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Radical Orthodoxy on Catholicism, Protestantism and Liberalism/Liberality: On the use of historical narratives and quantitative methods in political theology

Journal article
Authors Arne Rasmusson
Published in Modern Theology
ISSN 0266-7177
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Language en
Keywords Political theology, ecclesiology, theological method, Catholicism, Protestantism, Noncomformism, Liberalism, Radical Orthodoxy, John Milbank
Subject categories Faith and reason, Sociology of religion, Church history, Systematic theology


Political theology assumes or depends, implicitly or explicitly, on historical narratives and empirical claims. For theologians making historical, socio-cultural and economic claims an interdisciplinary use of several different methods is helpful, including a theologically and philosophically informed combination of historical narratives with social and economic quantitative methods. This argument is fleshed out by a critical analysis of historical and sociological claims about Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism in relation to liberalism and liberality, which are central to the argument of John Milbank’s and Adrian Pabst’s book The Politics of Virtue. They find the roots of an increasingly untenable abstract atomistic liberalism both in late medieval and Protestant (especially Calvinist) theology as well as in the dissenting nonconforming traditions that worked for the disestablishment of the Church. This very disestablishment is part of what creates modern liberalism. This article both sketches a partly alternative history to the one Milbank and Pabst provide, pointing to the role of creative minorities in certain dissenting Protestant churches and movements for the emergence of the type of liberality Milbank and Pabst defend, and tests these claims against quantitative social science studies on democracy, social trust, and corruption.

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