CRI Resource: Politics for Christians

Dear Hank: This election is likely to have momentous consequences and our votes matter. What also matters is our ability as Christian citizens to intelligently counter the growing secular assaults on our freedoms.


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Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft
by Francis J. Beckwith


On reasonable beliefs
“What I mean by reasonable is not that reason requires that one must believe it. Rather, what I am suggesting is something less ambitious, namely, that a citizen who believes that natural rights and natural law require the existence of God embraces a philosophically defensible position that he or she may legitimately claim is an item of knowledge.”

A reservoir of wisdom at our disposal“The study of politics is…an attempt to understand ‘the city,’ the inner workings of a community and the way by which it governs itself over time. The governed are called ‘citizens,’ and those who do the governing are part of the government, the entity that makes, enforces and applies the laws. So, students of politics must concern themselves with knowing what it means to be a citizen as well as whether the government under which these citizens live is just or unjust. Because Christian tradition — both in its Scripture and in the writings of its great teachers — has addressed questions pertaining to citizenship and the administration of justice, Christian students of politics have a reservoir of wisdom at their disposal.”

On religious beliefs and epistemic duty
“It seems, then, that there is little justifi cation for believing that as long as we can convince our peers that a view is or may be ‘religious,’ we are relieved of our epistemic duty to rationally assess that view as a serious contender to the deliverances of so-called secular reason.”

“Secular” reasoning
“‘Secular’ is not a relevant property of a reason that is offered in support of the strength or soundness of the conclusion that its advocate is advancing. ‘True,’ ‘false,’ ‘plausible,’ ‘implausible,’ ‘good’ and ‘bad are adjectives that we apply to reasons when we assess the property relevant to its purpose as part of an argument. A property is a characteristic had by something….Just as a dog cannot have the property of ‘irrational number’ and a numerical set cannot have the property of ‘blue,’ ‘loud’ or ‘tall,’ a reason cannot be ‘secular.’ A reason does not gain more or less truth by being ‘secular.’ For ‘secular,’ like ‘tall,’ ‘fat,’ ‘stinky’ or ‘sexy,’ has no bearing on the quality of the reason one may offer in an argument to advocate a particular public policy or point of view.”

The excesses of liberal democracies
“Many Christians have been critical of what they believe are the excesses of some of the cultural beliefs that have arisen out of liberal democracies. These excesses include the proliferation of obscenity, the vulgarity of public discourse, the application of the free-market philosophy to personal and family life, the prevalence of abortion, the increasing acceptance of homosexual practice, the disintegration of the family, the commodification of the human body (especially the unborn), the application of politically correct policies that marginalize religious believers on university and college campuses, and the use of taxpayer-funded public schools to teach messages inconsistent with the moral and religious traditions of the home.”

Knowing your government, its laws, and the scope of your citizenship
“The Scriptures seem to teach that people have an obligation to understand the nature of their government and its laws, and employ that knowledge so that the gospel is not disadvantaged by the state. According to St. Paul [Romans 13:1–7], Christians ought to obey generally applicable laws because they receive their authority from God. Thus, to disobey such laws is tantamount to disobeying God….The apostle also rejects a consequentialist justification for this obedience. That is, he urges his readers to obey the law, not merely because they will be punished if they don’t, but rather, because ‘it is the right thing to do’ — even if they know that they won’t be punished if they disobey. However, it would be a mistake to take the apostle’s general advice to the Romans and apply it to situations in which a good law is administered unjustly and/or the government punishes the good and rewards evil or when the authorities instruct Christian citizens to betray the principles of the gospel.”

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October 2020 Resource

Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft