This article responds to the papers by O’Donovan, Rizvi and Heck by identifying four convergent themes emerging from their accounts of Christian and Islamic political thought: the denial of salvific efficacy to the state; the claim that political authority is legitimated and limited by law; the attribution of a normative purpose to the state; and the ascription of a positive role for the people in the legitimation and scrutiny of political authority. The article poses the question whether this amounts to (...) something that might be termed a shared ‘monotheistic democratic constitutionalism’. (shrink)
The notion of societal structural principles is the foundation stone of Dooyeweerd’s social philosophy, and of the political and legal philosophy grounded in it, yet it has so far received little detailed critical analysis or constructive reformulation among reformational scholars. The aim of this paper is the modest one of illustrating the kind of analysis still to be done if the notion is to be put to more constructive use within social theory. I shall say little about the epistemological or (...) methodological implications of the notion, concentrating on its central ontological problematics. I shall do so by discussing the notion with special reference to its specific application to one particular societal structure, namely the state. Part I analyses Dooyeweerd’s general account of the notion of societal structural principles. I identify there a number of critical problems running through the paper, especially: a) the problem of how structural principles secure the internal unity of a societal structure; b) the distinction between the invariant character of societal structural principles, and the variable forms in which they are positivised; and c) the undeveloped link between societal structures and the structure of the human person. Part II illustrates these problems in relation to Dooyeweerd’s account of the structural principle of the state. Part III briefly sketches the direction of a possible reformulation of the notion of societal structural principles in the light of a more fully elaborated philosophical anthropology. (shrink)
This paper argues that the theological ethics of the future will be both more authentically Christian and more public, and briefly illustrates that claim in relation to the polity and to the academy. It argues, first, that Christian political reasoning should not be preoccupied with liberal anxieties about epistemic criteria for public reasoning, but rather turn its attention to the institutional telos of the polity, the political common good; and be prepared to speak in an openly Christian voice where appropriate. (...) It argues, second, that scholarly reasoning offered by theological ethicists to the academy will be more effective the better it understands the complementary roles fulfilled by theology and other academic disciplines, such as the social sciences. Theological ethicists should not view theology as queen of the sciences but instead critically appropriate the findings of the social sciences and also work to offer it healthier, theologically-informed concepts. (shrink)
It has always been the fate of centrally important concepts in public debate to be used promiscuously. ‘Democracy’, for instance, has long been assigned multiple contested meanings; its meaning is univocal only in the minds of passionate advocates of a single political project seeking to monopolize usage of the term, whether Liberals or Leninists. Theorists tend to worry about this conceptual promiscuity more than practitioners, who, firing off loaded concepts in the heat of political battle, are impatient of reminders that, (...) perhaps, this or that concept is not being consistently used as originally intended. “No matter,” says the busy practitioner, “it is doing the job I currently intend.” This reply is often justified: scholarly intrusions into public debate are sometimes appropriately dubbed ‘academic’ . However, when rhetorical skirmishes cease and a concept gets to be embedded in public policy or legislation, clarity is indispensable.This, of course, summarizes the recent career of the concept of ‘subsidiarity’, which has been nominated as possibly ‘the most contentious abstract noun to have entered European politics since 1789’ . Advocates of both centralization and decentralization currently invoke it with the same firmness of conviction. Its inclusion in the Maastricht Treaty, far from having generated clear guidelines on how to determine the proper balance between European and national competences, has only served to highlight the competing interpretations which it can, apparently, bear. ‘Subsidiarity’ is suffering from a ‘clarity deficit’ which needs remedying. My aim in what follows is to contribute to that process of clarification and to suggest ways in which the concept might be critically developed.First, I attempt to retrieve the original meaning of subsidiarity and exhibit its intrinsic relationships to related concepts of community and the common good. I seek to show that subsidiarity is only one aspect of a broader theory, rooted in Catholic social thought, of the proper relationship between persons and communities. Subsidiarity takes its meaning from an elaborate social theory which is personalist, pluralist and communitarian. Charges of vacuity against subsidiarity are only to be expected when the concept is treated in isolation from this background theory. Second, I identify and attempt to remedy certain deficiencies of the concept by critically elaborating what I take to be its central intent. In a brief conclusion, I indicate the need to bring the concept into dialogue with alternative models of the person-community relationship. (shrink)
A work of contemporary Christian political thought, this volume addresses the crisis of modern democracy evident in the decline of the institutions of civil society and their theoretical justification. Drawing upon a rich store of social and political reflection found in the Catholic and Neo-Calvinist traditions, the essays mount a robust defense of the irreducible identity and value of the social institutions_family, neighborhood, church, civic association_that serve as the connective tissue of a political community.
