Martin Buber’s Notion of Grace as a Defense of Religious Anarchism

In Alexandre Christoyannopoulos & Mathew Adams (eds.), Essays on Anarchism and Religion: Volume III. Stockholm, Sweden: pp. 189-222 (2020)

Sarah Scott
Manhattan College
I reconstruct Martin Buber’s conception of grace to show its importance for unifying his religious orientation and anarchist tendencies. I first lay out an Augustinian account of grace and concomitant defense of hierarchy and submission. I then examine Buber’s anarchism and previous analyses of his notion of grace, which were incomplete insofar as they ignored his redefinition of what is given by grace and who gives these gifts. The primary gifts of grace he identifies are who we are (meant to be), moral norms and reality, each of which come to us not just from God, but also from relations with other creatures. Buber corrects the classic Augustinian notion of grace by replacing radical dependence on God with radical creaturely interdependence. Once hierarchy and submission to an inscrutable authority are no longer taken to be necessary for human flourishing, we are free to think along broadly anarchist lines.
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