Beyond Reason


A Christian Theory of Politics

Posted in Politics by Abigail on February 13, 2007

Well, I don’t have one to offer, but, Steve H does! (Brown-haired Steve H.)

Check out the last comment on this page.

Thanks Steve for your thoughts! I do have a response but I’m not finished thinking yet. Actually, there is one I can state now: I am not as convinced as you are that it is good to separate morality from government. Why? Very simply, I don’t think it’s possible (or preferable). But, I will elaborate later (and maybe I’m misunderstanding you).

While we’re on the subect of politics, is there any particular topic anyone wants to discuss? Thanks Steve for your response! Always appreciate what you’ve got to say!


All right – update – I’ve copied Steve’s original comments into a comment below and  also responded below. Any more thoughts are welcome!

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4 Responses to 'A Christian Theory of Politics'

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  1. Chris said,

    I wrote a post about this (I think it’s related). BTW. Thanks for the link! I got you on the “Companions” page.

  2. Steve H said,


    This is the original from Steve H.

    Well with the snow day there was time (too much perhaps) to think. I summed up my thoughts below as what I believe is a Christian philosophy of politics. … Interestingly in the process I came to realize that politics is solely a consequence of the fall. If it weren’t for man desiring to the be lord, of himself or others, there would be no earthly power struggles (aka politics). I’d love to hear thoughts.

    Steve H

    A contract theory of domestic & international law – the Christian way?

    Lead-in:

    I don’t believe any earthly institution, nor its leaders, whether elected or unelected, should be trusted with spiritual issues; with deciding for its people what is moral.

    A group which has historically held this within Christian circles has been the Anabaptists. A key distinction they revived in the 1500s, possibly dormant since the days of Constantine, was their belief in the separation between church and state. Starting from this view, in the next couple paragraphs I attempt to describe my own belief, which describes a theory of earthly government based not on morality but solely on a contract betwen individuals. Sadly I fear this has been done before, but have not seen it myself. If anyone has seen this as a Christian view in particular, please do let me know. I’m not hearing it from the Christian right.

    Theory:

    Basically the role of any earthly nation is to physically stand between man A and man B, protecting one’s well being from other’s actions by limiting what man B can do to annoy or hurt or man A (take away man A’s physical freedom, security or well-being). The state does this through physical power, via what we call the law. For the threat to man A from foreign man C, it provides the exact same service through physical power, via what we call the military. The law is useful in the physical world because it can limit man B or foreign man C’s actions.

    While this law will almost certainly limit man B from commiting many outwardly obvious immoral acts (say against man A), it does so not because that act is immoral, but solely because it is taking away man B’s physical freedom, security or well-being. Synonymous with these 3 words would probably be liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness. Again, this is a theory of national/domestic and inter-national law that is based not on morality (a contract between man and God), but rather solely on a contract between man A and man B. They agree and put down in writing what they aren’t allowed to do threaten one another’s physical freedom, security or well-being. In our country these laws are written and unwritten through the democratic process.

    Theology:

    In utter contrast, the role of the one spiritual nation of Israel, aka the kingdom of God, aka the body of Christ on earth (quite literally), aka the Church, is to spiritually stand as the bridge between man A and God, or foreign man C and God. Quite opposite of the state’s blocking role between man B or foreign man C and man A, the church’s purpose is a drawing role between any of these men and God. The church does this through spiritual power, what we call grace (or love). Grace (or love) is useful in the spiritual world because it can win a man’s heart. The law has no power to affect man’s heart. I believe God knew this all too well, and that’s why He sent Jesus Christ to die for us in an act of sacrificial love instead of laying down a law to limit our behaviors. That wouldn’t win any man into a love relationship with God. In fact, He shows us with all of the Old Testament. The earthly nation of Israel and its laws between man and God showed exactly how this could never work, didn’t, and still won’t.

    Implications:

    Given the above, what I find disturbing in much of evangelical Christian circles in America is their belief in using a physical nation and its sole power (the law) to try and carry out the spiritual nation (the Church)’s job. It’s spiritually impossible. If anything all of the Old Testament shows this. Then Jesus showed us an example exactly opposite from that former way of a physical nation of God and reaching holiness through law(s). Then Paul’s letters consistently reiterate this point.

