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Politics Reformed

The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant Theology

Glenn A. Moots

Publication Year: 2010

Many studies have considered the Bible’s relationship to politics, but almost all have ignored the heart of its narrative and theology: the covenant. In this book, Glenn Moots explores the political meaning of covenants past and present by focusing on the theory and application of covenantal politics from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Moots demands that we revisit political theology because it served as the most important school of politics in early modern Europe and America. He describes the strengths of the covenant tradition while also presenting its limitations and dangers. Contemporary political scientists such as Eric Voegelin, Daniel Elazar, and David Novak are called on to provide insight into both the covenant’s history and its relevance today.             
            Moots’s work chronicles and critiques the covenant tradition while warning against both political ideology and religious enthusiasm. It provides an inclusive and objective outline of covenantal politics by considering the variations of Reformed theology and their respective consequences for political practice. This includes a careful account of how covenant theology took root on the European continent in the sixteenth century and then inspired ecclesiastical and civil politics in England, Scotland, and America. Moots goes beyond the usual categories of Calvinism or Puritanism to consider the larger movement of which both were a part.  By integrating philosophy, theology, and history, Moots also invites investigation of broader political traditions such as natural law and natural right.
            Politics Reformed demonstrates how the application of political theology over three centuries has important lessons for our own dilemmas about church and state. It makes a provocative contribution to understanding foundational questions in an era of rising fundamentalism and emboldened secularism, inspiring readers to rethink the importance of religion in political theory and practice, and the role of the covenant tradition in particular.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-9

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

In 1939 and 1953, Perry Miller published the two volumes of his seminal work on Puritanism, The New England Mind. They became landmarks of scholarship and captivated readers with a powerful and humane narrative of theological ideas moving an entire society in fascinating and consequential directions. The ideas of Reformed Protestants continue to interest scholars. Part...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

An author is a debtor. In the course of his work he has drawn on the time, trust, and resources of others. He has relied on the talents of those who have gone before him, and he owes something to those who will use his work after it is published. The details of these obligations are not spelled out in contracts. They are implicit covenants that resemble the subject of this book. I hope those...

Part I

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1. Introduction: Returning to Political Theology

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pp. 1-7

This is a study of a particular political theology and its variants, a tradition found among Reformed Protestants over three centuries and one that substantially changed the direction of political thinking in the modern world. “Political theology” is a term requiring some explanation, together with a brief defense of its use instead of the term “civil religion.”1 Noting the difference...

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2. Defending Political Theology

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pp. 8-21

The brief defense of political theology in the last chapter does not imply that this study is a defense of all political theology. Important distinctions must be made. All theology, by definition, concerns God; thus any text that concerns God can be broadly categorized as a theological text. Some theological texts are explicit in their dependence upon “revealed” sources. The Bible, for example, claims to...

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3. The Biblical Background to Covenanting

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pp. 22-30

The Bible is the main source for Western political theology. It is the most influential text in Anglo-American political thought and probably presents the oldest political constitution in the historical record.1 But the Bible is significant not because it prescribes a particular type of regime.2 Regime classification is a Greek and Roman project.3 It is the relational attributes of biblical religion that make it...

Part II

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4. Founding Covenant Theologies: Bullinger and Calvin

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pp. 33-50

Two theologians whose ideas were most influential for the initial direction of Anglo-American political theology were Jean (John) Calvin (1509–1564) and Heinrich (Henry) Bullinger (1504–1575). Their legacies are the reformations of Geneva and Zurich, respectively, and represent differing but complementary approaches to political theology within the covenant model....

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5. Regime, Discipline, and Resistance: The Covenant and the Civil Magistrate

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pp. 51-68

The political implications of Bullinger’s and Calvin’s theologies now deserve a more intentional analysis. Their legacies remain in a state of both competition and cooperation throughout the Anglo-American experience. Only by continuing to view them side-by-side can one fully appreciate the development of the Reformed Protestant inheritance for politics....

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6. The Legacies of Geneva and Zurich in England and Scotland

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pp. 69-81

The Anglo-American trajectory of Reformed political theology begins in Zurich and Geneva in the sixteenth century. These legacies then combined with new elements of English and Reformed Protestantism in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Reformed political theology developed further during both the crucible of war in Britain during the mid–sixteenth century and...

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7. Covenant, Revolution, War, and Eschatology

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pp. 82-98

Continuing the historical narrative of covenant theology’s legacy in Britain, we come now to the “Wars of the Three Kingdoms.”1 Reformed theology and covenants played a prominent political role in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in England and Scotland. The most obvious contribution of Reformed political theology was to provide justification for revolution...

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8. Reaching Limits: The Covenant in America

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pp. 99-116

New England was settled by Protestants in the Reformed tradition. Most of them were Puritans holding largely to the Congregational style of church polity. Like the English Independents, Congregationalists believed in local selfrule by churches independent of a larger church hierarchy, presbytery, or bishops. Presbyterians began arriving as early as 1634. Cotton Mather reported at...

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9. Natural Law and Natural Right in Reformed Political Theology

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pp. 117-129

Having summarized the historical theory and practice of Reformed political theology over three centuries, it now becomes appropriate to situate the Reformed Protestants within the mainstream of political theory. It is important to determine how they used natural law and natural right in their thinking, and how they understood related arguments from reason and from nature. Briefly...

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10. The Reformation in Retrospect

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pp. 130-136

Reformed Protestant Hebraism, emphasizing the Old Testament patriarchs, circumcision, and covenants, was a means of recasting the Christian’s relationship with God. Calvin and Bullinger and other sixteenth-century reformers were looking at the same biblical text as their Roman Catholic predecessors, but their construction of a new theological continuity stretching back to the Hebrew...

Part III

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11. Contemporary Perspectives on Covenanting

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pp. 139-154

Several modern scholars of political theory have studied the prospects of covenants for contemporary politics. Eric Voegelin argued the covenant to be an important but precarious political symbol. Daniel Elazar argued for the continuing relevance of political covenanting. David Novak has taken the most exclusive view of covenanting, leading to the most narrow contemporary application for...

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12. Lessons for Religion and Politics Today

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pp. 155-162

For Voegelin, the covenant is a symbol that both reveals the tension inherent in human existence and transcends political or moral appropriation. For Elazar, the covenant is a peerless and flexible device underlying modern constitutionalism, federalism, and social contracts. For Novak, the covenant appears as both symbol and device only for communities sharing a revelatory tradition...

Notes

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pp. 163-198

Works Cited

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pp. 199-224

Index

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pp. 225-240

Back Cover

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p. 260-260


E-ISBN-13: 9780826272232
E-ISBN-10: 0826272231
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218858
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218857

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1
Series Title: ERIC VOEGELIN INST SERIES