Sod politics

In particular, [the proclamation of the gospel] included from the start a strong political critique. Not the tired old left-wing harangue in Christian dress, of course, but a more subtle, more Jewish, more devastating critique: Jesus is Lord, therefore Caesar isn’t.

– NT Wright, Decoding Da Vinci (see previous post)

Of course, as I should have added yesterday, the principle that “Jesus is Lord, therefore Caesar isn’t” also puts paid to the tired old right-wing harangue in Christian dress.

And, at the moment, that principle seems to be about as far as I can go in claiming to have any sort of coherent “political philosophy”. As I put it recently, my political beliefs have gone over the past 20 years from “Conservative to Marxist to ‘Left of Blair’ Labour to Christian Socialist to whatever I am now (uninspired lump of sod, mainly)” – though an uninspired lump of sod that reads the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator, you’ll note, and that voted Conservative at the last election (albeit as what CS Lewis might call “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”).

Anyway, for most of my adult life I have been firmly on the left, politically. My main disappointment with Tony Blair between 1994 and around 2002 or so was that he was far too right wing. I kept thinking I ought to join the Labour Party just so I could then resign in a fit of pique over the latest betrayal of socialist principle.

For a few years I was a member of the Christian Socialist Movement (whose site currently appears to have been hijacked by some t0t411y 133t h4xx0rs!!! lol!!!! UR t3h kewl! 11!!), and if asked what my basic political guiding principle was I would have answered (please don’t laugh at the pomposity of this!):

Let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)

Stirring stuff.

Now isn’t the time to go into the details of why I moved away from that Christian Socialist position. Part of it was rethinking what the Old Testament prophets such as Amos, as well as New Testament writers like St James, were doing: namely, calling on the rich to change their behaviour, rather than calling on the state to change it for them. Plus, the seventh, ninth and tenth commandments don’t cease to apply just because we decide to break them collectively through the apparatus of the state rather than as individuals.

But, even if we reject the idea that the Bible mandates the state to enforce its teachings on economic justice, there is still the danger that we go to the other extreme and forget about those teachings altogether. (A similar dynamic can be seen in relation to sexual ethics, of course.) Unfettered capitalism seems as alien to the spirit of the Bible’s teachings on this issue as statist socialism.

(Perhaps our motto should be “socialist ends by capitalist means!” – except that that sounds like something dreamed up by the Chinese Communist Party…)

This then raises the question of whether capitalism can really survive in a healthy way where a Christian moral framework has ceased to govern people’s behaviour, and where “mediating institutions” between the individual and the state – such as families, churches, local communities – have been gravely weakened, so that increased state intervention and control to impose proper behaviour becomes (or, at least, can be presented as having become) the only alternative to anarchy and disorder.

Perhaps the problem is not unfettered capitalism as such, in the sense of capitalism unhampered by state-imposed restrictions, but shameless capitalism, capitalism unhampered by more general moral restraints and counterbalancing social structures.

Anyway, I find myself slightly adrift at the moment. But that New Testament, gospel principle described by Wright seems a good place to start in rebuilding a political worldview: Jesus is Lord, therefore Caesar isn’t.

This isn’t about saying we should be looking to build up some sort of Kuyperian system of Christianised politics. Quite the contrary: it excludes the very possibility of a unique and exclusive “Christian” politics. Caesars of the left and of the right, and all points in between, are relativised by the Lordship of the crucified and risen Jesus.

Hopefully I will be able to find the time to explore some more of these thoughts in posts over the coming days, including some more from NT Wright on this subject (now there’s a surprise!) but also some others too. Who knows, I might even be able to approach some degree of coherence by the end of the exercise. But in the meantime, this post will hopefully give you some idea of where this particular uninspired lump of sod is coming from.

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52 Responses to Sod politics

  1. Alex says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum. For many reasons I find myself to not fit in the political spectrum here in Canada…

  2. Alex says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum. For many reasons I find myself to not fit in the political spectrum here in Canada…

  3. Alex says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum. For many reasons I find myself to not fit in the political spectrum here in Canada…

  4. Alex says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum. For many reasons I find myself to not fit in the political spectrum here in Canada…

  5. John H says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum.
    Hopefully one of the Thomas Dunelm quotes I have in mind will tackle this issue.

