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Politics of Human Frailty

The Politics of Human Frailty

A Theological Defence of Political Liberalism

Christopher J. Insole

“[A]n important and timely work. Insole succeeds in challenging some of the wholesale denunciations of liberalism in recent theology and exposes some of the more implausible claims of the radically orthodox.”
— Professor David Fergusson, University of Edinburgh

The Politics of Human Frailty provides a theological defense of a strand of political liberalism that is informed by the theological conviction that the human person is a creature incapable of its own perfection, although nonetheless called to and made for this perfection. Insole questions easy caricatures of liberalism, which tend to describe it as individualistic, hubristic, and relativist. By analyzing the works of Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, Richard Hooker, and John Rawls, Insole shows that a passion to protect the individual within liberal institutions arises not from an illusory sense of self-sufficiency, but from insight into our fallen condition and from an intimation of redemption and divine order.

Insole investigates how notions of “liberty” employed in England, America, and France have distinct theological lineages, and separates the political liberalism he defends from over-zealous appropriations. He also critiques Radical Orthodoxy, arguing that the Radical Orthodoxy project is politically naïve, utopian, and dangerous.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03175-6
208 pages
Publication Year: 2004

Christopher J. Insole is a lecturer in philosophy of religion and ethics at the University of Cambridge.

“Christopher Insole combines this new historical study of the roots of liberalism with a systematic defense of political liberalism in theological terms. His book is important reading for anyone concerned about how religion shapes the political thinking of leaders and people in the Western democracies today. This is a work that challenges us to think critically about what is happening to religion and politics everywhere in the English-speaking world today, with full awareness of the history that brought us here.” — Theology Today

The Politics of Human Frailty is a highly perceptive book which deserves to be read by theologians, politicians, church leaders, indeed by anyone interested in the defence of liberal values.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Insole’s tightly argued work has much to recommend it. He demolishes John Milbank’s ill-advised appeal to Foucauldian genealogy. Furthermore, his appeal to Burke, Acton, and Hooker will be useful to readers more accustomed to hearing these arguments in a more contemporary context. . . . If liberalism’s defenders must accept self-imposed constraints, its Christian critics often insouciantly dismiss the question of what might replace a society without such attenuation. There are costs of liberal citizenship. Insole’s work demonstrates that there are good Christian reasons for accepting them.” — The Journal of Religion

“Insole offers a theological justification for close partnership between Christians and advocates of political liberalism. Well-documented and scholarly, his book provides a broad brush approach and operates on a large canvas, historically and conceptually . . . [Insole] cautiously and modestly builds up a theological defence of political liberalism.” — Heythrop Journal

“This book is a lucid presentation of the modern confusion over the concept of political liberalism. Insole’s book seeks to dispose of some longstanding cliches and stereotypes, its primary concern being the theological aspect of the issue from historical and contemporary perspectives.” — Journal of Markets & Morality

“In sum, Insole challenges theological critics of liberalism to broaden their paradigm. The book is important for all concerned with how religion shapes the political thinking of the world today.” — Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

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The Politics of Human Frailty

A Theological Defence of Political Liberalism

Christopher J. Insole

The Politics of Human Frailty: A Theological Defence of Political Liberalism
Paper Edition

“[A]n important and timely work. Insole succeeds in challenging some of the wholesale denunciations of liberalism in recent theology and exposes some of the more implausible claims of the radically orthodox.”
— Professor David Fergusson, University of Edinburgh

The Politics of Human Frailty provides a theological defense of a strand of political liberalism that is informed by the theological conviction that the human person is a creature incapable of its own perfection, although nonetheless called to and made for this perfection. Insole questions easy caricatures of liberalism, which tend to describe it as individualistic, hubristic, and relativist. By analyzing the works of Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, Richard Hooker, and John Rawls, Insole shows that a passion to protect the individual within liberal institutions arises not from an illusory sense of self-sufficiency, but from insight into our fallen condition and from an intimation of redemption and divine order.

Insole investigates how notions of “liberty” employed in England, America, and France have distinct theological lineages, and separates the political liberalism he defends from over-zealous appropriations. He also critiques Radical Orthodoxy, arguing that the Radical Orthodoxy project is politically naïve, utopian, and dangerous.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03175-6

208 pages

“Christopher Insole combines this new historical study of the roots of liberalism with a systematic defense of political liberalism in theological terms. His book is important reading for anyone concerned about how religion shapes the political thinking of leaders and people in the Western democracies today. This is a work that challenges us to think critically about what is happening to religion and politics everywhere in the English-speaking world today, with full awareness of the history that brought us here.” — Theology Today

The Politics of Human Frailty is a highly perceptive book which deserves to be read by theologians, politicians, church leaders, indeed by anyone interested in the defence of liberal values.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Insole’s tightly argued work has much to recommend it. He demolishes John Milbank’s ill-advised appeal to Foucauldian genealogy. Furthermore, his appeal to Burke, Acton, and Hooker will be useful to readers more accustomed to hearing these arguments in a more contemporary context. . . . If liberalism’s defenders must accept self-imposed constraints, its Christian critics often insouciantly dismiss the question of what might replace a society without such attenuation. There are costs of liberal citizenship. Insole’s work demonstrates that there are good Christian reasons for accepting them.” — The Journal of Religion

“Insole offers a theological justification for close partnership between Christians and advocates of political liberalism. Well-documented and scholarly, his book provides a broad brush approach and operates on a large canvas, historically and conceptually . . . [Insole] cautiously and modestly builds up a theological defence of political liberalism.” — Heythrop Journal

“This book is a lucid presentation of the modern confusion over the concept of political liberalism. Insole’s book seeks to dispose of some longstanding cliches and stereotypes, its primary concern being the theological aspect of the issue from historical and contemporary perspectives.” — Journal of Markets & Morality

“In sum, Insole challenges theological critics of liberalism to broaden their paradigm. The book is important for all concerned with how religion shapes the political thinking of the world today.” — Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Faith in Reason: Philosophical Enquiries