Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Principled Pluralist Perspective (Corwin Smidt) #4: The Rest of the Political Principles

2. The nature of the church: The church is a community that observes sacraments, preaches the Scripture, and exercises discipline. But it is not a community that exists in a vacuum. The church – even beyond the visible church – is to be God’s people, but they are also to promote God’s righteousness in the culture.
3. The nature of the state: There are two key aspects to the state. It has limited powers and should secure justice. Power is limited because God has delegated authority to communities other than the state – the family for instance. Government ought not overstep their authority. Governmental power is also limited for the Christian by their conscience. Submission to God trumps submission to government.
Regarding securing justice, governments are to make sure different spheres do not encroach on the others and to make sure justice is protected. It cannot enforce every moral code, nor should it, but it should ensure that behaviors that impinge upon others’ fundamental rights should be stopped.
4. An agent of common grace: The state has nothing to do with the spiritual welfare and salvation of people, but it is an instrument of God to care for order and the general good of all people. It is an agent of common grace.
5. The call to political engagement: All of creation is touched by the fall and God wants Christians to redeem every area in the cultural mandate. No area of life is so forsaken that God does not want Christians to make a difference.
6. Political modesty, toleration, cooperation, and compromise: Even if believers have the Truth, we still see through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13.12). Toleration only comes when there is genuine disagreement between people, but the key to government is enforcing justice. That means, even if we don’t agree with everyone, we need to cooperate and compromise for the movement toward good and God’s values – even if we can’t have everything. “The perfect should not be the enemy of the good” (p. 149).
7. Principled pluralism and public policy: Using the Charitable Choice Act, Smidt shows how it practically works. The idea being that when there is a common interest for the good, church and state should work together – like poverty. Because the circles are different, working together will reach some groups that would fall through the cracks – and the common good is accomplished.

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