Oikonomia Leaves Home: Theology, Politics, and Governance in the History of the West

Is there any genealogical connection between Christian oikonomia and modern political economy? Originally the turning of polity into household and interpersonal “pastoral” rule was not sinister but an advance. Likewise the Christian doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation resolved rather than sustained aporias of the reserved versus the economizing deity. However, later developments with the Franciscans, Palamites, and Jansenists effectively undid this resolution, producing a new “gnostic” duality. Economic rule was now sundered from ethics in a fallen world seen as utterly depraved. The heterodox discourse and practice of political economy resulted.

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The Politics of Paradox

This talk was presented at the 2009 Telos Conference.

In what follows, I summarize a fragmentary political theology, written from a British perspective, but one that opens itself out to Continental and North American intellectual influences, as well as to global concerns.

It was once said to me, by the late Texan theologian John Clayton, in Lancaster, that he had finally worked out what was “weird” about me: “Most of us, John, are trying to combine German theology with Anglo-Saxon philosophy. A few trendy people go for Continental philosophy as well. But you’re doing the opposite—with utter perversity you’re trying to combine British theology (of all things!) with Continental philosophy—and what is worse, with French stuff!”

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