Tag Archives: christianity

‘Review Essay: Theological Medicine for Liberal Democracy’, in Journal of Markets & Morality, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring 2019)

‘Abstract

As Smith points out, the genealogy of liberal democracy demonstrates that liberalism is nothing less than the prodigal son of Christianity. Thus, it becomes plausible that Christianity has a continuing role to play in a liberal democracy. Smith might even be right that it is not so much common grace and natural law, but rather Christianity exclusively, on which liberal democracy is dependent. Constitutional lawyers and political scientists would indeed be well-advised to be more generous in integrating theological insights as well into their work in order to find this out for themselves.

Hans-Martien ten Napel, “Review Essay: Theological Medicine for Liberal Democracy,” Journal of Markets & Morality 22, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 169-181.*

*Review essay of James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, Cultural Liturgies, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009); Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works, Cultural Liturgies, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013); Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology, Cultural Liturgies, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017).’

Source, and full text: http://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/issue/view/45

See also:

Forthcoming review essay of James K.A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies

Blogpost ‘The Political Theology of Thierry Baudet’

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: Annual Conference of the European Academy of Religion, Bologna, March 4-7, 2019

 

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: The Spirit of Populism. Political Theologies in Polarized Times

Looking forward to participating in the above international and interdisciplinary conference, School of Divinity, New College, Edinburgh, 2-3 September 2019.

The description of the conference theme reads as follows:

‘Is populism on the rise? Across the political spectrum, populism is considered a catch-all category to be critiqued: describing something as populist and dismissing something as populist go hand in hand. But theological justifications of populism, such as the identification of Christianity with Europe, resonate with mainstream political positions that are articulated and accepted in the public square.

The critique of populism parallels and points to a critique of the role of theology in politics. This critique can come either as a rejection of the politicization of theology (presupposing that genuine theology ought to be non-political) or as a rejection of the theologization of politics (presupposing that genuine politics ought to be non-theological). What runs through these critiques is the assumption that claims to theology cause the populist polarization of the public square. Is populism yet another resurrection of Carl Schmitt? Whether populism is interpreted as an authentic account of religion or as an inauthentic appropriation of religion for political ends, it needs to be carefully examined and critically explored. Does theology in politics automatically lead to populism? Does populism automatically lead to theology in politics? What indeed is the role of political theologies in polarized times?

See for more information: https://www.ed.ac.uk/divinity/news-events/events/spirit-of-populism-conference.

See also:

Blogpost ‘The Political Theology of Thierry Baudet’

Forthcoming review essay of James K.A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies

Book review: ‘The Political Theology of European Integration,’ by Mark R. Royce

 

Blogpost ‘The Political Theology of Thierry Baudet’

Governments have historically relied on metaphysical sources for their legitimacy. The French Revolution intended to put an end to this. However, with the current rise of populism, among other things, we are witnessing a revival of political theology.

Read the whole blogpost here: https://leidenlawblog.nl/articles/the-political-theology-of-thierry-baudet.

See also:

Forthcoming review essay of James K.A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: Annual Conference of the European Academy of Religion, Bologna, March 4-7, 2019

Blogpost ‘The State of Dutch Democracy: Dancing on the Deck of the Titanic?’

Call for Papers, Panel on Public Theology and its potential for Law and Religion scholarship

UPDATE: see for the call:

I am currently putting together a panel for the 2019 conference of the European Academy of Religion on the question of what, if anything, law and religion scholarship can learn from public theology works such as James K.A. Smith’s Awaiting the King. Anyone interested in joining the panel, please let me know. The draft description of the panel reads as follows:

This panel considers James K.A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies (Desiring the King, Imagining the King, Awaiting the King) and discusses the potential for scholars in Law and Religion to engage with his public theology along the lines of the legal-theological approach as recently suggested by Stefanus Hendrianto in the journal Law and Method. The panel examines Smith’s reservations concerning natural law doctrine as can be found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, among other traditions. It explores the potential to use perspectives from Smith’s public theology – in connection with other Christians thinkers such as Augustine – as a legal-theoretical alternative to ideas advanced by Ronald Dworkin and Jürgen Habermas. It will further consider the relevance of Smith’s work in the more general context of public administration. The organizers welcome paper proposals engaging other public theologies than Smith’s, as long as the focus remains on their potential for law and religion scholarship.

