Hot Best Seller

Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies

Availability: Ready to download

Named Best Book (Culture) in the 2004 Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards The end of the Cold War has brought about more than the triumph of some political ideologies and the disappearance of others. In fact, the collapse of communism has created a vacuum quickly being filled by various alternative visions, ranging from ethnic nationalism to individualistic liberalism. But Named Best Book (Culture) in the 2004 Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards The end of the Cold War has brought about more than the triumph of some political ideologies and the disappearance of others. In fact, the collapse of communism has created a vacuum quickly being filled by various alternative visions, ranging from ethnic nationalism to individualistic liberalism. But political ideologies are not merely a matter of governmental efficacy. Rather, political ideologies are intrinsically and inescapably religious--each carries certain assumptions about the nature of reality, individuals and society, as well as a particular vision for the common good. These fundamental beliefs transcend the political sphere, and the astute Christian observer should thus discern the subtle ways in which ideologies are rooted in idolatrous worldviews. In this comprehensive study, political scientist David Koyzis surveys the key political ideologies of our era, including liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. Each philosophy is given careful analysis and fair critique, unpacking the worldview issues inherent to each and pointing out essential strengths and weaknesses. Koyzis concludes by proposing alternative models that flow out of Christianity's historic engagement with the public square, retrieving approaches that hold promise for the complex political realities of the twenty-first century. Writing with broad, international perspective and keen analytical insight, Koyzis offers a sound guide for Christians working in the public square, culture watchers, political pundits and all students of modern political thought.


Compare

Named Best Book (Culture) in the 2004 Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards The end of the Cold War has brought about more than the triumph of some political ideologies and the disappearance of others. In fact, the collapse of communism has created a vacuum quickly being filled by various alternative visions, ranging from ethnic nationalism to individualistic liberalism. But Named Best Book (Culture) in the 2004 Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards The end of the Cold War has brought about more than the triumph of some political ideologies and the disappearance of others. In fact, the collapse of communism has created a vacuum quickly being filled by various alternative visions, ranging from ethnic nationalism to individualistic liberalism. But political ideologies are not merely a matter of governmental efficacy. Rather, political ideologies are intrinsically and inescapably religious--each carries certain assumptions about the nature of reality, individuals and society, as well as a particular vision for the common good. These fundamental beliefs transcend the political sphere, and the astute Christian observer should thus discern the subtle ways in which ideologies are rooted in idolatrous worldviews. In this comprehensive study, political scientist David Koyzis surveys the key political ideologies of our era, including liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. Each philosophy is given careful analysis and fair critique, unpacking the worldview issues inherent to each and pointing out essential strengths and weaknesses. Koyzis concludes by proposing alternative models that flow out of Christianity's historic engagement with the public square, retrieving approaches that hold promise for the complex political realities of the twenty-first century. Writing with broad, international perspective and keen analytical insight, Koyzis offers a sound guide for Christians working in the public square, culture watchers, political pundits and all students of modern political thought.

