Posts Tagged ‘government’

Christianity and the West: Notes from “What’s So Great About Christianity?”

September 16th, 2011

The following are chapter synopses and short quotes from the second section of Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity? This second section was entitled: “Christianity and the West”

Chapter 5:
D’Souza argues that Christianity is originally responsible for the concept of limited government and separation of church and state

“Augustine argued that during our time here on earth, the Christian inhabits two realms, the earthly city and the heavenly city….To each of these realms the Christian citizen has duties, but they are not the same duties….some remarkable conclusions follow….It means that the earthly city need not concern itself with the question of man’s final or ultimate destiny. It also implies that the claims of the earthly city are limited, that there is a sanctuary of conscience inside every person that is protected from political control.”

Chapter 6:
D’Souza argues that Christianity’s conception of the value of the ordinary but fallible individual has led to many of the features of Western civilization that we hold most dear, including separation of powers and checks and balances for governments, and capitalism as an economic system. (He also argues that the value of the ordinary but fallible individual led to giving family a prominent role in society, but I felt that his argument was hard to follow and rather weak.)

“…Capitalism satisfied the Christian demand for an institution that channels selfish human desire toward the betterment of society. Some critics accuse capitalism of being a selfish system, but the selfishness is not in capitalism–it is in human nature.”

Chapter 7:
D’Souza argues that Christianity is fundamentally responsible for the concepts of human rights and individual freedom.

“The preciousness and equal worth of every human life is a Christian idea. Christians have always believed that God places infinite value on each human life He creates and that He loves each person equally. In Christianity you are not saved through your family or tribe or city. Salvation is an individual matter…These ideas have momentous consequences.”

The Secret Socialist (Part 3)

July 3rd, 2010

I have heretofore described the Scriptural role of the government to administer justice and the Scriptural call to the church to be agents of mercy. Here, I shall attempt to describe what I see as the union of the two.

We are aliens in this world.

Whenever a Christian enters into the realm of politics, he must realize that in doing so he is stepping out of his native land into the affairs of the land in which He is a sojourner.

A Christian belongs to the kingdom of God–a kingdom firmly established on mercy, love, and nonaggression. This is the kingdom whose people decry self-defense, instead offering their cheeks to be struck. This is the kingdom whose citizens give to those who steal from them. This is the kingdom whose people would much rather be cheated than go to court.

The kingdoms of this world, on the other hand, are kingdoms (established by God) for the carrying out of justice. They are responsible, first and foremost, (at least inasmuch as Scripture reveals God’s plan for the kingdoms of this earth) for the punishing of wrongdoers and praising of the righteous.

The two kingdoms could not be more different.

The kingdom of God recognizes that Christ has borne the whole punishment for all sins–against God and against mankind–and therefore demands that citizens extend mercy to all. The kingdom of the world still labors under the fallenness of sin–and must punish wrongdoers lest injustice prevail.

The question, then, is how a Christian is to go about dealing with the political world. How is a Christian to navigate these opposing worlds of justice and mercy?

There are three common “takes” on a Christian’s involvement in politics.

Some take the conservative view, demanding justice on this earth–politically and personally. People should get what they deserve and nothing more. This is the view of the harsh disciplinarian, the uncompromising taskmaster, the down-with-the-welfare-state-up-with-the-military-state politico.

Others take a liberal stance, arguing for mercy at all costs. These are the bleeding hearts, the fairness police. They want redistribution of wealth, equal access to everything, a mother state who babies her citizens, and a non-aggressive foreign policy.

Still others urge avoidance. Best to stay out of politics, they say, lest you forsake the kingdom of God in your involvement with the kingdoms of this world.

But are these the only options for Christian involvement in the world?

My personal take lies outside of each of these. I believe that inasmuch as God’s revealed will for the governments of this world is that they be ministers of justice, I as a Christian should work to promote justice in political affairs. And inasmuch as God’s clearly revealed call to His church is that they be ministers of mercy, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, I should seek to live a life marked by mercy.

What does this mean for me?

In my political involvement, I fight for justice–laws that reflect just practices, punishments that befit crimes, honest court systems. Yet as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I would never dream of making use of these courts to demand justice for myself. I am called to extend mercy to those who misuse me.

As an American citizen, I support just war (of course, the definition of just war is fuzzy and must be considered carefully) entered into by the state, whether preemptive or retaliatory. But as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I clearly recognize the call to never take justice into my own hands and wage war on my own accord. I could never bomb an abortion clinic or assassinate even the most evil of characters.

I disapprove of the governmental redistribution of wealth in order to secure social programs as an injustice to the deserving and the undeserving alike (punishing those who have earned their money justly and rewarding those who have failed to justly earn money). But as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I seek to liberally give my own money, goods, and services indiscriminately.

From my conception of God’s plan for the kingdoms of this world and for the kingdom of heaven, I am politically conservative and personally liberal. I work to promote a political system that is founded on justice–and seek to always live a life marked by mercy.

Of course, I like all people, am fallen–and regularly fail to live up to this goal. Too often, I demand justice for myself when I ought to extend mercy to others. And too often I request mercy of the political system, when I ought to accept and promote justice. But the above is my ideal–and I pray that by the grace of God, I might grow more and more to walk mercifully as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven–and to promote justice in this nation in which I am an alien.

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