For information on the conference, see: https://www.europeanacademyofreligion.org/general-information

See also:

Panel Chair and Presenter, First Annual Conference, European Academy of Religion, Bologna, 5-8 March, 2018

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: Annual Conference of the European Academy of Religion, Bologna, March 5-8, 2018

Law and Religious Freedom Book Panel at the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, Boston, Friday, November 17, 2017, 4 PM – 6 PM EST (II)

 

Waarom de PVV niet het initiatief in de kabinetsformatie moet krijgen

In mijn bijdrage ‘Onthoud de PVV het initiatief in de kabinetsformatie’ in het Nederlands Juristenblad van deze week schrijf ik onder meer dat er, naast politieke, ook rechtsstatelijke aanknopingspunten te vinden zijn voor de beantwoording van de vraag of de PVV al dan niet het initiatief in de kabinetsformatie moet krijgen.

In een recent interview met de ARD stelde Wilders dat zijn partij van oordeel is ‘dass man den Islam nicht mit anderen Religionen vergleichen kann, sondern nur mit totalitären Ideologien, die wir in der Vergangenheit gesehen haben, etwa dem Kommunismus oder dem Faschismus’. Een dergelijke stellingname opent de weg voor onder meer vergaande en eenzijdige beperkingen van de vrijheid van godsdienst van moslims, zoals ook blijkt uit het concept-verkiezingsprogramma PVV 2017-2021.

Zie voor de bijdrage in het Nederlands Juristenbladhttp://njb.nl/Uploads/Magazine/PDF/NJB-1710-eerste-deel.pdf.

Bovenstaande argumentatie vloeit in belangrijke mate voort uit hetgeen ik opmerk in een binnenkort te verschijnen boek over de betekenis van de vrijheid van godsdienst en levensovertuiging voor de liberale democratie in het algemeen:

‘A reorientation of liberal democracy towards the common good is one main contribution that world religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism can help achieve in an otherwise religiously violent world. The constitutional significance of in particular the associational and institutional dimensions of the right to freedom of religion or belief is that they facilitate this contribution. To put into question the possibility to realise this right, is to doubt whether liberal democracy itself is possible.’

Dit is de negende post in een nieuwe serie ter introductie van mijn binnenkort te verschijnen boek Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017).

Voor de eerste acht posten, zie:

New Book: ‘The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation’ (2017);

R.R. Reno on ‘Islam and America’;

Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope (2017): ‘Learn How the Seeds of the Trump Presidency Were Sown in the Obama White House’;

Major New Report by the National Secular Society: Rethinking Religion and Belief in Public Life;

Symposium on Christian Democracy and America: ‘Can Christian Democracy Be America’s Next European Import?’;

Journalist Ben Judah, Author of This is London (2016): ‘I Found Faith Everywhere’;

The Washington Post on Why Religious Freedom Could Become the Major Religion Story of 2017;

Book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge) now available for pre-order.

New Book: ‘The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation’ (2017)

cloister-2041063_1280

‘In a radical new vision for the future of Christianity, NYT bestselling author and conservative columnist Rod Dreher calls on American Christians to prepare for the coming Dark Age by embracing an ancient Christian way of life. (…)

In The Benedict Option, Dreher calls on traditional Christians to learn from the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, a sixth-century monk who turned from the chaos and decadence of the collapsing Roman Empire, and found a new way to live out the faith in community. For five difficult centuries, Benedict’s monks kept the faith alive through the Dark Ages, and prepared the way for the rebirth of civilization. What do ordinary 21st century Christians — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — have to learn from the teaching and example of this great spiritual father? That they must read the signs of the times, abandon hope for a political solution to our civilization’s problems, and turn their attention to creating resilient spiritual centers that can survive the coming storm.’

See for Dreher’s forthcoming book: https://www.amazon.com/Benedict-Option-Strategy-Christians-Post-Christian/dp/0735213291

In my own forthcoming book, I write:

I should like to stress that, just like this book does not intend to polarise unnecessarily in the direction of the new critics of religious freedom, it does not want to suggest that authors subscribing to the idea of the benedict option do not have a point either.

