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A Future for Socialism? Political Theology and the "Triumph of Capitalism."

Wells sketches a case for "Christian socialism" in response to the complex issues surrounding the relationship of Christian faith to the world's political-economic order. He proposes that socialism without Christianity loses its moral basis, while Christianity without socialism is stripped of social influence. A theologian and minister in the United Church of Canada, W. calls his book an exercise in political theology, invoking such names as Metz, Moltmann, Solle, Gutierrez and Ruether. However, he does not address issues of fundamental theology in any depth. Instead, he analyzes the history and consequences of capitalism and socialism in a broadly conceived "light of Christian faith."

The book has four parts. The first introduces political theology. W. breaks no new ground and makes no attempt to respond to the serious exegetical or methodological debates presently surrounding political/liberation theologies. The last part, "Concluding Theological Reflections," proves more an exhortation to Christian socialism than a theological argument for it. The middle two parts comprise the body and most valuable contributions of the book. Part 2 questions the naive tendency to identify the moral-political failure of Soviet communism with a moral-economic "triumph of capitalism." W. delivers a nuanced critique of both systems. He concludes that, from a Christian perspective, capitalism cannot be regarded as a "triumph." Part 3 provides an interesting, fast-paced historical overview of the broad movement called socialism. W. distinguishes it from communism, traces the Christian and atheistic antagonisms that have shaped it from its origins, and scans its wide variety of incarnations.

On the whole, the book is evenhanded, provocative and readable. Although limited in scope and depth, it could serve well as a text in a college or seminary course on the relationship of Christianity to political-economic realities.
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Author:Burke, Kevin F.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1997
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