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Truth and Politics

A Theological Comparison of Joseph Ratzinger and John Milbank

by Peter Samuel Kucer

Publication Year: 2014

One of the perennial questions in political theology is how the concept of truth is defined and how such is grounded theologically. The answer to this determines, to a great degree, theological engagement with and appropriations of political systems and theological accounts of political and social order. Truth and Politics tackles this crucial question through an analysis and comparison of the thought of two of the most important contemporary Catholic and Protestant theologians, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) and John Milbank.

Peter Samuel Kucer here traces out the critical question of the relationship of theology and politics, particularly as it intersects with ecclesiology, through a focus on the issue of the theological relationship to socialism. In this, Kucer demonstrates the competing accounts in the theologies of Joseph Ratzinger and John Milbank, arguing that Ratzinger’s theology is oriented in such a way that it maintains a provisional openness with regard to political forms—that theology and politics, while interconnected, do not demand commitment to a singular form of political model—in contrast to Milbank’s work, which subscribes to a particular pattern of church and politics.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-26

Joseph Ratzinger and the Anglican scholar John Milbank have written extensively on the social and political order from a theological perspective. Despite both having a favorable view toward democratic socialism, they differ in how they describe socialism’s...

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1. Ratzinger on Truth as Essentially Uncreated

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pp. 27-66

As described in the introduction, for Vico truth is convertible with the made. Ratzinger explicitly denies the reductionist aspects of such a claim. For Ratzinger, truth is essentially not made because God is Truth Itself, and in him there is no inner creation. At the same...

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2. Ratzinger on Truth as Illuminated and Mediated

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pp. 67-106

In the previous chapter, we saw that Ratzinger, drawing from the twentieth century analogy of being debates, relies on analogy as providing an explanation for how humanity primarily relates to truth by not creating it, as Vico advocates, but rather by analogously...

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3. Milbank on Truth as Created

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pp. 107-144

For Vico, as stated in the introduction, truth is convertible with factum. According to Milbank, this claim is in accordance with Christianity. Consequently, he defends Vico’s assertion that truth is created both by human beings and by God, internally and externally...

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4. Milbank on Truth as Illuminated and Mediated

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pp. 145-178

In the previous chapter, we saw that Milbank, building upon his interpretation of Vico, relies on an analogy of creation as the fundamental explanation for human correspondence to truth. In this chapter, we will focus on how he furthers his appropriation of Vico...

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5. Ratzinger and Milbank Compared

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pp. 179-220

In this chapter I will compare Ratzinger’s threefold approach to truth with Milbank’s, in relationship to Vico’s thought. As was demonstrated, in his account of truth Ratzinger negates the validity of Vico’s claims. Milbank, in contrast, validates them. Drawing on...

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6. Ratzinger’s Theology of Politics and Milbank’s Political Theology

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pp. 221-258

In the previous chapter it was shown how both theologians’ threefold perspectives on truth in relationship to Vico leads to two different conceptions of the nature-grace relationship. On the one hand, while Ratzinger upholds that nature and grace are related, he nonetheless...

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pp. 259-268

Ratzinger’s and Milbank’s different theological approaches to politics, as influenced by two reactions to Vico, essentially are derived from two distinct responses to Pilate’s question to Jesus: “What is truth?” (John 18:38 NAB). While Ratzinger perceives truth as abiding and...


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pp. 269-282


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pp. 283-288

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781451465303
E-ISBN-10: 1451465300
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800699963
Print-ISBN-10: 0800699963

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Emerging Scholars