On the other hand, it is also possible to discern a link between the new critics of religious freedom and theologians and others advocating the benedict option, in the sense that representatives of both groups sometimes appear to reject liberalism altogether. It is submitted here, however, that there remains reason for Christianity to continue its constructive, yet critical, engagement with liberalism. In fact, this is precisely what the current study aims to do.

This is the eigth post in a new series introducing my forthcoming book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017).

For the first seven posts, please see:

R.R. Reno on ‘Islam and America’

Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope (2017): ‘Learn How the Seeds of the Trump Presidency Were Sown in the Obama White House’

Major New Report by the National Secular Society: Rethinking Religion and Belief in Public Life

Symposium on Christian Democracy and America: ‘Can Christian Democracy Be America’s Next European Import?’

Journalist Ben Judah, Author of This is London (2016): ‘I Found Faith Everywhere’

The Washington Post on Why Religious Freedom Could Become the Major Religion Story of 2017

Book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge) now available for pre-order

 

 

R.R. Reno on ‘Islam and America’

coexist-1211709_1280

In a preview of The Public Square, forthcoming in the March issue of First Things, editor R.R. Reno refers to an argument by Sherman Jackson. Dr. Jackson is the King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC).

‘In his 2005 book, Islam and the Blackamerican, ­Jackson makes a case for Muslim endorsement of the American political system and its “liberal-pluralist vision.” (…) Needless to say, Islam is opposed to liberal pluralism as obligatory cultural ideal—as are orthodox Christianity and Judaism. But liberal pluralism can refer to something more modest, a political system and civic tradition that recognize the limits of law and accord room for dissent and deviance. (…)

Sherman Jackson is an influential voice in the Muslim American community, and his endorsement of liberal-­pluralist constitutionalism resists Islamic extremism that poses as religious integrity and helps Muslims in the United States to affirm our way of life, which their natural sympathies incline them to do. Which is why I do not regard Islam as a “problem” in the United States.’

See for the full article: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/02/islam-and-america.

My forthcoming book points to liberal pluralism as a plausible model to manage diversity in a postsecular society. It also raises the question in this context, if and to what extent Christian pluralist theory differs from liberal pluralism in a practical sense, although differences remain at the theoretical level. What is more, although grounded at least in part in Christian theology, liberal pluralism is in a sense also remarkably similar to constitutional lawyer Asifa Quraishi-Landes’s account of Islamic constitutionalism inspired by classical, premodern, Islamic regimes.

This is the seventh post in a new series introducing my forthcoming book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017).

For the first six posts, please see:

Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope (2017): ‘Learn How the Seeds of the Trump Presidency Were Sown in the Obama White House’

Major New Report by the National Secular Society: Rethinking Religion and Belief in Public Life

Symposium on Christian Democracy and America: ‘Can Christian Democracy Be America’s Next European Import?’

Journalist Ben Judah, Author of This is London (2016): ‘I Found Faith Everywhere’

The Washington Post on Why Religious Freedom Could Become the Major Religion Story of 2017

Book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge) now available for pre-order

Major New Report by the National Secular Society: Rethinking Religion and Belief in Public Life

architecture-2892_1280

‘The report says that Britain’s “drift away from Christianity” coupled with the rise in minority religions and increasing non-religiosity demands a “long term, sustainable settlement on the relationship between religion and the state”.

Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change has been sent to all MPs as part of a major drive by the Society to encourage policymakers and citizens of all faiths and none to find common cause in promoting principles of secularism.

It calls for Britain to evolve into a secular democracy with a clear separation between religion and state and criticises the prevailing multi-faithist approach as being “at odds with the increasing religious indifference” in Britain.

Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society president, said: “Vast swathes of the population are simply not interested in religion, it doesn’t play a part in their lives, but the state refuses to recognise this. Britain is now one of the most religiously diverse and, at the same time, non-religious nations in the world. Rather than burying its head in the sand, the state needs to respond to these fundamental cultural changes. Our report sets out constructive and specific proposals to fundamentally reform the role of religion in public life to ensure that every citizen can be treated fairly and valued equally, irrespective of their religious outlook.”‘

Source: http://www.secularism.org.uk/rethinking-religion-and-belief-i.html. Here you can also read, and endorse, the report.

