“Not once but twice”

from Paul Ricoeur’s “Adventures of the State and the Task of Christians”

“It is of decisive importance for a Christian interpretation of the State that the writers of the New Testament have bequeathed us not one but two readings of political reality: one, that of St. Paul, which offers a difficult justification, the other that of St. John, which offers an obstinate mistrust. For one, the State has the face of the magistrate; for the other, it is the face of the beast.”


“This double theological pattern is full of meaning for us: we henceforth know that it is not possible to adopt for ourselves either a religiously motivated anarchism under the pretext that the State does not confess Jesus Christ, or an apology for the State in the name of “Be obedient to the authorities.” The State is this dual-natured reality, simultaneously instituted and fallen.”

“It is thus with this double guide that one must orient himself politically. The modern State simultaneously progresses along the line of the ‘institution’ (what St. Paul called taxis) and along the line of ‘power,’ of seduction and threat.”


“All these threats are suggestive, as are also the resources of reason, of order and justice that the State develops in unfolding the history of power. What makes the State a great enigma is that these two tendencies are simultaneous and together form the reality of power. The State is, among us, the unresolved contradiction of rationality and power.”


“If that analysis is true, it is necessary to say that we ought simultaneously to improve the political institution in the direction of greater rationality and to exercise vigilance against the abuse of power inherent in State power.”


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Filed under Readings in Politics, Readings in Religion

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