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The Disenchantment of Charisma: The Theological Origins of Secular Polity

The Disenchantment of Charisma: The Theological Origins of Secular Polity

Chapter:
(p.37) 2 The Disenchantment of Charisma: The Theological Origins of Secular Polity
Source:
Sovereignty and the Sacred
Author(s):
Robert A. Yelle
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226585628.003.0003

Chapter 2 traces the theological genealogy of Max Weber’s famous theory of “charisma” as an antinomian force that declines through routinization into other, especially legal forms of authority. It has long been recognized that Weber’s thesis of a stark separation between charismatic and legal authority depended on earlier Christian theological categories, such as Paul’s diremption between grace (charis) and law (nomos) as interpreted by Rudolph Sohm. However, it still has rarely been noted that his theory of the routinization of charisma closely resembles an earlier theological claim that miracles and other charismata ceased in apostolic times. The idea that miracles had ceased was dominant in English Protestantism as early as 1600, and was connected with the idea of a decline from absolute sovereignty to an orderly, rule- governed sovereignty, as reflected in the deist concept of a “watchmaker God” who, having presided over the miracle of creation, withdraws from intervening further. Weber’s ostensibly scientific account of disenchantment reflected his embrace of a particular position in a theological debate concerning how to reconcile God’s absolute and orderly powers. The genealogy of Weber’s theory confirms Carl Schmitt’s famous contention that under deism the sovereign decision was proscribed together with the miracle.

Keywords:   Max Weber, disenchantment, charisma, Carl Schmitt, miracle, divine command, potentia absoluta, Deism, James I, John Spencer

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