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A Brutal Unity
The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church

By Ephraim Radner

A Brutal Unity
Hardback, 482 pages $49.95
Published: 15th October 2012
ISBN: 9781602586291
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Theology, Church History, Historical Theology

To describe the Church as "united" is a factual misnomer—even at its conception centuries ago. Ephraim Radner provides a robust rethinking of the doctrine of the church in light of Christianity's often violent and at times morally suspect history. He holds in tension the strange and transcendent oneness of God with the necessarily temporal and political function of the Church, and, in so doing, shows how the goals and failures of the liberal democratic state provide revelatory experiences that greatly enhance one's understanding of the nature of Christian unity.


1. Religious Violence and Christian Blasphemy

2. Division Is Murder

3. The Sins of the Church

4. The Conciliar Ideal

5. The Limits of Consensus

6. The Procedural Quest for Unity and Its Obstacles

7. Conscience and Its Limits

8. Multiple Consciences and the Rise of Solidarity

9. The Unity of Sacrifice


“Radner’s arguments are tightly wound and profoundly elegant. He argues with the skill of a classical rhetorician and the aesthetic power of early Anglican polemicists, which he seeks to emulate.”

—Antony Easton, Concordia University, Journal of Religion and Culture (Vol. 24, 2013) 

"Ephraim Radner is one of those rare theologians whose work can be described as relentless. His most recent book, A Brutal Unity, may be his most relentless yet. Radner dismantles every self-congratulatory, self-protective ecclesiology that blinds Christians to what is self-evident to everyone else: The Church is shattered."

—Peter Leithart, senior fellow of theology and literature at New St. Andrews College

“…a provocative and insightful book, especially for its claims about the ways in which the procedures of contemporary liberalism have found their way into church life and decision making."

—A. W. Klink, Duke University, CHOICE Advance

“… well worth the intellectual investment.”

—Dustin Resch, Briercrest College and Seminary, Anglican Theological Review (95:3)

 "...a remarkable book that deserves to be read and pondered from multiple angles."

—James K.A. Smith, editor of Comment Magazine, Calvin College

"Massively learned and beautifully written, this book has to be the best work ever written against the holiness and unity of the Church by a Christian theologian. Not one to mince words, Radner presents Judas as the mirror of the faithless, violent, and fractured Church. For Radner, the failure of liberalism arises from and reflects the failure of the Church to repent. But he does not end here: he argues that in God's creation of things separate from God, and in Christ's radical giving of himself, we find God's holiness and oneness as a gift for God's people and as an invitation to imitate God's asymmetrical giving. Those who disagree with Radner will thank him for pressing us to examine anew why Christians rightly confess the Church to be one and holy."

—Matthew Levering, University of Dayton

"Radner's A Brutal Unity is a book of startling insight, extraordinary erudition, and is replete with theological implications. His ability to help us see connections between Christian disunity and liberal political theory and practice should command the attention of Christian and non-Christian alike. A Brutal Unity is a stunning achievement."

—Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

"…Radner's ecclesiological explorations bring intense biblical, historical, and theological insights to bear on brutally honest assessments of the actual church(es) we live in."

—Dr. Joseph D. Small, Pro Ecclesia

"[A Brutal Unity] draws the reader with whiplash speed through an astonishing quantity of texts as it tries to tease out answers and chart out futures for the fractured body of Christ."

—Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, Pro Ecclesia

"A Brutal Unity is a book of the workday: of academic analysis, digging into archives, deconstructing a whole history of ecclesial claims, and constructing guidelines for new ones. But it is labor offered for the sake of the end time and anticipating its coming. It is a book that demonstrates how academic writing can be infused with the spirit (of Scripture, of prayer, of the One who gives himself) and yet be no less academic."

—Peter Ochs, Pro Ecclesia

"This is a profoundly beautiful book. It is painful, yet, it does not leave one without hope."

—Johnny Walker, Freedom in Orthodoxy (October 2014)

"Radner provides a powerful theological reflection on division and Christian complicity in violence. Drawing on a wide array of Biblical, theological, and philosophical sources as well as numerous specific historic examples, he argues for a reconceptualization of Christian unity based not on forced consensus or procedural norms but on an understanding of the centrality of division to Christian life and a commitment to conscience, confrontation, and coexistence. A Brutal Unity should be essential reading for anyone concerned about social conflict and violence and how Christians can contribute more effectively to promoting peace."

—Timothy Longman, Director, African Studies Center, Boston University and author of Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda

"...A Brutal Unity is a significant book, one that should serve as a touchstone for ecclesiology and theological politics in this century."

Anthony G. Siegrist, Prairie Bible College, Evangelical Quarterly (86:3)

"Arresting, spiritually profound, ethically searching, vastly learned, and infused with passion."

—Paul Avis, Exeter University, Ecclesiology

Ephraim Radner is Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. His books include The Fate of Communion: The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church and Hope Among the Fragments: The Broken Church and Its Engagement of Scripture. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 482 pages
 9in x 6in

  REL015000, REL067050, REL070000
 Baylor University Press

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