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Course module: U40061-M-6
Christianity in Dialogue with Contemporary Politics, Government and Law
Course info
Course moduleU40061-M-6
Credits (ECTS)6
CategoryMA (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byTilburg University; Tilburg School of Catholic Theology; TST: Prac. Theology/Religious Studies; Practical Theology and Religious Studies;
Is part of
M Theology and Religious Studies (track Christianity & Soc)
prof. dr. T.W.A. de Wit
Other course modules lecturer
dr. G. van der Schyff
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2019
Starting block
SM 2
Course mode
Registration openfrom 01/12/2019 up to and including 02/08/2020
First of all students will have insight in the dynamics of the interaction between politics, government, and law, and dispose of a a conceptual and theoretical framework for analyzing this dynamic. He or she will be able to approach the relationship between politics, government, and law both from the perspectives of (constitutional) law, politics, and political thought, as well as from (political) theology. The focus will be on models and contemporary developments in the Western world, against a wider background. The student can introduce case studies of other countries as well. In this course, special attention will be paid to Christianity. Current debates on the relationship between politics, government and law are for a considerable part triggered by Islam; therefore, the student will pay attention to this as well. 

Recommended Prerequisites
A course in the History of Philosophy

The course consists of two parts. Each part of the course consists of six lectures or sessions.

First part
The first part of the course aims to introduce students to the relationship between law and religion. A wide approach will be taken to what is understood as law. Law for this purpose is not confined to national law, in other words the law as it applies in a particular state, but will also encompass the law of religious traditions and the relationship between supranational and national law. The purpose is to show that the topic of law and religion should be researched from various perspectives. Law is multi-faceted and is not simply limited to one jurisdiction or one understanding of its relationship with religion.

This first part of the course consists of three major themes. The first theme, comprising lectures 1 and 2, will consider religion as law. In this regard attention will be paid to the Talmudic and Islamic legal traditions. The second theme, dealt with in the third lecture, will consider how law and religion came to be two separate entities in in the Western tradition. The third theme, covered in lectures four to six, will consider the practice of secular/non-religious law in relation to matters concerning religion and freedom of religion. These lectures will deal in particular with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Second part
In the second part of the course we concentrate from a political philosophical perspective on the relationship between law, politics and religion.  This relationship is often conceptualized in diverse forms of ‘Political Theology’ or (religious or secular) ‘Political Religion’. According to a recent definition ‘Political Theology’  is ‘the study of the changeable relations between political community and religious order, in short between political power and salvation’ (J.Assmann, 2000) We can think here both on the theological implications of juridical-political power and at the political implications of theological or ideological/philosophical views.
The first session of this part of the course is dedicated to conceptual clarification of a series of terms like (the antique) ‘theologia tripartita’, further ‘civil religion’, ‘state religion’, ‘political religion’, ‘religious or secular political messianism’, ‘public theology’ and ‘political theology’. Further, we read a historical text about the birth of the ‘Secular Sphere’ in Western Theology (M. Riedl).
In the next five sessions we read (fragments of) more or less classical philosophical texts (of Hobbes, Rousseau, Schmitt, Arendt, Sloterdijk) on the relation between Politics, Law and Religion and, as a counterpart, five contemporary political-philosophical essays on their relevance today in the light of actual problems like the question on civil religion, religion and violence, American political-theological narratives, and the secularization of the Last Judgement.

