10. Contours of a Positive Theological Response

Though numerous theological entry points suggest themselves, these are all contingent upon the nature of God. How we enter public and political discourse should correspond to how we understand God and how we structure our communities and liturgies in relation to this God. If, as at once a christological and pneumatological affirmation, we hold God to be missionary in God’s very being, then God defines the nature of mission and calls God’s people to be likewise missionary. The key insight coming from this missionary language concerns the opening of self-referential narratives, their being directed outwards and into the history of Jesus Christ. In this movement is found Christian identity.

Katherine Grieb, drawing on Kathryn Tanner’s The Politics of God, develops a ranging account of “cultivating the mind of Christ” and this in relation to political performance and questions over diversity.

  • Grieb, A. Katherine. “Philippians and the Politics of God.” Interpretation 61, no. 3 (2007): 256–69.

If the current political discourse engages the visceral register, and if micropolitics is matter of recognition and subversion, theological discourse should speak also in this mode. Specifically, it should speak in the mode of joy. Joy will include both gratitude and gift. I have not found much dealing with joy in relation to political discourse (suggestions welcome), but a good starting point is:

Joy finds expression in hospitality and there is a burgeoning bibliography on this practice. Luke Bretherton contribution is notable for its orientation to the political context.

  • Bretherton, Luke. Hospitality as Holiness: Christian Witness Amid Moral Diversity. Ashgate, 2010.

Christian obligation to hospitality lies in the nature of justification itself. For Markus Barth,  justification is itself a history in which “[e]xactly the foreign, non-related Gentile or Jew be- comes the carrier and demonstrator of the only righteousness from which ‘we also’ can live. Justification is reconciliation of the two.” In other words, justification is not a reality apart from our fellow human being and this in their otherness.

  • Barth, Markus. “Jew and Gentile: The Social Character of Justification in Paul.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 5 (1968): 241–67.

This points to a further consideration, one which takes courage against a backdrop of terror and security: vulnerability. Populism might well express the feeling of economic, cultural, and religious vulnerability. Sturla Stålsett takes us right to this point, and regards such vulnerability as basic to our humanity. This directs us back to the nature of God who has chosen to be vulnerable.

  • Stålsett, Sturla J. “Towards a Political Theology of Vulnerability: Anthropological and Theological Propositions.” Political Theology 16, no. 5 (2015): 464–78.

Hospitality, in that it includes the coincidental movement of guest and host, is itself suggestive of a theological method, one which understands difference as basic to the reading and telling of the gospel. David Congdon summarises well the work of Theo Sundermeier. 

  • Congdon, David W. “Emancipatory Intercultural Hermeneutics: Interpreting Theo Sundermeier’s Differenzhermeneutik.” Mission Studies 33, no. 2 (2016): 127–46.

Further Reading:

  • Flett, John G. Apostolicity: The Ecumenical Question in World Christian Perspective. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016.
  • Fritzson, Arne. “Reasons to Rejoice: Christian Joy in a Secularized World.” The Ecumenical Review 50, no. 2 (1998): 132–36.
  • Jüngel, Eberhard. “The Revelation of the Hiddenness of God: A Contribution to the Protestant Understanding of the Hiddnness of Divine Action,” in Theological Essays II, edited by Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, and John B. Webster, 120–44. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1995.