Thursday, September 23, 2010

City of Man

City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, is about to be published. Knowing that it is the first in a planned series of books co-edited by Tim Keller [the other editor is Collin Hansen - see the last post] would have been sufficient to interest me because that, in and of itself, guarantees a level of seriousness and the absence of tub-thumping partisanship. Justin Taylor has provided additional encouragement that the book will be a useful contribution in a couple of posts on the subject. First, he gives us Tim Keller's Foreword from the book. Excerpts:
.... They write as political conservatives, but they begin with a critique of the Christian Right. A very large number of young evangelicals believe that their churches have become as captured by the Right as mainline churches were captured by the Left. Michael and Pete recognize this and largely agree. But they counsel that political withdrawal is not the correct response, nor should alienated evangelicals go down the mainline path. Instead, they urge careful theological reflection, and the rest of this short volume serves as a guidebook to the issues that will have to be addressed, rather than as a finished manifesto of what this new political theology must be.

They begin by making critical distinctions between the roles of the believing individual, the institutional church, and the state. On this foundation, they introduce the issues of human rights, law and order, the role of the family, the nature of wealth and prosperity, and public discourse. In each case they define the field, show what religious believers can contribute, outline mistakes that have been made in the past, and finally hint about directions they would like to see believers take in the future. Evangelicals who are Democrats will probably wish the authors struck some additional notes or made some points differently, but overall this is a wonderfully balanced and warm invitation to believers of every persuasion to re-engage in political life, more thoughtfully than before, but as passionately as ever. ....

...[A]ny simplistic Christian response to politics—the claim that we shouldn’t be involved in politics, or that we should “take back our country for Jesus”—is inadequate. In each society, time, and place, the form of political involvement has to be worked out differently, with the utmost faithfulness to the Scripture, but also the greatest sensitivity to culture, time, and place. This book is a great beginning. [more]
And Taylor summarizes:
Here is an outline of five guiding principles they propose on thinking about the relationship between religion and politics. I think these are well-stated and wise.
  1. The moral duties placed on individuals are, in important respects, different from the ones placed on the state.
  2. The institutional church has roles and responsibilities distinct from those of individual Christians. [Here they appeal to this Richard Mouw CT article on why Carl Henry was right on this issue.]
  3. Scripture does not provide a governing blueprint.
  4. The form of political involvement adopted by Christian citizens is determined in part by the nature of the society in which they live.
  5. God does not deal with nations today as He did with ancient Israel. .... [more]
Tim Keller on Christians and Politics – Justin Taylor, Five Guiding Principles for Thinking about Religion and Politics – Justin Taylor