  6. John H says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum.
    Hopefully one of the Thomas Dunelm quotes I have in mind will tackle this issue.

  7. John H says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum.
    Hopefully one of the Thomas Dunelm quotes I have in mind will tackle this issue.

  8. John H says:

    And yet Jesus calls us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It truly is an ethical conundrum.
    Hopefully one of the Thomas Dunelm quotes I have in mind will tackle this issue.

  9. Atwood says:

    Are you familiar with Christopher Wright’s works? His dissertation (I think) was published under the title “God’s People on God’s Land”. He has some more popular books on OT ethics and a collection of essays “Living as the People of God” or something like that. He’s quite good. His big shtick is the Jubilee laws, which he emphasizes are neither socialist collectivism yet also emphatically not a free market in land. He emphasizes covenant as a triangle: God at the top and the two bottom angles being family and land.
    His main limitation in his reading of the OT situation is to pass over the relations of the Israelites to the indigenous people (Canaanites/Amorites/Hittites/Jebusies, Gibeon’s Hivites, etc.) who DIDN’T receive land allotments, and also to the “mixed multitude” that followed the Israelites out of Egypt and became the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in the Israelite camp. In short, he doesn’t acknowledge that Israelites in covenant with God comprised only part (and quite likely not even the majority) of those a sociologist would call “Israelite society.” This is just a fact, whose ethical significance is debatable, but understanding OT ethics has to be aware from the beginning of the actual sociological context.

  10. Atwood says:

    Are you familiar with Christopher Wright’s works? His dissertation (I think) was published under the title “God’s People on God’s Land”. He has some more popular books on OT ethics and a collection of essays “Living as the People of God” or something like that. He’s quite good. His big shtick is the Jubilee laws, which he emphasizes are neither socialist collectivism yet also emphatically not a free market in land. He emphasizes covenant as a triangle: God at the top and the two bottom angles being family and land.
    His main limitation in his reading of the OT situation is to pass over the relations of the Israelites to the indigenous people (Canaanites/Amorites/Hittites/Jebusies, Gibeon’s Hivites, etc.) who DIDN’T receive land allotments, and also to the “mixed multitude” that followed the Israelites out of Egypt and became the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in the Israelite camp. In short, he doesn’t acknowledge that Israelites in covenant with God comprised only part (and quite likely not even the majority) of those a sociologist would call “Israelite society.” This is just a fact, whose ethical significance is debatable, but understanding OT ethics has to be aware from the beginning of the actual sociological context.

  11. Atwood says:

    Are you familiar with Christopher Wright’s works? His dissertation (I think) was published under the title “God’s People on God’s Land”. He has some more popular books on OT ethics and a collection of essays “Living as the People of God” or something like that. He’s quite good. His big shtick is the Jubilee laws, which he emphasizes are neither socialist collectivism yet also emphatically not a free market in land. He emphasizes covenant as a triangle: God at the top and the two bottom angles being family and land.
    His main limitation in his reading of the OT situation is to pass over the relations of the Israelites to the indigenous people (Canaanites/Amorites/Hittites/Jebusies, Gibeon’s Hivites, etc.) who DIDN’T receive land allotments, and also to the “mixed multitude” that followed the Israelites out of Egypt and became the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in the Israelite camp. In short, he doesn’t acknowledge that Israelites in covenant with God comprised only part (and quite likely not even the majority) of those a sociologist would call “Israelite society.” This is just a fact, whose ethical significance is debatable, but understanding OT ethics has to be aware from the beginning of the actual sociological context.

