Christian Political Theory:
Principles and Special Issues
The Deafening Roar of Political Cacophony...
...and the Still Small Voice
Our nation is in real trouble.
Angry voices shout at one another from calcified positions across an unbridgeable chasm. The problems that the nation faces are all too real; the dangers, menacing and extreme. The country is in dire need of leadership, solutions, and remedies; but Washington is paralyzed by the gridlock of party politics. The Democrats say... The Republicans say... The electorate waffles between... The nation spirals ever downward.
There is a desperate need for Christians to return to the Scriptures for guidance in matters pertaining to civil government. Why should we run after, "What saith the President? or the Party?", when we have immediate access to "What saith the LORD?" in the Bible?
What do the Scriptures have to say about Civil Government?
This eight-week intensive course is divided into two sub-sections: principles and special problems.
Some topics considered under "principles": What is the relationship of Christ's royal office to the government of the United States? From whom does the authority to govern arise? What does the Bible assign as the fundamental responsibilities of government? Does the Bible give qualifications for those that hold civil office? What is the relationship of the State to the Church?
Some topics considered under "special problems": Are political parties a good thing? What are the ethics of taxation? Does the Bible provide direction with respect to border policy? What does the Bible have to say with respect the waging of a just war?
Soli Christo Regi Gloria!
Getting the Most out of this Course
WELCOME TO WEEK 1. I'm so excited!
Here is how to proceed in order to get the most out of each week's study:
1. First of all, you will want to watch the videos. Normally each week will have a video (although this first week is an exception [see below]).
2. Some of the greatest minds in the history of the world have reflected upon and wrestled with problems related to the Truth of God and the Governments of the world. As we proceed through the weeks, I will be recommending some reading. I would encourage you to read as much as you can.
I had originally planned to begin this week with a lecture on Religious Skepticism and its impact upon Political Discourse. I have decided to defer until next week, because I have some reading from you that I esteem to be very important. Indeed, if you were going to read one text to the lay a foundation for Biblical Thought concerning Politics, I can think of no better text than William Symington's Messiah the Prince. So, as it turns out this course will take at least nine weeks, because I am adding a week at the beginning to allow time for reading of Symington's great work. If you can read the whole, that would be best; but if not, give yourself to chapters 1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9.
3. My recommendations for a graduated approach, so that you can tailor your studies to your own schedule: a. Everyone should watch the video. The best material will be presented and summarized there. b. If you have time and inclination to go deeper, read. By the time we reach the end, you should have a good bibliography on this subject. In the meantime, get started with Symington...
May the Most High God bless your studies this week.
Next week: Religious Skepticism and its Impact on Political Discourse
I hope that you have had an opportunity to dip into Symington's Messiah the Prince. It's important.
I have a little reading to fill out this week's video lesson.
"Postmodern Skepticism, Relativism, and Religious Toleration in the Light of the Westminster Standards and the Thought of George Gillespie"
A digital edition is available here.
You can also obtain a print copy at Lulu.
Ok...so this course is going to be at least ten weeks long. Weeks 1 and 3 were not in the initial planning. I hope that you will bear with me.
So, recent experience (a long and unnecessary story) has indicated to me that there is yet more ground-clearing to do. As we try to develop a Biblical, and distinctively Christian, Political Theory, as Americans we have certain obstacles to overcome, so that we might view the Scriptural teaching with an unprejudiced eye. Last week, we considered some of the prejudices that arise from simply being American; this week, those that arise from the marriage of the Evangelical Church with the Republican Party.
Is the attachment of the Evangelical Church wise? a good and godly thing? Biblical? Let's explore.
And so it begins in earnest...
Having cleared the ground, this week we begin to lay our foundation for a Christian and Biblical Political Theory.
This week focuses on the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the relationship of His Kingship to the Civil Governments of the earth. This is not the most difficult lesson in the series, but it is the most important.
One final word: I commend to you again the reading of Symington's Messiah the Prince (see WEEK 1).
This week we turn our attention to the Purpose of Civil Government.
If the foundation was well-laid last week, then the question is not, What purpose does the American people, the Constitution, or the Republican Party assign to Civil Government; but rather, What purpose does King Jesus assign?
In order to get ready for this week's video, you may want to read Poole's Synopsis on 1 Peter 2:13-17.
The relationship between Civil Government and Religion is an important one, but not one that is easy for American to contemplate with prejudice. If Christ is King, and He is, what is the proper relationship between Government and Religion, between the State and the Church?
After watching the video, you may want to read:
Robert Shaw's Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 23. The Westminster Confession of Faith is the most extensive confessional statement of Protestant belief. Chapter 23 of Confession deals with issues pertaining to the Civil Magistrate. It, and its Scripture-proofs, are worthy of careful consideration.
Having laid a foundation of Biblical Principles, it is time to exercise ourselves in practical application.
There can be little doubt that the refugee crisis and immigration policy are some of the great issues of our day. Let us now endeavor to take what we have learned in principle, and apply it to this particular issue.
Please excuse the extended review. I am planning to circulate this video somewhat more broadly, because of the importance of this issue at present.
One final note: If you think that you might like to participate in a reading group, devoted to working through Rutherford's Lex Rex, please drop me an email.
I just came across a very interesting essay by William Blaikie, "Old Testament Light on our Social Problems". Interesting...
"Whatever opinion may be held on the bearing of the Old Testament enactments on modern society, it is an undoubted fact, that the Old Testament presents a very complete view of the social arrangements of one great nation--the ancient Jews. These arrangements were all planned by Divine wisdom, and were admirably adapted to obviate the evils that form such a draw-back to our civilisation."
Although I might quibble with Rev. Blaikie on some points, I think that his essay is worthy of sustained attention this week.
More grist for the mill: Herman Bavinck's Essays on Religion, Science, and Society is worth reading. It is all worthy of contemplation, but his essays on "Christian Principles and Social Relationships", "Inequality", "Classical Education", and "Ethics and Politics" (indeed, especially this one), are particularly germane to the present study.