Are the life and teachings of Jesus a proper focus for the development of a Christian ethic, and could such an ethic fit into the framework of the rest of the New Testament? In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder answers with a circumspective but enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ Yoder sets out to show why Jesus was of direct significance for social ethics, and why we should consider Jesus normative (POJ, 11).
Specifically, Yoder argues for a “messianic ethic” of non-violence from the New Testament – first, by interpreting Jesus’ ministry in the context of the “Jubilee Year” principle that pervaded Jesus’ teachings and self-understanding, and second, by addressing the challenges that orthodox theology surrounding Pauline writings poses to such a stance. Lastly, Yoder rounds out his apology with a discussion of John’s apocalyptic visions, and how they too might be understood within the non-violent ethic.
I just found this 2 hour (!) 2009 lecture on politics and religion, and it has some really good content, especially towards the end. The speaker, Nicholas S. Lantinga, is a PhD, and obviously knows more than he can talk about in a 2 hour lecture. But here’s a couple helpful things I learned from the lecture.
He lays quite a historical foundation for why we should NOT omit religious world views as a foundation for morality and public policy, and that secular assumption are just as ‘religious’ in that they make philosophic and theological assumptions.
Additionally, having religious assumptions does NOT require that you have religious laws or a ‘theocracy’ unless you skip step 3 – defining the limits of governmental authority before legislating public policy. Here are the four steps he outlines in the second half of the lecture (starting at 40:21).
This post is part of a series on Can we be good without God?
I just finished listening to a somewhat frustrating debate between atheist Dan Barker and apologist Matt Slick on the topic Is there Reason to be Good Without God?
I say frustrated because (a) I think Barker makes too many logical mistakes and pot shots at Christianity that have nothing to do with the topic, and (b) I thought Matt’s answers were a bit hard to follow, and his responses during the rebuttal were often combative, defensive, or just plain humorous deflections because he was not prepared to answer well.
Of course, it’s easy to judge from the sidelines, but I wanted to clarify my current understanding of how a Christian apologist/theologian/philosopher might answer this question clearly.
I admit, I am not yet formally educated in these matters – I have been accepted into the M. Div. program at Gordon Conwell, but with three small children, a full time job, and a part time pastorate, I’m swamped. But here’s my view of what should have been covered clearly by Mr. Slick.
As a conservative with federalist tendencies, I tend to appreciate and applaud the sentiment of those engaging in “tea parties,” especially on yesterday on “tax day.” However as a Christian, my political philosophy must come under the teachings of Scripture. Are the protests biblical?
Discussions of what the bible says about Christianity and government often come up, and one book I oft refer to is Pilgrim’s Uneasy Neighbors: Church and State in the New Testament. Pilgrim writes that there are actually at least three distinct New Testament doctrines governing the Christian approach to government, not just one simplistic “all or nothing” approach (i.e. theocracy or secularism); submissive confidence, deep resistance, and critical distancing.
In addition to these views, he also outlines the biblical responsibilities of civil government.