CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY: UNDERSTANDING THEIR RELATIONSHIP

John W de Gruchy

Abstract


In the new democratic society in South Africa both Christian faith and theology are
facing the challenge to affinn democratic values and goals without selling out to a
secular ideology in which Christian faith inevitably becomes privatised. With this
challenge in view the relationship between Christianity and democracy is examined.
The historic yet ambiguous nature of this relationship is described. Four trajectories
within Christian tradition which have made significant contributions to the
development of democratic theory and praxis are identified. An attempt is made to
delineate more clearly what is meant by democracy. A distinction is made between
democracy as a vision of what society should become, and democracy as a system of
government which seeks to enable the realisation of that vision within particular
contexts. The origins of the democratic vision in the prophetic vision of a society in
which the reign of God's shalom will become a reality, are indicated. On the basis of
this prophetic vision and the doctrine of the trinity the relationship between democracy
and ecclesiology, the church's role within civil society and the tension between
national sovereignty and global democratisation are submitted to critical theological
reflection.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/62-0-625

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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