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Gray Mass: a Critical Engagement with John Gray's Political Philosophy and the Role of Christian Eschatology

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posted on 2021-11-12, 14:00 authored by Arcus, Benjamin David

Contemporary political philosopher John Gray has recently asserted: “modern politics is a chapter in the history of religion.” Gray demonstrates how the roots of modern political violence can be traced back to Christianity. Furthermore, he sees Utopianism, “the Enlightenment project”, anthropocentrism and any notion of human meaning as all originating in the Christian notion of “salvation”. Gray argues that all of these ideas are disproven by values pluralism – the idea that human life consists of an incommensurable range of values. Gray is also critical of human beings technological appropriation of the world and the ecological crisis that this consciousness has precipitated. Gray claims that all forms of universalism are mistaken because they privilege a particular set of values at the expense of others. Gray offers a modus vivendi as a political construct that can appropriate the insights of values pluralism, without privileging any particular set of values. Despite considering Christianity (and its offspring) illusory, Gray asserts that the “myth of human meaning” is a “necessary illusion”; it is one that human beings cannot live without. Gray’s argument, however, is beset with inconsistencies, including an implicit teleology, despite his explicit rejection of all teleology, and the tendency of his thought toward nihilism, undermining his proposal of a modus vivendi. In his own constructive proposal Gray inadvertently privileges values of peaceful coexistence and human flourishing. His own political vision has some similarities with the Christian vision of the ideal human life. Christian eschatology is examined through the work of Jürgen Moltmann, and the values of hope and love are highlighted as the ethical consequence of Christian eschatology, as opposed to the violence that Gray claims has been generated from it. Moltmann’s thought also reveals the resources present in a theological perspective that are able to resolve some of the contradictions between individuality and sociality and between human beings and nature. This has significant implications for the ecological crisis, which is also one of Gray’s central concerns. Finally, Martin Heidegger’s concept of Gelassenheit is examined as a point of common ground between Gray’s thought and a theological approach to the world of politics and nature.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Religious Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Marshall, Chris