Redemption and Politics in Augustine of Hippo: The Political Appropriation of Theology

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Redemption and Politics in Augustine of Hippo: The Political Appropriation of Theology

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Title: Redemption and Politics in Augustine of Hippo: The Political Appropriation of Theology
Author: Beer, David Benjamin
Abstract: This dissertation is a study of the connection of Augustine of Hippo's theology with his political practice. Instead of limiting Augustine's theology to his exposition of human depravity, this study focuses particularly on the symbols of redemption within Augustine's soteriology. Augustine's two-cities model implicitly provides for the differentiation of the experience of redemption into symbols that are temporally present and common to all human beings. It is argued that Augustine's City of God demonstrates that the possibility of redemption and its attendant symbols within the experience are subtly appropriated into the political sphere as the motivation and logic for political practices in so far as the practices convey the order of reality that these symbols seek to represent. This dissertation develops a theory of theological appropriation from Augustine's implicit patterns that provides an avenue for a nuanced treatment of the limitations of politics and a chastened account of earthly progress that remains relevant for contemporary political theory. In other words, since the experience of redemption is not limited to Christian theology, this allows the further development of political practices that can be enacted and shared in the presently intermingled world. The development of appropriation, however, is not without its own difficulties. The existence of redemption also creates the possibility of misappropriating the symbol of redemption in support of political practices that cannot properly function as representations of redemption in the order of reality. In contrast to Augustine's anti-pagan and anti-Pelagian works, which maintain the tensions of appropriated redemption, Augustine's involvement in the controversy over Donatism provides an example of support for political practices that misappropriate redemption by seeking to politically coerce individuals into redemption. Practices based on misappropriation fail to function in the way they were intended and harm the political community by lessening its attunement to reality. The present account of appropriation allows for the development of Augustine's implicit usage and also corrects his errors and excesses using his own tools. This study demonstrates that Augustine remains a relevant partner in the continuing discussion of the foundations and maintenance of liberal democratic order.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Politics. The Catholic University of America
Date: 2012-06-01

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