Political Theology and the Secular State | Edvance Christian Schools Association
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Political Theology and the Secular State

Written on April 27th, 2016

June 20 - July 1, 2016. [On-Campus Summer Intensive]

‘God is back’, on the streets of a liberal democracy neary you. But the return of public religion - its ‘de-privatisation’ - is generating deep anxieties among secularists who have long assumed that liberal democracy presupposes a ‘secular state’ and a religion-free public realm. Christians, too, are scrambling to make sense of the new but shifting spaces opening up for their own faith-based political engagement. Drawing on salient insights of contemporary political theology, the course will confront the challenges to, and opportunities for, the secular state presented by the resurgence of public religion in liberal democracies. It explores various concepts of ‘secularism’, ‘secularization’, ‘the secular’ and the ‘post-secular’, probes the nature and legitimacy of religious public reasoning, and reflects on the shape of constructive and critical religious citizenship in contemporary liberal states.

ICS Course Code: ICS 151309/251309 S16
Instructor: Dr. Jonathan Chaplin
Term and Year: June 20 - July 1, 2016. [On-Campus Summer Intensive]

Course Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Explain the meaning of key factors in the ‘return of public religion’ in liberal democratic states in order to assess its consequences and significance
  2. Distinguish and critically assess the main senses of ‘secular’ and its cognates in order to make sense of and contribute to debates about religion and the liberal state
  3. Articulate key theo-political principles that might inform constructive Christian political reasoning and action in contemporary and emerging liberal democracies

Institute for Christian Studies

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Registration

To register for this course please visit the Institute for Christian Studies Register Form

Course Requirements and Description and Weighting of Elements to be Evaluated

  1. Weekly reading (# of pages):  average of 60pp per week = 600pp.
  2. In-seminar leadership: 2 x 500-word commentary/reflection on an allocated reading
  3. Description of course project:  If research paper, 3000-4000 word paper based on 850 pages of research
  4. Description and weighting of elements to be evaluated:
    1. Class participation:   20%
    2. In-Seminar Leadership:  30%
    3. Research Project/Paper:  50%

Reading Schedule

  • Session 1: Introduction: Setting the stage
    •  J. Chaplin, Talking God, Introduction and ch. 1 (15 pp.)
    •  J. Maclure & C. Taylor, Secularism and Freedom of Conscience, Introduction + chs. 1-4 (37 pp.)
  • Session 2: Secularism, Secularization and the Secular State I
    •  C. Calhoun et al eds., Rethinking Secularism, pp. 3-20 + chs. 1, 2 (62 pp.)
  •  Session 3: Secularism, Secularization and the Secular State II
    • C. Calhoun et al eds., Rethinking Secularism, chs. 4,5 (45 pp.)
    • R. Williams, Faith in the Public Square, ch. 1 (11 pp.)
  •  Session 4: Theology and the Secular State I
    • R. Williams, Faith in the Public Square, chs. 2-4, 6, 10 (58 pp.)
  •  Session 5: Theology and the Secular State II
    •  N. Wolterstorff, The Mighty and the Almighty, Introduction, 8, 11, 13, 14 (70 pp.)
  • Session 6: Theology and the Secular State III
    • D. Farrow, Desiring a Better Country, chs. 1, 3, 5 (65 pp.)
    • OR (subject to student preferences):
    • W. Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination, ch. 2 (44 pp.)
    • W. Cavanaugh, Migrations of the Holy, ch. 2 (22 pp.)
  • Session 7: Religious Citizenship and the Liberal State: Deliberation I
    • C. Calhoun et al eds., Rethinking Secularism, ch. 3 (15 pp.)
    • N. Biggar, ‘“God” in Public Reason’ (12 pp.)
    • J. Chaplin, Talking God, chs. 2, 3 (17 pp.)
  • Session 8: Religious Citizenship and the Liberal State: Deliberation II
    • J. Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’ (25 pp.)
    • R. Williams, Faith in the Public Square, ch. 12 (11 pp.) (or student’s choice of chapter)
    • J. Chaplin, ‘Religion, Law and Public Reasoning’ (18 pp.)
  • Session 9: Religious Citizenship and the Liberal State: Participation
    • R. Williams, Faith in the Public Square, chs. 12, 24 (20 pp.)
    • A. March, ‘Theocrats Living under Secular Law: An External Engagement with Islamic Legal Theory’. (23 pp)
    • J. Chaplin, ‘Rejecting Neutrality, Respecting Diversity: From “Liberal Pluralism” to “Christian Pluralism”’. (22 pp.)
  • Session 10: Religious Citizenship and the Liberal State: Accommodation
    •  L. Barnett, J. Nicol and J. Walker, ‘An Examination of the Duty to Accommodate in the Canadian Human Rights Context’. (11 pp.)
    • J. Maclure & C. Taylor, Secularism and Freedom of Conscience, chs 7-11 + Conclusion (55 pp.)
    • D. Farrow, Desiring a Better Country, ch. 4 (15 pp.)

For a list of additional resources and recommended readings please visit the ICS link here