I believe it is part of my job as a Christian campus chaplain/minister to encourage and empower students in their spiritual and academic journeys. Hence, I am very pleased to have a guest post by Adrian Paris, a fourth-year Political Science major at York University, Toronto. Adrian hails from a Roman Catholic background and from India. I have asked him to read and briefly review David T. Koyzis‘ book, Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies (IVP, 2003). Here is Adrian’s review.
A book is a mirror: if an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out. – C. G. Lichtenberg
For far too long, we have enslaved ourselves to political theories that have, at best, a misguided view of human nature and are, at worst, deliberately deceitful. Our collective journey to uncover the truth about our lives, and the lives of those around us, has often led some of us to accept many answers offered by these political theorists, economists, sociologists and other “experts”, at face value.
In the book “Political Visions & Illusions”, the author David T. Koyzis, calls some of the popular applied political theories as he sees them – ideologies. The book looks at Liberalism, Conservatism, Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism, the most popular political theories on how society should be organised, explains them, and then argues that society should transcend these theories, effectively embracing pluralism, with one catch – God should be placed on the top of any hierarchy. By defining the task of the state to be one of “doing justice in God’s World”, with the task of people to be broadly “to follow the State but might consider civil disobedience where a specific law egregiously violates justice”, it is clear that justice remains the highest order for any social structure. The book ends positively reminding Christian readers that through Scripture we are assured that the ultimate victory over evil belongs to the God who has created and redeemed us, but that this message does not relieve us from our duty of promoting justice, as all actions serve as signposts for God’s ultimate success.
In short, this book is an extended version of the ‘Society’ chapter in Jon Stewart’s “Earth – A Visitors Guide to the Human Race”, although not quite so entertaining. That being said, this book is a must-read for a general introduction of contemporary political theories.
For further editions, I suggest that the book touch upon modern political theories that have not yet been practically applied. It is often the ideas that have not yet been placed within organised societies that offer valuable insight, since it can prepare us for future ideological challenges and strengthen democratic discourse. These theories can range from political movements of feminists, African- Americans, aboriginals along with many voices from around the developing world, to institutionalised political theories that frame society through varied lenses which include several continental philosophers, post-modernists, analytical philosophers, pragmatists and even anarchists. If not just to warn us about the practical applications of some of these marginalized theories, it can serve as a guide for the confused student who is searching for answers in those theories. We need more reflection on political thought from a modern Christian perspective, and I am confident that books like this one can help bridge the growing “rational” separation between the church and state.