Symposium Introduction


Ted Smith

Esther Reed

Jonathan Tran

Celia Paris



Hannah Arendt is regarded as one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century. Famous for her account of the banality of evil, her wide-ranging work explored such themes as totalitarianism, the Holocaust, statelessness and human rights, revolutions and democratic movements, and the various challenges of modern technological society. Recent years have seen a growing appreciation of her complex relationship to theological sources, especially Augustine, the subject of her doctoral dissertation and a thinker with whom she contended throughout her life. This book explores how Arendt’s critical and constructive engagements with theology inform her broader thought, as well as the lively debates her work is stirring in contemporary Christian theology on such topics as evil, tradition, love, political action, and the life of the mind. A unique interdisciplinary investigation bridging Arendt studies, political philosophy, and Christian theology, Hannah Arendt and Theology considers how the insights and provocations of this public intellectual can help set a constructive theological agenda for the twenty-first century.

“A readable and engaging book which provides compelling answers to the questions of why and how a theologian might engage with the thought of Hannah Arendt.” –  Theology

“Kiess clearly and wisely explores Arendt’s views on evil, plurality, love, thinking, and the birth of the new. He then hints at how these ideas might call Christians to live justly in a broken world. Balancing political realism with an openness to grace is not easy. But Arendt and Kiess propose just such a balance, so that ‘politics becomes the art of being born.’ Incarnation abounds.” –  Christian Century

“Kiess exercises tact in demonstrating that [Arendt’s] early training in theology continued to animate some of her most intriguing and productive concepts, and he exercises courage in showing what those concepts might have to offer to worldly theologies and virtue ethics today.” –  Political Theology

“Keiss offers a lucid, well-sourced introduction to the relevance of Hannah Arendt’s thought for work at ‘the intersection of ecclesiology, radical democracy, and civic virtue’ (to quote from Chapter 3)… Those engaged in broader scholarship on Arendt will be particularly interested in his proposal cum question: ‘What is Arendt pointing us to if not a politics open to grace?’” –  A.L. Shuster, CHOICE

“Hannah Arendt had a gift for reframing questions about how we should live in a way that forced us to rethink what we thought we knew. This makes her work essential, but it does not make it easy to understand. We are, therefore, very fortunate to have this extraordinary book by John Kiess. Writing with grace and clarity, Kiess draws on a wide range of other literature to help us understand the interrelation of Arendt’s basic concepts and the importance of her work for theology.” –  Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School, USA

“The temptation to ‘theologize’ Arendt is both difficult to resist and prone to distortion given her complicated (and often implicit) engagement with theology and its traditional concerns. We have long needed a more comprehensive, integrated, and dialogical reading of Arendt and theology. John Kiess has given us that book. Readers of Arendt, and readers of Christian theology, will benefit from this learned yet accessible book that is rich in detail and wisdom.” –  Eric Gregory, Princeton University, USA

“Provides stunning insights to those looking for a broadly religious take on the many problems of power faced by the modern world. Scholars of political theology, philosophical theology, and religious ethics will be well served by returning to Arendt, a thinker for our age, with John Kiess as their guide.” –  Reading Religion

“An overall superb elucidation and development of theological connections in Arendt. Beyond being an overview, Hannah Arendt and Theology will serve any familiar or unfamiliar student as an excellent compass for navigating Arendt’s stormy and sublime thought on the human condition, in all of its religious complexities.” –  Toronto Journal of Theology

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