Political Visions & Illusions
IVP Academic

Political Visions & Illusions

A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies

by David T. Koyzis

Political Visions & Illusions
  • Length: 281 pages
  • Published: May 2003
  •  In stock
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-2726-8
  • Item Code: 2726
  • Case Quantity: 36

  • 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.

"Thankfully it is now common for Christians to believe that the gospel should shape our view not only of the goals but also of the nature of our politics, and that the theme of idolatry is key to understanding not only our personal but also our political life. But until David Koyzis's Political Visions and Illusions, this understanding has remained largely vague, tentative and intuitive. This book shows clearly and in detail how biblical insight into idolatry and ideology illuminate the most concrete dimensions of political life in a way rarely grasped by more secular political scientists."

Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom, Washington, D.C.

"David Koyzis not only helps us to see the basic worldviews that give shape to a variety of political perspectives, he also makes a solid case for a uniquely Christian perspective on these matters. This excellent book is a much-needed 'discerning' tool for understanding the basic issues of political life."

Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"David Koyzis has produced a truly original book illuminating the landscape of modern political ideologies. His approach is distinctively Christian, giving him a standpoint from which to cririque liberal as well as totalitarian ideologies. Moreover, the book is up to date with the post-Cold War world. This is the place to start for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of ideological conflict in the world today."

James W. Skillen, President, Center for Public Justice

"Political nostrums fly thick and fast in contemporary life--from print, radio, TV, pulpits and (perhaps most of all) casual conversation. David Koyzis's welcome effort uses wise biblical reasoning as well as the hard-won experience of Dutch Calvinists to winnow through the modern world's blizzard of competing politcal claims. Koyzis's analysis is both an effective survey of the world's contemporary political options and an encouraging Christian word on how to discern the critical differences. This book's combination of readable theory and wise Christian thinking is a first-order contribution to Christian political thought in its own right."

Mark A. Noll, McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College



1. Introduction: Ideology, Religion and Idolatry
Politics and Ideas
History and Definitions
Ideology in Christian Perspective
Preconditions for the Rise of Ideologies
Ideology as Religious: Toward a Definition
The Classification of Ideologies: Left and Right
Discerning the Spirits in the Ideologies

2. Liberalism: The Sovereignty of the Individual
The Meanings of Liberalism
The Liberal Creed
Late Liberalism and the Expansion of the State
The Right and the Good: Subsidizing Choices
The Spiritually Vacant State: The Privatization of Ultimate Belief
Sin and Salvation in Liberalism

3. Conservatism: History as Source of Norms
Babies and Bathwater: The Conservative Creed
The Grass Is Greener on Our Side
Which Traditions and When?
Conservatism and Christianity
Conservatism and the State

4. Nationalism: The Nation Deified
A Creed for a Century
Civic and Ethnic Nationalisms: State Versus Tribe
The Nationalist View of the State
Patriotic Loyalty: A Modest Devotion
Christians and Nationalism

5. Democracy: Vox Populi Vox Dei
Structure and Creed
From Liberalism to Democracy
The Majoritarian and Totalitarian Temptations
Democratization Without Limits
Creed and Structure Revisited: Direct Versus Representative Democracy
Representation: Followership or Leadership?
Democracy and Justice: A Final Assessment

6. Socialism: Common Ownership as Salvific
A World of Socialisms
A Transformative Vision
From Democracy to Socialism
Common Ownership and Socialist Ideology
Means and Ends: Equality and How to Get There
The Marxian Vision and Marxism
Fair Distribution of Economic Resources

7. Transcending the Ideologies: Affirming Societal Pluriformity
A Biblical Christian Response
A Christian Worldview: Creation, Fall and Redemption
Creation Order: Misconceptions Dispelled
Discerning the Spirits: Pluralisms and Pluriformity

8. Toward a Nonideological Alternative: Two Historic Christian Approaches
The Role of Catholic Social Teachings
The Principle of Subsidiarity: Affirming Civil Society
The Reformation: Calvin and Althusius
Developments in the Netherlands: Groen and Kuyper
Sovereignty in Its Own Sphere: A Nonhierarchical Affirmation of Civil Society
Dooyeweerd's Contribution

9. The State and Its Task: Doing Justice in God's World
Justice and Differentiated Responsibility
Justice and the State

Epilogue: Toward the Future

Selected Bibliography



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