Compulsory reading:
  • H. Patrick Glenn, Legal Traditions of the World, 5th Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, Chapter 4; 6.
  • Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 1-33, 85-119
  • Bernadette Rainey, Elizabeth Wicks and Clare Ovey, Jacobs, White & Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights, Oxford University Press, 6th edition, 2014, pp. 3-20 (Chapter 1), 307-333 (Chapter 14), 411-434 (Chapter 17)
  • ECtHR, Leyla Şahin v. Turkey of 10 November 2005 (Grand Chamber); ECtHR, Lautsi v. Italy of 18 March 2011 (Grand Chamber); ECtHR, SAS v. France of 1 July 2014 (Grand Chamber) accessed at:
  • W. Brugger, ‘Separation, equality, nearness: Three church-state models’, 25 International Journal for Semiotics of Law 2012, pp. 263-281
  • G. van der Schyff, ‘Championing equality: Evaluating the relationship between the state and religion in South Africa’, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Kerk en Recht 2017, pp. 55-73 Follow the link for this article:
  • Hans Maier, ‘Political religion – state religion – civil religion – political theology. Distinguishing four key terms’, in: H. Maier (ed.), Totalitarianism and Political Religions – Vol. III: Concepts for the Compararion of Dictatorships: Theory and History of Interpretation, trans. Judi Bruhn, New York: Routledge, pp. 197-201.[1]
  • Matthias Riedl, ‘The Secular Sphere in Western Theology: A Historical Reconsideration’, in: P. Losonczi, M Luoma Aho & A. Singh (ed.), The Future of Political Theology, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, 11-23.
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapter 42, fragments,  p. 382-390.
  • Marin Terpstra, ‘The Political Theology of a Potestas Indirecta’, in: Religion, State and Society, 41:2, 133-151.
  • J.J. Rousseau, fragments of The Social Contract on ‘Civil Religion’.
  • Ronald Beiner, ‘Rousseau’s Problem’, 11-16, ‘Geneva Manuscript’, ’Social Contract 73-83, in: Civil Religion. A Dialoque in the History of Political Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Carl Schmitt, ‘Political Theology’, Chapter 3 in: Political Theology. Four Chapters on the Concepts of Sovereignty. Translate and with an Introduction by George Schwab. With a new Foreword by Tracy B. Strong., The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1985. Translation of Politische Theologie. Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität, 1922; 1934, by Duncker & Humblot, 36-53.
  • Paul W. Kahn, ‘Why Theology again?‘, in: Kahn, Political Theology. Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, Columbia University Press, New York, 2011, 1-31.
  • H. Arendt, ‘Religion and Politics’ (1952), in: Arendt, Essays in Understanding 1930-1954, New York: Shocken Books, 1994.
  • Ignaas Devisch, ‘Multiculturalism, or the vile logic of late secularism. The case of Anders Breivik’, in: Symposion 3/3, 293-308. 
  • Peter Sloterdijk, ‘The wrathful God. The discovery of the Metaphysical Revenge Bank’, in: id. Rage and Time. A psychopolitical Investigation, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, 68-111.
  • Th.W.A. de Wit, ‘”Only God can Judge me”. The secularization of the Last Judgement’, in Bijdragen. International Journal in Philosophy and Theology 72/1, 2011, 77-102.
Recommended reading:
  • H. Patrick Glenn, Legal Traditions of the World, 5th Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, Chapters 1 and 2.
  • Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 49-84, 120-164, 165-198
  • Ronan McCrea, Religion and the Public Order in the European Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010
  • G. van der Schyff, ‘Ritual slaughter and religious freedom in a multilevel Europe: The wider importance of the Dutch case’, vol. 3 Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 2014, pp. 76-102
  • ECJ, cases C-157/15 (G4S Secure Solutions), C-188/15 (Bougnaoui and ADDH) C-188/15 of 28 April 2017 (A press release can be found at:
  • ECommHR, Darby v. Sweden of 23 October 1990
  • Ernst Hirsch Ballin, ‘Religious citizens: On the relation between freedom of religion and the separation of church and state’, in Hans-Georg Ziebertz and Ernst Hirsch Ballin (eds.), Freedom of Religion in the 21st Century: A Human Rights Perspective on the Relation between Politics and Religion, Leiden: BRILL, 2015, pp. 92-104
  • Hent de Vries & Lawrence E.Sullivan (ed.), Political Theologies. Public Religions in a post-secular World, Fordham University Press, New York, 2006.
  • Peter Scott and William T.Cavanaugh, The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2004.
  • Aakash Singh & Péter Losonczi (ed.), From Political Theory to Political Theology. Religious Challenges and the Prospects of Democracy, London: Continuum, 2010.
Course available for exchange students
Conditions of admission apply
Contact person
prof. dr. T.W.A. de Wit
Timetable information
Christianity in Dialogue with Contemporary Politics, Government and Law
Required materials
See under Content.
Recommended materials
See under Content.
Assignment (50%)

Assignment (50%)

Final Result

Kies de Nederlandse taal