April 11, 2002


REVIEW : of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World By Robert P. Kraynak (Ken Masugi, Religion & Liberty)
A committed Roman Catholic, Robert Kraynak has produced one of the most significant political books for American Catholics since John Courtney Murray's We Hold These Truths. A professor of political theory at Colgate University, Kraynak deserves mention along with Murray, Jacques Maritain, and Reinhold Niebuhr as a thoughtful commentator on the most profound of issues. His work will shake any reader, secular or faithful, to rethink the relationship between one's citizenship and one's faith.

"We must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic as we would like Him to be". Kraynak's argument, presented initially as the Frank M. Covey Lectures at Loyola University, carefully combines sober analysis of church history and biblical scholarship with scathing assessments of the politicization of contemporary theology. "Christianity is the fullness of truth," he writes. "The loss of this grand and exhilarating perspective is another casualty of modern Christianity and its principled embrace of human rights." Democracy requires a strong, not enervated, Christianity, "because its moral claims cannot be vindicated by secular and rational means alone." In making this dual argument, Kraynak brilliantly exposes the theological and political problems caused by the close relationship between what he variously labels as democracy, liberalism, liberty, and Kantianism, on the one hand, and Christianity, on the other. The modern world is in the grips of deteriorated family life, materialism, and a willfulness dominating all aspects of life. In place of this contemporary muddle of moral anarchy, Kraynak reminds Christians of Saint Augustine's teaching of the two cities—the City of Man and the City of God, whose "conception of human dignity [is] based on the Imago Dei." Christians should enter into a prudential relationship between their primary citizenship in the City of God and a political order that would not necessarily possess the attributes of modern liberal regimes. Christianity must exhibit a hierarchy and transcendence that egalitarian political orders must disdain. For the good of both realms, they must remain separate, until we enter "a new historical stage."

Mr. Kraynak was the best professor I ever had, so I'm not impartial, but I think this the best book on political theory in recent memory. Our review is here. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2002 4:16 PM
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