This book examines the contribution of different Christian traditions to the waves of democratisation that have swept various parts of the world in recent decades, offering an historical overview of Christianity's engagement with the development of democracy, before focusing in detail on the period since the 1970s. Successive chapters deal with: the Roman Catholic conversion to democracy and the contribution of that church to democratisation; the Eastern Orthodox ‘hesitation’ about democracy; the alleged threat to American democracy posed by the politicisation of conservative Protestantism; and the likely impact on democratic development of the global expansion of Pentecostalism. The author draws out several common themes from the analysis of these case studies, the most important of which is the ‘liberal-democracy paradox’. This ensures that there will always be tensions between faiths which proclaim some notion of absolute truth and political order, and which are also rooted in the ideas of compromise, negotiation and bargaining.
-dominated countries. True, Samuel Huntington in his discussion of the ‘third wave’ continued to emphasise the modernising and democratising role of Protestantism, noting the case of South Korea where liberalisation paralleled the rapid expansion of Protestant Christianity. By and large, however, the Protestant relationship with democratisation was neglected until scholars began to suggest that two key developments of the 1980s onwards might have some consequences for the nature and quality of democracy in both a well-established democracy and in countries within the developing
Christian churches have responded to democracy and inevitably we started with the much-touted Protestant relationship, though recognising that there were from the earliest days of Christianity theological resources and practical experiments which could be looked to by those believers promoting a more pluralistic understanding of political order. With Bruce we took the view that, whilst key features of the Protestant Reformation helped to create the possibility of democratic politics, this relationship was essentially inadvertent, a by-product rather than a direct
Christianity and democracy have had a long and sometimes troubled relationship. The roots of political pluralism are often seen as embedded within the Protestant historical experience of Northern Europe and North America, though whether this was a direct consequence of Reformed Christianity is contested. Conversely, the Roman Catholic Church has been depicted as a social institution that sought to halt the development of democracy from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century in Europe and Latin America. Very little attention
Historically Christianity’s relationship with the democratic project has been ambiguous, as its theoretical commitment to the equality of all before God has often come up against an institutional and theological suspicion of a doctrine that appeared to locate sovereignty in the people. Though religious thinkers rarely discussed democracy as such prior to the modern era, from the fourth century onwards the Church’s growing links to state power made it wary of a doctrine that fundamentally challenged existing (and thus God-given) forms of
Theological confrontation with
Apostasy and Jewish identity
Theological confrontation with Christianity
he success of the Christians in defeating the Muslims in the Holy Land,
conquering it and establishing a Christian colony there, particularly in
the Holy City of Jerusalem, was a harsh blow to the Jews from a theological
viewpoint. The theological difficulty, which emerged during the course
of the twelfth century, became a central issue, one which also affected
the status of voluntary converts to Christianity. The Jewish sources
Pope Clement XI issued a decree to Chinese Catholics in 1704. This decree forbade them from worshipping their ancestors and Confucius, or even watching such rituals as a spectator, as that could be perceived as a kind of participation. In other words, they were to give up their cultural practices once they had converted to Christianity. Many Chinese converts found this unacceptable, and the Kangxi Emperor reacted strongly against it:
Reading this proclamation, I can only say that the Europeans are really small-minded. They neither read nor
adaptation of pre-Christian traditions do not always fit easily into this category. Nonetheless there are ‘family’ resemblances in the heavy emphasis on experience over doctrine, and oral communication over the written word, features which have proved to be extremely influential in parts of the developing world and capable of adapting to local expectations of what a religious faith should provide.
One explanation of Pentecostal expansion focuses on the role of foreign missionaries in exporting an American style of Christianity in order to provide
in both doctrine and practice within the Roman Catholic Church, changes in the policies of important external actors, and what he calls ‘snowballing’ as one regime after another tumbled from the late 1970s onwards. 1 For our purposes it is his use of the religious argument that is most interesting, and in particular the focus upon change within one particular religious tradition.
The first stage of his argument here is simply to observe the strong correlation between Western Christianity and democracy and to note that of 46 democracies
recently, however, scholars such as Alfred Stepan and Elizabeth Prodromou have suggested that there are both pragmatic and theological factors encouraging a stronger Orthodox engagement with democracy – perhaps recast and without some of the accompanying liberal assumptions – in the future.
Analysing the Orthodox engagement with democracy and democratisation is far more problematic than with Western Christianity, for a number of reasons, and most sources have focused on the reasons underlying the tendency of the Orthodox churches to support