Dr. Richard A. Davis is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at the Pacific Theological College in Suva, Fiji Islands. He tweets on @rad_1968.
This relativizes politics into a realm that cannot penetrate or disturb the Christian’s faith or take away our salvation and our hope. This is why the real danger for the Christian is not just biopolitics, but also ideologies that provide an alternative salvation through false gods.
The prophets serve as God’s messengers, both as conduit of information between people, as well as serving as forerunners, preparing the way for God’s will to occur in the world.
The created heavens and earth–indeed all of God’s creation—are fleeting, temporal, and ephemeral, not permanent like God’s eternal Kingdom. Our worldly kingdoms aren’t completely worthless, but they are penultimate and ought to be despised in contrast to God’s eternal stable Kingdom.
Christ sits on a throne, but it is not a worldly one. Christ’s throne is the true throne of God, which renders all other thrones secondary. Christ’s throne is the only throne that should be worshipped, and Christ the Lamb the only ruler that is worthy of our devotion.
The transfiguration reveals the implicit grammar of Jesus’ politics and political identity. This identity did not require a retreat to heaven, but confrontation and crucifixion in Jerusalem.
God’s prophets are those who call us to recognize our limitations before the sovereignty of God. Indeed, Jeremiah reminds us of the relativity of human politics and that in God alone does the individual and human society find meaning and security.
In evil days, justice can be stifled and the voice of the prudent can be silenced.
The story of David and Bathsheba is a story of power’s corruption and of the cover-ups of abuse—a story with considerable resonance in our own day.
In a world awash with weapons of death, perhaps it is time to focus on the trust we have in guns and violence and threats of violence, in whatever form. Psalm 20 might be a good place to begin.
Giving voice and hope to groaning and suffering creatures is the political task that we can take up for the oppressed creation in imitation of the Spirit, who advocates for us to our true Sovereign for the hope of our bodily redemption.
Paul contrasts the children of light with the children of the darkness. This contrast is particularly manifest in the war that we fight and the weapons with which we do so.
The divine violence of the drowning of the Egyptians in the deliverance of the Israelites through the Red Sea raises challenging questions about the character of liberation and the foundation of nations.
In the story of the rivalry between Esau and Jacob, we discover a typology that can shed an unflattering light on a number of the tensions that exist between people in the modern world.
Paul’s statements concerning the peoples in his Areopagus speech in Athens have historically been used as justification for racism and Apartheid. There are, however, other ways to understand his claims.
In Romans, Paul speaks of a God of reconciliation, who makes friends of enemies. Principles of reconciliation and of the love of enemies have often been quarantined from the political realm in systems of political thought that prioritize the enemy-friend polarity. However, a politics of love for enemies and of reconciliation with a creation from which we have become alienated may never have been more urgent.
The interconnected identities of Jesus and John the Baptist are a matter of speculation in the Gospel of Matthew. The truth is revealed through the fulfilment Old Testament prophecy and against the foil of the brutal rule of Herod.
Psalm 111, which may seem disjointed and a collection of sayings, does, however, offer a consistent political teaching. It emphasizes politics in virtuous imitation of God in his works and the rejection of the politics of fear.
Jesus, against our expectations, comes to bring division in places where unity formerly existed. He calls us to be attentive to the way the winds of our age are blowing.
Framed merely as a story about the call to discipleship, and omitting verses 17-18, the fact that God is instigating political coups through his prophets in this passage could easily be missed if we didn’t consider the scriptural context of this week’s lectionary reading. Reflecting upon this passage and the ensuing events, we can learn something about God’s relationship to political rule.
Revelation 21:1-6 contains a dramatic vision of the new Jerusalem, the eschatological city. Unfortunately, the sea enjoys at best an ambiguous status within this new creation, raising important questions for peoples whose life depends upon the oceans.
God’s way are qualitatively different from ours, belonging to a different order, relativizing human good and exposing human evil. Isaiah’s vision presents and invites people to God’s way of abundance, mercy, and inclusion from their own ways of scarcity, revenge, and exclusion.
Wisdom’s publicly raised voice challenges the simple ones, who love being simple; the scoffers, who delight in their scoffing; and the fools, who hate knowledge. The reproof of Wisdom is especially relevant in the contemporary political world, where so many of our leaders and politicians thrive upon such popular attitudes.
The psalmist calls us to the fear of the Lord, offering us the secret to its pursuit. Straightforward though it may be, the psalm’s challenge to avoid evil-speaking, deceit, and to depart from wickedness and pursue peace would have seismic effects for our political landscape were we to commit ourselves to it.
Psalm 85 speaks of the meeting of justice and peace in a kiss in God’s new order. While we often futilely pursue such a goal through our politics, in Scripture we see its fulfilment through the cross.
The account of the baptism of the Eunuch can be read in several ways. Fruitful readings have focused on the gender and the nationality of the person. The political implications have often been overlooked, even though this is an early and potentially fruitful tale for the political theologian.
Paul’s teaching about the manner in which love for weaker brethren should guide behavior when considering eating food sacrificed to idols provides principles that remain relevant, long after the issue that provoked their articulation. The role that politics and the state play in contemporary forms of idolatry suggests analogies that can be drawn between the responsibilities of first century Corinthians and our own.
The Apostle Peter calls for the virtues of patience and peace in our waiting for the eschaton. At face value, these virtues might appear more congruent with an apolitical complacency. However, closer reflection reveals that they involve both the work of bringing peace and commitment to works of anticipation.
Paul speaks to our self-conscious understanding of tragic fatedness in Romans 7. Like him we long to be released from such an apparent fate, where we are not free to live as we know we could and should. This is more than an individual bondage to sin. It recognizes that sometimes we are prevented from living as we feel we ought by more than our own will; sometimes we are oppressed by the wills of others or even a system which seems to have a will of its own that is impermeable to reason.
The following is a small portion of a longer interview with China Miéville in the journal Political Theology.
This piece is from the Political Theology Network archives originally posted on August 23, 2012.
The prominent Eastern Orthodox theologian Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) passed in Athens, on February 2, 2023.
From Myanmar to Mariupol, from the streets of Memphis to the waves and winds of the Mediterranean Sea: resistance to violence takes many forms. So does political protest against precarity. At which point does the unavoidable vulnerability of the living condition come to expression as political agency? Can such precarious politics constitute or configure an alternative community?