25 Sep

The Desire of the Nations

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 09/25/13

Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology

A theme that is discussed quite often on the Journal is how important it is for Christians to be able to think christianly about politics – not merely on a policy-by-policy basis, but about political order as a whole. What is the purpose or end of political order, and what does the Gospel communicate about the proper ends of men’s political interactions with each other?

One thinker who has not yet been featured on the Journal, preeminent political theologian Oliver O’Donovan, answers these kinds of questions in his masterful work, The Desire of the Nations. Published in 1999, it is his most thorough work of political theology to date. Yet O’Donovan does not pursue a discussion of political order separated from other considerations, instead desiring to tear down the barriers that have been erected by modern thinking between politics and theology. The desire of the nations is Christ, O’Donovan argues (referencing Haggai 2:7), and therefore all political action is infused, whether we acknowledge it or not, with religious undertones. As O’Donovan puts it: “within every political society there occurs, implicitly, an act of worship of divine rule.” Christians who fail to fully grasp the implications of Christ’s kingship over all things run a serious risk, then, of falling into a form of political idolatry. Interested readers can find a more detailed review of the work here.

Due to O’Donovan’s commitment to a vision which MARS HILL AUDIO shares, that of encouraging Christians to think through the implications of the Gospel on the area of culture known as politics, it is with great excitement that we are pleased to co-sponsor an event in Washington D.C. titled “The Gospel and Public Life: Cultivating a Faithful Witness in the Face of Challenge.” Ken Myers will host a discussion with Professor O’Donovan on the subject of America’s transition to a “post-Christian” society. More details, including the time and location, can be found here.

This event is a perfect opportunity for MARS HILL AUDIO listeners to experience a live and in-person interview, unmediated as they usually are by the strictures of audio-recording technology. We hope to see you there.

UPDATE: The audio from this event was recorded live and is available for free to all users logged in to our website. To listen or download, click here.