Cover: The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God, from Harvard University PressCover: The Theology of Liberalism in HARDCOVER

The Theology of Liberalism

Political Philosophy and the Justice of God

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Product Details


$32.00 • £25.95 • €29.00

ISBN 9780674240940

Publication Date: 10/15/2019

Academic Trade

232 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


[One] of the best treatments imaginable of the context and meaning of Rawls’s epoch-making book… Illuminating and original… Nelson also places Rawls in the theological tradition better than anyone so far… A great and rewarding book.—Samuel Moyn, Commonweal

It will be read as long as Rawlsian liberalism remains a political philosophy to be reckoned with… There are few books that combine precise and original historical scholarship with theoretical depth and sophistication. This is one of them.—James Hankins, Law & Liberty

An intricately reasoned and richly documented alternative to Rawlsian redistributive theory.—David Hoekema, Christian Century

Effortlessly combines early Christian theology, modern political philosophy, historical scholarship, literature, and economic theory to present a cogent but unorthodox critique of one of the great foes of liberal democratic capitalism: the philosopher John Rawls.—Tal Fortgang, Commentary

Fascinating… Nelson’s historical acuity makes his book well worth reading.—Daniel Luban, Dissent

A coherent intellectual attempt to address the challenges arising from left-libertarianism.—Roger Drinnon, Concordia Journal

Having so masterfully dismantled the reigning justification for redistributive justice, we can only wish that he now uses his extraordinary intellect and vast erudition to help us devise a new one.—Helena Rosenblatt, Perspectives on Politics

Tantalizing analysis… Nelson’s historical arguments are thorough and detailed.Publishers Weekly

An excellent work, magnificently well done and provocative in all the right ways.—Christopher Brooke, University of Cambridge

Since the first publication of A Theory of Justice some critics have argued that John Rawls’s liberalism rests on a commitment to a questionable view of the self. Eric Nelson now raises the stakes with a critique that interrogates liberal accounts of human agency not just metaphysically but theologically. Nelson’s work is marked by a unique combination of erudite scholarship, lucidity, analytical forcefulness, and the willingness to question received views. He has developed an original case and argued it with great power. His book represents a challenge that cannot be ignored.—Michael Rosen, Harvard University, author of Dignity

The Theology of Liberalism is a remarkable, original, and provocative book with stylish and engaging prose that offers a major intervention across several fields that are all too often artificially segregated: intellectual history, normative political theory, and theology. By showing the afterlife of old debates about grace and theodicy, Nelson breathes new life into today’s contested discussions of freedom, equality, and the liberal tradition.—Eric Gregory, Princeton University

Not everyone will be convinced by Eric Nelson’s assertion about the place of Pelagian theology in the foundations of what we now call early modern liberalism. But scholars need to take his arguments seriously, and those who do will profit from the thoughtfulness of his writing, the learned character of his analysis, and the originality of his insights.—Jeremy Waldron, author of One Another’s Equals

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