Category Archives: Religion and Politics

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:

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


Guest Lecture on “Natural Law, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom”

Beautiful place to give a guest talk this morning: The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Distress in Heiloo, North-Holland.

The lecture was on “Natural Law, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom.”

The audience consisted of a group of talented leaders of the Christian Democratic Youth Appeal.

Other speakers during the weekend included Minister of  State Piet Hein Donner.

See also:

Entry on Christian Democracy in Encyclopedia of Political Thought

Canon of Dutch Christian Democracy now also available in English

Paper presentation ‘Creed or Structure? Christian Democratic Vision and Attitudes towards Liberal Democracy’

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:

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?’

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

Following this year’s conference of the European Academy of Conference in Bologna, during which I co-chaired two successful panels on ‘Law and Religion: Public theology and natural law,’ I have been working on two articles on James K.A. Smith’s trilogy.

One, a revision, concerns a review essay in English, provisionally entitled ‘Theological medicine for liberal democracy.’ It is due to appear in the Journal of Markets and Morality later this spring.

The other is a piece in Dutch, on ‘Politieke theologie, natuurrecht en staatsrecht.’ As this was still a first draft which I submitted, we will have to wait and see where it goes from here.

I very much enjoyed working on both articles, however, and will continue to study and write on this topic for the next couple of months.

One reason for this is that, in order to fully grasp Smith’s trilogy, one also has to (re-)read Oliver O’ Donovan’s works The Desire of the Nations and The Ways of Judgment, Smith’s earlier book Introducing Radical Orthodoxy. Mapping a Post-secular Theology and, indeed, St. Augustine’s City of God.

See also:

Brief photo impression of the Annual Conference 2019 of the European Academy of Religion in Bologna, Italy

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

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


Brief photo impression of the Annual Conference 2019 of the European Academy of Religion in Bologna, Italy

Returning to Bologna felt like coming home this week. A big thank you to the European Academy of Religion for making the Annual Conference 2019 once again such an inspiring event.

A brief photo impression of some personal trivia and highlights:

Alway good to see my recent book on display.

At the conference photo booth.

Second panel on public theology and natural law.

Gala dinner in Palazzo Re Enzo.

Excellent paper by Prof. Gnana Patrick (University of Madras) on the relevance of public theology to the Indian context.

Theologian John Milbank speaking during an impromptu interview session on Radical Orthodoxy in the Modern Philosophy of Religion panel.

Very appropriate after organizing two panels on James K.A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies: visit to the Basilica of San Giacomo Maggiore, an historic Roman Catholic church, serving a monastery of Augustinian Friars.

See also:

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

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


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

From 4-7 March, I will be chairing two panels on philosopher James K.A. Smith’s trilogy during the Annual Conference of the European Academy of Religion in Bologna. Read more about the panels here:

‘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.

• Hans-Martien ten Napel (University of Leiden)


• Leonard Taylor (Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway) – Christian Poiesis: A Reading of Awaiting the King. Imagining with the Cultivation of a Posture the New Political Community through the Prism of Catholic Political and Liturgical Thought’ 
• Neville Rochow (Notre Dame Law School) – Australia – A ReImagining of Rawls’ Veil of Unknowing and Original Position 
• Michael Borowski (Independent Researcher) – Mining “the Kingdom” – Appropriating James K.A. Smith’s Trilogy for an Ethical Foundation of (German) Public Administration 
• Mariëtta D.C. van der Tol (University of Cambridge) – Conceptions of National Belonging in Protestant Political Thought 
• Hans-Martien ten Napel (Leiden University) – What’s Wrong with James K.A. Smith’s Criticism of Natural Law?’ 
• Yaron Catane (Bar Ilan University) – The New Dimensions of Public Religion in the Public Sphere’

The panels will be held on Tuesday, March 5, from 14:30 onwards, in
Sala Rubicone – Aemilia Hotel, Via Zaccherini Alvisi, 16. Please stop by if you’re around.

For more information, see

See also:

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

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


New review of book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (2017) in Ecclesiastical Law Journal

A new review of my book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (2017) in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal:

‘This book is an enjoyably spry reflection on the pitfalls of aggressive secularism and the atomistic tendencies of modern liberal individualism. Ten Napel deploys comparative legal method, interdisciplinary scholarship and social pluralist thought from Burke to neo-Calvinism (pp 12–18) but does not try to reinvent the wheel; the book’s thesis and scope are refreshingly modest. (…)

Ten Napel makes several important contributions. He paints a compelling picture of the deleterious effects of the 1960s revolution on liberalism. Anyone concerned with the fact that “liberal” is fast becoming a term of abuse will find much to admire here. He does a very good job of collating international strands of pluralism and committing them to the defence of a strong civil society. For a fellow traveller more familiar with the Anglo-German school of pluralism (Gierke, Maitland and Figgis), the exotic sources on display are fascinating novelties. Napel’s gentle conservatism never strays into polemic and this makes his timely plea for a more historically literate, culturally grounded and community-oriented vision of religious liberty all the more potent.’

