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The Desire of the Nations

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  72 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
This book by Oliver O'Donovan is a work of systematic Christian political thought, combining Biblical interpretation, historical discussion of the Western political and theological tradition, theoretical construction and critical engagement with contemporary views. It argues for an alternative to political theology, one that is more politically constructive than the domina ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published March 2nd 2005 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1996)
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Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Oliver O'Donovan (hereafter OO) meticulously sets forth the case for the Rule of Christ in contemporary society. Unlike modern-day authors who like a vague notion of "kingship" because it sounds like something Jesus might have said, OO develops a thorough biblical theology of "God's rule" and then applies it to tough situations.

1. Kingship is mediated through "judgment," "Law-keeping/giving," and "salvation." To "judge is to bring the already-present distinction between the righteous
Paul D.  Miller
Aug 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
O'Donovan is a terrible writer but a brilliant thinker. If I understand his main argument, I think he's basically right. Someone should rewrite this book in English.
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The best theology book I've read in years. O'Donovan re-presents here the grand tradition of Protestant political thought in coherent and persuasive form. Highly recommended.
Roland Clark
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In The Desire of the Nations Oliver O’Donovan lays out a careful and considered political theology based in some of the most erudite Biblical exegesis I have ever read. There is no way to do justice to this magnificent and somewhat overwhelming book in a short review, so I will restrict myself to discussing a few of O’Donovan’s major themes. O’Donovan begins by asking what the Old Testament writers meant when they said that ‘Yhwh reigns’. ‘The cry Yhwh malak carried with it three kinds of associ ...more
The Wanderer
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
My gosh, this was confusing. Even reading it IN A CLASS and having done a presentation on it (and receiving feedback from other students that of all the presentations, they "learned the most" from ours) I am pretty much at a loss with regards to what question it's trying to answer, and therefore, what answer it gives.

It was something about the tension between God and government. I have it on good authority that this is a brilliant work of genius, but it went over my head.
Jameson Cunningham
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Let someone like James K.A. Smith rewrite this book to make it palatable to the lay reader and it'd be fantastic.
Brooks Robinson
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, O'Donovan is clearly brilliant, and I underlined an extraordinary amount of good lines which I will surely return to many times. But the book was also incredibly difficult to follow. The biggest problem was the lack of any overarching structure to the book. Perhaps it was simply above my level, but even compared to other very complex works, this one utterly failed to connect one thought to the next, much less one chapter to the next. I ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Whatever else one can say about O’Donovan’s political proposal, this work is an excellent recovery of an intellectual tradition. It cannot, then, really be evaluated without his anthology (A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought: From Irenaeus to Grotius), which serves as something of a companion piece to this volume. Many of the ancient authors that O’Donovan confronts or interacts are found in that large volume. It is not merely a recovery for a high medieval tradition, but in the traditio ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
A sort of City of God for the modern era. Difficult (as always), deeply scriptural in a way that attempts to take in the whole scope of scripture as a narrative, Christological, and by turns inspiring, frustrating, intriguing, generative (as always). I certainly don't agree with everything O'Donovan suggests in this book - but he recovers and defines an argument worth having (profitably read in combination with the reader in political theology he edited with his wife).
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing and thought-provoking book, though pretty challenging for me too. This book has paragraphs that, ideally, would be entire books in their own right, and then maybe I would understand them better. But there are some really indispensable thoughts here as well.
Brittany Petruzzi
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Stirring political theology.
Feb 27, 2014 marked it as to-read
Mentioned in Living at the Crossroads, by Michael W. Goheen and Graig G. Bartholomew.
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Oliver O'Donovan FBA FRSE (born 1945) is a scholar known for his work in the field of Christian ethics. He has also made contributions to political theology, both contemporary and historical.
More about Oliver O'Donovan

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