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Episode Summary

"Christians are called to collaborate without compromise and to critique without dualism." (N.T. Wright, from today's episode) What better way to secure the greatness of your political state (or maybe political party) than to invoke the name of God as being uniquely supportive of your team? It brings a sickening and divisive new meaning to Romans 8:31—"If God is for us, who can be against us?” In this episode, revered New Testament scholar N.T. Wright joins Miroslav Volf to discuss Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence. Together they reflect on the history and current realities of what happens when these three elements converge. The conversation was inspired by N.T. Wright's response to a short digital booklet that Miroslav Volf entitled Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence: 25 Theses, which is available for download at faith.yale.edu.

Episode Notes

As you listen today, would you consider helping the Yale Center for Faith & Culture meet a $10,000 matching challenge for  2024 podcast production? visit faith.yale.edu/give to donate today.

"Christians are called to collaborate without compromise and to critique without dualism." (N.T. Wright, from today's episode)

What better way to secure the greatness of your political state (or maybe political party) than to invoke the name of God as being uniquely supportive of your team? It brings a sickening and divisive new meaning to Romans 8:31—”If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In this episode, revered New Testament scholar N.T. Wright joins Miroslav Volf to discuss Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence. Together they reflect on the history and current realities of what happens when these three elements converge. The conversation was inspired by N.T. Wright's response to a short digital booklet that Miroslav Volf entitled Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence: 25 Theses, which is available for download at faith.yale.edu.

Click here to download Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence: 25 Theses, a short digital booklet by Miroslav Volf, via faith.yale.edu.

“In this essay, written in form of 25 interlocking theses, I approach the problem of religiously motivated or legitimized violence by exploring the relation between monotheism and nationalism. The first is allegedly the most violent of all forms of religion and the second one of the most violent forms of political arrangements, especially when it is cut loose from universal moral commitment and tied to some form of tribal identity (“exclusive nationalism”). I argue that monotheism is a universalist creed and that it is compatible only with inclusive nationalism, a nationalism that is a form of special relations framed by a universal moral code. When monotheism is aligned with exclusive nationalism—when it becomes a “political religion” aligned with exclusivist nationalism—monotheism betrays its universality, a feature which lies at its very core, and morphs into violence, generating and legitimizing henotheism: our god of our nation in contrast and competition to other nations with their gods. Alternatively, if monotheism keeps its universality while associated as political religion with exclusive nationalism it will tend to underwrite dreams of nationalist imperialism: our god and our nation as masters of the world.”

Show Notes

  • Help the Yale Center for Faith & Culture meet a $10,000 matching challenge for podcast production; visit faith.yale.edu/give to donate today.
  • Download Miroslav Volf’s short digital booklet, Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence: 25 Theses
  • Volf introduces Monotheism, Nationalism, & Violence
  • “The price monotheism always has to pay for its alliance with exclusive nationalism is the loss of its soul. When monotheism embraces exclusive nationalism, monotheism’s God morphs from the creator and lover of all people and all creatures into a selfish and violent idol of a particular nation.”
  • Instrumentalizing God
  • What is religion anyway?
  • Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept
  • Martin Riesenbrot, A Promise of Salvation, A Theory of Religion
  • Christians were regarded with suspicion, as atheists
  • Wright: “…this leads some to say religion is itself a dangerous and violent thing because it leads to people saying I have this God and he's more important than your God or whatever. And all sorts of violence stem from that. Indeed, one could argue that the Enlightenment's redefinition radical redefinition of the word religion over against its, say, early centuries use, has been part of the problem. But that, that would be perhaps a more polemical thesis.”
  • Religion plays an important role in political society.
  • How did religion work in the ancient world?
  • Is religion a force for evil in society? Working from a secularist paradigm or not?
  • Monotheism revised by Christology
  • Two Christian groups anathematizing each other
  • “Nothing hangs on the word religion.”
  • Ultimate allegiance, and to what?
  • What are the political responsibilities of the state to religion?
  • Naming proper allegiance
  • Wright on Jesus and Political Authority in John 19: “In other words, in the famous Romans 13, um, it's not a totalitarian passage, though some have read it like that. But Paul says there is no authority except from God. In other words, there is the one God, but God wants his world to be wisely governed by human authorities. But he will then call them to account. And my favorite passage on that is in John 19, when Jesus is being interviewed by Pontius Pilate. And Pilate says, don't you realize I have the right to have you killed? And Jesus says, and it's extraordinary, think of Johannine theology, that Jesus says this to Pilate. You could have no authority over me unless it was given to you from above and then the corollary is therefore the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin and that's that's a very interesting differentiation which no doubt Pilate couldn't understand at all and of course violence enters in straight away because Pilate's response is to send him off to be crucified.”
  • Polycarp (paraphrased by N.T. Wright): “Now I won't worship your God, but I will respect you enough to honor you if you want to have a conversation about this.”
  • “That one God is doing justice in the world.”
  • Jan Assman: creating the states in which violence in the name of God is possible
  • Bringing in atonement theology
  • “All three monotheisms in some sense affirm the freedom of religion.”
  • Noble ideal of the post-enlightenment world: an inclusive nationalism and inclusive monotheism.
  • Freedom of religion
  • Christianity as trinitarian monotheism
  • Romans 8: Spirit groaning
  • Jesus’s cry for dereliction
  • Wright: “Collaborate without compromise and to critique without dualism.”

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured N.T. Wright and Miroslav Volf
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Macie Bridge
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give

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