The Church and Secularity: Two Stories of Liberal Society

By Robert Gascoigne | Go to book overview
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The Virtues of Noninstrumental

In the previous chapter, I considered the mode of relationship of the Church to liberal society. I now want to return to the question of the character of liberal society, especially its propensity to tell two stories. As I argued at the beginning of chapter one, the difference between these two stories reflects two fundamentally different approaches to the nature of freedom. For one understanding, freedom is the rejection of tradition as inevitably a constraint on self-expression and self-assertion. For the other, tradition can be a resource that informs freedom and gives it content, allowing the development and expression of an ontology of the human embodied in various kinds of relationships.

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the difference between these two stories by considering the kinds of relationships between human beings that are possible in contemporary liberal societies. It will focus in particular on the character of noninstrumental relationships, considering what virtues are important to giving life to these relationships, and the contrast between them and instrumental relationships, which have a dominative, exploitative, or gratiflcatory character. As foreshadowed in chapter one, a reading of the City of God as an interpretation of human freedom will play an important role in this reflection. A fundamental service that the Church can give to liberal societies is to exemplify and communicate those virtues in ways that enhance noninstrumental relationships. I will argue that the key virtues exemplified in noninstrumental relationships are humility, reverence for others, and self-giving with the risk of self-loss. For the Church, these virtues are definitively embodied in the life and passion of Jesus Christ. By proclaiming Christ and meditating on the virtues


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