8 Jan

Oliver O’Donovan on how the Church promotes the cause of freedom

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/08/14

Wisdom from The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology

Near the end of The Desire of the Nations, Oliver O’Donovan examines the origins and trajectory of liberal society in the West. He begins by calling attention to a scenario imagined by St. Paul in I Corinthians 14:24f., in which an unbeliever wanders into a church that is saturated in compelling, prophetic witness. The message he hears is both rational and convicting, and he falls on his face in repentance. This story, O’Donovan says, “is a paradigm for the birth of free society, grounded in the recognition of a superior authority which renders all authorities beneath it reactive and provisional. We discover we are free when we are commanded by that authority which commands us according to the law of our being, disclosing the secrets of the heart. There is no freedom except when what we are, and do, corresponds to what has been given to us to be and to do. ‘Given to us’, because the law of our being does not assert itself spontaneously merely by virtue of our existing. We must receive ourselves from outside ourselves, addressed by a summons which evokes that correspondence of existence to being. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor. 3:18). The church of Christ, which professes the authority of God’s summons in the coming of Jesus, has the role of hearing it, repeating out, drawing attention to it. In heeding the church, society heeds a dangerous voice, a voice that is capable of challenging authority effectively, a voice which, when the oppressed have heard it (even in an echo or at a distance), they cannot remain still.” [p. 252]    

Click for a link to free audio featuring Ken Myers in conversaion with Oliver O’Donovan.