Commonplace Book #141

Out of all its vocations the church prophesies: its administration, its charity, its music, its art, its theology, its politics, its religious ecstasy, its preaching. Prophecy is the archetypical charism, the paradigm of all the others. The church prophesies to the world, discovering the situation of the world and passing judgment on it. But the individual prophet, like all who exercise a charism, does not address the world immediately, but the church, and, by contributing to the church’s prophetic identity, addresses the world through the church. There is no private Christian counsel to be delivered to the principalities and powers, bypassing their need to confront the social reality of the church. A theologian, for example, who invited to participate in an exercise of secular deliberation about matters of social concern, has no independent standing to give advice. Such a one either speaks for and out of the church (not its hierarchy or synods, of course, but for its faith and tradition) or is a false prophet. Yet this does not imply that the church‘s concern is wholly with its integrity and not with the redemption of the world. It is true that the church addresses the world with its being and not only with its talking. But the very essence of the church’s claim on the powers of the Kingdom is speech, and God’s speech, as the psalmist knew, runs into all lands and his words unto the ends of the world.

Oliver O’Donovan, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, 188.