Between Christ and Machiavelli

Is the choice between Christ and Machiavelli,
or is the lesser of two evils an acceptable moral choice?

You Gotta Serve Somebody:
The Christian right’s Machiavellian morals

See the complete article by Dave Denison | The Baffler |

“under evangelical conservatism’s modern activist phase,
the precepts of honorable Christian living have intermingled with the raw imperatives of getting, holding, and exercising worldly power.”

“Donald Trump may have a host of right-wing Evangelical leaders willing to vouch for his chummy relationship with Jesus Christ, but that hasn’t stopped him from throwing his non-white Christian brethren under the bus. He’s certainly a pharaonic figure, but as Dave Denison notes, don’t expect the rest of the movement to turn on the Donald any time soon. After all, “under evangelical conservatism’s modern activist phase, the precepts of honorable Christian living have intermingled with the raw imperatives of getting, holding, and exercising worldly power.”

“No version of the kingdom of the world, however comparatively good it may be can protect its self-interests while loving its enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, or blessing those who persecute it. Yet loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us is precisely what kingdom-of-God citizens are called to do. It’s what it means to be Christian. By definition, therefore, you can no more have a Christian worldly government than you can have a Christian petunia or aardvark. A nation may have noble ideals and be committed to just principles, but it’s not for this reason Christian.”

– Gregory Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. from Boyd’s 2005 book, The Myth of a Christian Nation

“Machiavelli would shake his head sadly to see that Boyd was not won over by The Prince, but he would also no doubt agree wholeheartedly with Boyd’s point: that those who take New Testament teachings literally are in no position to lead the political march for nationalistic glory. All of which leaves the leaders of today’s Christian right unable to justify their nationalism in anything other than Machiavellian terms. Perhaps they might regain some desperately needed critical detachment by revisiting the testimony of Frank Schaeffer, the liberal son of Francis Schaeffer, the great movement theorist whose eighties preachments against the secular ethos roused the modern religious right into being. As his father neared the end of his life, the young Schaeffer recounts, he grew disenchanted with the evangelical insurgency’s cynical leadership; Focus on the Family impresario James Dobson and his fellow Christian right leaders, in the elder Schaeffer’s view, were “idiots” and “plastic” figureheads who only worshiped power. And sure enough, come 2016, Dobson was championing Trump as a recent evangelical convert—calling him a “baby Christian,” in point of fact. Somewhere, one can only assume, Old Nick is smiling broadly over his progeny.”

History is an immense liturgical text

“There is no human being on earth capable of declaring with certitude who he is. No one knows what he has come into this world to do, what his acts correspond to, his sentiments, his ideas, or what his real name is, his enduring Name in the register of Light…History is an immense liturgical text where iotas and dots are worth no less than the entire verse or chapters, but the importance of one and the other is indeterminable, and profoundly hidden.”

Musings and Thunderings of Léon Bloy
Collected by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert

The Suffering God

Divine passibility in modern theology by Richard Bauckham

Divine suffering and theodicy

“It is part of the character of the specially modern awareness of the problem of suffering that any attempt to justify human suffering, in all its enormity, is ruled out. An authentic human response to suffering must always retain an element of protest against suffering which cannot be justified. Hence the autocratic God of absolute power who simply presides over this suffering world and cannot himself be reached by suffering appears a cosmic monster. It seems possible to justify God (‘theodicy’) only if he too suffers. ‘The only credible theology for Auschwitz is one that makes God an inmate of the place.’ Though this is a widespread motive for reflection on divine suffering, again it is Moltmann (in The Crucified God) who has made this the central feature of his approach to the issue and focused it on the cross. He sees the theology of the crucified God as opening a way forward in relation to the problem of suffering, beyond the unsatisfactory alternatives of ‘metaphysical theism’, with its impassible God, and ‘protest atheism’, with its rebellion against a world in which innocent suffering happens. Theism cannot explain suffering without justifying it, but nor can atheism keep up its protest against suffering without the longing for God’s righteousness in the world. The crucified God, however, shares in the suffering of the world, and in Jesus’ dying question he himself takes up humanity’s protest against suffering and the open question of God’s righteousness in the world. Thus for the sufferer God is not just the incomprehensible God who inflicts suffering, but ‘the human God, who cries with him and intercedes for him with his cross where man in his torment is dumb’. God himself maintains the protest against suffering.

However, if God were only ‘the fellow-sufferer who understands’ (Whitehead), it is arguable that the problem of suffering would be, not alleviated, but aggravated. It is no consolation to the sufferer to know that God is as much a helpless victim of evil as he is himself. In answer to this, Moltmann can argue, first, that the divine solidarity with sufferers does help in that it transforms the character of suffering: it heals the deepest pain in human suffering, which is godforsakenness. But secondly, and characteristically, Moltmann will not isolate the cross from the resurrection: ‘Without the resurrection, the cross really is quite simply a tragedy and nothing more than that.’ The resurrection is God’s promise of liberation from suffering for all those with whom Christ is identified in his cross, the godless and the godforsaken. In the cross all human suffering is taken within God’s own ‘trinitarian history’ in hope for the joy of God’s eschatological future. God ‘is vulnerable, takes suffering and death on himself in order to heal, to liberate and to confer new life. The history of God’s suffering in the passion of the Son and the sighings of the Spirit serves the history of God’s joy in the Spirit and his completed felicity at the end. That is the ultimate goal of God’s history of suffering in the world.’ The message of divine suffering would be no gospel without the message of the divine victory over suffering.”



“postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality. Instead, it asserts to varying degrees that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality.