Monday, February 22, 2010

Politics for Christians - Table of Contents

My latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft, was released by InterVarsity Press last week. Below is the Table of Contents, followed by an overview of the book's contents from the introduction (notes omitted):
Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1 The Study of Politics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2 Liberal Democracy and the Christian Citizen . .
3 The Separation of Church and State . . . . . . . .
4 Secular Liberalism and the Neutral State . . . .
5 God, Natural Rights and the Natural Moral Law. . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Suggested Contemporary Readings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
About the Author. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The Scope of This Book

I first introduce the student to the study of politics (chapter 1). In this chapter I cover a number of areas of study that colleges and universities place in what are called departments of political science, politics or government. In chapter two I define and explain the meaning of the term liberal democracy and then address the question of how Christians should look at the study of politics and what insights they can bring to their communities.

In the next three chapters I address three issues over which Christians and non-Christians have wrestled (or ought to wrestle) and which are important questions in the study of politics. In chapter three I address the issue of the separation of church and state. Although those precise words are not found in the Constitution, as even defenders of church-state separation readily admit, some people argue that the principles of the Unite States Constitution in fact support the notion that church and state ought to be separate. That seems to me to be uncontroversial, and virtually no one defends uniting church and state. After all, the Constitution both asserts a right to religious free exercise and prohibits the government from establishing a religion. But why then is there such debate about this? It is because no one can agree on precisely what the separation of church and state means. Also in chapter 3 I defend a legal view that supports religious liberty while at the same time allows religious citizens the opportunity to make a public case for their views that does not give an unjust preference to secular points of view claimed by proponents to be “neutral.”

The focus of chapter four is the relationship of the ideas of liberal democracy to the political participation of the Christian citizen. For example, because many Christians (and many non-Christians as well) believe that communities, just like rainforests and natural habitats, have an ecology that can be harmed (what is sometimes called a “moral ecology”), they have attempted to pass, and in some cases have passed, laws that either forbid, limit, restrict, regulate or condemn certain conduct, e.g., the distribution of obscene materials. Is it right for citizens in a liberal democracy to do this, or do such laws infringe upon the liberty of other citizens who reject the morality on which these laws are based? On issues such as the funding of embryonic stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, abortion, physician-assisted suicide and human cloning, one often hears the claim that attempts to restrict such conduct, especially if the restriction is borne of a religious worldview, is an inappropriate attempt on the part of some citizens to force their morality on others and, thus, is inconsistent with the idea of liberal democracy. This is because those who hold this view believe that the liberal democratic state should remain neutral on matters over which reasonable citizens disagree. In chapter 4 I argue that this view is mistaken because the state cannot in fact remain neutral on matters of worldview.

I address in chapter five the question of whether liberal democracy requires a theistic worldview in order to account for the intrinsic dignity and natural rights of human beings that liberal democracy seems to require. It is well known that America’s Declaration of Independence asserts that our rights are inalienable and “self-evident” and “endowed” to us by our “Creator.” But is God really necessary for grounding natural rights and the natural moral law that supports them? Some philosophers and political and legal theorists argue that Darwinian evolution can account just as well for natural moral law and natural rights, and thus there is no need to require God's existence. I critique this view and conclude that the existence of natural rights is based on a natural moral law that is best accounted for by the existence of a God who is the source of the natural moral law.

This book is not meant to be a scholarly monograph that defends as correct a particular understanding of liberal democracy and its relationship to Christianity. Rather, my purpose is to introduce the college student to politics by way of a few issues and questions that should be of concern to contemporary Christian citizens in liberal democracies. To be sure, I suggest ways of understanding these issues and questions that I believe are consistent both with liberal democracy and the truth of the Christian message. I know that a few of my colleagues will disagree with some, if not all, of my suggestions. Having said that, I believe that this text is a reasonable way to introduce students to the study of politics and serves as a modest word in the continued conversation among Christian and non-Christian scholars on the proper role of religious citizens and their beliefs in a liberal democracy.

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