The analysis discusses the earliest phase of the debate on political theology between Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) and his former friend, the church historian and theologian Erik Peterson (1890-1960). In the 1930s Peterson challenged Schmitt's central tenet, the possibility of an analogy between the divine and the human realms, the foundation of modern immanentist theology of the secular. Using a rich patristic material, Peterson showed that Schmitt's arguments would founder on the orthodox Christian dogma of the Trinity and that any political establishment on earth is rendered transitory and thereby contingent by eschatology. On this latter point there is an interesting parallel of Peterson to Walter Benjamin. An assessment of the aftermath of the debate shows that Peterson's arguments hold and that the denial of political theology by Peterson implied a principled, albeit conservative, theological stance against the frightful political developments in the 1930s.

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