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Political Authority and Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2018

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Political authority is the right to exercise the power of the polis, the political community, over and on behalf of the members of the community. It implies the obligation of the members to obey those who exercise power by right when they act within the limits set by the criteria of authorization. Every political society this side of the eschaton must embody viable relationships of authority and obedience. If not, the society must either be sustained by tyranny, which is arbitrary force and not authoritative power, or else dissolve into anarchy, which surely then will lead to tyranny.

Research Article
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1974

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page 31 note • The various recent “theologies of liberation”—black, women's, Third World—belong in this group also, but they embody too much particularity to risk including them comfortably in the generalization. However, it would be worthwhile to study them, using the nine “points in common” as hypotheses.

page 34 note • The formulation is Reinhold Niebuhr's: liberty and equality are regulative principles of justice.

page 34 note 1. Voegelin, Eric, The New Science of Politics (Chicago, 1952)Google Scholar; van Leeuwen, Arend Th., Christianity and World History (New York, 1964)Google Scholar; Arendt, Hannah, On Revolution (New York, 1963).Google Scholar

page 34 note 2. For an extended discussion of this point, see Thielicke, Helmut, Theological Ethics, Vol. II: Polities (Philadelphia, 1969), pp. 770.Google Scholar

page 34 note 3. See especially “Authority and Democracy,” Dublin Review (January, 1942); The Inner Laws of Society, tr. B.B. Carter (New York, 1944).

page 34 note 4. Scholasticism and Politics (New York, 1940), Chapter IV; Man and the State (Chicago, 1951).

page 34 note 5. See Moltmann, Jürgen, Religion, Revolution and the Future (New York, 1969)Google Scholar; “Political Theology,” Theology Today (April, 1971); “Racism and the Right to Resist,” Study Encounter (November 1, 1972).

page 34 note 6. Religion, Revolution and the Future, p. 135.

page 34 note 7. “Political Theology,” pp. 15ff.