30 review for Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian Collins

    Koyzis's thesis is that politics is dominated by various ideologies. From a Christian perspective, these ideologies are idolatrous. Thus Christians must therefore transcend the ideologies and approach politics with an eye firmly fixed on the biblical themes of creation, fall, and redemption. Political ideologies are idolatrous because they seize on one aspect of the way God made the world and make it ultimate. If only the ideology could take root, the thinking goes, then the nation or community Koyzis's thesis is that politics is dominated by various ideologies. From a Christian perspective, these ideologies are idolatrous. Thus Christians must therefore transcend the ideologies and approach politics with an eye firmly fixed on the biblical themes of creation, fall, and redemption. Political ideologies are idolatrous because they seize on one aspect of the way God made the world and make it ultimate. If only the ideology could take root, the thinking goes, then the nation or community or world could be saved by the evil which threatens it. The "fundamental evil" identified by the various ideologies is often itself another aspect of God's creation. As a result of deifying one part of the creation and demonizing others, the ideologies developed warped soteriologies that often lead to more evil and suffering because governing moral principles built by God into his world are subverted by the salvific goal set up by the ideology. This does not mean that the ideologies are all wrong or equally wrong. Because they are deifying parts of creation, they each have grasped fragments of truth, to greater or lesser extents. Thus the ideologies must be examined. Koyzis proposes six evaluative questions: "First, what is their creational basis? Second, what facets of God's creation have they rightly focused on even as they have effectively deified them? Third, what inconsistencies have led to internal tensions within the ideology itself? Fourth, what do they see as a source of evil? Fifth, where do they locate the source of salvation? Sixth and finally, to what extent are they able to account for the distinct place of politics in God's world?" In the central section of the book Koyzis surveys and critiques various ideologies. He begins with liberalism. As used here, liberalism embraces both contemporary American conservatives (classical liberalism) and liberals (reformist or revisionist liberalism / social democrats). In Koyzis's analysis the "sovereignty of the individual" is the cornerstone of the liberal ideology. The classical liberals focused on restricting the state from infringing on personal liberties. At first liberals focused on protecting individuals rights to self and property. The state's role was to ensure a fair playing field for individuals. But as non-government entities (e.g., business monopolies) gained power reform liberals began to use government power to protect individual freedom from these entities. Others pointed out that poverty limits people's opportunity, and thus reform liberals seek to use government to level a playing field that is unequal by virtue of the different ways individuals have used their freedoms. Already the tensions within the liberal ideology are apparent. Also in the later stages of liberalism is the concern for laws not to infringe on the moral choices that citizens make; to do so infringes on individual liberty. Yet individual moral choices have social consequences, and the government is often invoked to mitigate those social consequences. Liberalism's chief evil is authority located outside the human self, and its soteriology is a quest for freedom from external authority. It's fatal flaw is its refusal to submit to God's standards of justice, and this leads to the internal contradictions between classical and reformist liberals. On the other hand, liberals have rightly recognized the importance of the individual and the significance of human rights. From liberalism, Koyzis turns to conservatism. He acknowledges up front that conservatism is not as ideological as the other ideologies covered. Indeed, in some respects it opposes ideologies (it is important to note at this point that Koyzis locates much of American conservatism on the right wing of liberalism; Reagan's "optimistic view of human nature," "his celebration of limitless material progress," and "his devotion to the free market" are all marks of classical liberalism rather than traditional conservatism). Nonetheless, conservatism can be defined with enough specificity to invite evaluation. In the first place conservatives have a deep sense of the human tendency to evil and thus oppose all utopianism. This means that if a tradition is working adequately, the conservative will oppose a sweeping change to fix an evil because he is sure that the sweeping change will have negative side effects. The conservative must be convinced that the benefits of the change will outweigh the inevitable negative side effects. The conservative is not opposed to any change, but he prefers to see the changes take place on a local level where the negative effects are constrained. If the experiment works it can be implemented more broadly. At its best conservatism remains rooted in traditions that work while making necessary adjustments to fix what is not working. At its worst, conservatism can lapse into a traditionalism in which the traditions cease to carry meaning and a romanticism which projects a utopia into the past. This leads to Koyzis's first critique: the traditions of any society are "inevitably a 'mixed bag' . . . . The wisdom of past generations is intermingled with a large measure of folly." But conservatism lacks "a generally accepted transhistorical criterion by which to distinguish what in a tradition is worthy saving and what ought to be discarded." Koyzis's second critique centers on the need for genuine progress. He notes that "God's creation is not static but contains great potential for development and improvement." The Christian ought to support progress, but he should do so cautiously (recognizing with the conservative the potential for evil side-effects) and with a careful evaluation of the direction of the change. Is it directed to greater conformity to God's norms or away from such conformity. Overall, Koyzis renders a more favorable evaluation of conservatism while still warning about idolizing tradition and locating evil in the kinds of progress that societies should experience. Koyzis next considers nationalism. On the positive side Koyzis argues that nationalism values the real communities of which people find themselves a part. There is something good in sharing "love for the cultural traditions of one's own ethnic community" or in sharing a commitment as a citizen to the government of one's nation. But nationalism becomes an ideology when it is elevated to the place of supreme importance over other loyalties such as family, region, or religion. As with liberalism, autonomy is the ultimate goal (in this case the autonomy of the national community) and rule by the other (whether the racial, cultural, or linguistic other) is the ultimate evil. The falsity of this claim is demonstrated by the great evils done by dictators who liberated their states from colonial powers. This observation in no way justifies colonialism, but it does demonstrate the folly of identifying ultimate evil in being ruled by the other and ultimate redemption in national liberation. Nationalism also becomes dangerous when it takes the place of religion, "complete with its own liturgical ceremonies, Te Deums, sacraments, icons and feast days." This can be especially dangerous for certain American Christians who link Old Testament promises to Israel to the United States. Democracy, though "merely a form of government" in some ways, becomes ideological when "it embodies a belief in the near infallibility of the vox populi—the voice of the people. A limited democracy can be argued for on Christian principles. Thus because of the fall, power should be diversified instead of centralized. A fallen person with unlimited power is a great danger. But democracy as an ideology is grounded on anti-Christian ideas. As with liberalism, the autonomous self is the great good. The great evil is any authority that rules over the individual without his consent. Thus "the people" become the highest authority by which anything is justified. This stands against the conservative principle that a representative is a trustee who is to use his knowledge and wisdom to act in the best interest of those he represents; he does not necessarily simply do whatever they desire. Without checks such as this, democracy too can become totalitarian. The majority may run roughshod over the minority. Or, democracy may become totalitarian by insisting that all of life, not only the government, must be run on democratic principles. In the end, the Christian must recognize that democracy is not the only, or even always the best, form of government for bringing about justice. And when democracy is the form of government chosen, the people must recognize they still exist under the authority of divine Law. Socialism is the final ideology that Koyzis covers. He does an excellent job of walking readers through the different varieties of socialism with their different approaches for implementing their program. Socialism sees inequality as the great evil and it promises salvation in the form of radical social change. Koyzis is willing to grant socialism some real insights. In the first place he grants the reality of communal ownership (he gives the family as an example). He also grants that socialists have sometimes highlighted real economic evils. He grants that a nation's economic system may prevent a good number of people from owning productive property, and may permit the exploitation of labor. These are real evils. But socialism goes further to locate evil in any division of labor and in any inequality. Its salvation is communal ownership of everything. But, Koyzis, notes God designed the world to work with various forms of individual and communal ownership. Thus a totalizing, state-managed communal ownership runs up against creational limits. The communist nations must attempt to force the soteriology to work, and this is leads to the totalitarianism by which such nations are known: "Ideologies are typically motivated to achieve some overarching goal deemed to take precedence over other legitimate human concerns. The ultimate danger, of course, is that followers will come to believe that the end justifies the means and that this goal could demand the sacrifice of millions of human lives." Koyzis closes the book with two chapters in which he seeks to offer a way to transcend the ideologies. In this section he examines both the Catholic idea of subsidiary and the Kuyperian idea of sphere sovereignty. He finds both useful, but prefers the less hierarchical sphere sovereignty.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Alkazraji

