Why Do the Critics of 2K and Heterodox Political Theorists Sound So Similar?

I wonder if Rabbi Brett, the BBs, and other transformers of culture (neo-Calvinist or not) would be troubled by Ronald Beiner’s observations in “Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau on Civil Religion” (Review of Politics, Autumn 1993).

According to Machiavelli, Christianity:

devalued honor and glorified passive martyrdom, has taught me to be humble, self-abnegating and contemptuous of worldly things, has made the world effeminate and rendered heaven impotent. In sum, Christianity has celebrated slavishness, and encouraged human being to despise liberty, or the harsh politics required for the defense of liberty. (622)


Hobbes came to the same insight grapsed by Rousseau and Machiavelli, namely, that genuinely Christian aspirations are so radically otherworldly that they subvert the authority of temporal power, and so Hobbes too must search for a way in which to de-Christianize Christianity. However, Hobbes’s solution is not to go back to Roman paganism, but to go back further, to the Judaic tradition. (625)



16 thoughts on “Why Do the Critics of 2K and Heterodox Political Theorists Sound So Similar?

  1. Ok, this is not really relevant to this post, but I noticed that the new American Anglican catechism is 2K. But I am sure not everyone will grasp the connection.

    78. Should you pass judgment on sinners or non-Christians?
    No. God alone judges those outside the Church. The Church may proclaim God’s condemnation of sin and may exercise godly discipline over members who are unrepentant; but I am called only to judge between right and wrong, to judge myself in the light of God’s holiness, and to repent of my sins. (Matthew 7:1-5, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 11:31)

    Source: http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/catechism


  2. Beiner also describes NL2K machinations by exposing how the liberal tradition pursues an alternative strategy of domestication of Christianity by seeking to put as much distance as possible between religion and politics.

    Beiner says a good deal about the danger of E2K’s “theology.”


  3. University of Toronto political theorist Ronald Beiner recently defined civil religion as “the appropriation of religion by politics for its purposes.” Lincoln had been doing this to the Bible since at least 1838. He ended his Lyceum Address by applying Matthew 16:18 to American liberty: “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” More famously, in 1858 he quoted Matthew 12:25 to characterize the precarious state of the Union: “A house divided against itself shall not stand.”

    Such an appropriation of Christianity for politics dominates the Gettysburg Address, from its opening “four score” to its closing “shall not perish.” In the 1970s, literary scholar M.E. Bradford, in his essay, “The Rhetoric for Continuing Revolution,” identified the Gettysburg Address’s “biblical language” as the speech’s “most important formal property.” That is undoubtedly so. Lincoln drew from the King James Version’s archaic words and cadences, as he opened with the biblical-sounding “four score,” an echo of the Psalmist’s “three score and ten” years allotted to man on this earth. He continued with “brought forth,” the words in the Gospel of Luke that describe Mary’s delivery of Jesus—the first instance of what turns out to be a repeated image of conception, birth, life, death, and new birth, culminating in the promise of eternal life in the words “shall not perish”—a startling echo of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:16 (“whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”).

    Lincoln’s speech also engages the other side of civil religion—not the appropriation of the sacred for the purposes of the state but the elevation of the secular into a political religion. Early in his career, Lincoln had explicitly promoted this kind of civil religion. Again in his 1838 Lyceum address, he called for fidelity to “the blood of the Revolution” and the Declaration, the Constitution, and the laws to serve as America’s sustaining “political religion” now that the founding generation was passing away. In 1863, Lincoln filled the Gettysburg Address with the words “dedicated,” “consecrated,” and “hallow.” The cumulative effect of this sacred language was to set the American Founding, the suffering of the Civil War, and the national mission apart from the mundane world and transport the war dead and their task into a transcendent realm.


  4. Dr. DGH

    “you mean put as much distance between religion and politics as Christ and the apostles did? That liberal tradition?”

    Except Christ and the apostles didn’t do that and neither does Scripture. Quite contrary to DGH’s belief Enlightenment and Anabaptist Liberalism (i.e. — Libertarianism) is not the Political model taught in Scripture.


  5. Where is the political program of the church? I’m not finding it. I am finding some other stuff… like:

    “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus.

    “To the pilgrims…” Peter.

    “We urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business.” Paul.

    “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh.” Paul.

    “In much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings, by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right and and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things…. For what fellowship had righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?… Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” Paul.

    “I say this to your shame:… brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another.” Paul.

    “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us…. Therefore let us go forth to him, outside the camp, bearing his reproach. FOR HERE WE HAVE NO CONTINUING CITY.” Hebrews.

    Promoting neither revolution, nor redemption of the culture. Just salt and light, according to one’s calling, for the present time.

    Because the world in its present form is passing away.


  6. Connie, where exactly did Christ and the apostles tell the Roman authorities about their duty to uphold the true religion? Jesus had a meeting with Pilate. (Do any of us even meet with a representative?) He did not use it.


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