Religion is again a lively topic not only in practical-political life but also in social and political thought. The latter development is by far more surprising and intriguing than the practical-political relevance. For some time, political theory had ostensibly settled accounts with, or resolved the status of, religious belief: basically churches and religious movements were classified as one type of interest groups (or “input variables”) within a comprehensive liberal-democratic model — a model secular in character but not intolerant, within limits, of religious convictions. On the part of organized (especially Protestant) churches, the settlement was widely accepted as a means for securing both internal church autonomy and some influence in the political arena; the “social gospel” movement in particular saw faith chiefly as a leverage for advancing welfare and progress within secular society. To be sure, the optimism of the liberal settlement was severely challenged, and partly disrupted, by catastrophic events in our century as well as by radical theological criticism — a criticism highlighted in Richard Niebuhr's well-known phrase: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Yet, when carried to an extreme, theological criticism had the paradoxical effect of reinforcing the secular-liberal paradigm. Once religion was radically segregated from politics or the “city of God” from the “earthly city,” the latter was left entirely to its own devices; purged of all religious and millenarian considerations social and political theory could return to business as usual.