    Photo of Jeremy Corbyn by Garry Knight. You Raise Me Up With the inauguration of a new US President, there are sincere Christians both celebrating and lamenting US politics with all the heart-felt euphoria and anger of any major sporting final. It has happened in other times and places and will most certainly happen again. Yet just how are followers of Jesus to relate their faith to the ideologies and politics of the times? David Koyzis’ book brings his valuable, nay, desperately needed, insi Photo of Jeremy Corbyn by Garry Knight. You Raise Me Up With the inauguration of a new US President, there are sincere Christians both celebrating and lamenting US politics with all the heart-felt euphoria and anger of any major sporting final. It has happened in other times and places and will most certainly happen again. Yet just how are followers of Jesus to relate their faith to the ideologies and politics of the times? David Koyzis’ book brings his valuable, nay, desperately needed, insights into this arena. To avoid fleeing from political engagement completely, or blending your faith with another ideology, or simply falling headlong into the polarised political tribalism of these and other times, the believer needs a measure of discernment based on a fuller understanding of biblical Christianity. ‘The key to approaching ideologies lies in an initial effort to understand their appeal and hence their legitimate creational underpinnings,’ says Koyzis. He encourages us to recognise that which is good in an ideology before it is dismissed outright. Simply put, ideologies are based on taking something out of creation and making a God of it capable of saving us. The conservative looks to history as a source of norms. ‘A conservative has a heightened sense that with change of any sort comes loss, often of something good that cannot be replaced’ he writes. He reminds us that there can be conservative socialists as well as conservative capitalists, who can be ‘simply people who lament the erosion of a political or economic system from which they have long benefitted’, but that their insights should not simply be dismissed as such per se. He notes that Christian socialists are likely to argue the scriptural commands to care for the poor and oppressed require the implementation of a socialist agenda, but in doing so pick up spiritual underpinnings including the ‘salvific working class capable of eschatological consummation’ that cannot be realised. Liberalism, he writes, for all the good it has accomplished in encouraging the protection of genuine human rights, fails first and foremost in that it offers a false salvation rooted in a fundamentally religious assertion of human autonomy - to govern oneself in accordance with a law one has chosen for oneself - against external authority. For the liberal the sovereignty of the individual is of ultimate importance, but for the Christian it should be the sovereignty of the Sovereign. ‘Christians cannot simply join with one or more of these ideologies and champion their agendas,’ he writes, as many have done and are clearly doing. ‘They should be in a position to discern correctly the differences between idolatry and a more modest estimation of the thing being idolised.’ Ideologies deny God’s normative creation order and ‘tie their transformative agendas to their own subjective dreams and aspirations’ he writes. God’s good and life-giving norms within His Creation are readable both in general and special revelation as true points of ultimate reference. As Calvin famously said: ‘Scripture gives us the spectacles through which we look to see the world with greater clarity.’ Koyzis’ book is a truly valuable read helping us use the Scriptural framework of ‘Creation – Fall – Redemption’ to see with greater clarity through the fake and inflated spirits of the ages. By this reviewer:

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Dishman

    Let me start by saying, this book was challenging for me to get through. This wouldn’t have been a book I would have been drawn to read except for it being part of a class, so I had to keep persevering. However, I did find parts fascinating and I learned much about different political ideologies and how easy it is for us to make them the ultimate thing and thus an idol. No political ideology is all good or all bad, even though news sources and social media might want you to believe otherwise. This Let me start by saying, this book was challenging for me to get through. This wouldn’t have been a book I would have been drawn to read except for it being part of a class, so I had to keep persevering. However, I did find parts fascinating and I learned much about different political ideologies and how easy it is for us to make them the ultimate thing and thus an idol. No political ideology is all good or all bad, even though news sources and social media might want you to believe otherwise. This book and author highlight positives and negatives and a Christian critique of major political views and I found this helpful in the midst of our political divides found today.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Lee