  12. Atwood says:

    Are you familiar with Christopher Wright’s works? His dissertation (I think) was published under the title “God’s People on God’s Land”. He has some more popular books on OT ethics and a collection of essays “Living as the People of God” or something like that. He’s quite good. His big shtick is the Jubilee laws, which he emphasizes are neither socialist collectivism yet also emphatically not a free market in land. He emphasizes covenant as a triangle: God at the top and the two bottom angles being family and land.
    His main limitation in his reading of the OT situation is to pass over the relations of the Israelites to the indigenous people (Canaanites/Amorites/Hittites/Jebusies, Gibeon’s Hivites, etc.) who DIDN’T receive land allotments, and also to the “mixed multitude” that followed the Israelites out of Egypt and became the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in the Israelite camp. In short, he doesn’t acknowledge that Israelites in covenant with God comprised only part (and quite likely not even the majority) of those a sociologist would call “Israelite society.” This is just a fact, whose ethical significance is debatable, but understanding OT ethics has to be aware from the beginning of the actual sociological context.

  13. Rick Ritchie says:

    It takes a lot of government in order to have “unfettered capitalism” as we know it today. You have to have a legal right to incorporate, which absolves you of much risk. And if this is not policed much, you have a situation that would never arise without state intervention.
    If you had a more laissez-faire variety, but where the government did not grant the right to incorporate, or did not grant it so easily, I think capitalism would be taking fewer hits. But I hardly want to defend what we have now.

  14. Rick Ritchie says:

    It takes a lot of government in order to have “unfettered capitalism” as we know it today. You have to have a legal right to incorporate, which absolves you of much risk. And if this is not policed much, you have a situation that would never arise without state intervention.
    If you had a more laissez-faire variety, but where the government did not grant the right to incorporate, or did not grant it so easily, I think capitalism would be taking fewer hits. But I hardly want to defend what we have now.

  15. Rick Ritchie says:

    It takes a lot of government in order to have “unfettered capitalism” as we know it today. You have to have a legal right to incorporate, which absolves you of much risk. And if this is not policed much, you have a situation that would never arise without state intervention.
    If you had a more laissez-faire variety, but where the government did not grant the right to incorporate, or did not grant it so easily, I think capitalism would be taking fewer hits. But I hardly want to defend what we have now.

  16. Rick Ritchie says:

    It takes a lot of government in order to have “unfettered capitalism” as we know it today. You have to have a legal right to incorporate, which absolves you of much risk. And if this is not policed much, you have a situation that would never arise without state intervention.
    If you had a more laissez-faire variety, but where the government did not grant the right to incorporate, or did not grant it so easily, I think capitalism would be taking fewer hits. But I hardly want to defend what we have now.

  17. Lee says:

    Wilhelm Roepke, German-Swiss economist (and Lutheran!) advocated a kind of market hemmed in by strong moral and cultural institutions (as well as governmental). In addition to being credited for Germany’s post WWII economic recovery, his “humane economy” was a big influence on the thinking of Russell Kirk.
    However, I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?

  18. Lee says:

    Wilhelm Roepke, German-Swiss economist (and Lutheran!) advocated a kind of market hemmed in by strong moral and cultural institutions (as well as governmental). In addition to being credited for Germany’s post WWII economic recovery, his “humane economy” was a big influence on the thinking of Russell Kirk.
    However, I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?

  19. Lee says:

    Wilhelm Roepke, German-Swiss economist (and Lutheran!) advocated a kind of market hemmed in by strong moral and cultural institutions (as well as governmental). In addition to being credited for Germany’s post WWII economic recovery, his “humane economy” was a big influence on the thinking of Russell Kirk.
    However, I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?

  20. Lee says:

    Wilhelm Roepke, German-Swiss economist (and Lutheran!) advocated a kind of market hemmed in by strong moral and cultural institutions (as well as governmental). In addition to being credited for Germany’s post WWII economic recovery, his “humane economy” was a big influence on the thinking of Russell Kirk.
    However, I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?

