Okay, last post about City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era by Gerson and Wehner—then I’ll move on to other books!
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.
- The moral duties placed on individuals are, in important respects, different from the ones placed on the state.
- 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.]
- Scripture does not provide a governing blueprint.
- The form of political involvement adopted by Christian citizens is determined in part by the nature of the society in which they live.
- God does not deal with nations today as He did with ancient Israel.
Here’s the conclusion to this chapter (from pp. 43-44)—which gets to the heart of the matter that Christian thinking about politics requires much wisdom:
The world is a “theater of [God’s] glory,” John Calvin said, and we are all actors in His unfolding drama and His redemptive purposes. Politics can therefore be a noble and important undertaking. Yet determining the precise nature of our involvement is no easy task. It depends on facts and circumstances, and it requires judgment and wisdom, discretion, and humility. Some who have gone before us have gotten the balance just right, and many others have gotten it terribly wrong. It is a road some are called upon to travel, but it is filled with traps and snares. The good that Christians in politics can do is considerable, and the collateral damage politics can do to the Christian faith is substantial.
There is no easy shortcut, no prepackaged formula, that tells Christians when to get involved in politics and when to pull back, when speaking out on public matters will help or hurt their Christian witness. This side of the heavenly city, we can only peer through a glass darkly. One day the clouds will part and all things will become clear. Until then, our obligation is
to sort through, even in an imperfect way, the choices before us;
to seek the counsel of people of wisdom and integrity;
to examine and re-examine our motives and the state of our hearts;
continually to revisit our approach and stance in light of events;
and to pray, in the words of the author of Colossians, that God will fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.