    What do you believe about politics? Does it really matter? In Political Visions & Illusions, David T. Koyzis takes us on a survey and Christian critique of contemporary ideologies. The thesis of this book is that ideologies are modern manifestations of idolatry. They have their own soteriology and eschatology. We can assess them from a Christian standpoint to see their positive features and what they can teach us. God remains faithful to his creation despite our idolatry of ideologies. Interesting What do you believe about politics? Does it really matter? In Political Visions & Illusions, David T. Koyzis takes us on a survey and Christian critique of contemporary ideologies. The thesis of this book is that ideologies are modern manifestations of idolatry. They have their own soteriology and eschatology. We can assess them from a Christian standpoint to see their positive features and what they can teach us. God remains faithful to his creation despite our idolatry of ideologies. Interestingly, Koyzis dislikes the terms “left” and “right” and prefers “progressive” and “conservative.” By focusing on political ideologies, Koyzis looks at politics and its place in human life – specifically about how the community, citizens, and government go about doing and maintaining justice. Liberalism, Conservatism, and Nationalism Liberalism holds to the sovereignty of the individual. We see that no ideology remains static, and adherents of the same ideology frequently find themselves opponents of each other. Human autonomy and the freedom to govern themselves is the basic principle of liberalism. Koyzis identifies five stages of liberalism, beginning with Hobbesian Commonwealth and ending with the Choice Enhancement State. Liberalism fails because it offers a false salvation rooted in a fundamentally religious assertion of human autonomy against external authority. Also, it is unable to distinguish adequately the state as an authoritative community irreducible to the voluntary consent of its constituent individuals. Koyzis acknowledges that conservatives may be prone to profess Christianity because it is part of the Western cultural heritage. Conservatism looks to history as a source of norms. Koyzis’ words cut and sting when he says that perhaps conservatives wish to conserve their own power and privilege in society. Conservatism fails as political theory because there is nothing inherently Christian about it, and it offers nothing in the way of a coherent view of the state as a specialized, differentiated community within human society. Nationalism recognizes that people seek their identities in communities, which make claims on their loyalties and demands personal sacrifice for their collective well-being. Christian nationalism fails because it unduly applies biblical promises intended for the body of Christ as a whole to one geographic people, it imperfectly identifies and applies norms from and for a specific period of time, it gives homage to a nation instead of God, and it sees the nation as unlimited. A Biblical Understanding of Politics What Koyzis is able to do exceptionally well is frame the story of each ideology. And while he makes generalizations (”Many conservatives dislike pop or rock music and prefer, say, the baroque pieces of Bach or Telemann.”) – I can understand in most instances how it is necessary for his work. The book actually claims that there is overlap between the different ideologies. Democratism, socialism, and a look at pluralism are also included. All are idolatrous and fail to live up to God’s standard. Koyzis presents us with an alternative ideology, arguing for a biblical understanding of politics – which looks at creational and redemptive aspects. He proposes a government that seeks to do justice but also one that calls on and empowers individuals to seek it out in all spheres of life – including “families, churches, businesses, labor unions, schools, and so forth.” In a Concluding Ecclesiological Postscript, Koyzis surprisingly looks to the power of preaching and the pulpit to communicate truth to God’s people who will live out Gospel justice and truth in their communities. The church as an institution can also address political governments and policies while still being proper and ultimately focused on God’s people. As politics continues to play an important and powerful part in our society, God’s people can be sure that we are governed ultimately by God’s Word as we live out lives of true and authentic worship. I received a media copy of Political Visions & Illusions and this is my honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Kassing

    This is a high-quality primer on the various ideologies that are dominating today's scene. Koyzis does a good job of showing how various ideologies tell a reductionistic story of redemption and how the gospel is a better story. This is a high-quality primer on the various ideologies that are dominating today's scene. Koyzis does a good job of showing how various ideologies tell a reductionistic story of redemption and how the gospel is a better story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shane Williamson

    2022 reads: 09 Rating: 4 stars. A very good survey and introduction to political thought.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim Callicutt

    This book offers what I believe to be the most pointed and insightful approach to politics of any Christian author I have read. Koyzis’ overall thesis is that every political ideology is inherently idolatrous. However, rather than treat this as an invitation to remove oneself from politics, he argues instead for a moderate approach built around discernment. Throughout the majority of the book, Koyzis addresses various ideologies, identifies the redemptive narratives they tell, and shows us in wh This book offers what I believe to be the most pointed and insightful approach to politics of any Christian author I have read. Koyzis’ overall thesis is that every political ideology is inherently idolatrous. However, rather than treat this as an invitation to remove oneself from politics, he argues instead for a moderate approach built around discernment. Throughout the majority of the book, Koyzis addresses various ideologies, identifies the redemptive narratives they tell, and shows us in what ways they are misaligned. He does a particularly good job getting under the surface and discovering the implicit story of each ideology. And while each ideology grows out of sense of need, and offers needed reminders to the church about what needs to be addressed, it also unduly lifts up a piece of God’s good creation as an idol, and produces excesses that can endanger the testimony of the faithful. Two particular stand-outs include nationalism (a much better fit for the Bible Belt in the Trump era than conservatism) and democratism (being a social studies teacher, we tend to have a semi-religious awe reserved for the institutions of our government). Koyzis’ exploration of a Christian alternative is no less intriguing, if a bit denser. The heart of his argument against the various ideologies is that they fail to account for the diversity formed by different historical and cultural contexts. He makes the point that, good, bad, or neutral, diversity is a fact of life that we must account for. And even if a particular system claims to welcome diversity (liberalism comes to mind) it tends to act more monolithically in practice, creating structures that privilege those who buy into its redemptive narrative. Near the end of the book, Koyzis proposes a Kuyperian political philosophy of separate spheres of sovereignty. Essentially, we are all a part of various interconnected, and at times competing, institutions that hold some degree of authority over us, even if all of them ultimately fall under the sovereignty of God. While Koyzis’ conclusions are ingenious from a philosophical perspective, if you want a book that will actually help you make this a lived reality, this is not the book for you. The postscript to the second edition addresses this shortcoming some, but only in the most basic of ways. And for this book, I believe the absence is intentional. Koyzis rightly makes the point that navigating political realities as people of faith is complex. He also implies that different times call for different methods of engagement on behalf of the church. He would rather build up the bones of the church’s belief about politics. Any book that addresses the cultural moment has an expiration date as the moment will eventually transition on to something new. This is still a helpful book in the sense that it helps reorient your thinking, but you’ll need to find a follow-up to get more practical ideas.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bailey L.