In my forthcoming book I write that it is not just meant for readers who could be expected to sympathise with some or all of the theoretical starting points set out in the introduction, but also as a modest invitation precisely to dissenters to engage in a “respectful academic conversation” similar to what Founding Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College (now the Center for Faith and Inquiry) Harold Heie calls a “respectful political conversation”. Should this not, or no longer, be possible, then it will also prove difficult to uphold the ideal of a pluralistic public square as part of one’s democracy conception, as advocated in the book.

This is the fifth post in a new series introducing my forthcoming book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017).

For the first four posts, please see:

Symposium on Christian Democracy and America: ‘Can Christian Democracy Be America’s Next European Import?’

Journalist Ben Judah, Author of This is London (2016): ‘I Found Faith Everywhere’

The Washington Post on Why Religious Freedom Could Become the Major Religion Story of 2017

Book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge) now available for pre-order

Paper Presentation during Journal of Law, Religion & State International Conference on ‘The Rule of Law – Religious Perspectives’, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, 20-22 November 2016

logo260x260Enthumbnail_photo1thumbnail_photo2

For the program of the conference, see:

The call for papers for the conference can be found here:

http://www.ssrn.com/update/lsn/lsnann/ann16021.html.

The original paper proposal which I submitted, read as follows:

Christianity, Liberalism, and the Rule of Law

During the last decade or so the discipline of constitutional law has changed considerably. It has become more comparative, interdisciplinary and theoretical. What has not happened yet, however, is that constitutional lawyers have become more (openly) aware of their philosophical presuppositions. Thus, it is still commonplace for central concepts of the discipline, such as the rule of law, to be treated as if they do not at least partly have their historical roots in religions like Christianity, or as if such religions currently no longer have anything to contribute to these concepts.

This is remarkable, given that for example Michel Rosenfeld has had to concede ‘that there is no consensus on what “the rule of law” stands for, even if it is fairly clear what it stands against. An important part of the problem is that “the rule of law” is an “essentially contestable concept,” with both descriptive and prescriptive content over which there is a lack of widespread agreement.’

In light of the above, the proposed paper will depart from the idea that the concept of the rule of law is somehow intimately connected with Western liberal tradition. As Michael W. McConnell has argued, the history of liberalism in turn goes back further than the Enlightenment of the 18th century. It is probably more accurate to regard the 16th century Reformation as having given rise to liberalism, with its emphasis on the idea of individual conscience.

McConnell has also elaborated upon the similarities between some of the core doctrines of liberalism and particular Christian theological principles. Of these different connections, the one between the notion of limited government and the idea of the separation of church and state will be singled out, i.e. libertas ecclesiae or the ‘freedom of the church’. As McConnell puts it, ‘[i]n this view, religious freedom comes into being not as a result of ontological individualism but as a result of the jurisdictional separation between these two sets of authorities. (…) While theological in its origin, the two-kingdoms idea lent powerful support to a more general liberal theory of government. The separation of church from state is the most powerful possible refutation of the notion that the political sphere is omnicompetent – that it has rightful authority over all of life. If the state does not have power over the church, it follows that the power of the state is limited.’

The proposed paper will argue that this prescriptive meaning ascribed to the concept of rule of law by Christianity takes on a renewed relevance at a time when sovereignty claims by religious institutions are increasingly regarded by their critics as incompatible with the idea of state sovereignty being the only legitimate source of sovereignty. Thus, it is unfortunately presented as if a clear choice will need to be made between the jurisdictional approach to religious freedom and the modern liberal view that sees sovereignty within the liberal democratic state as essentially monistic in nature.

Paper presentation during conference on ‘Christianity and the Future of our Societies’, 15-19 August 2016, Leuven, Belgium

thumbnail_IMG_2041

The conference was organized by the Association of Reformational Philosophy (ARP) in cooperation with the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit of Leuven (ETF): ‘ARP and ETF welcome contributions from philosophers and theologians as well as from scholars in other disciplines who are seriously engaged in dialogue between Christianity and key figures (or central insights or paradigms) within their own discipline and context, wherever in the world this may be.

