Church and Politics
Churches are part of society and, as such, come always in touch with existing political issues. This applies even more so if and insofar as they are active in the social field. Churches can’t avoid the need to take a stand since government action affects them directly. Both majority and minority churches can co-operate with the state on common concerns; but they are also called upon to protest, in other cases, and as part of their prophetic ministry.
In the Christian Orthodox tradition, the church is understood both as divine and man-made institution; for all its limitations, this definition indicates that the worldly-historical dimension belongs to its essence as well. In the tradition of the Reformation, God’s Word is at the centre, calling for faith and discipleship within a historically developed body of the Church. In both cases, the task is to determine the ministry of the Church in this world so that it tallies its source in God’s plan of salvation. The Christian creed that God became man implies an unquestionable turn to the world. This lives on the belief that the Risen One has “all power in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28, 18). At the same time, however, Christians are aware that worldly authorities have a leadership that they cannot elude (Rom. 13, 1-7, 1 Pet. 2, 13-17); just as Jesus himself had not eluded it (Jn. 19, 11). It is in this spirit that the Christians of the first centuries have also endured persecutions.
Are such biblical instructions still valid today, or have the parameters shifted? The relationship between church and state has always had a certain ambivalence to it. Church and state have often lived in symbiosis with one another and supported each other, as it has been expressed in certain models: the “Byzantine Symphony”, the caesaropapism, the doctrine of the two swords and others. At the same time, however, one gets a completely different perspective, since history has also an eschatological dimension from the view-point of the Christian faith. Can we learn from history? Which political order fits best the mission of the church? Should the Church seek to promote human rights in all countries of the world, as the basis of society, and thus pluralism and tolerance? How serious is the temptation of nationalism? In what areas of society is collaboration recommendable, and where are state action opposed to the values of the Christian faith, in a way that forces churches to put into practice their prophetic ministry?
Deadline: March 15, 2018
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