Friday, May 25, 2007

Church and State cont.

I had a fairly sleepless night after our discussion (no, I do not think the two were related; it was more likely related to the Detroit Tigers slaughtering my Anaheim Angels 12-0) so I did some reading on the question. I came across the following series of blog posts by John Mark Reynolds that I think are outstanding. They center around the upcoming U.S. presidential primaries (if you can consider something still so far in the future, "upcoming") but he addresses many of the things we touched on. I find a lot of commonalities between Mark's position that the government's job is to manage and Reynolds position that the government's job is to administer justice and uphold freedom. I'm certain that there are many dissimilarities between their positions but as you read you will see what I mean. If it is safe to say, as Mark himself did last night, that his position maintains a distinction between Christian personal ethics and a broader citizen ethic, Reynolds' position maintains a closer connection between the two that I am more comfortable with and, in fact, agree with wholeheartedly. Although we just touched the surface last night, my initial reaction to Mark's position is that the line of demarcation between Christian and citizen ethics is too strong. And I don't think it allows general revelation and natural theology (and hence, natural law) enough of a place. But that is a discussion for another time. Here I am intending to give you access to Reynolds' thoughts. The posts are long but quite interesting, even for our Slavic brothers who may be bored by U.S. politics. To such bothers, I suggest reading them due to the fact that Reynolds, a member of an Orthodox Church and quite familiar with Slavic history, makes several comments on these topics that broaden the discussion beyond the U.S. context. Happy reading ...

This Next Presidential Election 1 of 6:
Voting as We Pray

This Next Presidential Election 2 of 6:
Direct and Dispose the Hearts of all Christian Rulers

This Next Presidential Election 3 of 6:
Truly and Impartially Administer Justice
(or Why Mitt Romney Should Never Be King of England!)

This Next Presidential Election 4 of 6:
The Punishment of Wickedness and Vice

This Next Presidential Election 5 of 6:
Maintenance of True Religion and Virtue

This Next Presidential Election 6 of 6:
Peace in Our Time- Looking for Lincoln and Reagan


Mark McD said...


I may try to read Reynold's stuff, but I wanted to respond to the natural law comment. I really don't see how I have diminished general revelation. My view takes into account that "Management" is a part of what it means to be in the image of God, and that common grace enables a lot of what good we see in human government and maintenance today. There are many problems, but on the whole, most countries are not disintegrating. This is by grace and general revelation. My only concern with natural law and its basis in general revelation is when natural law begins to treat general revelation as if it were special revelation. You claim that I diminish general revelation. I would say that many claims I hear for natural law seem not so much to raise it in importance, but to confuse it with special revelation, so that basically most claims we get from special revelation we can derive from general revelation. I do not feel that is the case.

eric O said...

I wouldn't say that you "diminish" general revelation, natural theology and natural law but, from the examples given on Thursday night (building roads, giving us running water, etc.) it seemed that your position "does not give them enough of a place," as I wrote in the original post. All of your references about management seemed to be in a very distinct, limited sphere (infrastructure) whereas, I think, we can broaden that sphere to other areas (abortion, homosexual marriage, religious tolerance and practice in government run and government sanctioned institutions). Your caution is a good one, and definitely one to keep in mind as I develop my natural theology and law theory. If you flesh out what kinds of things you include in "management" more fully then maybe I would rescind my "does not give them enough of a place" critique and it might turn out that our views are closer than we think.

Mark McD said...

I am obviously missing the point of the phrase "does not give them enough of a place". Perhaps this is a technical term that denotes a method or content that I am not catching. Please explain what you mean; but in the meantime, I will hazard a guess based on your comments. You mention, in contrast with management functions like roads, water and defense, things more associated, as I understand it, with natural theology and natural law, like justice and freedom. I absolutely believe that the government must be responsible for the administration of freedom and justice in a country. My point is that the definition of freedom will be different in a Christian ethical system and in a "citizen's" ethical system that accepts the concept of pluralism as a practical reality. As a Christian, I believe that a Hindu is not free by definition of his religion. As a Christian then I would want to remove those things that bind him. In ancient Israel in a theocracy, where it was the magistrate's job to enforce God's law, other religions were outlawed. There the believer's ethic and the citizen ethic were identical. In medieval Byzantium and Rome, and in reformation Geneva, other religions were also outlawed and punished. I am rejecting this practice. This requires me to arrive at a different definition of freedom and justice. This other definition must protect people from harm and slavery, but must allow for different personal expressions. Because the elements of the pluralistic society will constantly be in flux, these definitions might to some extent as well.