The Politics Of The Kingdom -- By: Edmund P. Clowney

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 41:2 (Spring 1979)
Article: The Politics Of The Kingdom
Author: Edmund P. Clowney

The Politics Of The Kingdom

Edmund P. Clowney

“The problem that is posed for us today (in the relation of theology and politics) comes from the fact that theology does not appear to be comprehensive any longer. Starting with theology it becomes difficult to construct any theory of society whatever.”1

The remark with which Laënnec Hurbon introduces his study of the work of Ernst Bloch has immediate appeal. Has not Christian theology limited itself to a private religion of personal devotion? What meaning can such religion have for a world sweeping to destruction in a flood of catastrophic social and environmental problems?

Perhaps that rhetorical question might receive a surprising answer from places where the flood has struck. Personal religion gains new meaning in the Gulag Archipelago.

But contemporary theologians seem unanimous in warning us against the dangers of pietistical world-flight. To end the blight of other-worldly irrelevance, theologians of the left have propounded a new political gospel.

Some have prepared a collage for a theology of liberation by liberating with their scissors a selective assortment of Bible passages. Was not Israel’s liberation from Egyptian slavery the central event of the Old Testament? Are not the prophets the champions of the exploited against the exploiters? Did not Jesus die between two freedom-fighters, himself a victim of Roman imperialism and reactionary Judaism? The only mystery left for this theology of revolution is how the gospel became the opiate of the people.

A more elaborate secularization of the gospel is offered by Jürgen Moltmann in the wake of the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch. Bloch recognizes a more significant revolutionary role

for the mythical and the utopian. The day-dreaming that produced Christianity is needed to kindle the fires of revolutionary action. Bloch finds an example in the revolutionary millenarianism of Thomas Müntzer, whose part in the Peasant’s Revolt contrasted with Martin Luther’s defense of the nobility. Bloch accepts the atheistic rejection of Christian orthodoxy, but uses the category of the possible to project a dialectical ideal: not the hidden God (deus absconditus), but the hidden-man (homo absconditus), the man of the future. Bloch criticizes the logical determinism of the Hegelian dialectic for limiting the future to the outworking of the past. Bloch offers instead a philosophy of hope that is not determined but open.

Moltmann designs a Christian theology with Bloch’s pattern: a future-oriented th...

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