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Reconceiving Politics: Soulcraft, Statecraft, and the City of God


Two contrasting conceptions of politics have divided contemporary Christian political ethics, particularly Protestant political ethics in the United States. The first construes politics as a matter of statecraft that uses power to achieve social order and justice; a second views politics as an exercise in soulcraft intended to cultivate virtuous people. After identifying this divide by considering the work of Reinhold Niebuhr and Stanley Hauerwas, this essay reconceives politics within a broadly Augustinian eschatology that demonstrates the necessity of both statecraft and soulcraft and specifies the relation between them, arguing that Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified such a political ethic.