Voegelin’s “The New Science of Politics”: Chapter Three: The Struggle for Representation in the Roman Empire

This chapter traces the end of political theology through the establishment of Christianity in Roman empire.

To begin, we come to understand there are three types of representational truth:

  1. Cosmological truth
  2. Anthropological truth
  3. Soteriological truth

With the first, society represents the truth of the transcendent in that it becomes a microcosm of the greater cosmological reality.

In the second, society becomes a macrocosm of man’s soul, manifesting Plato’s idea that the polis is man written large. In this instance, the mature society is one which the souls of men are oriented towards the transcendent, hence it is a society likewise oriented towards the transcendent.

In the third, society is based on a friendship, or intimacy, with God.

The problem with this last type is one of relationship. Aristotle said that the social bond between unequals is weak and thus how can a society and the men within it have friendship with God, since man is extremely unequal to God?

This is where Christianity comes in. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ opened the way for intimacy and friendship with God.

Voegelin traces the way in which the Christian faith became the standard faith of the empire, which I won’t elaborate here. But, suffice it to say that the empire went from the Roman cult, a compact, polytheistic world to the monotheistic world of Christianity. This is the how Rome became a theocracy.

With Christianity came the dualistic worldview, espoused by Augustine, of sacred and profane. Previously, Rome’s civic cult had no conception of a separation between the two and this is what is meant by saying that their world was compact. The state, it’s rulers, and the polis were part of divinity played out in life. That is not to say that they were god, but that the polytheistic world of Rome was one which was tightly interwoven with the divine.

The establishment of Christianity also established the de-divination of civic representation along with now two kinds of representation: civic and sacramental, i.e., state and church.

This de-divination also begins a movement within history to re-divinize representation of the state.