Read the full review here:

See also:

Article ‘Institutional Religious Freedom in Review’

Book Review of Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom in Journal of Markets & Morality

Review of book on ‘Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human’

Lid, promotiecommissie, Alain Vannieuwenburg, ‘Pleidooi voor een lekenrenaissance. Een ideeënhistorische verkenning van de oorzaken en de gevolgen van de constitutionele verankering van de prerogatieven van de levensbeschouwingen in België met bijzondere aandacht voor het onderwijs’, 5 februari 2019

‘In België krijgen officieel erkende godsdiensten financiële steun van de staat. Mede daardoor is in België geen sprake van een ver doorgevoerd secularisme (scheiding van kerk en staat), terwijl dat wel wordt gezien als een leidend idee van moderne staatstheorieën. Promovendus Alain Vannieuwenburg dook in de geschiedenisboeken en verdedigt zijn proefschrift op 5 februari.’

Lees hier meer:

Ph.D. Thesis Committee Member For: Alain Vannieuwenburg, ‘Pleidooi voor een lekenrenaissance.’

‘In Belgium, officially recognised religions receive financial support from the state. Partly as a result, there is no clearly implemented secularism (separation of church and state) though this is considered to be a guiding notion in modern constitutional theories. PhD candidate Alain Vannieuwenburg delved into the history books and defends his dissertation on 5 February.’

Read more here:

Zie voorts:

Lid, promotiecommissie, D. van der Blom, ‘De verhouding van staat en religie in een veranderende Nederlandse samenleving’, 6 juli 2016

Blogpost ‘On the Close Connection between Religious Freedom and Liberal Democracy’

Hoe confessioneel was De Geer eigenlijk?


Nieuwe aflevering Tijdschrift voor Religie, Recht en Beleid (2018/3)

Deze nieuwe aflevering van het Tijdschrift voor Religie, Recht en Beleid bevat, naast een redactioneel van mijn hand naar aanleiding van het boek Ongelofelijk van Yvonne Zonderop, onder meer een actuele beschouwing van Adriaan Overbeeke (VU/Universiteit Antwerpen) over mensenrechtelijke aspecten van het voornemen van de regering om buitenlandse financiering van geloofsgemeenschappen te belemmeren.


Zie voorts:

Redactioneel ‘Religie en de rule of law’

Redactioneel, ‘Hoe kan het democratisch ethos worden bevorderd?’

Member, Editorial Board, Journal for Religion, Law and Policy



Article ‘Institutional Religious Freedom in Review’

Grateful to Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies, the Founder and Senior Director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA), for generously including my recent book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom, To Be Fully Human in this review of recent books on institutional religious freedom.

The whole review is worth reading, here follows just the passage on my book:

‘To find or create those better principles and practices, engaged citizens—emphatically including policymakers and government executives—should carefully study Hans-Martien ten Napel’s Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom: To Be Fully Human. Here is a treatment of religious freedom and public policy that breaks free of the American predisposition to regard our society’s architecture as comprised only of individuals, government, and business, neglecting churches, faith-based organizations and the many other components of civil society, and that goes beyond our propensity to deal with diverse convictions mainly by (often very reluctantly) conceding exemptions to laws otherwise considered to justifiably demand uniformity.

Ten Napel, who teaches at Leiden University, is rooted in the Dutch Calvinist tradition–think Abraham Kuyper—and this gives him a deeply and affirmatively pluralist approach to the protection of religion and conscience in public policy. He is, further, a frequent participant in religious freedom conferences and research initiatives in the United States. This means that he writes into our less-thoroughly-pluralist framework, helping to illuminate shortcomings and to be able to suggest a more capacious framework and a broader set of tools and principles. Unusually for a discussion of these weighty topics, Ten Napel references throughout the book how engagement in those various conferences and research initiatives has led him to develop his thinking about government and diversity. Rather than being off-putting, though, this thread helps to make what are complex discussions more accessible to the reader.

Ten Napel’s book is illuminating precisely because he begins by accepting the fact of deep differences of worldview, both in concepts and in practices, and by assuming as the default for public policy the accommodation of diversity, rather than a striving for uniformity. This means giving full value to non-religious, along with religious, reasons not to go along with the public consensus and generally accepted laws. Also, especially, fully to accept that civil society—nonprofits, houses of worship, companies—is a major component of our lives and not to be ignored in considering how to achieve a unity that respects diversity. Remember: while government presses toward uniformity and acts by compulsion, civil society is the place for orderly, structured, institutionalized diversity achieved by voluntary, rather than coerced, action. In civil society, with its diverse options that accommodate varying preferences in employment, the provision of services and choices of products, you will find a school that fits your values even as I find one that matches mine. Diversity is here more readily accommodated than in the I win-you lose pattern that is the default of government action (although pluralist devices can make government rules more protective of diversity).

Achieving Os Guinness’s “civil public square” needs not only a strong commitment to freedom of conscience and religion coupled with an agreement of each to act for the good of all. It also needs specific pluralistic tools and principles and methodologies, going beyond general constitutional maxims and the tool of religious exemptions. Study Hans-Martien ten Napel’s Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom and John Inazu’s Confident Pluralism to understand the vital role of civil society and pluralist government policies and practices in making it possible for us to live together as civic neighbors with, and not only despite, our deep differences.’


Institutional Religious Freedom In Review

See also:

Upcoming Paperback Release