Monday, March 31, 2014
On Friday, I had the pleasure and privilege of hosting a roundtable conference sponsored (thanks!) by Notre Dame's Program on Church, State & Society and dedicated to Prof. Nicholas Wolterstorff's (relatively) recent book, The Mighty and the Almighty: An Essay in Political Theology, a work that one of the participants characterized as the "first work in analytic political theology." Prof. Wolterstorff is, of course, both a giant in his fields and a really good guy. The conference's conversations were engaging and rich, and it was exactly the kind of academic "event" that makes one think there is hope for academic events.
For someone, like me, who thinks about the church-state nexus primarily as a lawyer and from a perspective strongly shaped by the Catholic social tradition and thinkers like Murray, it was a challenge and a treat to work through the "big questions" with trained philosophers, historians, theologians (and lawyers!) from a variety of religious backgrounds. Among other things, we considered Wolterstorff's rejection of "perfectionism", of the Gelasian "two rules" model, and of (a version of) the retributive theory of punishment. And (natch), the group spent a fair bit of time with the whole "are religious institutions more than groups of religious individuals?" question that's been in air quite a bit lately.