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Every person has wondered whether idealism without naïveté or realism without cynicism is possible. In common parlance, utopia is not only eu-topic (a place of the good), but also forever a-topic (without place). Who is right: the idealist who believes, or the realist who disbelieves, in the possibility of a perfect society? This article suggests that utopia both is and is not possible. There are two ways to understand the idea of a ‘‘perfect society.’’ In an absolutely perfect society there is no reality of sin. Given this reality, however, in some societies it nonetheless is easier to be good. Thus, a certain level of perfection is possible: the best possible level. The often ignored principle of the two levels of perfection may diffuse tensions, close off powerful temptations towards naïveté and cynicism, and give birth to new openings in political and theological discussion.


Accepted for publication by Princeton Theological Seminary

Originally published in Theology Today, Volume 68, Issue 2, 2011, pp. 174-180.

DOI: 10.1177/0040573611405879

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