Published Humanitas, Volume XX, Nos. 1 and 2, 2007
City University of Hong Kong
In societies where religion plays a strong and important role, the institutions of the society reflect the religion. Yet in societies where religion plays a more secondary role to say that all political concepts are secularized theological concepts is an overstatement. While Carl Schmitt does make a persuasive argument on the role of religion in political thought, he is also mistaken. In this article, I shall attempt to show that political concepts in the medieval period were built upon theological ideas but in a way different from that described by Schmitt. Toward that end I’ll describe the difference between “political theology” and a “theology of politics” and focus on the revelatory political theology of the medieval period as contrasted with the “re-paganized” theology of Schmitt. Finally, by reviewing the process of papal decline with particular emphasis on the writings of Martin Luther, I shall argue that the political theology Schmitt describes reflects a post-Reformation loss of competing “exception-bearers” in the West and that this loss has had profoundly negative consequences for Western civilization.
What does the term “political theology” mean? There is no limit to what it can mean: all theology may be considered “political” (from a postmodern perspective), or certain modern ideologies may be termed “political religions” (as, e.g., in Voegelin’s writings), and so on. The work of Carl Schmitt presents another perspective. For Schmitt, political theology is the structure…
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