    My, this book was not for the faint of heart. I read it upon the recommendation of Tim Keller on his Twitter feed in response to the political upheaval of the past year. The book walks through common ideologies -- nationalism, socialism, etc. -- explaining how each ideology falls short of the gospel message and cannot be followed by anyone who claims to follow Christ. I appreciate that he set up the book to be about this broadly speaking but did not bring the message full circle until the very e My, this book was not for the faint of heart. I read it upon the recommendation of Tim Keller on his Twitter feed in response to the political upheaval of the past year. The book walks through common ideologies -- nationalism, socialism, etc. -- explaining how each ideology falls short of the gospel message and cannot be followed by anyone who claims to follow Christ. I appreciate that he set up the book to be about this broadly speaking but did not bring the message full circle until the very end of each chapter and ultimately the end of the book. He explained each ideology through the best possible view but then deconstructed why each fails overall because it does not align with the gospel. I also appreciate that he takes a historical lens of how Roman Catholicism and Calvinism both approach the church and state dilemma. He ends the book by discussing the idea of justice from an eschatological lens -- again, a sensible way to wrap up the book in my view. I rate it probably a 3.5, mostly because it's not an easily digestible book, and he writes in overly long sentences, making the problem worse. Any Christian who is a fan of political theory and likes philosophy will probably find this book thought-provoking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Eye opening. Brilliant.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andy Littleton

    An excellent survey of the current political ideologies, through a biblical lens, with care to identify their idols and their strengths.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Drew Norwood

    If I were asked to recommend a book on political theology, and I could only recommend one, it would be this one. It’s a great introduction yet it avoids being shallow or conclusory. One of the main features that sets this book apart is its breakdown of the many political philosophies from a biblical perspective, without resorting to caricatures or straw men. Koyzis persuasively shows that each of the current political ideologies are defective (some more than others) and that a Christian must loo If I were asked to recommend a book on political theology, and I could only recommend one, it would be this one. It’s a great introduction yet it avoids being shallow or conclusory. One of the main features that sets this book apart is its breakdown of the many political philosophies from a biblical perspective, without resorting to caricatures or straw men. Koyzis persuasively shows that each of the current political ideologies are defective (some more than others) and that a Christian must look elsewhere in searching for a system to ground his political thought. For all of these systems locate their ultimate authority in something other than God. “Christians understand that God is God and that individuals, nations, states, economic classes, and so forth are radically dependent on him for their very existence. They are creatures and he is Creator.” This must have an impact on politics. For Koyzis, Abraham Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty/neo-Calvinism is the best articulation or a Christian political philosophy (he also points to the Roman Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity as another option that recognizes the sovereignty of God ). This book does not provide a comprehensive discussion of Kuyper’s political philosophy and it leaves several questions left unanswered, but it does a great job of laying the groundwork. After analyzing the various ideologies, Koyzis develops the case for a uniquely Christian view of the state, one that “transcends the ideologies”. He does this first by stating the need for Christians to address themselves to the public square. “God created humankind is his one image (Gen. 1:26-27)...Humans are  cultural beings who, in the normal course of living, cultivate or develop the world around them.” We have been given a cultural mandate, to fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). Although we are fallen and sinful, Jesus came to redeem us from sin and death, and in so doing He redeems “the whole range of human cultural activities”, including political life. Though some call for Christians to separate from the world and politics, or for treating the two as separate kingdoms, in doing so “they effectively narrow the scope of redemption and fundamentally alter its relationship to both sin and creation.” And besides, it is an impossible task—“[w]e are inescapably part of creation” and we “continue to shape culture, even when [we] have supposedly withdrawn from it.”  Next, he addresses common objections and the problem of pluralism. He shows the necessity of understanding God and his will for the world prior to effecting political change. Scripture is a vital part of this task of understanding our world and man’s place in it. “[W]hen God tells us that we are to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God’ (Mic. 6:8), he is asking us to live as we are created to live.” How then should we love politically? To begin with, [a nonidolatrous approach to society and politics] properly and unquestionably acknowledges the sovereignty of God over the whole of life and his plan for redeeming his fallen creation through Jesus Christ.” But, some say, not everyone believes in God as Christians do. That is true. “This suggests that the one nonidolatrous alternative left is a kind of pluralism that spurns the reductive monism of the idoleogies. Indeed, if God is sovereign, then any attempt to locate an earthly sovereignty...is rooted in nothing less than a false religion.” Here we see the religious nature of liberalism and secularism, which Koyzis has unmasked earlier in the book. The difficulty for Christians is to develop a consistent system that balances the need for freedom of conscience and religious liberty, while also maintaining that God is sovereign over all of life, even politics. On this topic, Koyzis does not say all there is to be said, but he does make a start. He provides the Christian with the necessary framework by giving several helpful distinctions. First, he notes that “[t]his is a question of justice—not of final justice, to be sure, but of penultimate justice well short of what God will accomplish on the last day. Such penultimate justice means that even if we disagree with others on basic issues concerning the nature of the world, our place within it, and our responsibility to God and to others, we are obligated to protect their freedom to believe and, to a large extent, to live out their beliefs in their daily lives.” This is not motivated by “indifference or skepticism toward our own ultimate beliefs but out of a recognition that in the present age, in [Lesslie] Newbegin’s words, God wills to provide a space and time for people freely to give their allegiance to his kingdom. The state this refrains from prematurely foreclosing on this divinely permitted freedom. This implies tolerance of religious diversity between the times.” Second, he clarifies that such religious tolerance is “limited.” Meaning, no human sacrifices. But more particularly, this limitation recognizes that though “directional diversity” (spiritual pluralism) is important “it does not mean that all battles come to an end; it does mean that such battles are waged peacefully through proper, constitutionally based procedures.” So, for instance, the issue of abortion is not dissolved because of pluralism. The Christian has warrant to fight for truth and for justice as he knows it, even though the spirit of the age says that his biblical beliefs should not be forced on to others who do not hold to Christian teachings. Third, tolerance is not only limited but “it must also be understood to be a normed tolerance governed by principles appropriate to specific communal context.” So the state rightly allows for religious diversity but the institutional church does not. Tolerance must be understood in context, and not subjected to a general rule applicable  across the board.” After discussing what may be called principled pluralism, Koyzis moves on the heart of the “nonideological alternative”. He first discusses the Roman Catholic approach and then contrasts it with the Reformed view developed by John Calvin and Johannes Althusius, which saw the state not as underneath the church but as separate from the church while still being directly under God. Kuyper’s political ideas spring from the Reformed view of the state, but he made several important contributions to Reformed political thought, three of which are primary: (1) his view of antithesis, (2) his view of common grace, and (3) the doctrine of sphere sovereignty or differentiated responsibility. On this third point, Koyzis summarizes its most important implications: “that (1) ultimate sovereignty belongs to God alone, (2) all earthly sovereignties are subsidiary to God’s sovereignty, and (3) there is no penultimate locus of sovereignty in this world from which others are derivative.” This means that society is, by God’s design, “pluriform and consists of a variety of responsible agents, both communal and individual, whose legitimate range of activity is rooted immediately in God’s sovereignty and which exist within normative limits he has placed on them.” This also means that the state is delegated authority directly by God and that its task is limited by God. Koyzis spends time arguing for the proper role of the state, which is “to protect the differentiated responsibilities of the various spheres of society, including individuals and communities.” He also qualifies true justice, biblical justice, from the justice that is sought by the other various ideologies. “People seek justice as they understand it.”  Once again, we are faced with the impossibility of neutrality. Secularism and unbounded (or misunderstood) religious freedom does not avoid this issue, they merely resolve the dilemma in a way that fails to account for the world in which we live. Spread throughout the book are several gems that make the book even more interesting, including: 1. Why are Democrats called “liberals” when their policies generally restrict individual freedom? 2. What’s the common tie between classical liberals and modern day liberals? 3. What constitutes a political community? What are its distinctive features and what are it’s boundaries? 4. What role should patriotism play in society? 5. How should we think about the market and the division of labor in society? What are the sources of economic collectivism? 6. What role should the doctrine of popular sovereignty play in government? 7. Does the representative of the people act as a designated head-counter/poller of the popular opinion among his constituents? Does he act as a trustee of the public interest? Or a bearer of principle? I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a distinctly Christian approach to politics, and to anyone desiring to bring their Christian beliefs to bear on politics.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Pierce