    In fact, by fighting their enemies in what they see as a holy war or culture war via political action (use of the law domestically, or use of the military abroad) instead loving their enemies in a spiritual war (use of grace and sacrifice like Jesus), I have to think many have been turned away from Christ by the very people calling themselves Christian. This is quite disturbing to me. In an awful twist, it probably serves the enemy’s purposes while using the very name of Christ.

    On the Anabaptists:

    If you’re also not familiar this movement started in 1500s, predating the baptists, and were called “rebaptisers” because they didn’t believe infant baptism had any value and were then publically executed for refusing to obey what was the current government’s law, that all infants be baptised into the church. While anabaptists are also known for their descendents’ (the Quakers, Mennonites, etc) refusal to serve in worldly institutions such as government and particularly the military, as you might imagine I don’t agree with them on this point. I believe we can and should serve in earthly institutions, so long as we never mistake them for being moral/spiritual institutions.

  3. amandalaine said,

    Well, Steve G H, I also am taking advantage of the snow days. Yeah for no school!

    Before I start all my disagreements, let me agree with a few things. The Christian right has at times abused the political system. Separation between church and state must exist, but, truly, for this phrase to have much meaning or benefit, it needs a ton of examination and definition.

    —-

    1) “A key distinction they revived in the 1500s, possibly dormant since the days of Constantine…”

    Are you suggesting there was “separation of church and state” during the days of Constantine? Constantine is credited with “Christianizing” the Roman Empire. Perhaps you mean directly before Constantine? Just checking.

    2) “I attempt to describe my own belief, which describes a theory of earthly government based not on morality but solely on a contract between individuals”

    “Government not based on morality?” This is a serious claim. If government is not based on morality, what is it be based on? You juxtapose morality next to a contract but this doesn’t make any sense. A contract does not tell us HOW to make our decisions only WHAT those decisions are. A contract doesn’t tell us what to do. Morality does. A contract doesn’t say “put all murderers in jail” but morality may lead you to write a contract that says that. A contract may say “release all murderers from jail.” Should that contract be followed? Well, no. Why? Morality says so. Again, a contract does not tell us HOW to make our decisions only WHAT those decisions are. Therefore, contracts mean nothing.

    You have assumed that governments will write contracts protecting its own people (in other words, you have assumed their morality). But we have seen the opposite: Stalin killing his own people. Sadaam – the same, but on a far lesser scale. The question has nothing to do with contracts because contracts are something we create; they are the result of previous decisions. The question is, how do we make our decisions? If we can not refer to morality, what is left?

    You say that government should not be based on morality. Ok, we now have no reason to keep any contract (other than fear of retribution). We also have no reason to consider means or ends of our contract. Decisions are based on… what? If we refer only to previous contracts we may refer to immoral contracts. We have removed all grounds for thinking and acting, other than personal gain. The justification for the rule of law dissappears (because the law may not act in your favor). We are left with whim, personal preference, and more likely than anything else, personal gain. I can imagine nothing scarier than throwing morality out the window. That is a huge, huge claim that is more than scary. That is a nightmare.

    3) “what I find disturbing in much of evangelical Christian circles in America is their belief in using a physical nation and its sole power (the law) to try and carry out the spiritual nation (the Church)’s job.”

    What are your examples? (I think until we make this one concrete, we’re going to have an unproductive conversation.)

    —–

    Thanks Steve! Great stuff to bring up! I hope I wasn’t abrasive – I was trying to be direct in order to be clear… which can seem abrasive. Perhaps I misunderstood you at points? Thanks again!

  4. amandalaine said,

    It appears I am posting a lot on my own blog…

    Steve, I was thinking, we’ve had this conversation before. I remember you presenting morality vs. national interest and arguing for national interest (on the foreign policy side). I think you’ve got an argument there (except, of course, it could be argued that acting in the national interest at the expense of all others IS moral.).

    On the domestic policy side, a general moral framework has to be referred to. Either way it seems we’re referring to morality.

    Last, I don’t think morality is a Christian thing – it’s a human thing. In other words, most people would subscribe to the concept. Obviously, implementation of it is very difficult. But we’re only speaking theoretically.


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