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Against the grain of much contemporary Christian theology, Christopher Insole’s The Politics of Human Frailty takes on the challenge of theologically defending political liberalism. Specifically, he defends a strand of political liberalism ‘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’ (p. vii). Insole, University Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at the University of Cambridge, attends to philosophers and theologians primarily in the British tradition, but also on the American side. Insole advances his argument mostly through readings of other authors. Positively, Insole reads both early liberals, such as Edmund Burke, and (more surprisingly) contemporary philosophers, such as John Rawls, as thinkers with whom Christians need have no quarrel. Those who come up for criticism in the book are not contemporary liberals who are hostile to religion, but communitarian-minded philosophers, theologians, and politicians—from early American evangelicals to the contemporary Radical Orthodox theologians—who would impose on society a grand plan for the common good. In the Augustinian worldview that Insole commends, such grand planning is a road to ruin, for it soon runs roughshod over human individuality. Political thought and institutions must instead be sensitive to our fallen condition.


Version posted is the author manuscript.

Insole, Christopher J. The Politics of Human Frailty: A Theological Defence of Political Liberalism. London: SCM Press, 2004.