The Association of Reformational Philosophy (ARP) has its roots in the 16th century Reformation and its direct origin in the 19th neo-Calvinist revival (in which Abraham Kuyper was a pivotal figure). One of the goals of the ARP is ‘to contribute to the deepening of philosophical insight in created reality, and to make these insights fruitful for academic studies and for society’. Key founding fathers of the movement were the Dutch philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven. The movement has grown, and is today globally engaged in academic dialogue between Christianity and the contemporary world, and its animating intellectual, political and economic ideas and leaders. It does so in the expectation that Christianity has important and timely insights to offer.

The Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (ETF) in Leuven, Belgium, has developed into an important European education and research center for Christian theology that seeks relevance to the contemporary world and its concerns. In ETF’s international master’s and doctoral program, students and professors from a wide variety of cultural and denominational backgrounds come from all over the world to engage in stimulating dialogue.

This conference is co-organized with the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (WMCES); the political foundation and official think tank of the European People’s Party. And the Christian Political Foundation for Europe (CPFE); the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).’

For information on the program, see: http://www.cfs2016.org/program/.

My own contribution was entitled: ‘Christianity and the Future of Religious Freedom’. The abstract reads as follows:

The central point a forthcoming dissertation on the legal conception of ‘religion’ aims to make, is that the concept of religion employed by courts in the West is not as ‘transhistorical and transcultural’ as is sometimes tacitly assumed but instead is heavily influenced by Christianity in general and Protestantism in particular. As a result, the protection the right to freedom of religion or belief currently provides to, for example, Islam and Judaism is too limited.

I do not consider the thesis that the right to freedom of religion or belief may have a strong relationship to in particular the Christian heritage in itself to be very surprising. It would, to the contrary, be quite a sensation to somehow discover that the legal conception of religion in the West had not been influenced by Christianity.Whether the arguably more particularly Protestant influence is as strong as the author assumes, is a different matter. It could well be argued that definitions employed in this manuscript and other recent literature on the topic, such as ‘the view that religion denotes a sphere of life separate and distinct from all others, and that this sphere is largely private and not public, voluntary and not compulsory’, represent the very opposite of what Protestantism has historically stood for.

The proposed paper will argue that, to the contrary, Christianity in general, and Protestantism in particular, have eventually given rise to a generous interpretation of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Such a generous interpretation suggests first of all that, because spirituality is the keystone of human identity, this right occupies a special place in the universe of rights. Secondly, it implies that religious belief cannot be separated from religious practice. Thirdly, the right to freedom of religion or belief applies to all religions and also to people who do not adhere to a particular religion. Fourthly, the associational and institutional dimensions of the right are important, not just with respect to religious organizations, but also with respect to civil society organizations more generally. A fifth element of a generous religious freedom conception holds that, although not sacred or inviolable, the bar to interference regarding the family as the fundamental social unit is relatively high. The sixth element is that human dignity can well serve as the underlying foundation of the right, as it can be subscribed to by different religious and other traditions. A seventh and final element is that equality does not necessarily imply identical treatment.

A generous approach to the right to freedom of religion or belief does not so much imply maximal but rather optimal religious freedom. Although the limits to the right can to a certain extent differ from place to place, and from time to time, they have historically by and large been determined by the same universal, transcendent truths which also sustain constitutional democracy more generally. This can be regarded as a major – though not exclusive – potential contribution of Christianity also to the future of Western and indeed world civilization.

Key bibliographical sources:
Cohen, Jean L. & Cécile Laborde (eds.) (2015) Religion, Secularism, and Constitutional Democracy (New York: Columbia University Press).

DeGirolami, Marc O. (2013), The Tragedy of Religious Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).

Petty, Aaron R. (forthcoming, 2016), The Legal Conception of ‘Religion’.

Spencer, Nick (2014), How to Think about Religious Freedom (London: Theos).

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood, Peter G. Danchin (eds.) (2015), Politics of Religious Freedom (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press).