruption possible, of the same, in advance of the Second Coming, as a taste of “the powers of the pending age?”