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Kristen Irwin, review - Nicholas Wolterstorff, The Mighty and the Almighty: An Essay in Political Theology // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // Jan 2014
The Mighty and the Almighty takes on the task of theorizing a political theology for the Christian. [T]his book originated in his 1998 Stone Lectures at Princeton... [and] retains both the advantages and the disadvantages of its original lecture format: astonishingly clear and accessible, but a relatively light sketch ...Despite the specifically Christian orientation of his project, Wolterstorff asks for the attention of the nonreligious: "In a participatory democracy such as ours, it's important that we each be open with and open to our fellow citizens concerning the deep sources of how we think about political issues". -- Though political theology is not nearly so popular as in the days of Augustine or Calvin -- two of Wolterstorff's foils -- Wolterstorff argues that it's overdue for careful contemporary consideration.-- a substantive account of the relationship between political authority and divine authority. -- The most innovative part of the book is Wolterstorff's use of the above distinction to offer a rereading of Romans 13... Rather than counseling universal submission to civil authorities, Wolterstorff argues, Paul is counseling submission to civil authorities insofar as they are executing "the God-assigned task of government to curb injustice. . . . to protect the rights of the public". Government clearly has the positional authority to issue whatever directives it deems appropriate to its citizens, but insofar as its directives violate justice or the rights of the public, government forfeits its performance-authority. The corollary is that "the directives that the government issues to the public for the purpose of curbing injustice are binding". -- In other words, the political authority of the state as the institution responsible for "protecting members of the public from being wronged by their fellows" can be derived both from natural rights, and from divine authority.
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march 2014 by dunnettreader

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