Good Power: Divine and Human

October 5-6, 2007

We live in a culture profoundly suspicious of power, and theologians have seemed to share this ambivalence. Can theology rehabilitate a notion of God’s power that, rightly understood, grounds rather than subverts the proper exercise of human power integral to our mutual flourishing?

Over the last five decades, theologians have increasingly voiced critiques of power—critiques of prevalent conceptualizations of divine power in relation to God’s attributes (and God’s omniscience, in particular), as well as of the ways in which humans appeal to divine power in order to underwrite grave misuses of human power. At the same time, theologians, along with many others, have stressed the importance of empowerment. It is obvious that human life will wither rather than flourish without the possession and exercise of power. Moreover, those who have been on the receiving end of power’s misuse must exert power not just to live and flourish but to free themselves from dominance.

It is essential to overcome our cultural and theological ambivalence about power and to find ways to embrace and foster “good power.” The theological challenge with which consultation participants grappled was to conceive of God’s power and of human creaturely power such that it is clear that both have the capacity for good—and that a proper understanding of God’s power can ground rather than subvert good human power.


Contributing Scholars

Martin Hailer
Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg
John Hare

John Hare is Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School. His interests extend to ancient philosophy, medieval Franciscan philosophy, Kant, Kierkegaard, contemporary ethical theory, the theory of the atonement, medical ethics, international relations (he has worked in a teaching hospital and for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives), and aesthetics (he is a published composer of church music).

Catherine Keller
Drew University

Catherine Keller is a professor of Constructive Theology in the Theological School of Drew University and its Graduate Division of Religion. As director of the annual Drew Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquim since its inception in 2000, she works with colleagues and students to foster a hospitable local setting for planetary conversations.

“Folding Power”

David H. Kelsey

David H. Kelsey is Luther Weigle Professor Emeritus of Theology at Yale Divinity School. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen in 2012 and he delivered the Warfield Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2011.

Kathryn Tanner
Yale Divinity School

Kathryn Tanner is the Frederick Marquand Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School. She serves on the editorial boards of Modern Theology, International Journal of Systematic Theology, and Scottish Journal of Theology, and is a former Co-Editor of Journal of Religion. She is a past president of the American Theological Society, and an active member of the Theology Committee that advises the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops.

“Power of Love”

Nicholas Wolterstorff
Yale University

Nicholas Wolterstorff is the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. Two of his most recent publications are Journey toward Justice and Justice in Love. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Fallen Powers” 



The God and Human Flourishing consultations are sponsored by the McDonald Agape Foundation.