Political Theology – Ancient and Modern
Regular attendance is mandatory in all classes. A student who misses more than two units (two 100 min sessions) in any 2 or 4 credit class without a verified reason beyond the student's control must submit an 8-10 page paper assigned by the Professor which as a rule should cover the material in the missed class. The paper is due no later than 3 weeks after the missed class.
Carl Schmitt’s “Political Theology” is one of the most influential works of the 20th century. Its basic claim is: “All significant concept of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts”. On a truly global scale, it influenced theory, terminology and methodology of the social sciences and historiography. The course will evaluate the concept, its explanatory value, its validity and applicability.
However, Carl Schmitt was by no means the first theorist to apply the term political theology. Already in antiquity it formed part of the Hellenist tripartite theology (besides natural theology and mythical theology). Polybius and Panaitios defined it as a type of theology that serves the interest of politicians. More generally, it could be understood as a theology which is constitutive for a given political order.
Via Stoicism the concept of political theology was transmitted to the Church Fathers. While Roman thinkers such as Varro, Cicero, and Seneca insisted on the necessity of political theology to maintain public order, Tertullian, Lactantius, and Augustine refuted political theology and contrasted it with their new concept of a Christian “true religion” and “true theology”, based on revelation. This radical opposition of politics and truth, however, was not shared by all Christian theologians of the time, especially not in the East of the Empire. Imperial theology (Eusebius of Caesarea) became one of the intellectual pillars of the Byzantine Empire. The struggle between Emperor and Church, the secular and the religious became one of the pivotal issues both in the Byzantine Empire and in the West.
In other words, the basic question is if a political theology can legitimately be based on the Christian creed. This question has remained with Christianity in East and West ever since. It is a key question in Machiavelli’s Discourses just as much as in Roussau’s Social Contract. Finally, it underlies the famous debate between Erik Peterson and Carl Schmitt, who in their turn, refer back to the theological debates of late antiquity. This recurring question of the compatibility (or the opposition) of Christian theology and political legitimacy will be one of the guiding questions of the course.
Introductory readings/Source collections:
Scott, Peter and William T. Cavanaugh, The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, Wiley: Blackwell, 2006.
Hoelzl, Michael and Graham Ward (eds.), Religion and Political Thought, London and New York: Continuum, 2006.
Week 1: Introduction. Basic terms, ideas, problems
a) Geréby, György, “Carl Schmitt and Erik Peterson on the Problem of Political Theology. A footnote to Kantorowicz,” in: János M. Bak, Aziz al-Azmeh, eds., Monotheistic Kingship. The Medieval Variant, Budapest:CEU Press,2005,pp.31-61 [pdf]
b) Riedl, Matthias, „Truth versus utility: The debate on civil religion in the Roman Empire of the 3rd and 4th century,“ in: John von Heyking/Ronald Weed: Civil Religion in Political Thought. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2010, pp.47-65. [pdf]
Week 2: Political theology: the Hellenistic perspective on monarchy. The “tripartite theology.” Pythagorean treatises.
a) Ps-Aristotle, On the Universe [pdf]
b) Dio Chrysostom : On kingship [pdf]
Week 3: Monarchy: Jewish and Christian Perspectives. Terminology in the Bible: theocracy, lawgiving. The biblical account of kingship, city, nations. The empires in the history of salvation.
a) Selections from the Old and New Testament [pdf]
b) Josephus, Against Apion 2, 165 [pdf]
c) Philo, On the creation of the world [pdf]
d) The Book of Daniel, ch.2. [pdf]
Week 4: Imperial Theology in Christianity. The vocation of the nations. The ecumenical empire in the history of salvation.
a) Paul of Tharsus, Letters (selections) [pdf]
b) Origen, Contra Celsum (selections) [pdf]
c) Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, bk. 10 [pdf]
d) Eusebius of Caesarea, Oration in Praise of Constantine [pdf]
Week 5: Anti-imperial theology. The Book of Revelations: Rome as the apocalyptic Babylon. Rome as the katechon.
a) The Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs [pdf]
b) Epistle to Diognetus [pdf]
c) Tertullian: Selections from Apologeticum, De pallio [pdf]
d) Gregory of Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration [pdf]
Week 6: Civil religion versus religious truth
a) Polybius, Histories (selection from book 6) [pdf]
b) Augustine, The City of God, Book VI [pdf]
c) Augustine, The City of God, Book VII [pdf]
d) Machiavelli, Discourses I,11-14 and III,1 [pdf]
Week 7: Augustine: The church and the Kingdom of God. Eschatology.
a) Augustine, The City of God, Book XV [pdf]
b) Augustine, The City of God, Book XIX [pdf]
Week 8: Papal Government versus Universal Monarchy. Secular and spiritual power.
a) Pope Galasius, Letter to Emperor Anastasius "Duo sunt"; http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gelasius1.asp
b) Giles of Rome, On ecclesiastical power (selections) [pdf]
c) Pope Boniface VIII., The Bull “Unam Sanctam” [pdf]
d) Dante: Divine Comedy (selections); Monarchy (selections) [pdf]
Week 9: Medieval theories on kingship and church: Latin and Byzantine. Constantine and Justinian.
a) Anonymous, Norman Tracts [pdf]
b) Anonymous, Before there were clerics [pdf]
c) Kantorowicz: The King’s Two Bodies. A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997, pp. 3-23 and 42-61. [pdf]
d) Anastos, Milton, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium, Ashgate, 2001. (Selections) http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/milton1_21.html
Week 10: The early modern period: sovereignty
b) Rousseau, The Social Contract, (selections) [pdf]
c) Carl Schmitt, Political Theology. Four chapters on the concept of sovereignty [pdf]
Week 11: A Christian Political Theology? The Schmitt-Peterson Debate I
Erik Peterson, “Monotheism as a political problem: a contribution to the history of political theology in the Roman Empire,” in Theological Tractates, trans. Michael J. Hollerich, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011. [pdf]
Week 12: A Christian Political Theology? The Schmitt-Peterson Debate II
Carl Schmitt: Political Theology II: The myth of the closure of any political theology, trans. Michael Hoelzl and Graham Ward, Cambridge: Polity, 2008. [pdf]