  21. Chris Jones says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically. Political categories (left, right, social conservative, neo-conservative, etc.) are largely orthogonal to Christianity. One can be a faithful Christian while being a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, a socialist, a monarchist, or anything in between.
    This is the reason that I don’t care for what is called in the U.S. the “religious right”. I’m a lifelong political conservative, and I agree with the “religious right” on a lot of specific issues. But by making a close association between Christianity and political conservatism, they give the impression that to become a Christian one must give up one’s political views and become a conservative. It hinders the proclamation of the Gospel if the message is “no Democrats allowed in the Church”.
    It helps put the complications and subtleties of political argument in Christian perspective to remember that the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience. A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy, to approve or disapprove of the policies of the state, or to participate in governance in any way. If we choose to participate in politics, we ought to do so in a Christian manner; but it’s not required.

  22. Chris Jones says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically. Political categories (left, right, social conservative, neo-conservative, etc.) are largely orthogonal to Christianity. One can be a faithful Christian while being a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, a socialist, a monarchist, or anything in between.
    This is the reason that I don’t care for what is called in the U.S. the “religious right”. I’m a lifelong political conservative, and I agree with the “religious right” on a lot of specific issues. But by making a close association between Christianity and political conservatism, they give the impression that to become a Christian one must give up one’s political views and become a conservative. It hinders the proclamation of the Gospel if the message is “no Democrats allowed in the Church”.
    It helps put the complications and subtleties of political argument in Christian perspective to remember that the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience. A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy, to approve or disapprove of the policies of the state, or to participate in governance in any way. If we choose to participate in politics, we ought to do so in a Christian manner; but it’s not required.

  23. Chris Jones says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically. Political categories (left, right, social conservative, neo-conservative, etc.) are largely orthogonal to Christianity. One can be a faithful Christian while being a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, a socialist, a monarchist, or anything in between.
    This is the reason that I don’t care for what is called in the U.S. the “religious right”. I’m a lifelong political conservative, and I agree with the “religious right” on a lot of specific issues. But by making a close association between Christianity and political conservatism, they give the impression that to become a Christian one must give up one’s political views and become a conservative. It hinders the proclamation of the Gospel if the message is “no Democrats allowed in the Church”.
    It helps put the complications and subtleties of political argument in Christian perspective to remember that the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience. A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy, to approve or disapprove of the policies of the state, or to participate in governance in any way. If we choose to participate in politics, we ought to do so in a Christian manner; but it’s not required.

  24. Chris Jones says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically. Political categories (left, right, social conservative, neo-conservative, etc.) are largely orthogonal to Christianity. One can be a faithful Christian while being a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, a socialist, a monarchist, or anything in between.
    This is the reason that I don’t care for what is called in the U.S. the “religious right”. I’m a lifelong political conservative, and I agree with the “religious right” on a lot of specific issues. But by making a close association between Christianity and political conservatism, they give the impression that to become a Christian one must give up one’s political views and become a conservative. It hinders the proclamation of the Gospel if the message is “no Democrats allowed in the Church”.
    It helps put the complications and subtleties of political argument in Christian perspective to remember that the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience. A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy, to approve or disapprove of the policies of the state, or to participate in governance in any way. If we choose to participate in politics, we ought to do so in a Christian manner; but it’s not required.

  25. John H says:

    I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?
    Well, quite. Behold, the Great Unresolved Tension Of Thatcherism!
    It’s all there in Marx, of course. “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?” πŸ˜‰

  26. John H says:

    I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?
    Well, quite. Behold, the Great Unresolved Tension Of Thatcherism!
    It’s all there in Marx, of course. “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?” πŸ˜‰

  27. John H says:

    I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?
    Well, quite. Behold, the Great Unresolved Tension Of Thatcherism!
    It’s all there in Marx, of course. “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?” πŸ˜‰

  28. John H says:

    I wonder if there isn’t something in the very nature of capitalism that tends to undermine those very social and cultural institutions that seem necessary to keep it in check?
    Well, quite. Behold, the Great Unresolved Tension Of Thatcherism!
    It’s all there in Marx, of course. “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?” πŸ˜‰

  29. Bill R says:

    Chris, your last sentence was a bit ambiguous. I assume you meant that the political participation is not required for Christians, not that the Christian manner of political participation is optional.
    I note that John’s emphasis is really more on economics than on social issues: here in the States you’ll find far more Christian interest in the latter than the former (owing to a large extent to the impact of the “religious right” that Chris discussed in his post). At least on this side of the Pond, you can’t call yourself a Democrat or a political liberal unless you pass the litmus test of unqualified support for abortion and homosexual “rights.” That’s the real stumbling block for Christians in the States who might otherwise identify with the left.

