Political theology or public theology is a branch of both political philosophy and practical theology that investigates the ways in which theological concepts or ways of thinking underlie political, social, economic and cultural discourses.
The same term has been used in a wide variety of ways by writers exploring different aspects of the subject, with tension developing between those advocating a traditional concern with individual "moral reform", such as Clyde Wilcox's God's Warriors (1992) and Ted Jelen's The Political World of the Clergy (1993), and those on the left who focus on collective "social justice", e.g. Jeffrey K. Hadden's The Gathering Storm in the Churches (1969) and Harold Quinley's The Prophetic Clergy (1974).
Writing amidst the turbulence of the German Weimar Republic, Carl Schmitt argued in Political Theology that the central concepts of modern politics were secularized versions of older theological concepts. Drawing on Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan he argued that the state exists to maintain its own integrity in order to ensure order in society in times of crisis, draws on the theological anthropology of illiberal pessimism of Juan Donoso Cortes in arguing for the essentially "dangerous", strife-ridden essence of humankind, and polemicized against modern democratic pluralist theory, supposedly, for failing to understand the propounded Hobbesian insight "men and arms, not words and promises, make the force and power of the laws."
With the exception of Schmitt, much of political theology’s roots can be traced to discussions of the relationship of ethics and religion. The influence of Hegel is also evident throughout much of political theology including the theology developed by the Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz. Metz explored the concept of political theology throughout his work. He argued for the concept of a 'suffering God' who shared the pain of his creation, writing, "Yet, faced with conditions in God's creation that cry out to heaven, how can the theology of the creator God avoid the suspicion of apathy unless it takes up the language of a suffering God?" This leads Metz to develop a theology that is tied to Marxism. He levels a fierce critique of what he calls bourgeois Christianity and believes that the Christian Gospel has become less credible because it has become entangled with bourgeois religion. His work Faith in History and Society develops apologetics, or fundamental theology, from this perspective.
Reinhold Niebuhr was also developing a theology similar to Metz in the practical application of theology. During the 1930s, Niebuhr was a leader of the Socialist Party of America, and although he broke with the party later in life socialist thought is a prominent component of his development of Christian Realism. The work by Niebuhr that best exemplifies his relationship with political theology is Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics (1932).
See also 
- Christian anarchism
- Christian communism
- Christian democracy
- Political catholicism
- Christian left
- Christian libertarianism
- Christian Reconstructionism
- Christian right
- Christian socialism
- Dominion theology
- Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence)
- Liberation theology
- Political aspects of Islam
- Political science of religion
- Politics, Religion & Ideology
- Religious Zionism
- Separation of church and state
- Doctrine of the two kingdoms
- Christianity and politics
- Catholic social teaching
- Centre for Theology and Public Issues
- Duncan B. Forrester
- Oliver O'Donovan
- Williams, Rhys H. "Political Theology on the Right and Left", Religion Online.
- "Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty", Carl Schmitt, University of Chicago Press.
- "Johann-Baptist Metz", The Vocabulary of Political Theology, Gonzaga University.
- "Political Theology", Open Source Journals, Equinox Publishing.