Canon and Communio

Canon and Communio June 30, 2017

In her essay in Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine, Mary Doak unpacks some features of a Trinitarian, communion-oriented political theology. She doesn’t, however, think that communio ecclesiology implies pacificism, and, as a feminist theologian, she worries that communio can be used to blunt the force of necessary conflict and protest on behalf of justice.

Theologically, she sees the issue as a failure to link Trinitarian political theology with Scripture. Understatedly, she writes, “Perhaps . . . more theological attention should be given to the canonical stories of divine judgment that disturb any simplistic account of God’s love manifest directly in peace and harmony” (89). Well, yes, perhaps so. Perhaps we shouldn’t let our theology float free of the canon.

She goes on: “Is not the story in Genesis 3 of the exile from the garden, now guarded with a flaming sword, a description of God acting with power to prevent human sin from becoming everlasting? Certainly the Jewish canon has insisted on remembering a history in which God repeatedly threatens destruction when injustice becomes ensconced in the life of the people. And, of course, there is no denying the role of coercive power in the New Testament imagination of Jesus’s return as judge to establish the full reign of God: There is much coercion and even violence in the book of Revelation” (89).

She concludes, again with undue understatement, “A Trinitarian, communion-centered political theology might do well to remain rooted in the canonical stories of God’s power (and of humans called to use power) to right injustice, even while this theology focuses on the ultimate reconciliation of all in God” (90). It “might do well” indeed.

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