  30. Bill R says:

    Chris, your last sentence was a bit ambiguous. I assume you meant that the political participation is not required for Christians, not that the Christian manner of political participation is optional.
    I note that John’s emphasis is really more on economics than on social issues: here in the States you’ll find far more Christian interest in the latter than the former (owing to a large extent to the impact of the “religious right” that Chris discussed in his post). At least on this side of the Pond, you can’t call yourself a Democrat or a political liberal unless you pass the litmus test of unqualified support for abortion and homosexual “rights.” That’s the real stumbling block for Christians in the States who might otherwise identify with the left.

  31. Bill R says:

    Chris, your last sentence was a bit ambiguous. I assume you meant that the political participation is not required for Christians, not that the Christian manner of political participation is optional.
    I note that John’s emphasis is really more on economics than on social issues: here in the States you’ll find far more Christian interest in the latter than the former (owing to a large extent to the impact of the “religious right” that Chris discussed in his post). At least on this side of the Pond, you can’t call yourself a Democrat or a political liberal unless you pass the litmus test of unqualified support for abortion and homosexual “rights.” That’s the real stumbling block for Christians in the States who might otherwise identify with the left.

  32. Bill R says:

    Chris, your last sentence was a bit ambiguous. I assume you meant that the political participation is not required for Christians, not that the Christian manner of political participation is optional.
    I note that John’s emphasis is really more on economics than on social issues: here in the States you’ll find far more Christian interest in the latter than the former (owing to a large extent to the impact of the “religious right” that Chris discussed in his post). At least on this side of the Pond, you can’t call yourself a Democrat or a political liberal unless you pass the litmus test of unqualified support for abortion and homosexual “rights.” That’s the real stumbling block for Christians in the States who might otherwise identify with the left.

  33. Lee says:

    Not to mention the great unresolved tension of American conservatism. The uneasy relationship between “traditionalists” and libertarians goes back a long way.
    Chris Jones – couldn’t agree with you more about the way the Religious Right tends to conflate the Gospel & politics. Currently I’m reading a biography of J. Gresham Machen by D.G. Hart. Machen was a conservative Presbyterian in the early 20th c. who attacked the liberal Protestantism of his day as well as the efforts of fundamentalists on his “right” who wanted to “Christianize” America via the coercive power of the state. He objected to the latter precisely because it risked compromising the integrity of the church – a lesson our Religious Right could probably stand to learn.

  34. Lee says:

    Not to mention the great unresolved tension of American conservatism. The uneasy relationship between “traditionalists” and libertarians goes back a long way.
    Chris Jones – couldn’t agree with you more about the way the Religious Right tends to conflate the Gospel & politics. Currently I’m reading a biography of J. Gresham Machen by D.G. Hart. Machen was a conservative Presbyterian in the early 20th c. who attacked the liberal Protestantism of his day as well as the efforts of fundamentalists on his “right” who wanted to “Christianize” America via the coercive power of the state. He objected to the latter precisely because it risked compromising the integrity of the church – a lesson our Religious Right could probably stand to learn.

  35. Lee says:

    Not to mention the great unresolved tension of American conservatism. The uneasy relationship between “traditionalists” and libertarians goes back a long way.
    Chris Jones – couldn’t agree with you more about the way the Religious Right tends to conflate the Gospel & politics. Currently I’m reading a biography of J. Gresham Machen by D.G. Hart. Machen was a conservative Presbyterian in the early 20th c. who attacked the liberal Protestantism of his day as well as the efforts of fundamentalists on his “right” who wanted to “Christianize” America via the coercive power of the state. He objected to the latter precisely because it risked compromising the integrity of the church – a lesson our Religious Right could probably stand to learn.

