Socratic Citizenship as a Model for Christians in Liberal Societies
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Mackenzie, J. Andrew
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Many Christians today are struggling with the question of how to reconcile their religious identity with the pressures of citizenship in a liberal society, while others question whether reconciliation is possible at all. The purpose of this essay is to examine Socrates’ unique approach to citizenship and suggest that his example provides a model that is both relevant and worthy of emulation. I take it as granted that Christians cannot merely abandon society to liberal secularization; Christians are right to recognize their duty to “seek the welfare of the city.” Nor can Christians accede to the liberal anthropology of man and its hyper-individualist conception of human flourishing. Instead, the Great Commission burdens Christians with the active pursuit of the substantive good of their fellow man regardless of the cost. But how is this work to be done within a context that is antithetical to much of the Christian message regarding that good? My argument is that Socrates is instructive in the way that he engages the work of morally forming his fellow-citizens—a work that he was also divinely commissioned to do—despite the barriers imposed by his society.