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Review of David VanDrunen, "Politics After Christendom"


Rainbow above Mt. Zion, Jerusalem, Israel | December 19, 2015 | Photograph by author



Mere Orthodoxy recently published my long review of David VanDrunen's Politics after Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World (Zondervan, 2020). I used this review as an opportunity to say something about my own current thinking on the field of Christian ethics:


This point is delicate, and therefore must be made carefully. It is a non sequitur to lay blame for complicity in social ills immediately at the feet of Two Kingdoms proponents. Kathryn Tanner has demonstrated that Christian doctrines do not automatically produce social programs in that way. Moreover, given the continuing wisdom of that old maxim that abuse does not invalidate proper use, not every advocate of a given theological paradigm is necessarily responsible for the most heinous deployment of it. However, careful attention to the history of theology demonstrates endlessly the manifold ways in which doctrines are corrupted toward the propagation of injustice. Learning from those errors demands articulating a doctrine and a social program with as few opportunities for abuse and misinterpretation as possible.
It is this that VanDrunen’s theory fails to do when, for example, it emphasizes retributive justice to a society addicted to mass incarceration. It is this that VanDrunen’s theory fails to do when its endorsement of “enterprise institutions” has no critical bite against an institution like Amazon, whose CEO is currently the richest man in the world and may be on track to become the richest person in history, on the backs of exploited and vulnerable workers. And it is this that VanDrunen’s theory fails to do when it removes from the armories of justice so many of the Biblical and theological categories, sources, and rhetoric that have marked the American political tradition.

You can read the entire thing here.

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