Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Religion in the Liberal Polity

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Religion in the Liberal Polity

Article excerpt

Religion in the Liberal Polity. Edited by Terence Cuneo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005. 270 pp. $22.00 (paper).

There has been relatively little recent philosophical work done on the relations between politics and religion. The aim of this book is to help fill this gap (p. 1).

Religion in the Liberal Polity is, in many ways, a probing, incisive, and thoughtful festschrift for Nicolas Wolterstorff. His presence permeates this timely text, which originated in a seminar, "Political Philosophy after Liberalism," that he led at Calvin College in 1998. The fact that Wolterstorff was the academic and spiritual abba of the book and seminar means that a grounded and demanding Calvinist political philosophy massages many of the basic ideas and notions.

Religion in the Liberal Polity has a threefold goal: (1) to demonstrate that religion should play an essential role in public liberal thought and action; (2) to highlight how liberalism and religion, when thought through in a proper way and manner, can live in a healthy tension; and (3) to interrogate the more radical Christian political tradition that questions whether the liberal philosophical presuppositions are adequate. In brief, Religion in the Liberal Polity is wary of the secular liberalism of Rawls and Rorty and the more radical vision of Hauerwas, Milbank, Oliver/Joan O'Donovan, and MacIntyre. This centrist form of Calvinism does not want to eliminate religion from the liberal polity, nor does it question the liberal modern project at too deep a level.

Religion in the Liberal Polity is appropriately divided into two parts: Foundations: Rights and Authority, and Religious Reasons and Virtuous Conduct. Part 1 has six essays, and each essay attempts to build solid and secure foundation stones for the role of religion in liberal public life. Topics that cover such areas as conscience, natural law, human rights, imago dei/human sanctity, evolutionary naturalism, and Wolterstorff's article "God, Justice, and Duty" are fully and faithfully pondered, Part 2 is more concerned with arguments of public justification, and this part is less abstract and more applied.

There is little doubt that the Calvinist philosophical and political tradition has much to contribute to the discourse on faith in the public square. …

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