The twentieth-century Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd left behind an impressive canon of philosophical works and has continued to influence a scholarly community in Europe and North America, which has extended, critiqued, and applied his thought in many academic fields. Jonathan Chaplin introduces Dooyeweerd for the first time to many English readers by critically expounding Dooyeweerd's social and political thought and by exhibiting its pertinence to contemporary civil society debates. Chaplin begins by contextualizing Dooyeweerd's thought, first in relation to present-day debates (...) and then in relation to the work of the Dutch philosopher Abraham Kuyper. Chaplin outlines the distinctive theory of historical and cultural development that serves as an essential backdrop to Dooyeweerd's substantive social philosophy; examines Dooyeweerd's notion of societal structural principles; and sets forth his complex classification of particular types of social structure and their various interrelationships. Chaplin provides a detailed examination of Dooyeweerd's theory of the state, its definitive nature, and its proper role vis-a-vis other elements of society. Dooyeweerd's contributions, Chaplin concludes, assist us in mapping the ways in which state and civil society should be related to achieve justice and the public good. "This superb study simultaneously introduces and critically engages the work of one of the most important and neglected Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, while showing its connection to the pluralist tradition and bringing it to bear on the contemporary debate about civil society. More than just providing an overview of Dooyeweerd's thought, it seeks to advance his intellectual project and show its contemporary relevance. It is essential reading not only for those interested in the neo-Calvinist tradition, but for anyone interested in Christian social thought, structural pluralism, or the nature and fate of civil society." --_Kenneth L. Grasso, Texas State University _ "The subtlety, scope, and insightfulness of Dooyeweerd's social philosophy were unparalleled among Protestant thinkers in the past century. Yet his contributions are not well known. Jonathan Chaplin promises to remedy this neglect. His lucid and masterful study brings a new and transformative voice to contemporary debates about the future of a democratic society." --_Lambert Zuidervaart, Institute for Christian Studies and University of Toronto_ "Finally, an authoritative book that brings to brilliant light and life Herman Dooyeweerd's Christian philosophy of law, politics, and society. For the past half century, the profound and original teachings of this prolific Dutch sage have been lost on most readers. Jonathan Chaplin has rescued Dooyeweerd from his own obscure prose, poor translations, and cultic mystique to reveal his astonishing and engaging insights into our lives as persons and peoples, rulers and citizens, preachers and parishioners, parents and children. This will be the go-to book on Dooyeweerd for many years to come." --_John Witte, Jr., Emory University_ "Herman Dooyeweerd was both deep and original. Much of his writing is an articulation of rather undeveloped lines of thought in his Dutch predecessor, Abraham Kuyper. In the course of his exposition, Chaplin effectively highlights Dooyeweerd's significance for a theory of civil society and for present-day social theory in general." --_Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University and the Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Virginia_. (shrink)
‘Public justice’ is one of the most widely-invoked of the many distinctive terms coined by Herman Dooyeweerd but, strangely, one of the least well analysed. Dooyeewerd holds that that the identity of the state is defined by a single, integrating and directing norm, the establishment of ‘public justice’. Elaborating the implications of this claim has occupied much neo-Calvinist political reflection and guided much political action inspired by that movement. Yet surprisingly little sustained theoretical reflection has been devoted in recent times (...) to examining its inner meaning and coherence. This article offers some preliminary groundwork necessary to that theoretical project. The first part presents a close reading of Dooyeweerd’s account of public justice, identifies ambiguities and inconsistencies in that account, and suggests a reconstruction displaying its wide-ranging dynamic thrust more prominently. The second part identifies two substantial challenges confronting this account: its relative neglect of processes of democratic deliberation and advocacy, and its underdeveloped critical potentials. (shrink)
This volume brings together eminent theologians, philosophers and political theorists to discuss such questions as how religious understandings have shaped the moral landscape of contemporary culture; the possible contributions of theology and theologically informed moral argument to contemporary public life; the problem of religious and moral discourse in a pluralistic society; and the proper relationship between religion and culture.