I have written plenty about Oliver O’Donovan’s political theology. Or not so much “written” as quoted. In many ways, I’m still in the midst of the long process of digesting his project in a way that allows me to reformulate it in my own words.
Which is why I was so impressed by William Cavanaugh’s synposis in Blackwell’s Companion to Political Theology. He writes:
Oliver O’Donovan’s work…regards Christendom as the most significant practical instance of the conviction that theology is politics. As O’Donovan sees it, Christendom is simply the unfolding drama of God’s rule as manifested in the Old Testament and as fulfilled in the kingship of Christ.
If Christology is given its due political weight, then after the Ascension the nations could simply not refuse to acknowledge Christ. If Christ really is the fulfillment of the salvation history begun in Israel, then God must in fact be using the governing authorities for his own purposes in bringing about a new social order.
Nevertheless, the government is not the church; the church exists to serve as a distinctive witness, to remind the government of its temporary status. As ruler, the ruler is meant to judge; as member of the church, the ruler is meant to judge with clemency; and the church is there to signal the inherent tension between the two obligations.
The church thus plays a central role in the transformation of the social order. The church itself bears the fullness of God’s politics through history. “Does the authority of the Gospel word confer no social structure on the community which bears it? Does that community have no ‘social space’ determined by the truth?” There can be no question of a disembodied Christianity that serves only, in a Gnostic fashion, to inform the consciences of individual citizens occupying an autonomous political space.”