    Would love to do a discussion group on this book with a mix of Republicans and Democrats. One of the few books I've read on politics and faith. It was dense in a good a way...showed how vastly complex and layered our political perspectives and traditions are. Yet made it accessible with seeing idealogical idolatries, making one thing ultimate, at the root of 5 major strands: Liberalism, Conservatism, Nationalism, Democratism, & Socialism. Van Til-like analysis. Especially appreciated the chapter Would love to do a discussion group on this book with a mix of Republicans and Democrats. One of the few books I've read on politics and faith. It was dense in a good a way...showed how vastly complex and layered our political perspectives and traditions are. Yet made it accessible with seeing idealogical idolatries, making one thing ultimate, at the root of 5 major strands: Liberalism, Conservatism, Nationalism, Democratism, & Socialism. Van Til-like analysis. Especially appreciated the chapter on Convervatism. Made me understand a lot more why I lean this way: "Conservatives are not ultimately united by their views on the role of government, the nature of community, or the status of the individual. They certainly have opinions on all these matters, but this is not what makes them conservative. What makes them conservative is their common attitude toward tradition and change in the context of the developing human community.10 More basically, conservatives have a heightened awareness of the fragility of human undertakings and the tendency of human beings to fall into evil and chaotic behavior." (p. 68). "If reforms are to be attempted, they must be small in scale, incremental in pace, and firmly grounded in past experience. The conservative prefers to see people attempt to alleviate poverty in their own neighborhoods than to try to eliminate it nationwide. Because of its local nature, the former is a more realistic and manageable effort than the latter and is thus more likely to meet with success." (p. 69). "Conservatives are generally thought to be localists rather than globalists, patriotic rather than cosmopolitan, family- and village-oriented rather than state-oriented.." “the capacity for loyalty is stretched too thin when it tries to attach itself to the hypothetical solidarity of the whole human race. It needs to attach itself to specific people and places, not to an abstract ideal of universal human rights. We love particular men and women, not humanity in general.”(p. 71) The whole idea of locality and suspicion of rapid change is definitely where I was at but I never really thought of that as specifically conservative. Anyway, excellent book. Would love to read it again for a discussion group!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Brown

    Wow. This was marvelous. I need to write a longer summary to capture all of Koyzis' fantastic insights! He begins by defining idolatry and gnosticism. All sub-Christian ideologies take something in creation and elevate it to the level of the Creator. As a result, offer an alternative to the biblical doctrine of humanity. As a result, they tell a different version of the "creation-fall-redemption-consummation story-- one in which both evil (sin) and salvation come from something within the creatio Wow. This was marvelous. I need to write a longer summary to capture all of Koyzis' fantastic insights! He begins by defining idolatry and gnosticism. All sub-Christian ideologies take something in creation and elevate it to the level of the Creator. As a result, offer an alternative to the biblical doctrine of humanity. As a result, they tell a different version of the "creation-fall-redemption-consummation story-- one in which both evil (sin) and salvation come from something within the creation itself. Then he moves through five political ideologies and summarizes their "salvation story." Liberalism's ultimate good is the rights of the individual. Therefore, the essence of evil is oppression of the individual and salvation comes from political liberation. Since it absolutizes the individual, it will miss the importance of the community. Conservatism's ultimate good is tradition. Therefore, the essence of evil is radical human innovation, and salvation comes by returning to a time in a nation's past. Since it absolutizes the past, it will devolve into a mythology that does not take seriously the evils in every community's history. Nationalism's ultimate good is an ethnic or geo-political identity. Therefore the essence of evil is oppression from an outsider (nation or ethnic group). Since it absolutizes the nation, it is prone to devolve into racism or empirical tendencies. Democratism's ultimate good is the people. Therefore the essence of evil is the rule of the elite. Since it absolutizes the people, it devolves into the tyranny of the majority. Finally, socialism's ultimate good is economic equality. Therefore the essence of evil is inequality which comes from private property. Since it absolutizes equality, it moves toward totalitarian government. Chapter 7 is a defense of political engagement as a consequence of the Christian doctrines of creation and cosmic redemption. This is probably the best concise articulation of these doctrines I have read: superb! Finally he looks at Catholic social teaching and Kuyperian sphere sovereignty (preferring the latter) as a framework for Christian political participation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Josh Gatewood

