Nationhood, Providence, and Witness: Israel in Modern Theology and Social Theory

By Carys Moseley

An examination of the tension between Protestant theology and nationalism, and how it has been influenced by controversies over the status of the Israeli state.

ISBN: 9780227173978


Nationhood, Providence, and Witness argues that problems with recognizing the State of Israel lie at the heart of approaches to nationhood and unease over nationalism in modern Protestant theology, as well as modern social theory.

Three interrelated themes are explored. The first is the connection between a theologian’s attitude to recognizing Israel and their approach to the providential place of nations in the divine economy. Following from this, the argument is made that theologians’ handling of both modern and ancient Israel are mirrored profoundly in the question of recognition and ethical treatment of the nations to which they belong, along with neighboring nations. The third theme is how social theory, represented by certain key figures, has handled the same issues. Four major theologians are discussed: Reinhold Niebuhr, Rowan Williams, John Milbank, and Karl Barth. Alongside them are placed social theorists and scholars of religion and nationalism, including Mark Juergensmeyer, Philip Jenkins, Anthony Smith, and Adrian Hastings. In the process, debates over the relationship between theology and social theory are reconfigured in concrete terms around the challenge of recognition of the State of Israel as well as stateless nations.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Carys Moseley studied Classics and Theology at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, and has taught Theology and Christian Ethics at the University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Nations and Nationalism in the Theology of Karl Barth (2013).



1. Secularization and Religious Resurgence in Eschatological Perspective
2. Reinhold Niebuhr and the Postliberals: The Fate of Liberal Protestant American Zionism
3. Wales as a Stateless Nation: Ambivalence Concerning Recognition in Theology and Social Theory
4. “Hebrew Modernity” as “Christian Heresy”: John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory Deciphered
5. Rowan Williams as Hegelian Political Theologian: Resacralizing Secular Politics
6. Israel and Jesus: Recognition, Election, and Redemption




Endorsements and Reviews

Here is a lively study of nationhood … [that] will undoubtedly raise hackles, provoke discussion and dissent. … Here is swashbuckling, stimulating theology, which should be carefully studied not only by theologians, but by people of many faiths, political and social theorists, and ethicists.
Alan P.F. Sell, author of Philosophy, Dissent and Nonconformity (2003) and Confessing the Faith Yesterday and Today (2013)

Nationalism and the concept of nationhood is something Christian theologians have shied away from. The tragedy of the Holocaust, the European experience during the twentieth century, and the fractious state of the Middle East during the twenty-first have given us all pause for thought. On the basis of a fresh understanding of Israel, Moseley tackles negative attitudes toward the integrity of stateless nations and suggests creative ways in which current missiology and theological ethics can respond positively.
D. Densil Morgan, Professor of Theology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Moseley has a claim to make about the internal structure of Christian theology: what a theologian says about nation and state will correlate with what that theologian has to say about nations and nationhood more generally.
Jeremy Worthen, in Theology, Vol 118, Issue 2

Moseley’s book will prove to be a significant voice in the unremitting discussion of the so-called ‘problem of Israel’, and warrants careful deliberation by theologians of every stripe.
Tavis A. Bohlinger, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1

Contrary to myriad theoretically sophisticated predictions … nations continue to exist. What to make of this fact? That theology ought rigorously to take up anew this pressing and significant fact is the merit of Moseley’s welcome book … a call has been given for nationality to assume ‘its due regard as a topic in theology’. The facts of history demand no less.
Steven Grosby, in Heythrop Journal, Vol 56, Issue 3

Moseley’s attempt to bring a theological perspective to bear on the topic of nationhood is … a timely one, while her sustained critique of anti-nationalism in Christian theology should certainly warn readers against any facile dismissal of the powerful forces that may be released by invoking the idea of the nation in contemporary political discourse.
Jeremy Worthen, in Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol 28, Issue 2

Moseley’s study is to be welcomed to the extent that more critical theological engagements with the complex realities of nations and nationalism are sorely needed.
Alain Epp Weaver, in Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, Vol 69(4)

If anything can be said about this book it is that is surely has the momentum. …. the book offers a thorough and provocative assessment of four important voices in modern theology on the matter of nationhood and national identities. … Yet, Moseley shares her praiseworthy concerns and motives, illustrated by her decision to understand nationhood in the context of missiology.
Ruben van de Belt, in Journal of Reformed Theology, Vol 10, Issue 4