Truth and Politics

Truth and Politics: A Theological Comparison of Joseph Ratzinger and John Milbank

Peter Samuel Kucer
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Truth and Politics
    Book Description:

    One of the perennial questions in political theology is how the concept of truth is defined and how such is grounded theologically. The answer to this determines, to a great degree, theological engagement with and appropriations of political systems and theological accounts of political and social order. Truth and Politics tackles this crucial question through an analysis and comparison of the thought of two of the most important contemporary Catholic and Protestant theologians, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) and John Milbank. Peter Samuel Kucer here traces out the critical question of the relationship of theology and politics, particularly as it intersects with ecclesiology, through a focus on the issue of the theological relationship to socialism. In this, Kucer demonstrates the competing accounts in the theologies of Joseph Ratzinger and John Milbank, arguing that Ratzinger’s theology is oriented in such a way that it maintains a provisional openness with regard to political forms—that theology and politics, while interconnected, do not demand commitment to a singular form of political model—in contrast to Milbank’s work, which subscribes to a particular pattern of church and politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6530-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    Joseph Ratzinger and the Anglican scholar John Milbank have written extensively on the social and political order from a theological perspective. Despite both having a favorable view toward democratic socialism, they differ in how they describe socialism’s relationship to faith as expressed by the church. For Ratzinger, democratic socialism, as distinct from totalitarian socialism,¹ is a legitimate political expression, yet he does not think the church is to advocate any political model as a practical expression of theological faith. In contrast, Milbank proposes an ecclesial and democratic socialism as the political form of Christian faith, in which the church is...

  4. 1 Ratzinger on Truth as Essentially Uncreated
    (pp. 27-66)

    As described in the introduction, for Vico truth is convertible with the made. Ratzinger explicitly denies the reductionist aspects of such a claim. For Ratzinger, truth is essentially not made because God is Truth Itself, and in him there is no inner creation. At the same time, however, Ratzinger affirms a created aspect of intraworldly truth. Ratzinger, therefore, rejects Vico’s definition of truth, while acknowledging a dimension of his thought that is compatible with Christian belief. In this chapter, I will demonstrate how Ratzinger attempts to rectify Vico’s position on truth by utilizing a particular understanding of the analogy of...

  5. 2 Ratzinger on Truth as Illuminated and Mediated
    (pp. 67-106)

    In the previous chapter, we saw that Ratzinger, drawing from the twentieth century analogy of being debates, relies on analogy as providing an explanation for how humanity primarily relates to truth by not creating it, as Vico advocates, but rather by analogously corresponding to final truth through reception. In this chapter we will focus, contra Vico, on Ratzinger’s more explicit theological treatments of truth as grounded in an analogy of being. This will be done by examining how he depicts truth as illuminated and mediated. I will first begin with truth as illuminated.

    In accordance with his view that one...

  6. 3 Milbank on Truth as Created
    (pp. 107-144)

    For Vico, as stated in the introduction, truth is convertible withfactum. According to Milbank, this claim is in accordance with Christianity. Consequently, he defends Vico’s assertion that truth is created both by human beings and by God, internally and externally. Milbank furthers the concept that truth is created by, in place of an analogy of being, developing an analogy of creation. Out of this analogy of creation, Milbank describes a correspondence theory of truth and explains how truth is illuminated and mediated.

    In this chapter we will examine how Milbank confirms Vico’s concept of truth by first determining how...

  7. 4 Milbank on Truth as Illuminated and Mediated
    (pp. 145-178)

    In the previous chapter, we saw that Milbank, building upon his interpretation of Vico, relies on an analogy of creation as the fundamental explanation for human correspondence to truth. In this chapter, we will focus on how he furthers his appropriation of Vico by focusing on Milbank’s more explicit theological treatments of truth as grounded in an analogy of creation. This will be done by determining how, for Milbank, truth is illuminated and mediated. I will begin with truth as illuminated.

    In furthering Vico’s axiom that truth is convertible withfactumMilbank maintains that humanity creates truth only by being...

  8. 5 Ratzinger and Milbank Compared
    (pp. 179-220)

    In this chapter I will compare Ratzinger’s threefold approach to truth with Milbank’s, in relationship to Vico’s thought. As was demonstrated, in his account of truth Ratzinger negates the validity of Vico’s claims. Milbank, in contrast, validates them. Drawing on the previous chapters, and Ratzinger’s and Milbank’s most current writings, in which they further clarify and qualify their thought, I will compare the two theologians in the following manner. First, the differences and similarities between the two theologians on truth in its divine state will be examined. Second, Ratzinger and Milbank will be compared on how they depict human correspondence...

  9. 6 Ratzinger’s Theology of Politics and Milbank’s Political Theology
    (pp. 221-258)

    In the previous chapter it was shown how both theologians’ threefold perspectives on truth in relationship to Vico leads to two different conceptions of the nature-grace relationship. On the one hand, while Ratzinger upholds that nature and grace are related, he nonetheless defends the integrity of the natural order, as is evident in his approach to scientific, aesthetic, and moral truth as defined by natural law. Milbank, on the other hand, advocates a radical integration of nature and grace to such an extent as to practically reject any degree of autonomy of a natural order from a supernatural one. For...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 259-268)

    Ratzinger’s and Milbank’s different theological approaches to politics, as influenced by two reactions to Vico, essentially are derived from two distinct responses to Pilate’s question to Jesus: “What is truth?” (John 18:38 NAB). While Ratzinger perceives truth as abiding and one, Milbank tends to describe truth by highlighting multiplicity and change. This is reflected in the two theologians’ views of the human ascent in knowledge from physics to metaphysics and finally to theology. It is also reflected in their two explanations of the human being’s descending knowledge after encountering theological truth to the political.

    Due to his adoption of Vico’s...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-282)
  12. Index
    (pp. 283-288)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 289-289)