God and the City, based on the Aquinas Lecture delivered at the University of Dallas in 2022, aims to think about politics ontologically. In other words, it seeks to reflect on, not some political theory or other, nor on the legitimacy of political action or the distinctiveness of particular regimes, but on the nature of political order as such, and how this order implicates the fundamental questions of existence, those concerning man, being, and God.
Aristotle, and Aquinas after him, identified metaphysics and politics as “architectonic” sciences, since each concerns in some respect the whole of reality, of which the particular sciences study a part. Chapter one of this book argues that, just as metaphysics, in studying being as a whole, cannot but address the question of God in some respect, so too does politics, the ordering of human life as a whole, necessarily implicate the existence of God. In this regard, the modern liberal project has deluded itself in attempting to render religion a private, rather than a genuinely political, matter. We cannot organize human existence without making some claim, whether implicitly or explicitly, about the nature of God and God’s relation to the world.
The second chapter approaches this theme from the anthropological dimension. As Plato affirmed, the “city is the soul writ large”: if man is religious by nature, he cannot be properly understood, and the human good cannot be properly secured and fostered, if the “God question” is “bracketed out” of the properly political order. Moreover, if we fail to recognize the essentially political dimension of relation to God, we will be unable properly to grasp the presence of God in the (ecclesial and sacramental) Body of Christ: God cannot be real in the Church as Church unless he is also real in the city as city (and vice versa).
In his De regno, Aquinas famously affirms that “the king is to be in the kingdom what the soul is in the body and what God is in the world.” Chapter three offers a careful study of the body-soul relationship in order to illuminate, on the one hand, the nature of political authority, and, on the other, the precise way that God is present in human community.
D.C. Schindler is Professor of Metaphysics and Anthropology at The John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. Prior to his appointment to the Institute, he taught for twelve years at Villanova University, as one of the founding members of the Humanities Department. Schindler has published widely in philosophy, particularly on the transcendental properties of being (goodness, truth, and beauty) and their anthropological correlates (freedom, reason, and love), but his recent work has been on the nature of political order. Schindler is a translator of philosophy and literature from French and German, an editor of the North American edition of Communio: International Catholic Review, and an author of many books, including two volumes of a projected trilogy on the nature of freedom: Freedom from Reality: On the Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty (Notre Dame, 2017), and Retrieving Freedom: The Christian Appropriation of Classical Tradition (Notre Dame, 2022). He lives in Hyattsville, MD, with his wife and three children.
Peter J. Leithart, President of Theopolis Institute, reviews God and the City in the journal First Things. Please click HERE to read his article “A City isn’t a City Without the Church.”
Mars Hill Audio Interview:
Join Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio as he interviews D. C. Schindler about his book, God and the City. D.C. Schindler discusses why fundamental questions about the human and the good cannot be bracketed from politics. The interview is featured on Volume 160 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal and can be found HERE.