  36. Lee says:

    Not to mention the great unresolved tension of American conservatism. The uneasy relationship between “traditionalists” and libertarians goes back a long way.
    Chris Jones – couldn’t agree with you more about the way the Religious Right tends to conflate the Gospel & politics. Currently I’m reading a biography of J. Gresham Machen by D.G. Hart. Machen was a conservative Presbyterian in the early 20th c. who attacked the liberal Protestantism of his day as well as the efforts of fundamentalists on his “right” who wanted to “Christianize” America via the coercive power of the state. He objected to the latter precisely because it risked compromising the integrity of the church – a lesson our Religious Right could probably stand to learn.

  37. greg bourke says:

    I’m reading Dorothy Day.

  38. greg bourke says:

    I’m reading Dorothy Day.

  39. greg bourke says:

    I’m reading Dorothy Day.

  40. greg bourke says:

    I’m reading Dorothy Day.

  41. Chris Jones says:

    Bill,
    You interpreted my last sentence correctly. Sorry for the ambiguity.

  42. Chris Jones says:

    Bill,
    You interpreted my last sentence correctly. Sorry for the ambiguity.

  43. Chris Jones says:

    Bill,
    You interpreted my last sentence correctly. Sorry for the ambiguity.

  44. Chris Jones says:

    Bill,
    You interpreted my last sentence correctly. Sorry for the ambiguity.

  45. John H says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically.
    Agreed. It was a statement of where I am, not where I ought to be.
    A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy
    I think that’s like saying a Christian is not required to have a theology. We’re not all called to be theologians in the academic/vocational sense, but we are all called to align our thinking with what God has told us about Himself.
    In the same way, we are not all called to have a detailed and coherent political philosophy as such, but to have no political philosophy is impossible – since “I have no political philosophy” is itself a political philosophy, and one with very concrete implications for how you think, live and behave – and represents a disengagement from the state and its affairs that is sub-Christian because it is anti-incarnational.
    I agree that what matters though is not so much what your politics are as a Christian – though I’d say Nazism or Stalinism are possibly crossing a line πŸ˜‰ – but how you engage in and with politics.
    the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience
    I’m not sure that’s true. The most fundamental Christian assertion, that Jesus is Lord, has inescapable political implications, if only because they make the relationship between Christians/the church and the state rather more complex than they would be if we could simply say “Romans 13 is all we need to think about on the subject”.

  46. John H says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically.
    Agreed. It was a statement of where I am, not where I ought to be.
    A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy
    I think that’s like saying a Christian is not required to have a theology. We’re not all called to be theologians in the academic/vocational sense, but we are all called to align our thinking with what God has told us about Himself.
    In the same way, we are not all called to have a detailed and coherent political philosophy as such, but to have no political philosophy is impossible – since “I have no political philosophy” is itself a political philosophy, and one with very concrete implications for how you think, live and behave – and represents a disengagement from the state and its affairs that is sub-Christian because it is anti-incarnational.
    I agree that what matters though is not so much what your politics are as a Christian – though I’d say Nazism or Stalinism are possibly crossing a line πŸ˜‰ – but how you engage in and with politics.
    the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience
    I’m not sure that’s true. The most fundamental Christian assertion, that Jesus is Lord, has inescapable political implications, if only because they make the relationship between Christians/the church and the state rather more complex than they would be if we could simply say “Romans 13 is all we need to think about on the subject”.

  47. John H says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically.
    Agreed. It was a statement of where I am, not where I ought to be.
    A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy
    I think that’s like saying a Christian is not required to have a theology. We’re not all called to be theologians in the academic/vocational sense, but we are all called to align our thinking with what God has told us about Himself.
    In the same way, we are not all called to have a detailed and coherent political philosophy as such, but to have no political philosophy is impossible – since “I have no political philosophy” is itself a political philosophy, and one with very concrete implications for how you think, live and behave – and represents a disengagement from the state and its affairs that is sub-Christian because it is anti-incarnational.
    I agree that what matters though is not so much what your politics are as a Christian – though I’d say Nazism or Stalinism are possibly crossing a line πŸ˜‰ – but how you engage in and with politics.
    the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience
    I’m not sure that’s true. The most fundamental Christian assertion, that Jesus is Lord, has inescapable political implications, if only because they make the relationship between Christians/the church and the state rather more complex than they would be if we could simply say “Romans 13 is all we need to think about on the subject”.

