State - Christian Republic, Nelson.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Bruce Morrison

CHAPTER FOUR – THE CHRISTIAN REPUBLIC  Political consciousness invariably reflects the existing form of polity  What characterized the medieval period was not simply the absence of the state, but the existence of multiple centers of authority that were in the more or less continuous state of conflict over the scope and jurisdiction of their authority  The conflict was between institutionally intertwined organizations over their respective role and authority in governing what eventually became known as the Respublica Christiana  Because Christianity was not a state religion dedication to the preservation of existing political values and structures as were the pagan religions of Rome and earlier states  The church alone remained a viable political organization with roots in Roman civilization  Kingship is sacred office, that political authority is derived from God and the king rules by divine right  The conflict between regnum and sacerdotium would last for centuries as a conflict between church and empire, ultimately between church and emerging territorial state, and it would take the form of a struggle between two monarchs  The dilemma was clear enough: how to recognize the divine origin of kingly authority and the legitimacy of the secular polity without conceding religious functions to the state and priestly authority to the king  Political authority is divinely ordained and as such, absolute. There is no citizenship as the Greeks and Romans understood it, only subject-ship  Augustine concedes that a Christian king or emperor is the ideal, it is not a requirement for the legitimacy of the state  St. Augustine emphasizes and therefore all rule by the will of God  The state exists because of the necessity of social order, not as embodiment of moral virtue, as the classical unit of ethics and politics  The constitution of the state is now irrelevant to the moral development of the subjects  For Augustine, all human beings are by nature evil, born to original sin and thereby manifest a continual propensity toward evil despite knowledge of natural and divine law  Feudalism was premised upon a profound decentralization and privatization of social, economic and political power in response to external crisis that could not effectively be responded to in any other way  The church itself became thoroughly implicated in the feudal system  Kings and powerful feudal lords had become accustomed to appointing their candidates to clerical office, from bishop to parish priest within their own feudal domains – the result was scandalous corruption  Neither pope nor emperor was able to assert final and supreme authority within Christendom  What is important is that the ensuing debate between pope and emperor laid the theoretical basis for the later development of the early modern state  It is important to recall that Roman law had evolved within both a republican and subsequently imperial state structure, the latter premised upon a clearly defined legal conception of sovereignty  What touches all should be approved by all. This initially was simply a rule of private corporation
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