Material Messiah: Hobbes, Heresy, and a Kingdom Not of This World
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This chapter foregrounds a theme which runs throughout the study as a whole: the competing ‘metaphysics of Enlightenment’. More specifically, it documents the struggles between monist and dualist philosophies: materialist and spiritual theologies of power and goodness. In modern thought, these values have worked in creative tension: without sovereign power, effective governance of a commonwealth in the interests of its people is impossible; without justice, rooted in some value (goodness) that is independent of any one political administration, such governance is indistinguishable from arbitrary and despotic force. In this chapter, we will examine the Christology of Thomas Hobbes within the context of his authoritarian political theology and materialist metaphysics. Following Mark Lilla’s example, Aquinas will be a point of comparison, but on my reading, the gulf between the two thinkers will be (partly) bridged. Hobbes will be understood as an apophatic philosophical theologian and an independent-minded Christian heretic who sought a more enlightened society through the extinction of popular superstition and political violence, which he argued for using a materialist and politically authoritarian reading of the Bible generally and Jesus specifically.