    4.5. This book is an incredible introduction to political ideologies. Koyzis identifies the prevailing principles, visions, and idolatrous tendencies of several political visions in order to show each of them insufficient as an all-encompassing Christian view. This book is dense, yet very accessible. It broadened my understanding of political philosophy while also providing some base-line principles by which to understand and evaluate them. The major drawback for me was that Koyzis does not prov 4.5. This book is an incredible introduction to political ideologies. Koyzis identifies the prevailing principles, visions, and idolatrous tendencies of several political visions in order to show each of them insufficient as an all-encompassing Christian view. This book is dense, yet very accessible. It broadened my understanding of political philosophy while also providing some base-line principles by which to understand and evaluate them. The major drawback for me was that Koyzis does not provide a specific, compelling vision for a Christian political philosophy. I realize this was not his goal. Instead, he provides (as the subtitle reads) “A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies.” This is exactly what Koyzis provides. Along the way, he provides various biblical principles by which to make such an assessment and critique. However, I would’ve liked to see how these principles might come together in more specific, concrete ways. Specifically, how does a Christian political vision understand the moral and spiritual significance of various institutions like the family over and against the state? Koyzis rightly articulates how these two institutions occupy differentiating spheres of responsibility, but is there a degree of moral and communal significance that should be assigned to one over the other. Perhaps this was simply outside the scope of Koyzis’ work, so I digress. This drawback aside, I think Political Visions and Illusions does a phenomenal job mapping the ideological terrain of contemporary ideologies. I walked away with a better sense of history, philosophy, and the call for justice in public life. Any Christian who is tired of overly simplistic, totalizing political narratives should pick up this book and assess the ideological foundations for themselves. Highly recommend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Russell Fox

    I'll be using this excellent textbook by David Koyzis once again in my Political Ideas and Ideologies course this semester, and I wanted to put a brief note up about the excellence of this new edition. I haven't always used Koyzis's book in the class, but I've used it a lot over the years--not because I fully agree with his overall framing of the study of ideologies (as a Mormon very much of the left of the political spectrum, a brief self-description that includes two matters Koyzis himself wou I'll be using this excellent textbook by David Koyzis once again in my Political Ideas and Ideologies course this semester, and I wanted to put a brief note up about the excellence of this new edition. I haven't always used Koyzis's book in the class, but I've used it a lot over the years--not because I fully agree with his overall framing of the study of ideologies (as a Mormon very much of the left of the political spectrum, a brief self-description that includes two matters Koyzis himself would likely have serious difficulty fully respecting or taking seriously, I look at the question of how worldviews are constructed quite differently than he does), but because I like very much how he tells the stories which he sees within liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and the like. This updated edition of his book only makes his claims about the implicit narratives contained within ideological systems even more clearly, and his concluding chapters which situate those narratives in the context of Christian ideas of subsidiarity and social pluriformity are excellent. The only real failure in the book is, I think, his failure to give appropriate space to the anti-statist/anarchist/libertarian positions one can find scattered throughout the ideologies he examines; he mentions them, but never really puts them together as genuine argument that exists within his various narratives. In any case, though, a fine textbook. It probably couldn't ever really work in a secular or state university, but at a religious school like Friends, arguing with Koyzis's book, and getting the students to argue with it as well, should be a lot of fun.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne Burghgraef

    Paul Alkazraji has identified the political divisions that have been so apparent in the recent US presidential elections as matters of deeply rooted commitments that impact Christians of all walks of life. Directing us to Koyzis's book on contemporary ideologies, he asserts that we should not offer uncritical allegiance to any of them, but we should discern the good insights each offers while being aware of the limitations and dangers inherent within them. Discussing conservatism, socialism and Paul Alkazraji has identified the political divisions that have been so apparent in the recent US presidential elections as matters of deeply rooted commitments that impact Christians of all walks of life. Directing us to Koyzis's book on contemporary ideologies, he asserts that we should not offer uncritical allegiance to any of them, but we should discern the good insights each offers while being aware of the limitations and dangers inherent within them. Discussing conservatism, socialism and liberalism, he has given us a glimpse of the riches resources in Koyzis's book, which can encourage deeper reflection and dialogue amongst believers to develop wisdom about the world we live in. i would echo Paul's articulate review and recommend it for group study.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laney Mills

