Not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Francis Fukuyama declared that we had achieved "the end of history." In 2001, the collapse of other walls, those of the World Trade Center towers, served notice that history was not finished with us yet.
Fukuyama's famous thesis was that, with the ruin of communism, there remained no viable alternative to Western liberalism on the stage of history. We are still sorting through the rude awakening from this fantasy. What seems clear, however, is that the bland, narcotic world that Fukuyama envisioned, the "victory of the VCR" over sectarian strife, has not come to pass. Theological voices have been instrumental in opposing that vision. Theological discourse has refused to stay where liberalism would prefer to put it. Theology is politically important, and those who engage in either theology or politics ignore this fact at a certain peril.
This Companion operates with an expansive understanding of what is encompassed by the term "political theology." Theology is broadly understood as discourse about God, and human persons as they relate to God. The political is broadly understood as the use of structural power to organize a society or community of people. Under this spacious rubric, politics may be understood for the purpose of a political theology in terms of the self-governance of communities and individuals; or in terms of Max Weber's more circumscribed definition of politics as seeking state power. Political theology is, then, the analysis and criticism of political arrangements (including cultural-psychological, social and economic aspects) from the perspective of differing interpretations of God's ways with the world.
For the purposes of this volume, political theology is construed primarily as Christian political theology. Not only would the inclusion of other faiths have made an already fat volume unwieldy, but the term "political theology" was coined in a Christian context and has continued to be a significant term primarily within Christian discourse.
Within this general framework, the task of political theology is conceived in different ways by different thinkers. For some, politics is seen as a "given" with its own secular autonomy. Politics and theology are therefore two essentially distinct activities, one to do with public authority, and the other to do in the first place with religious experience and the semiprivate associations of religious believers. The task of political theology might be to relate religious belief to larger societal issues while not confusing the proper autonomy of each.
For others, theology is critical reflection on the political. Theology is related as superstructure to the material politico-economic base. Theology reflects and reinforces just or unjust political arrangements. The task of political theology might then be to expose the ways in which theological discourse reproduces inequalities of class, gender or race, and to reconstruct theology so that it serves the cause of justice.
For still others, theology and politics are essentially similar activities; both are constituted in the production of metaphysical images around which communities are organized. All politics has theology embedded within it, and particular forms of organization are implicit in doctrines of, for example, Trinity, the church and eschatology. There is no essential separation of material base and cultural superstructure. The task then might become one of exposing the false theologies underlying supposedly "secular" politics and promoting the true politics implicit in a true theology.
Political theologies vary in the extent to which social sciences and other secular discourses are employed; the extent to which they are "contextualized" or rooted in a particular people's experience; the extent to which the state is seen as the locus of politics; and the ways in which theological resources - scripture, liturgy, doctrine - are employed. What distinguishes all political theology from other types of theology or political discourse is the explicit attempt to relate discourse about God to the organization of bodies in space and time.
The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is meant to serve as a reference tool. Each essay is designed to present the reader with an overview of the range of opinion on a given topic, and to guide the reader toward sources representing those views. On the other hand, the Companion presents original and constructive essays on the various topics by leading voices in political theology today. Our authors have been instructed to be fair, but not to feign neutrality. The views of the author should and do become clear in the course of each essay, and the authors make many original claims that take the discussion of political theology in new and provocative directions. The result, we trust, is a lively argument within a fascinating and diverse group of scholars.
We editors have tried to do our part by arguing between ourselves as much as possible. We first met when one did an appreciative though critical review of a book by the other, and we have yet to iron out all the theological disagreements between us. Our collaboration has just so been congenial and fruitful. We chose to work together in the hope that our differences would make for a richer volume.
Our choice of topics and authors has followed the same hope. We have tried to give a voice at the table to a great variety of different views that accurately reflect the state of the conversation today. All the same, some readers may be disappointed by the exclusion of some topics and puzzled by the inclusion of others. Here we must lament the limitations of space and confess our own personal limitations. There is no question, for example, that, although the volume contains some voices from the two-thirds world, the volume as a whole is weighted toward the world we know best, and more accurately reflects the state of the conversation in Europe and North America.
The volume is organized into five sections. The first addresses some of the primary resources of the Christian tradition to which theologians appeal in constructing political theologies: scripture, liturgy, Augustine, Aquinas, and some of the great theologians of the Reformation. The second surveys some of the most important figures and movements in political theology. We have included a broad range of methodologies, ecclesial traditions, geographic and social locations, to give a sense for the diversity of political theologies. The third section consists of constructive essays on single theological loci, such as Trinity, atonement, and eschatology. These essays draw out the political implications of select Christian doctrines. The fourth section addresses some important structures and movements (postmodernism, globalization, etc.) from a theological point of view. The fifth section, finally, provides one Islamic response and one Jewish response to the essays in the volume. If Christian political theologians hope to witness to a better world, they must do so in conversation not only with each other, but with those of other faiths, especially the Abrahamic faiths. It is our hope that this volume contributes in some way to that witness.
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