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Political Theology

 Published by Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 2008,

RRP $47.95

As I write this review the G20 summit is beginning in London with two Prime Ministers, Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd, both expected to make presentations on the moral challenge facing the global economy.
What a time to bring together those two apparently different disciplines, politics and theology. But according to Michael Kirwan, who teaches these subjects at Heythrop College at the University of London, these two were never far apart.
Political Theology is a presented as a new introduction to its subject and it shows how fascinating is the interplay of two fundamental areas of human concern.
It has ever been thus. Beginning with people like Plato and continuing on to recent days the author shows us how interdependent the two topics are.
It seems as though they have always been two sides of the same coin even though the changes through history have been marked.
The apostolic period, the age of Christendom, the middle ages, the Reformation and the modern period have offered stark contrasts but all agree in the inescapable connection between two themes. Even religious groups who deliberately cut themselves off from social interaction were thereby making a political statement.
The continuing challenge to see different claims from new perspectives makes the book mentally stimulating from beginning to end.
For me the most puzzling period is still the rise of Nazism with its terrible outcome we call the Holocaust.
Attempts by Christian and Jewish theologians to resolve the awful conflicts presented by this historical reality continue to be met with failure.
I have two criticisms.
The first is that it contains too much; it is too concentrated.
The weight of material condensed into a small book makes it very heavy, designed for professional theologians I think.
Names and themes from a vast array of philosophers and theologians tumble out on top of one another, presuming a pre-knowledge of much of their content.
The second criticism is that it is that it doesn’t contain enough.
Political Theology is very European and makes no reference at all to third world theologies, except some mention of the liberation theologians of Latin America.
It also fails to address the number one issue of our day, the revival of the theology of Islam with its attendant political action.
I hope it stimulates further interest in an urgent subject. 

Reviewed by Bill Adams