Principles of Living Faith in Public Policy

God’s truth is not arbitrary: His revelation and His natural law have one and the same source. As Christians, we may – no, must – act on what we know to be the truth; meanwhile, to them that do not recognize revelation as a source of truth we must argue rationally on the lines of natural law, drawing upon the same nature of the one true God who created and ordered the cosmos. In short, truth is truth, by whatever means we know it. We are duty-bound to act by the truth, because there is no neutrality between truth and falsehood.

So how do we get from truth to decision? What we consider in decisions of public policy is not where God is and is not Lord: that point is settled, that God is Lord over all spheres of life. Rather what we must consider is what the temporal government’s authority is as instituted by God and constituted according to His order and how well a possible choice fulfils that charge, while we take care in making policy to ensure that government does not overstep the authority given by God.

Simple enough to formulate in the abstract as an autonomous principle, and thankfully so, because it’s much messier when implementation requires thought about many related principles.

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4 responses to “Principles of Living Faith in Public Policy

  1. Absolutely bro. The principles are easy: the implementations are where I find myself caught.

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  2. This one principle is easy, but the interaction of the other principles is complex, and applying this one principle requires us to look at those other principles as well and figure out how to apply all of them.

    Too often we think we’ve got those principles down and find that we’ve fallen short on understanding which principles come down on a situation and how: that is, we’ve fallen short way before the most “practical” stage of figuring out how to apply the principles that we know we must apply and whose interrelations we’ve already determined. If we’ve made a mistake in identifying what applies, it doesn’t matter how well we apply that flawed set of principles.

    This is why I think there’s something to the fact that in Ephesians 3.14–19 Paul prays for the Spirit to give us strength to understand love:

    For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    It must be because we cannot just do love, but we must learn it as well.

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  3. About Sen. Obama and his comments, or the video?

    I say the Bible is a complicated book, and picking and choosing what we think beforehand to be “practical” or what we find to be inspiring enough to trump our “realism” is not the way to think about it. I’m sure you know already about the division in the Old Testament of moral law, civil law and ceremonial law: the moral law impinges on all men’s hearts, the civil law on the acceptable limits of their deeds, the ceremonial law on the revelation of the Christ who fulfilled it.

    Where I think Sen. Obama is wrong is where he decides that this conflict has no solution other than saying that the Bible is either irrelevant or impinges upon policy – for the Christian, at least, who believes it is truth – in only the vaguest ways, such ways as “love”, “compassion”, “hope” and so on.

    In considering public policy, we would not mind the ceremonial law, especially we Christians who consider it to have fully accomplished what it was intended to: typological prefiguring of the Christ and articulation of how God’s covenant community is separate unto Him. The general moral law as it behooves all men to obey is important to think about, but it, too, is not the realm of public policy.

    The crux, then, is finding how civil law is meant to be administered and how it is to differ from that of the covenant community, which now refers to the church. Church is not state, nor is state church.

    So what is the God-given mission of the state, of all states that are not Israel, of all polities that are not the church – that is, civil authority? We read in Romans 13, we read in God’s condemnation in the prophets of what Gentile states did wrong, we read to see what things the Israelite polity did that are not given to the church to do: these at least are the things with which He charges the civil authority.

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