Polarities of the Human and Divine: Aquinas and Schmitt on Political Theology
(2022) American Journal of Political Science, 66 (1), pp. 93-105.
The investigations of Carl Schmitt yielded an influential but partial recovery of the term “political theology.” In this article, I consider Schmitt’s tendentious reduction of political theology to a justifying or legitimizing function. I then turn to Aquinas to demonstrate that Christian political theology also offers robust criticism of political life. After laying out three such standards for criticism, I account for why Christian political theology exhibits this deep ambivalence toward political life. The traditions of political theology, I argue, can be understood as attempts to harmonize polar tensions with those traditions. Whereas thinkers like Schmitt and Foucault emphasize one set of polarities against another, Aquinas effects a genuine synthesis. This synthesis should be the task of political theology. I close with notes toward the renewal of political theology. © 2021, Midwest Political Science Association