Rethinking the Katechon: Towards a Political Theology for a Nuclear Age

  • Yevgeny Uchaev
  • Ivan Nikolaev


It’s about time for political theology to start dealing seriously with the threat of nuclear war. Despite its severity, so far this threat has been either ignored or addressed with inadequate politico-theological approaches: just war theories fail to account for the counterintuitive logic of nuclear strategy; radical pacifism stops short of offering a viable disarmament path; apocalypticism and messianism run the risk of justifying the catastrophe. An unconditional imperative of nuclear war prevention still needs to be effectively integrated into political theology. We argue that the concept of katechon is best suited for this task. However, there are a number of gaps between established traditions of thought about the katechon and nuclear realities that need bridging first. Katechon is believed to restrain the triumph of Evil before the apocalypse, while nuclear catastrophe resembles the Apocalypse itself; katechon is seen to be embodied in individual polities or rulers, but preventing nuclear war requires universalist politics; katechontic function is thought to involve power and coercion, but nuclear threat cannot be eliminated by violent means. We demonstrate that the necessary reinterpretation of the katechon is possible, based on a close reading of Rene Girard’s Battling to the End. The immanent critique of this work allows conceptualizing the katechon as the entire “coercion-legitimacy” antinomy rather than the violent side of it. Consequently, antinomic “double representation” conceived as a non-hierarchical co-existence of temporal (coercion) and spiritual (legitimacy) powers becomes the institutional embodiment of the katechon. If initially implemented at the national level, this politico-theological architecture of “double representation” then might pave the way for the political unity of the world, which is indispensable for avoiding a global catastrophe in the long run.


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How to Cite
Uchaev, Y., & Nikolaev, I. (2023). Rethinking the Katechon: Towards a Political Theology for a Nuclear Age. Stasis, 11(1-2). Retrieved from