John Gray

Jesus Will Set You Free

Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 434pp £20 order from our bookshop

‘Was it mere coincidence that liberal secularism developed in the Christian west?’ With this rhetorical question, Larry Siedentop begins one of the most stimulating books of political theory to have appeared in many years. An intellectual historian who spent most of his career teaching in Oxford, Siedentop believes there was no coincidence involved. Secular liberal values are Christianity’s gift to the world, he believes, and he backs up his contention with a refreshingly unorthodox account of the roots of modern liberalism in medieval Christian thinking. Even if you remain unconvinced by some of its central claims – as I do myself – this is a timely and much-needed corrective to the all too familiar Enlightenment fable in which Christian theism and liberal values are necessarily at odds.

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