The Metamorphosis of Liberalism

The Metamorphosis of Liberalism

Using the United States as an example, church historian and theologian Dr. Martin Erdmann shows the similarities and differences between classical and progressive Liberalism and contrasts them with the Christian faith.

Martin Erdmann's two-volume work, The Metamorphosis of Liberalism, offers an in-depth analysis of the development of Liberalism throughout history and its adaptation to changing social and political realities.


Who is the author?

Dr. Martin Erdmann has an academic background. He studied theology at Columbia International University, the University of Basel, and the University of Aberdeen. He received his Ph.D. in Church History from Brunel University in London and later habilitated in Dogmatics at Gáspár Károli University in Budapest. Erdmann was head of the New Testament Department at the Staatliche Theologische Hochschule Basel and taught at Patrick Henry College in Virginia. He has also written a study on the ethics of nanotechnology for the University Hospital of Basel and has been director of the Verax Institute since 2003.


What are the books about?

In this two-volume work, the historian and political scientist illuminates both the theoretical foundations and the practical implications of Liberalism, showing the transformation from classical to progressive Liberalism and illuminating it in the light of Christian faith. “Even in religious matters, reason retains certain powers.” He focuses primarily on developments in the history of ideas in the United States.


The books are organized into thematic chapters, each dealing with a specific aspect of liberal ideology and its transformation. Erdmann begins with the Reformers' impulses for a liberal social order and continues with a historical introduction that traces the origins of Liberalism in the 17th and 18th centuries. He places special emphasis on the philosophical contributions of John Locke and Adam Smith. He examines the evolution of Liberalism from the Enlightenment to industrialization and modern globalization. He shows how the core principles of Liberalism – liberty, individuality, and the market economy – have adapted to the challenges and crises of each era. “Neither transcendentalism nor deism achieved the same degree of penetration into the relevant areas of American culture as this ideology [i.e., Social Darwinism].


A central theme of the book is the tension between classical Liberalism, which emphasizes individual freedom and minimal government intervention, and modern (progressive) Liberalism, which also considers social justice and government regulation necessary. The author succeeds in showing that both sides of the coin actually describe today's civil religion. “Christians are called to abandon their trust in God and serve the new world order.” Ultimately, both approaches disregard God in their core theses, which is why they must be understood as a frontal attack on Christianity. “This spiritualized philosophy is essentially a religion that deifies man.”


Chapter ten is particularly noteworthy. The first nine chapters provide the background for understanding the tenth, in which the author presents the administrative state as the end product of progressive Liberalism. Erdmann outlines that the future will only bring a more consistent realization of the development already begun that produced the administrative state. “We are no longer living in a Republican Democracy, in which a constitution was still in force, but in a Romantic Democracy, which is oriented towards completely different political guidelines”.


Erdmann's work is informative and impressive in its ability to explain complex theoretical concepts in an understandable way without losing the depth and precision of academic analysis. He draws on a wide range of historical and contemporary sources to support his arguments, and always makes reference to the current political situation (just under 40 pages of references).


Who should read this book?

The author addresses students and scholars of political theory, history, and philosophy, as well as politically interested and engaged readers. Those interested in history will also find valuable insights into the development of Liberalism. Professionals such as politicians and journalists will benefit from Erdmann's well-founded analyses to understand current political debates better. General readers without a specific academic background will also find Erdmann's accessible writing style appealing, but will need the stamina and interest to engage actively with the book.


What is there to criticize?

The complex theoretical concepts and in-depth analysis may be difficult to understand for readers without prior knowledge of political theory and history. However, the first 25 pages list the most important statements of classical and progressive Liberalism in comparison to Biblical Christianity in the form of a table. If you read and think through this content first, you will be able to follow the central theme of the work. However, the extensive and detailed analysis may be overwhelming for some readers, which could affect readability and flow. A more compact approach or the integration of summaries and clear core statements at the end of the chapters could help to process the content better.


Why should you read this work?

This two-volume work is an aid for anyone interested in political theory and history. The author succeeds in presenting a comprehensive and accessible account of the development of one of the most influential ideologies of modernity. The book challenges the reader to see Liberalism not just as a static ideology, but as an active force that leads to poverty, loss of freedom, and ultimately war. This perspective is especially important at a time when political and social structures around the world are in flux. Christian readers will recognize the anti-Christian thrust already laid out in God's Word. “Our responsibility is to repent of sin and place our hope and life in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. [...] In the meantime, we must patiently endure the trials that may come our way. God has ordained this time for us. He has called us to bear witness at a time when evil is increasing in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘freedom’. Let us not be taken captive by this world and its machinations. The Lord truly rewards those who persevere in the faith.”

The Volumes: 

  • Erdmann, M. (2024): The Metamorphosis of Liberalism (Vol. 1), verax for media, 318 pages, ISBN: 979-8-98851-402-2, Price: €29.75
  • Erdmann, M. (2024): The Metamorphosis of Liberalism (Vol. 2), verax for media, 300 pages, ISBN: 979-8-98851-404-6, Price: €29.99


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