  48. John H says:

    I’m not sure that “adrift” is not the best place for a Christian to be, politically.
    Agreed. It was a statement of where I am, not where I ought to be.
    A Christian, as a Christian, is not required to have a political philosophy
    I think that’s like saying a Christian is not required to have a theology. We’re not all called to be theologians in the academic/vocational sense, but we are all called to align our thinking with what God has told us about Himself.
    In the same way, we are not all called to have a detailed and coherent political philosophy as such, but to have no political philosophy is impossible – since “I have no political philosophy” is itself a political philosophy, and one with very concrete implications for how you think, live and behave – and represents a disengagement from the state and its affairs that is sub-Christian because it is anti-incarnational.
    I agree that what matters though is not so much what your politics are as a Christian – though I’d say Nazism or Stalinism are possibly crossing a line πŸ˜‰ – but how you engage in and with politics.
    the only relationship between the Christian and the state enjoined by the Bible is a relationship of obedience
    I’m not sure that’s true. The most fundamental Christian assertion, that Jesus is Lord, has inescapable political implications, if only because they make the relationship between Christians/the church and the state rather more complex than they would be if we could simply say “Romans 13 is all we need to think about on the subject”.

  49. Tom R says:

    “Plus, the seventh, ninth and tenth commandments don’t cease to apply just because we decide to break them collectively through the apparatus of the state rather than as individuals.”
    Ah, but what about taking the Sixth? (a.k.a the Fifth to you, Greg). We forbid private individuals, pretty much categorically, to start wars (even just ones) or execute criminals (even guilty, unrepentant murderers). We allow private use of lethal force only in the most extreme situation — when it’s immediately necessary to protect someone’s life. Governments, OTOH, are allowed to employ deadly force in a wider (not, of course, unlimited, or even wide in absolute terms) range of circumstances. Likewise, just because private stealing is usually wrong (although see Colby Cosh’s interesting take, at http://www.colbycosh.com/index.html#ucii, on looting perishable necessities during a disaster), and just because confiscatory governmental taxation would be wrong, doesn’t make moderate
    governmental taxation inherently wrong.
    To agree that “If the state does X, X can’t be wrong, even if X is wrong for private persons” is an error, does not rule out “X is wrong for private persons, but if X has to be done at all, it should be done by the state”. There might be good reasons for that latter — eg, concern for social order; wanting (from Hobbes to Hayek) to avoid competing private armies enforcing conflicting decrees in the streets (“Drive on the left or we shoot you!” “No, drive on the right or we shoot you!”); and respect for our fellow citizens’ judgment — ie, if you qua individual think I have too much money, your “vote” for redistributing it is cancelled by my own equal “vote” against. Whereas if we count the whole nation, and 52% vote yes, there is a stronger (again, not absolute) for putting their will into effect.

