Posted by: rogermitchell | August 20, 2012

The Fall of the Church CH2: the story unfolds

Chapter Two begins to tell the story of my research and to explain what I found out from my four investigative case studies.

Firstly, it maps out the way in which the exercise of sovereign power came to be seen as the means to peace for humankind from its beginnings in the days of Eusebius and Constantine, and its shifting expression in the conflict and division of the authorities of church and empire throughout the Middle Ages after the fall of Rome.
Secondly, it traces the progress of the Christendom system in its multiplication and diversification through war, parliament and money culminating in the modern rationalistic rejection of transcendence as the carrier of universal sovereign rule.
Thirdly it shows that despite the rejection of transcendence and embrace of secularity, sovereignty still reigns supreme in terms of postmodern biopower, individual autonomy and human rights today.

The chapter then focuses in on the three main components of the sovereignty system and suggests that they can be characterised as false currencies which have their roots in a contorted version of the salvation story:
i) Sovereign power: Eusebius’s understanding of the monarchical sovereignty of God, the bishops and Caesar, became the multiplied sovereignty of republic or constitutional monarch, now extended to include Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, MPs and political parties of so called representative democracy.
ii) Sovereign law: Eusebius’s understanding of God’s law as upheld by violent retribution became canon and state law and then the separation of church and parliamentary law protected by the nation state and undergirded by military might.
iii) Sovereign payment: The appeasement of God’s offended sovereignty by blood sacrifice configured in the 4th century became the mediated currency of the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus in the Middle Ages and the preaching of the substitutionary atonement among Protestants after the Reformation. This gave form and justification to the new paper currency which was used to pay God through his sovereign representatives for his benevolent rule, the exercise of war to maintain this rule through the state, and the opportunity to share in a measure of peace through sovereign power for favoured members of the general populace by means of capitalist economics.

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Responses

  1. Joyous. Can’t wait for publication.
    Might there be space Roger for a comment on multinational businesses and / or the multinational corporations such as the UN or the International Olympics Committee? These also adopt the language of sovereignty and sometimes avow (quite blatantly at times) a kingdom of peace in their language without the need for a kenotic, sacrificial Messiah.

    • The organisations you mention are the children of empire to be sure, and will feature in the discussion of biopower, another word that is difficult to some but will be unpacked and explained as well as I can. It’s important to realise that humans are the raw material exploited by these agencies, even although they provide the opportunities for escape at some points.

  2. The more I reflect on this kind of stuff the more aware I am of how totalitarian it all is. Literally every system, every aspect of our lives are immersed in this corrupt understanding of God and of God’s love. Whether I shop for food/clothes, engage in the medical system for care, work in academia or anywhere else for that matter, sell something, or go to church, it does not matter, it is all corrupted by this stuff. Clearly the only way forward is never, never, to fight by the rules, by the rules the imperial systems make. It demands a completely other way of living/loving/challenging what surrounds us at every moment. I await your work with eagerness Roger. Though I realize that it is easy to raise awareness and discuss this stuff. The tough part is implementation! Does this mean I should not be sending job apps to the UN right now? What about university faculties? Oh darn, its all corrupt, and all part of the same system. I guess its the cabin in the mountains for me. . . c.

  3. Part of what I see as the key is set out in the fifth point of the objectives statement below. It’s that having opposed and drawn attention to the wrong kind of power from the start, when we insist on the wrong kind of power, God stays with our choices and the system that results. But all the while he works towards its undoing in subtle ways and challenges it at moments of fulness. I believe that every few generations we come to a time of potentially ultimate fulness, decomposition and breakthrough and we are at one of those now.

    • So glad you answered like that Roger. It makes it so clear. I agree. Thanks. J

  4. This probably does not need mentioning, but when you deal with substitutionary atonement you will be walking into a mine field – at least if my experience is anything to go by. There is a lot of reaction amongst conservative thinkers to a perceived liberal threat from the emergent church. It is resulting in a lot of over-reaction and I think once you tread on this territory many will begin to stop listening and start making (probably wrong) assumptions. You probably are not going to win everyone, but this section will be a challenge!

    • I know you are right. However I believe it is the crux of the matter. My problem is not of course with the issue of substitution, but the issue of appeasement. If God needs appeasing for offences against his sovereignty, if this requires the blood of the sinner and Jesus substitutes his blood for that, then there we have a salvation myth capable of legitimating the worst kind of empire. I see no way of preserving this as a genuine part of the gospel testimony. It’s a deadly inversion of the salvation story that people need saving from, not saving by.


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