Edoardo Crisafulli – Demystifying Christian Liberty

Demystifying Christian Liberty

Edoardo Crisafulli

1 May 2019, 5pm-6.30pm

Ellen Wilkinson Building, Room B2.4

University of Manchester

On 1 May 2019, the Genealogies of Knowledge team will be hosting a talk by Dr Edoardo Crisafulli entitled ‘Demystifying Christian Liberty’. No registration is necessary, all are very welcome to attend!



This presentation delves into one of the most hotly debated issues in contemporary political philosophy, and a potential source of conflict in political discourse: the tense and complex relationship between liberalism and Christianity. There are two broad schools of thought; the first one stresses the Christian roots of Western liberty. The second regards Christian liberty and liberalism as being at odds, the main argument being that liberalism is grounded in a secular vision of power and society.  Historically, it is undeniable that in Christian nations liberty (understood in the modern sense) was stifled, both in political and religious matters. On the other hand, the Reformation made a significant contribution to the birth of classical liberalism – liberty of conscience, a revolutionary principle, freed the individual believer from the yoke of an overpowering Church. How can these two contradictory facts be reconciled? Much confusion arises because scant attention is paid to the actual analysis of liberty in mainstream, traditional Christian theology. Dante epitomizes the classical vision of Christian liberty (its invariant ‘core’), which is based on a complex interplay between free will (libero arbitrio) and God’s saving grace. Luther’s intervention centuries later (De Servo Arbitrio) represents an extension not a refutation of Dante’s orthodox doctrine. Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between, and his understanding of, negative liberty (refusal of interference from external authorities) vis-à-vis positive liberty (adhering to God’s moral laws) goes a long way towards clarifying the nature of Christian liberty and its transformation in modern times.  The issue of Christian liberty has a clear political edge in the ongoing culture wars which are being fought in the West. Emphasizing the Christian origins of secularism/liberalism (without delving into the issue with academic rigour) is conducive to the agenda of those conservatives and hardline secularists who assert the West’s superiority vis-à-vis Islamic cultures (which are assumed to be primitive insofar as they resist modernity and its main achievement: the secular state).


Edoardo Crisafulli (Ph.D., National University of Ireland) is currently a cultural attaché at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation. Before entering the Foreign service, he lectured at the Universities of Dublin, Manchester and Jeddah. He was the director of the Italian Cultural Institutes in Haifa, in Damascus and in Beirut, and deputy director of the Italian Institute in Tokyo. He has published extensively on Italian politics and Translation Studies. Among his publications are The Vision of Dante: H.F. Cary’s Rewriting of the Divine Comedy into English, and a biography on the late Italian socialist leader Bettino Craxi. He is currently working on hermeneutics issues relating to interfaith dialogue, in particular the relationship between Islam and Christianity, on which he has recently published La fede nel dialogo (Faith in Dialogue), an essay eulogizing Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, the Italian Jesuit living in Syria who has dedicated his life to the “rapprochement” between Christianity and Islam.  



This talk will be held in the Ellen Wilkinson building, Room B2.4:




If you have any queries relating to this event, please contact Henry Jones (henry.jones@manchester.ac.uk).