N. T. Wright on Monarchy

This is from his excellent essay on Paul and Caesar.   Wright is speaking in context of the British monarchy, something I’m not overly thrilled with, but his larger points and goals are correct.

Monarchy, like all sacraments, needs to be held within a strong theology of the ascended Jesus, Lord and King of the whole world, the one who has all authority.

Today’s cheap-and-chattering republicanism owes nothing to the Christian critique of human power, and everything to the sneer of the cynic, noting the price of everything but ignoring its value. Monarchy at its best is a symbolic reminder that the power-games of this world do not stand alone, but in a curious and many-sided relation to a transfiguring love and power which exists in a different dimension.

Monarchy is meant to be an angled mirror in which we see round the dark corner to that other dimension of reality, and realise the provisionality of all earthly power. Woe betide a monarchy that merely mirrors a society back to itself, or that becomes an idol instead of a mirror.

Monarchy is a reminder that the justice and mercy which rulers must practice are not their possession, but come from elsewhere; they are part of theGod-given created order.

It is hard to deny, on Christian premises, that it is vital for the health of a nation and society to have such symbols, and the accompanying rituals with, yes, all their sacramental overtones.

Arguments for disestablishment regularly make points which cancel one another out. Establishment, say some, means a powerful church; the gospel is about weakness, not power; therefore Establishment must go. Establishment, say others, means the church is ruled by the state; the gospel is about the powerful rule of Jesus Christ; therefore we should abandon Establishment. You can’t have it both ways. Either we’re dangerously powerful or we’re dangerously weak. The truth, as usual, is more complex.

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