    This book is deep and thorough in its assessment of the various ideologies of our day... and while I know I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as other more scholarly or politically-minded individuals would have, I still found the information invaluable in helping me better understand the comprehensive creation-fall-redemption-restoration narrative that each ideology purports, as well as how those narratives contradict with the true story of the Bible. This book forces you to think deeply about This book is deep and thorough in its assessment of the various ideologies of our day... and while I know I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as other more scholarly or politically-minded individuals would have, I still found the information invaluable in helping me better understand the comprehensive creation-fall-redemption-restoration narrative that each ideology purports, as well as how those narratives contradict with the true story of the Bible. This book forces you to think deeply about the dearly held beliefs you may hold in regards to politics, and challenges you to examine both the roots and fruits of such beliefs.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Smooth Via

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Koyzis does an excellent job describing and explaining the different political ideologies. I don't agree with all of his critiques, however. Particularly, his critique of socialism is a bit dated and cliche'. The most helpful part of this book is the chapter on nationalism. I would go so far as to say, the book is worth buying for that chapter alone. I read the second edition which does notshow up in Goodreads. The second edition seems to be update This is pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Koyzis does an excellent job describing and explaining the different political ideologies. I don't agree with all of his critiques, however. Particularly, his critique of socialism is a bit dated and cliche'. The most helpful part of this book is the chapter on nationalism. I would go so far as to say, the book is worth buying for that chapter alone. I read the second edition which does notshow up in Goodreads. The second edition seems to be updated due to the Trump era (though Trump is not mentioned by name). If you want to understand Trumpism, one needs only to read the chapter on nationalism.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Mccambridge

    This book should be read by everyone in ministry who is currently wrestling with how faith fits into the political landscape... It is so important to understand that ideologies are essentially hollowed out religions - there is no objective source behind them, but they are dogmatic, doctrinal, and ultimately religious. This book goes through the major ideologies - liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democratism, and socialism - showing how each of these is essentially religious in character. I This book should be read by everyone in ministry who is currently wrestling with how faith fits into the political landscape... It is so important to understand that ideologies are essentially hollowed out religions - there is no objective source behind them, but they are dogmatic, doctrinal, and ultimately religious. This book goes through the major ideologies - liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democratism, and socialism - showing how each of these is essentially religious in character. I found the section on how the church should actually interact with politics a little weak, but I still find this book essential for understanding the ideologies (idols) of the modern political world.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tim Mcdaniel

    Scholarly read, putting political views in perspective This is an intellectual study, and as such, is pretty difficult reading. But if you’re able to parse the text - and I’m not completely sure I was successful - there are some eye-opening and thought-provoking truths here. Most importantly for those in the United States is the conclusion that the political parties are fighting from the same side of the fence. This helps explain the fierceness of the fight, as each side are, in reality, so close Scholarly read, putting political views in perspective This is an intellectual study, and as such, is pretty difficult reading. But if you’re able to parse the text - and I’m not completely sure I was successful - there are some eye-opening and thought-provoking truths here. Most importantly for those in the United States is the conclusion that the political parties are fighting from the same side of the fence. This helps explain the fierceness of the fight, as each side are, in reality, so close together. At least, that’s what I gathered, even if that wasn’t the author’s intent.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam Cessna

    This book is dense and compact with information. Koyzis analyzes the different ideologies of our day, pointing out their idolatrous nature. Looking at liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democratism (not democracy, per se), and socialism the argument is that they ultimately put either the individual, the state, or the collective as god. The book ends with a Christian approach to the polis and state, focusing on the act of justice. I would suggest that all read this book. I unfortunately must This book is dense and compact with information. Koyzis analyzes the different ideologies of our day, pointing out their idolatrous nature. Looking at liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democratism (not democracy, per se), and socialism the argument is that they ultimately put either the individual, the state, or the collective as god. The book ends with a Christian approach to the polis and state, focusing on the act of justice. I would suggest that all read this book. I unfortunately must accept that this is not a book that is keen on peeking the interest of the masses.

  22. 5 out of 5

    CJ

    Provided a good explanation of Christian involvement in political justice as affirming the cosmic scope of redemption, and not singularly “saving souls.” Explained subsidiarity and its relation to civil society in Catholicism and non-hierarchical civil society or “sovereignty in its sphere” in the Reformed tradition. Intriguing call to transcend ideologies and avoid easy slogans. I want to see what that looks like.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacob O'connor

    Most of us are familiar with the slippery slope fallacy.  Fewer know that there is a legitimate logical slippery slope.  This is when the logic that leads to point A inevitably leads to point B, C, and so on.  Koyzis shows how ubiquitous this is in political theory.  That liberalism and even democracy contain within themselves the seed that leads right off a cliff. This was one of the more helpful books on political theory I’ve read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Although it doesn’t answer all possible questions, this book is a great foundation for thinking about the relationship between theology and politics, church and state, and how Christians should approach these issues. Highly recommended!

  25. 4 out of 5

    HCC

    I wish I knew philosophy and political theory better to more fully appreciate this work. Found it helpful but very dense; I would commend the epilogue and additional chapter on application for churches/pastors at the end as stand alone resources.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joshua D.

    Extremely helpful high level analysis of political theories through the lens of creation-fall-redemption. The ecclesiastical postscript at the end is highly recommended for church officers thinking through how to engage politics within the church.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Really helpful analysis of political ideologies from a Christian perspective. Felt the last section on a Christian alternative was helpful but was not as clear/persuasive compared to the first few chapters analyzing liberalism, conservatism, etc.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Higgins

    Dense and academic I have a degree in political science and a Master of Divinity and I struggled to remain interested. It probably is a better resource than overview of political ideology and faith.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Malu Nóbrega

    Nah.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Drew

    Keller says this is the best book on the current state of politics

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...