Eschatology and the political order : a comparative study of Moltmann and Augustine's "City of God".
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AbstractMoltmann's political theology and Augustine's City of God provide a suitable eschatological basis for a critical approach to the political order. Though separated in time by one thousand five hundred years, a comparative study of their respective approaches to the world makes for a credible critique of final political solution. Eschatology is the key to their analyses of society. Partial realities are evaluated from the fullness of truth unveiled in the eschaton. Augustine's City of God sought to counter the anti-Christian propaganda occasioned by the impending fall of the Roman Empire. Augustine's apologia provides for a church freed from a necessary dependence upon the secular and political milieu. Thus any social theory is provisional and haphazardous. However, Augustine has no constructive social criticism. The Christian is a stranger in a disordered, fallen, earthly city. The social manifestations of sin are not clearly identified for they do not affect man's eternal destiny. So Augustine left the world disordered without a constructive divine redemptive plan that would be partially anticipated within the saeculum. His weakness lay in identifying the "negative" within society with the fall. Moltmann's political theology, however, identifies the "negative" with the Cross. The crucified Jesus reveals what is wrong with the world. He identifies the sinful, Godforsaken forces within creation. The "promise" of God is validated within history in the event of the Resurrection, that is, the anticipation within time of the eschaton towards which history is moving. Although the Resurrection is the eschatological event within history, "creative acts" that are the "negation of the negative" (the "negative" is identified by the Cross) are anticipations of the eschaton. These "creative acts" open up the "closed systems" of the world. Thus history is not a return to the "golden age" of the beginning but an "opening up" to the "promise". This promise is contradicted within the "closed systems" of history by the crucified One. Yet, it is confirmed and anticipated in the resurrection of Jesus. The eschatological nature of Moltmann's theology lays stress on both the distinctiveness of the Christian faith and its relevance as a solution to the problem of "unfree" creation. Eschatological faith is distrustful of any "final solution"; for Moltmann, political theology destroys the idols of contemporary and future society. Society absolutizes partial solutions and thus retards the creative transformation of the world. Moltmann speaks of five "vicious circles of death" that he identifies with political oppression, economic inequality, cultural discrimination, ecological death and personal apathy. In the spirit of Christ and by the believer's missionary outreach, the progressive transformation of the world is achieved. The eschaton is God's gift anticipated within history in the resurrected Christ and foreshadowed by progressive "creative acts" that overcome the "vicious circles of death". Both Moltmann and Augustine's City of God permitted no final secular solution. The secular political order is assessed from beyond not merely from within. Augustine assesses almost exclusively from beyond; Moltmann both from beyond and within. In this respect they provide a valuable critical corrective to the dogmatism of final political solutions.
Thesis (M.Th.)-University of Durban-Westville, 1985.