Oliver O’Donovan and Political Theology

by caseybedell

If you are interested in how theology intersects with politics you should avail yourself by listening to the lectures Oliver O’Donovan recently gave near Capitol Hill while our government was shut down.   O’Donovan who is a British moral philosopher is currently Professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at the School of Divinity, New College, Edinburgh.  Ken Myers who helped moderate the event writes about it. He says,

Modern theology and modern politics have tended — sometimes vehemently — to insist on a wall of separation between them, a wall O’Donovan insists must be torn down if we are to be true to the Gospel, which is, after all, the good news about God’s Kingdom. “Theology must be political if it is to be evangelical. Rule out the political questions and you cut short the proclamation of God’s saving power; you leave people enslaved where they ought to be set free from sin — their own sin and others’.”

In October 2013, while the U.S. government was shut down over disputes about the federal budget, Oliver O’Donovan made a rare visit to Capitol Hill for a public conversation about the Gospel and public life. The event was held a few blocks from the relatively darkened Capitol building, before a group of about 160 congressional and executive branch staff people, Christian activists, clergy, theologians, and assorted lay-people…

The event was recorded and is available here, in streaming audio or downloadable MP3. (Listeners must sign in to access the audio.)  I realize not everyone has time on their hands to listen to these, but if you tend to be ambivalent about the intersection of faith and politics or if you think the wedding of the two inadvertently sacralizes a political party, I encourage you to listen.

Listening to these, in my opinion, helps reframe the discussion as O’Donovan recaptures and recasts (as in takes it back from liberation theologians)  a politico-theological vision that is fundamentally evangelical and not hitched to a particular party.  For O’Donovan, the church is the community that witnesses to a kingdom that will one day come in full, when the King judges all kings (i.e, Ps. 2).