Church/Politics: Weekend Reading

This week I have been reading quite a lot on the Church/politics topic. For anyone interested, here are four thoughtful quotes I come across in my reading:

Michael J. Gerson and Peter Wehner, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (Moody, 2010; pre-press edition), pp. 35-36:

Individual Christians and the corporate body of Christ are not synonymous. To act otherwise is to get both into trouble. Moreover, to recognize the distinction between the responsibilities proper to the church and proper to the individual is to dignify the role of the layperson and ennoble the call of the citizen. How so? Individual Christian layperson may well possess special competence in a policy area—like health care or welfare, national security affairs or overseas development, legal philosophy or immigration policy—that the church simply doesn’t possess and shouldn’t be expected to possess. In this context, the role of the church, at least as we interpret it, is to provide individual Christians with a moral framework through which they can work out their duties as citizens and engage the world in a thoughtful way, even as it resists the temptation to instruct them on how to do their job or on which specific public policies they ought to embrace.

David VanDrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture (Crossway, 2010; pre-press edition), p. 163:

I hope that readers will find the conclusions of this chapter (and the book as a whole) to be both liberating and weighty. The conclusions are liberating, I believe, because they claim that Christians’ consciences cannot be bound by the extrabiblical demands of fellow believers who seek to impose the “Christian” way of teaching mathematics to our children, running our businesses, or supporting political candidates. The conclusions are also weighty, however, because this Christian liberty, which unshackles our consciences from other people’s nonbiblical demands, puts the responsibility back upon ourselves. Our pastors and elders have not been called to micromanage our cultural activities, though sometimes we might wish that we could shift to somebody else the responsibility of deciding how to educate our children, whether to fire a difficult employee, or whether to support a candidate’s political campaign. In the end these are decisions that we must make as individuals and as families with the wisdom God gives us as we live out our Christian faith in our own particular life circumstances.

Herman Bavinck, “Christian Principles and Social Relationships” in Essays on Religion, Science, and Society (Baker Academic, 2008), p. 143:

So that everything may revive and may become again what it ought to be and can be, the Gospel tests all things–all circumstances and relationships–against the will of God, just as in the days of Moses and the prophets, of Christ and the apostles. It considers everything from a moral point of view, from the angle in which all those circumstances and relationships are connected with moral principles that God has instituted for all of life. Precisely because the Gospel only opposes sin, it opposes it only and everywhere in the heart and in the head, in the eye and in the hand, in family and in society, in science and art, in government and subjects, in rich and poor, for all sin is unrighteousness, trespassing of God’s law, and corruption of nature. But by liberating all social circumstances and relationships from sin, the Gospel tries to restore them all according to the will of God and make them fulfill their own nature.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker Academic, 2008), 4:437:

The relationship that has to exist between the church and the world is in the first place organic, moral, and spiritual in character. Christ—even now—is prophet, priest, and king; and by his Word and Spirit he persuasively impacts the entire world. Because of him there radiates from everyone who believes in him a renewing and sanctifying influence upon the family, society, state, occupation, business, art, science, and so forth. The spiritual life is meant to refashion the natural and moral life in its full depth and scope according to the laws of God. Along this organic path Christian truth and the Christian life are introduced into all the circles of the natural life, so that life in the household and the extended family is restored to honor, the wife (woman) is again viewed as the equal of the husband (man), the sciences and arts are Christianized, the level of the moral life is elevated, society and state are reformed, laws and institutions, morals and customs are made Christian.

7 thoughts on “Church/Politics: Weekend Reading

  1. Sounds like VanDrunen (no “Christian” view of mathematics etc.) is at odds with Bavinck (the sciences and the arts should be Christianized). Bavinck’s view seems to entail Christianizing the state.

  2. Oh I misquoted VanDrunen: no Christian way of teaching mathematics, etc. But I wonder whether he’d be comfortable with “Christianizing” the state in Bavinck’s sense.

  3. I think two things impress me about the second Bavinck quote: (1) Christ unifies all things under himself. (2) Bavinck seems to be speaking here of Christianizing in the sense that individual Christians leaven society. Just thoughts…

  4. Would you endorse the pursuit of a “Christian state” or a “Christian society” if by those terms we meant a state or a society whose laws and institutions embodied the biblical conception of justice?

  5. I like Bavinck because he seems to keep the focus on sin and thereby keeps the gospel central to the whole discussion. I would endorse a gospel-centered approach to rid the world of sin but of course once you begin defining what structures are “Christian” then the focus seems to move away from specific sin and the pointed conflict between the sin and the gospel and God’s will in culture. So I would be very hesitant to endorse a vision of a “Christian society”. But you are quite a lot smarter than I am. What do you think Nathan?

  6. Here is another challenge of government. On NPR, the long-experienced Lee Hamilton (Former Congressman; Former President, Wilson International Center) said this:

    “I’m reminded about that great story about Paul Douglas, senator from Illinois, who said: I came to Washington. I wanted to save the world. And he’d been in Washington a while, he decided he wanted to save the United States. He’d been here for a longer time, he wanted to save Illinois. And when he was about ready to retire, he said I want to save the Indiana dunes. … They’re nice dunes, and it’s a worthy effort, but its’ not the world. And I think that you come filled with ambition and drive and energy and wanting to accomplish great things, and you find the system is very hard to move, to make it work. And I think what has impressed me over the years is the sheer complexity and difficulty of governing this country.”

  7. Tony, what do you think of Rushdoony’s work regarding politics? Do you think the Gospel is buried in something like Rushdoony’s Reconstructionist theories?

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