Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 45, 2008

Philosophy of Religion

Stephen Palmquist
Pages 251-260

Theocratic Friendship as the Key to Kantian Church Government

In Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason, Kant outlines a system of church government that strikes many as an unworkable ideal. The “invisible church” is to be structured according to four basic principles that correspond directly to the categories from the first Critique. Whereas ordinary political systems must involve coercion, a church is to be a free association of persons governed by non-coercive, internally legislated moral laws. Is this a realistic blueprint for church government? Kant’s metaphor of a “household” as the best way to regard the relationship between the “People of God” provides a much-neglected key to understanding how Kant’s ideal can be implemented. A new and technically more accurate definition of “theocracy”, as a system not of humanly-headed religious despotism but of divinely protected autonomous friendship, clarifies how Kant’s plan is not only realistic but currently implemented in some religious communities today.

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