The Power of Love

  • Kathryn Tanner
Part of the New Approaches to Religion and Power book series (NARP)


Cstianity’s ambivalence about power is apparent. Its history has a disconcerting way of oscillating between unequivocal hostility and ready complicity with “the powers that be.” Its scriptures routinely apply epithets of supreme power and might to God even as they tell of a divine mission for the world climaxing in the weakness and humiliation of the cross, God’s victory in a struggle with principalities and powers, pulled paradoxically from abject defeat. Power is sometimes by definition good— because it always has its source in God, following a common interpretation of Romans 13. At other times it is by definition evil— simply the conflict-ridden way of a fallen world. If the whole course of Christian history and the constant contests within it about what to make of its complex scriptures are any indication, power is both good and bad from a Christian point of view, requiring a complex judgment from Christians about when and where it is one or the other.


Power Relation Good Power Sovereign Power Disciplinary Power Divine Power 
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  1. 1.
    My account of pastoral power follows closely that of Michel Foucault. See his “Omnes et Singulatim: Toward a Critique of Political Reason,” in Michel Foucault, Power, ed. James D. Faubion, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: New Press, 2000), 298–325Google Scholar
  2. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, and Population, ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon et al. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), 97Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Judith Butler, Psychic Life of Power (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 13.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 202–203.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Michel Foucault, Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: New Press, 1997), 292.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Joshua Daniel and Rick Elgendy 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Tanner

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