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Toward an ecclesial theory of politics Kenneth Alexo

Toward an ecclesial theory of politics

Kenneth Alexo

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ISBN : 9781109252781
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588 pages
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This dissertation presents an original, textually-faithful interpretation of Greek patristic political theology during the first five Christian centuries. It challenges, in particular, the widespread scholarly opinion that the Greek FathersMoreThis dissertation presents an original, textually-faithful interpretation of Greek patristic political theology during the first five Christian centuries. It challenges, in particular, the widespread scholarly opinion that the Greek Fathers fundamental understanding of government, law, and politics is largely indistinguishable from that of Augustine of Hippo. Focusing on the writings of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and the Cappadocians, I argue that the Greek patristic tradition affirms: (1) that the state exists not just to punish and restrain evil deeds, but to model, advance, and inculcate the salvific life of virtue- and (2) that the state is a prelapsarian institution, a phenomenon rooted in mans originally-created nature. The Greek Fathers thus answer two of the foundational questions of political philosophy---What is the purpose of government, law, and politics? and What is the origin of the political order?---in a markedly different way than Augustine does. Their answers instead share considerably more in common with those offered by Plato, Aristotle, and, eventually, Thomas Aquinas.-The Greek Fathers definition of the state as an agency of moral education derives from three key, interconnected sources in their broader religious thought. The first is their confidently hopeful theological anthropology, which stresses mans innate capacity for goodness rather than his sinfulness and limitations. The second is their sympathetic attitude toward the form and content of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, including political philosophy, as roughly consonant with the truths of Christianity. The third and most decisive source of their political theology is their conception of the Church as the archetype of good government and authentic community. The Churchs many desirable political attributes---such as its unambiguously pedagogical orientation, commitment to serving the common good, use of persuasion instead of coercion, and selection of wise and virtuous rulers---make her the pattern for all other polities and the standard by which they are judged. This idea that the best regime is one that emulates, as far as possible, the modes and orders of the Church forms the crux of what I call the Greek Fathers ecclesial theory of politics.