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Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies Paperback – June 16, 2003

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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"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)

About the Author

Koyzis (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is professor of political science at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830827269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830827268
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By E. Ritzema on June 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
David T. Koyzis, who teaches political science at Redeemer University College in Ontario, has written an extremely helpful book for Christians who seek to understand the contemporary political climate. He begins by looking at the nature of ideologies, saying that they tend to locate sources of evil and salvation within the created order, and are therefore idolatrous from a Christian perspective. He then devotes a chapter each to five different ideologies: liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. He closes the book with three "what next" chapters: First, there is a chapter on Christians rejecting the monisms of the ideologies and affirming social pluriformity. Second, he includes a chapter that looks at two nonideological Christian alternatives: subsidiarity, which is commonly associated with Catholic social teaching, and sphere-sovereignty (or differentiated responsibility), which is commonly associated with Dutch Reformed thinking. Koyzis does a good job at explaining both, and expresses a preference for the latter. Finally, there is a chapter looking at the state's role in fostering justice.

There are two reasons why I would recommend this book: first, Koyzis is familiar with a wide range of ideas in the history of political thought. He is able to explain the history of the concept of ideology, as well as the histories of the various ideologies themselves. That ability to give context is invaluable in a culture that rarely gets beyond sound bites and slogans. Second, I appreciated that it is written from a Christian perspective. Of course, not all Christians will agree with everything Koyzis writes, but the fact that he writes as a Christian enables him to step back from the ideologies and evaluate them based on how they understand God's created world.
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All humans long for redemption. We cannot escape the feeling that the world is not as it should be, and things need to be set right. Christians find the answer in Jesus Christ, whose coming kingdom will one day bring an end to all sin and injustice. Unbelievers, on the other hand, tend to locate redemption within the unfolding of human history. The idea that salvation can be achieved through earthly means has given rise to the numerous political ideologies that David Koyzis helpfully examines in Political Visions and Illusions. Many Christians have unwittingly bought into these ideologies, failing to see the ways in which they run counter to the biblical worldview. Other Christians have given up on political engagement altogether, often in the name of the “spiritual” nature of the church’s mission. Koyzis rejects both these approaches and proposes a uniquely Christian way of engaging the public sphere, avoiding the pitfalls of the various secular ideologies. His goal is not to offer yet another path to redemption through human effort, but rather to show how Christians, who live in light of the unique redemptive work of Christ, ought to think and act differently in political life.

Koyzis makes the claim that all ideologies are essentially forms of idolatry, elevating some aspect of creation to the level of ultimate significance. This generally entails the demonization of some other aspect of creation, leading Koyzis to conclude that political ideologies are really just modern versions of the ancient heresy of gnosticism. Christians have traditionally affirmed that sin is an alien intruder in God’s good creation, but Christ has entered into creation to redeem it. By contrast, gnostics find the source of both evil and salvation within the structure of creation itself.
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There are too many Politicians who are Christians who seem to have a simplistic view of politics whose default position seems to be philsophically liberal democratically inclined based on the autonomy of the individual except in issues of personal morality. In modern pluralist societies, imposition of these values, though understandable, do not serve the Christian community well in its witness to the wider community.
He provides a critique of the dominant political theorists/movements and shows both their strengths and weaknesses and how each one ultimately does not and cannot stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture.
I only wish that Christians would encourage those in politics to read this book, even though they might disagree with what Koyzis has to say.
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This is a terrific book for anyone with a Judeo-Christian outlook that is interested in political theory. This would make a great textbook for classes as well. Although he sets up some straw men, Koyzis has plenty of original insights into the issues and what makes for true govenment, authority, and justice.
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