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What is the purpose of the Christian life? Or of any life? Ephraim Radner proposes an answer: “mortal goods.” These he defines as “the sustained realities and possibilities of birth, growth, nurture, generation, weakening, caring and dying.” The tending and conservation of these goods, Radner argues in this new book, form the natural limits of Christian political duty. Set against them is the great temptation of “betterment”—the superficially seductive idea of historical progress, of “leaving a better world for our children.” In the face of such blandishments, Christians should cultivate political “indifferentism.” The Christian’s journey, for Radner, is less a goal-directed “pilgrimage” than a “sojourning” as “strangers” in the world.

Skepticism toward political utopianism and idealism is a perennial feature of the English-speaking conservative tradition, and it has only gained more traction, and apparent justification, from the follies of modern progressive ideology. Radner (a columnist for this journal) applies this skepticism to Christian theology itself, taking aim at some very big intellectual beasts indeed. Both Aristotle and Aquinas, he believes, suborn our mortal existence to a vision of moral and spiritual perfection that we cannot attain in this life.

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