This paper proposes for consideration a version of political theology that differs from standard accounts of the content of political theology, particularly with regard to political theology's relationship to liberalism. The account of political theology proposed here is "political theology with a difference" both in the sense that it differs from the standard account of political theology (inasmuch as rejects the view that liberalism and political theology are mutually antagonistic) and in the further sense that it is based upon a philosophical doctrine that not only accepts, but valorizes human differences. That doctrine, which stands at the core of the alternative political theology presented here, is the doctrine of accommodation. For centuries, this principle was enshrined in Christian and Jewish theology as the "doctrine of divine accommodation." That theological doctrine derived in turn from the principle of accommodation that was codified in the ancient Aristotelian tradition of classical rhetoric. This article provides an overview of the evolution of the medieval doctrine of divine accommodation, showing how it gave birth to modern secularist thought, in particular secularist political thought. It demonstrates that the secularist political theory that evolved out of the principle of divine accommodation was an emergency theory of politics (hence a political theology, in the narrow sense of the term.) But it shows how the tradition of secularist political theory that derived from the principle of accommodation was also a proto-liberal political theory, out of which modern liberalism originated. On this basis, the paper argues, contra the standard view that political theology and liberalism are mutually antagonistic, that (this) emergency political theology and liberal political theory are actually one and the same thing.
Jurisprudence | Law | Religion Law
Date of this Version
Nomi M. Stolzenberg, "Political Theology With a Difference" (September 2012). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 94.