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Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (Gifford Lectures) Hardcover – June 10, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Interestingly, one finds here diversity of opinion and approach, not the staid uniformity that is often the harbinger of current views on this Age generally and Catholic theology specifically. Initially there arose an image of God as a "bound" (the author's word) sovereign. Mighty? Yes, but operating only within the "bounds" of His own Creation, thus avoiding arbitrariness and allowing access by our limited human intelligence and understanding. This is a view of Divine Sovereignty that the author ascribes to the works and thoughts of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. [As a personal aside, I am not sure how our educational system can claim "educated" graduates while avoiding (as I believe it does) virtually all confrontation of these two towering intellects.] As I understand it, this is a sovereign concept based on authority, legitimized and in fact delimited by Creation itself. It is a sovereignty of mutuality and reason and of "natural" law decernible by and accessable to all- believers and unbelievers alike.Read more ›
Her arguments are largely cogent, and offhand I cannot think of a one with which I can terribly disagree. For a work of nonfiction, the imagery is well-constructed- not surprisingly so, for her love of literature shows frequently in these pages. Consider these lines on the French Revolution: "One might say that the sovereigntism of Rousseau, with its sacralization of politics, demands human sacrifice. If ancient peoples sacrificed goats, the French Revoution sacrificed humans to propitiate the revolutionary gods" (137). Her appeal to the Augustinian tradition of personalism is, in my estimate, the best course for countering the autonomous individualism rampant in even the best of modern thinkers.
What the book lacks, unfortunately, is sufficient length. Another reviewer commented that Elshtain does not sufficiently explain the connection between late medieval nominalism and the supremacy of will within the Godhead. For the record, the connections comes about because as nominalism rejected metaphysical realism and essentialism as the twin bases for grounding the common reality of imminent realities, ideas of absolute (inherent) justice tended to collapse. At the same time, the Trinity- a single essence or being or substance existing as three persons- shifted away from that traditional definition, wherein the persons of the Trinity were less hypostatic identities manifesting a single substance (the nominalist: what substance?Read more ›
In the first part of the book, Elshtain sees an important shift from Thomistic conceptions of sovereignty, which emphasize God's love and rationality and especially the ability of the human being to use her intellect to deduce these things about God, toward the nominalism of William of Ockham. She associates Ockham's nominalism with a prevailing trend toward voluntarism, which shifts the focus away from God's love and rationality toward the omnipotent, volitional will. While theology was the locus classicus of this paradigmatic shift, it eventually spills over into the political realm wherein there is a consolidation of power into a single body (either the Pope or the prince), as opposed to the idea of the Gelasian Two Swords doctrine (as articulated by Pope Gelasius in a 494 letter titled "Deo sunt" to Emperor Anastasius I).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great book from a great lecture series, and a wonderful introduction to the world of political theology and political philosophy. Read morePublished on June 6, 2012 by Christopher D. Hampson