Soul Citizens: how Christians understand their political role

Bernd Wannenwetsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Investigating how Christians best understand their political role on the receiving
side of political authority, the essay revisits the older “citizens versus subject”
debate and presents exegetical, doctrinal and historical considerations that
suggest keep this tension alive instead of seeking to dissolve it on either side.
The author argues that the peculiar interweaving of “citizen” and “subject”
traditions characterizes the Christian attitude towards political authority from
the outset. This is demonstrated by a fresh reading of Romans 13 in which the
arguably “conservative” origin of Christian political thought is shown to bear
clear, albeit often overlooked, marks of a genuine “citizen” ethics. Extemporising
on Luther’s commentary on Romans 13, the essay demonstrates how
the idea of a Christian as “subject-as-citizen” is rooted in a theological refusal
to compartmentalize the human existence into separate spheres of authority.
As “embodied soul” the Christian responds to political authority in a way that
engages the human being in all its faculties, simultaneously free and bound.
The essay concludes by suggesting that the crucial shift in the more recent
history of political thought can be explained more readily as a shift from this
theologically motivated duality towards a monochrome political voluntarism
that insisted a citizen’s submission to political rule could be conceived as
essentially submission to one’s own will.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373–394
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Theology
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • Christian citizenship
  • citizenship
  • education
  • political authority
  • political theology
  • Romans 13
  • state
  • subject

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