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Christian Faith and Modern Democracy

Christian Faith and Modern Democracy

God and Politics in the Fallen World

Robert P. Kraynak

In Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, Robert Kraynak challenges the commonly accepted view that Christianity is inherently compatible with modern democratic society. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Kraynak argues that there is no necessary connection between Christianity and any form of government and that, in many important respects, Christianity is weakened by its close alliance with contemporary versions of democracy and human rights.

Christian Faith and Modern Democracy was written, in part, to convince secular intellectuals that modern democracy needs God. But it was also written in response to the new consensus about politics that has emerged among Christian believers. Almost all churches and theologians now think that the form of government most compatible with Christianity is democracy and that the historic opposition of the Christian tradition to democracy and to various forms of liberalism was a mistake. What caused Christians to change their view of political authority and to embrace liberal democracy? Were they wise to change their view?

This provocative book attempts to answer these questions by applying St. Augustine’s distinction between the city of God and the earthly city to modern-day democracy and Christianity. Kraynak argues that St. Augustine’s teaching provides the basis for a Christian theory of constitutional government and permits a variety of legitimate forms of government, including constitutional democracy. Yet, unlike contemporary Christian doctrines, it does so without embracing the subversive premises of liberalism that have threatened to turn the Christian faith into little more than a mirror image of the modern world.

Sure to spark controversy among secular intellectuals and Christian believers alike, this insightful volume is an outstanding work of political philosophy with a firm foundation in theology.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02266-2
352 pages
Publication Year: 2001

Robert P. Kraynak is professor of political science at Colgate University. He is the author of History and Modernity in the Thought of Thomas Hobbes.

“Kraynak brings a much-needed sense of prudence and political sobriety to Christian political discourse. . . . an impressive book. Christian Faith and Modern Democracy raises a series of tough questions about the relationship of Christianity and liberal democracy that no one who thinks seriously about these matters can afford to ignore. Kraynak’s book promises to play an essential role in this debate for the foreseeable future.” — Modern Age

“[T]his learned and provocative book is an excellent introduction to the problem of Christianity and democracy in our time, and to the enduring tension between religious faith and ‘the logic of rights’ in modern liberal societies.” — The Public Interest

“It is the great virtue of Robert P. Kraynak’s Christian Faith and Modern Democracy to question the assumptions of both sides in the culture war. Kraynak strongly supports those who advocate a greater role for the church in American public life. He powerfully defends the view that liberalism is incapable of vindicating the human dignity on which liberal rights are based.” — First Things

“In his important and controversial new book, Kraynak argues that democracy is the result of several historical and political developments that were not in themselves the inevitable result of either Providence or the secular course of history.” — Commonweal

“For those anxious to understand more about the thorny topic of religion and government in the new century, this book will furnish provocative material about an endlessly important issue.” — America

“Robert Kraynak has produced one of the most significant political books for American Catholics since John Courtney Murray’s We Hold These Truths. 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.” — Religion & Liberty

“. . . unified and tightly organized. A stimulating book rethinking liberal democracy and Christian political theology.” — American Political Science Review

“In Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, Robert Kraynak offers a bold and at times controversial analysis of the relationship between the church and the modern democratic state. For many . . . the restatement of Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities . . . will at least encourage debate—and thought.” — Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

P00714

In Defense of Human Dignity

Essays for Our Times


Edited by Robert P. Kraynak and Glenn Tinder

P03373

Freedom from Reality

The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty

D. C. Schindler

P03372

Spiritual Guides

Pathfinders in the Desert

Fred Dallmayr

P03317

Liberalism Safe for Catholicism?

Perspectives from The Review of Politics


Edited by Daniel Philpott and Ryan T. Anderson

Christian Faith and Modern Democracy

God and Politics in the Fallen World

Robert P. Kraynak

 Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World
Paper Edition

In Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, Robert Kraynak challenges the commonly accepted view that Christianity is inherently compatible with modern democratic society. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Kraynak argues that there is no necessary connection between Christianity and any form of government and that, in many important respects, Christianity is weakened by its close alliance with contemporary versions of democracy and human rights.

Christian Faith and Modern Democracy was written, in part, to convince secular intellectuals that modern democracy needs God. But it was also written in response to the new consensus about politics that has emerged among Christian believers. Almost all churches and theologians now think that the form of government most compatible with Christianity is democracy and that the historic opposition of the Christian tradition to democracy and to various forms of liberalism was a mistake. What caused Christians to change their view of political authority and to embrace liberal democracy? Were they wise to change their view?

This provocative book attempts to answer these questions by applying St. Augustine’s distinction between the city of God and the earthly city to modern-day democracy and Christianity. Kraynak argues that St. Augustine’s teaching provides the basis for a Christian theory of constitutional government and permits a variety of legitimate forms of government, including constitutional democracy. Yet, unlike contemporary Christian doctrines, it does so without embracing the subversive premises of liberalism that have threatened to turn the Christian faith into little more than a mirror image of the modern world.

Sure to spark controversy among secular intellectuals and Christian believers alike, this insightful volume is an outstanding work of political philosophy with a firm foundation in theology.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02266-2

352 pages

“Kraynak brings a much-needed sense of prudence and political sobriety to Christian political discourse. . . . an impressive book. Christian Faith and Modern Democracy raises a series of tough questions about the relationship of Christianity and liberal democracy that no one who thinks seriously about these matters can afford to ignore. Kraynak’s book promises to play an essential role in this debate for the foreseeable future.” — Modern Age

“[T]his learned and provocative book is an excellent introduction to the problem of Christianity and democracy in our time, and to the enduring tension between religious faith and ‘the logic of rights’ in modern liberal societies.” — The Public Interest

“It is the great virtue of Robert P. Kraynak’s Christian Faith and Modern Democracy to question the assumptions of both sides in the culture war. Kraynak strongly supports those who advocate a greater role for the church in American public life. He powerfully defends the view that liberalism is incapable of vindicating the human dignity on which liberal rights are based.” — First Things

“In his important and controversial new book, Kraynak argues that democracy is the result of several historical and political developments that were not in themselves the inevitable result of either Providence or the secular course of history.” — Commonweal

“For those anxious to understand more about the thorny topic of religion and government in the new century, this book will furnish provocative material about an endlessly important issue.” — America

“Robert Kraynak has produced one of the most significant political books for American Catholics since John Courtney Murray’s We Hold These Truths. 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.” — Religion & Liberty

“. . . unified and tightly organized. A stimulating book rethinking liberal democracy and Christian political theology.” — American Political Science Review

“In Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, Robert Kraynak offers a bold and at times controversial analysis of the relationship between the church and the modern democratic state. For many . . . the restatement of Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities . . . will at least encourage debate—and thought.” — Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Frank M. Covey, Jr., Loyola Lectures in Political Analysis