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The Politics of Human Frailty

A Theological Defense of Political Liberalism

The Politics of Human Frailty

A Theological Defense of Political Liberalism

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Publisher: SCM Press
ISBN: 9780334029571
Published: 01/06/2004

The latest book in the Faith in Reason series addresses the fraught and topical issue of the relationship between political liberalism and theology. Political liberalism is frequently denounced by theologians as individualist, relativist and hubristic. In response, there has been a tendency in recent political theology to attempt the overcoming of political liberalism, with the hope of building a more ecclesiastical, virtuous or community-orientated space.

In an original and well-documented argument, Insole demonstrates that this negative characterisation of political liberalism is inadequate, both conceptually and historically. By attending to thinkers such as Richard Hooker, Edmund Burke, Lord Acton and John Rawls, Insole shows that a passion to protect the individual within liberal institutions can arise not from an illusory sense of self-sufficiency, but from an insight into our fallen condition, characterised by frailty, sin and complexity. This strand of political liberalism arises from a sense of our solidarity in sin with others, and the hubris of judging our fellow citizens, when judgement belongs to God alone. Such a position would be at odds with theologically over-zealous appropriations of the theme of "liberty" that emanate, for instance, from American presidents such as George W.Bush.

Insole carefully uncovers the eschatological premises behind such appropriations, and shows that they are at fault theologically, in their failure to reckon with our fallenness, frailty and complexity. The book concludes by showing that the proposed alternatives to political liberalism - such as can be found in the influential Radical Orthodoxy movement- are naive, utopian and dangerous, and in certain respects theologically impoverished.

The Politics of Human Frailty is an important contribution to the contemporary debate, in that it offers a genuinely theological and historically aware defence of political liberalism, both against its critics and in its own terms.

Contents

Chapter One - Obscured Order and Political Liberalism: Edmund Burke and Lord Acton

Chapter Two - Reciprocity and the Burdens of Judgement: Rawls, Hooker and the Invisible Church

Chapter Three - Overcoming Evil with Good: Crusading Liberalism

Chapter Four - Against Radical Orthodoxy - the Dangers of Overcoming Political Liberalism

Chapter Five - The Danger of Anglican Analogy - a Lesson from History

Chris Insole