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The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice

Kathryn Tanner (Author)
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How is it that the same Christian beliefs can be used both to bolster an oppressive regime and rally opposition to it? Are there any norms intrinsic to Christian belief that dictate its political import?

Delving into the complex aspects of Christian beliefs in their historical, theological, and social diversity, Tanner here offers a rigorous and sustained analysis of the relations of belief to attitudes and action. She centers her analysis on God and Creation and brings a much-needed clarity to notions of hierarchy, transcendence, dualism, and oppression. She constructs a typology of how doctrines can relate to each other, to social systems, and to ethical behavior.

In arguing that Christian beliefs about God and the world can be disengaged from complicity with social forces of reaction and oppression, Tanner discloses the radical potential of Christian beliefs and realigns them with efforts to bring about a just society.
Release date: 
September 1, 1992


"Kathryn Tanner's exceptional analytical skill and theological acumen continue, now in the crucial theological questions of social justice. An acute and important study."
— David Tracy, The Divinity School University of Chicago

Table of Contents


  1. Beliefs, Actions, Attitudes

  2. Doubts and Complexities
    Beliefs as an Influence on Attitudes and Actions
    The Gap between Beliefs and Proposals of Attitude and Action
    Bridging the Gap
    An Example of Factors at Work
    Proper and Improper Attitudes and Actions
    A Look Ahead

  3. Self-Critical Cultures and Divine Transcendence

  4. The Possibility of Self-Critical Cultures
    Two Types of Culture
    Structural Features of the Two Types
    Religion and the Two Types of Culture
    The Ambiguities of Divine Transcendence

  5. Sociopolitical Critique and Christian Belief

  6. The Doctrine of Creation and Sociopolitical Critique
    Sin and Sociopolitical Critique
    Despair and the Possibility of Aimless Critique
    Christianity's Critical Potential Affirmed

  7. Christian Belief and the Justification of Hierarchy

  8. The Model of an Intradivine Order
    Chain-of-Being and Chain-of-Command Justifications of Hierarchy
    Hierarchy Based upon Created Differences or a Divine Mandate
    The Model of God's Relation to the World

  9. Christian Belief and Respect for Others

  10. The Dialectic of Idolatrous Self-Aggrandizement and Self-Contempt
    A Caveat
    Respect for Others as Creatures of God
    Inferences to Treatment
    Rights Possessed by Creatures
    Social Consequences
    What this Vision of Society Leaves Undecided

  11. Christian Belief and Respect for Difference

  12. Forms of Toleration and a Christian Respect for Difference Universal Standards and the Value of Particularity Identity and Difference and Respect for Others as God's Creatures
    Social Consequences

  13. Christian Belief and Activism

  14. Nonidolatrous Self-Esteem as Grounds for Activism
    Nonidolatrous Self-Esteem and Inclinations to Self-Development
    Relative Judgments and Particular Commitments
    Activism and the Recognition of Finitude