  50. Tom R says:

    “Plus, the seventh, ninth and tenth commandments don’t cease to apply just because we decide to break them collectively through the apparatus of the state rather than as individuals.”
    Ah, but what about taking the Sixth? (a.k.a the Fifth to you, Greg). We forbid private individuals, pretty much categorically, to start wars (even just ones) or execute criminals (even guilty, unrepentant murderers). We allow private use of lethal force only in the most extreme situation — when it’s immediately necessary to protect someone’s life. Governments, OTOH, are allowed to employ deadly force in a wider (not, of course, unlimited, or even wide in absolute terms) range of circumstances. Likewise, just because private stealing is usually wrong (although see Colby Cosh’s interesting take, at http://www.colbycosh.com/index.html#ucii, on looting perishable necessities during a disaster), and just because confiscatory governmental taxation would be wrong, doesn’t make moderate
    governmental taxation inherently wrong.
    To agree that “If the state does X, X can’t be wrong, even if X is wrong for private persons” is an error, does not rule out “X is wrong for private persons, but if X has to be done at all, it should be done by the state”. There might be good reasons for that latter — eg, concern for social order; wanting (from Hobbes to Hayek) to avoid competing private armies enforcing conflicting decrees in the streets (“Drive on the left or we shoot you!” “No, drive on the right or we shoot you!”); and respect for our fellow citizens’ judgment — ie, if you qua individual think I have too much money, your “vote” for redistributing it is cancelled by my own equal “vote” against. Whereas if we count the whole nation, and 52% vote yes, there is a stronger (again, not absolute) for putting their will into effect.

  51. Tom R says:

    “Plus, the seventh, ninth and tenth commandments don’t cease to apply just because we decide to break them collectively through the apparatus of the state rather than as individuals.”
    Ah, but what about taking the Sixth? (a.k.a the Fifth to you, Greg). We forbid private individuals, pretty much categorically, to start wars (even just ones) or execute criminals (even guilty, unrepentant murderers). We allow private use of lethal force only in the most extreme situation — when it’s immediately necessary to protect someone’s life. Governments, OTOH, are allowed to employ deadly force in a wider (not, of course, unlimited, or even wide in absolute terms) range of circumstances. Likewise, just because private stealing is usually wrong (although see Colby Cosh’s interesting take, at http://www.colbycosh.com/index.html#ucii, on looting perishable necessities during a disaster), and just because confiscatory governmental taxation would be wrong, doesn’t make moderate
    governmental taxation inherently wrong.
    To agree that “If the state does X, X can’t be wrong, even if X is wrong for private persons” is an error, does not rule out “X is wrong for private persons, but if X has to be done at all, it should be done by the state”. There might be good reasons for that latter — eg, concern for social order; wanting (from Hobbes to Hayek) to avoid competing private armies enforcing conflicting decrees in the streets (“Drive on the left or we shoot you!” “No, drive on the right or we shoot you!”); and respect for our fellow citizens’ judgment — ie, if you qua individual think I have too much money, your “vote” for redistributing it is cancelled by my own equal “vote” against. Whereas if we count the whole nation, and 52% vote yes, there is a stronger (again, not absolute) for putting their will into effect.

  52. Tom R says:

    “Plus, the seventh, ninth and tenth commandments don’t cease to apply just because we decide to break them collectively through the apparatus of the state rather than as individuals.”
    Ah, but what about taking the Sixth? (a.k.a the Fifth to you, Greg). We forbid private individuals, pretty much categorically, to start wars (even just ones) or execute criminals (even guilty, unrepentant murderers). We allow private use of lethal force only in the most extreme situation — when it’s immediately necessary to protect someone’s life. Governments, OTOH, are allowed to employ deadly force in a wider (not, of course, unlimited, or even wide in absolute terms) range of circumstances. Likewise, just because private stealing is usually wrong (although see Colby Cosh’s interesting take, at http://www.colbycosh.com/index.html#ucii, on looting perishable necessities during a disaster), and just because confiscatory governmental taxation would be wrong, doesn’t make moderate
    governmental taxation inherently wrong.
    To agree that “If the state does X, X can’t be wrong, even if X is wrong for private persons” is an error, does not rule out “X is wrong for private persons, but if X has to be done at all, it should be done by the state”. There might be good reasons for that latter — eg, concern for social order; wanting (from Hobbes to Hayek) to avoid competing private armies enforcing conflicting decrees in the streets (“Drive on the left or we shoot you!” “No, drive on the right or we shoot you!”); and respect for our fellow citizens’ judgment — ie, if you qua individual think I have too much money, your “vote” for redistributing it is cancelled by my own equal “vote” against. Whereas if we count the whole nation, and 52% vote yes, there is a stronger (again, not absolute) for putting their will into effect.

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