35th in the Church Times 100 Best Christian Books selection
This book poses challenging and essential questions on the relationship between Christianity and the nature of a moral society. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 until his death in 1944, pointed out that it is the role of the Church to provide the teaching and enunciation of principle upon which the foundation of a moral society rests. It is for men of goodwill, inspired by these ideals, to formulate practical policies to carry them into effect.
The enduring appeal of Temple is that while he clearly looks to principle for guidance, he is no Utopian and sagely remarks that ‘the art of government in fact is the art of so ordering life that self-interest prompts what justice demands.’ During his lifetime he became a household name for the radical but constructive way in which he challenged the established orders, including the Church. His work earned him the title ‘the People’s Archbishop’.
Other issues raised in Christianity and Social Order are still relevant: the proper balance between the profit motive and service to the community; the relationship between the power of the state and the freedom of the individual; the importance of finding the right relationship between people and the earth they inhabit. At the heart of his concern for society was a clear recognition of the role of the individual: ‘The first aim of social progress must be to give the fullest possible scope for the exercise of all powers and qualities which are distinctly personal; and for these the most fundamental is deliberate choice’.
“Its arguments are just as relevant today; indeed we can only regret that as a nation we have made so little progress in the directions that Temple prophetically indicated.”
“This book has been described as one of the foundation piers of the Welfare State.”
Times Educational Supplement
“It brings home to everyone of us the continuing importance of being able to rely on a body of principle by which our plans and our actions can be both motivated and judged.”
From the Foreword by Edward Heath