Christian Political Ethics

Christian Political Ethics

Christian Political Ethics

Christian Political Ethics

Synopsis


Christian Political Ethics brings together leading Christian scholars of diverse theological and ethical perspectives--Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anabaptist--to address fundamental questions of state and civil society, international law and relations, the role of the nation, and issues of violence and its containment. Representing a unique fusion of faith-centered ethics and social science, the contributors bring into dialogue their own varying Christian understandings with a range of both secular ethical thought and other religious viewpoints from Judaism, Islam, and Confucianism. They explore divergent Christian views of state and society--and the limits of each. They grapple with the tensions that can arise within Christianity over questions of patriotism, civic duty, and loyalty to one's nation, and they examine Christian responses to pluralism and relativism, globalization, and war and peace. Revealing the striking pluralism inherent to Christianity itself, this pioneering volume recasts the meanings of Christian citizenship and civic responsibility, and raises compelling new questions about civil disobedience, global justice, and Christian justifications for waging war as well as spreading world peace. It brings Christian political ethics out of the churches and seminaries to engage with today's most vexing and complex social issues.


The contributors are Michael Banner, Nigel Biggar, Joseph Boyle, Michael G. Cartwright, John A. Coleman, S. J., John Finnis, Theodore J. Koontz, David Little, Richard B. Miller, James W. Skillen, and Max L. Stackhouse.

Excerpt

A lurking ambiguity lies just under the surface of the foundational texts of the New Testament about state, citizenship, and society. On the one hand, two key texts, Romans 13:1–7 and I Peter 2:13–14, insist that Christians should be “good citizens” within the Roman Empire. These texts serve, perhaps, as apologies from Christians to the surrounding, not necessarily benignly intentioned, pagan society, assuring it of Christian cooperative benevolence. the I Peter text states: “For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.” Romans 13:1 asserts that the authority of government comes directly from God: “Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.” Elements of the same positive attitude toward the state and government can be found in the enigmatic and terse response of Jesus in Mark 12:13–17 about paying taxes to Caesar: “The things of Caesar give back to Caesar and the things of God to God.” Clearly, the “things of Caesar” have some rightful autonomy, legitimacy, role in God's design—even if not under any tutorial sway from Christians. Just as clearly, there are “things of God” that escape the jurisdiction of Caesar.

A very different attitude toward the Roman empire can be found in the Book of Revelation. a local official, it seems, in Western Asia Minor was promoting the cult of the emperor Domitian and of the goddess Roma (Rev. 13:1–18). a severe crisis of conscience broke out among the early Christians of Western Asia Minor when faced with the demand that they cooperate with this effort. So the writer of Revelation argues that Christians may not participate in this imperial cult, and in Revelation 17, John, the Seer, presents a particularly lurid description of the emperor as a beast and the goddess Roma as a prostitute. in Revelation the potential compatibility of the things of Caesar and the things of God is scrutinized and is found limping. Non cooperation and even resistance is urged. Finally, Acts 5:29 (“We ought to obey God rather than men”) seems to authorize, sometimes, religious civil disobedience, although this authorization remains, probably, circumscribed and hedged. Thus, the foundational texts of the New Testament suggest . . .

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