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March 29, 2021 at 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM EDT


Is it possible today to act in faith as a follower of God and participate in modern politics? Will religion misshape and misdirect our efforts to achieve justice? Or will political engagement misshape and misdirect our efforts to follow God? This course takes us on a journey through some deeper historical currents of Christian reflection on politics, and their attempts to answer these questions. A number of special guest visitors will introduce a few systematic approaches to the church’s relation to the state (e.g. Augustinian, Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic social thought, Anabaptist etc.). Rather than focus on immediate political questions of today, we will step back and hear from these traditions in their own time, and their attempts to take a complex Biblical inheritance and apply it to social and political dilemmas in front of them. Our aim is to refresh our hopes, visions, and commitments both to God as well as to fallible human communities and governments. This mini-course has short weekly readings.




John Owen- “God and Politics: Three Christian Views.

John M. Owen is Amb. Henry J. and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Miller Center of Public Affairs, at the University of Virginia. Owen is author of Confronting Political Islam (Princeton, 2015), The Clash of Ideas in World Politics (Princeton, 2010), and Liberal Peace, Liberal War (Cornell, 1997), and co-editor of Religion, the Enlightenment, and the New Global Order (Columbia, 2011). He is writing a book provisionally titled Protecting Democracy from the Outside (under contract with Yale University Press). Owen has published scholarly papers in the European Journal of International Relations, European Journal of International Security, Global Policy, International Organization, Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft, International Politics, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, Perspectives on Politics, and several edited volumes. His articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Hedgehog Review, The Hill, The Washington Post, National Interest, The New York Times,and USA Today. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of Security Studies; he serves on its editorial board and that of International Security. Owen has held fellowships at Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Oxford, the Free University of Berlin, and the WZB Berlin Social Science Research Center. He is a recipient of a Humboldt Research Prize (2015). He holds an AB from Duke, an MPA from Princeton, and a PhD from Harvard. During the 2020-21 academic year, he is a Visiting Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of British Columbia. He has served on the boards of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers and the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia. He and his wife Patricia attend Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville. They have three adult children.

Oliver O’Donovan- “Law and Political Identity”

Oliver O’Donovan, born in 1945 in London and educated in London, Oxford and Princeton, was ordained an Anglican priest in Oxford in 1973. He held teaching posts at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford (1972) and Wycliffe College, Toronto (1977), before becoming Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology at Oxford and Canon of Christ Church (1982), and later Professor of Christian Ethics & Practical Theology at Edinburgh (2006-2012). His major writings on Ethics and Political Theology are Resurrection and Moral Order (1986; French: Resurrection et l’Expérience Morale, tr. J.Y. Lacoste, 1992), The Desire of the Nations (1996), The Ways of Judgment (2005) and most recently (2013-4), Self, World and Time and Finding and Seeking, the first two of the three projected volumes of Ethics as Theology. Shorter contributions to public moral debates include Begotten or Made? (1984), Peace and Certainty (1989), The Just War Revisited (2003) and A Conversation Waiting to Begin (2009). On the history of Western thought he has written The Problem of Self-love in Saint Augustine (1980), On the Thirty-Nine Articles (1986) and From Irenaeus to Grotius (1999), a sourcebook in collaboration with his wife Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, with whom he also published a collection of interpretative essays, Bonds of Imperfection (2004). A book of Sermons, The Word in Small Boats, appeared in 2010. He has contributed to commissions and working-parties of the Church of England and is currently a member of its Faith and Order Council. For six years (1985-90) he served as a member of the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and was a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Gregorian University of Rome in 2001. He has lectured extensively at Universities in Britain, USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. He is a past President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics. Since 2000 he has been a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh since 2009, a Senior Honorary Research Fellow of the Kirby Laing Institute in Cambridge since 2012 and an Honorary Professor of the University of St Andrews since 2013. The O’Donovans were married in 1978, and have two sons.

Isabel Perera- “The Catholic Social Tradition”

Isabel Perera is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government. Her research examines health, labor, and social policy in comparative perspective. Prior to joining Cornell, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (2018-2020), Queen Elizabeth Fellow at the University of Oxford (2016-2017), and Chateaubriand Fellow at Sciences Po Paris (2015-2016). She holds a doctorate from Penn and an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins.

John Inazu- “Confident Pluralism and its Discontents”

John Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis. He teaches criminal law, law and religion, and various First Amendment seminars. His scholarship focuses on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and related questions of legal and political theory. He is the author of Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly (Yale University Press, 2012) and Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and co-editor (with Tim Keller) of Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference (Thomas Nelson, 2020).


Chesterton House Painting