Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

Ministering In A Pluralistic Society

Jonathan Thorne/Creative CommonsFor just a moment, put aside the gnawing question of whether or not America was founded as a “Christian nation.”  While an important discussion, it often bears little significance for how we are to minister in our current setting.  With each passing year we become more and more of a pluralistic society, one in which many faiths and worldviews are represented.  This reality severely limits the possibilities for Christian engagement in the public square.  On one hand we are presented with the secularist mindset, in which all people of faith are encouraged to “check their religion at the door” when entering the public debate.  The opposing extreme is the theocratic tendencies of some Christians to insist that the religious heritage of our nation entitles us to a position of preference.  A more balanced and realistic approach will recognize that we cannot ask anyone to disregard their worldview when debating issues of importance, and, at the same time, we cannot ask a nation that is clearly not Christian to behave as if they were.

Miroslav Volf, a professor at the Yale Divinity School and a prolific author, addresses precisely this concern in a recent work, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good.  In the September issue of Christianity Today Hunter Baker reviewed Volf’s work and concluded with the following thought:

“Volf bluntly states his own goal of making Christians comfortable with being one of many players in pluralistic societies.  He means only that they should resist dominating the other players, not that they should embrace some brand of theological relativism.  Liberal accommodation achieves nothing but surrender to the spirit of the age.  Retreat represents a refusal to serve the kingdom.  Ours is not a docile faith, content to remain sequestered within the private bedrooms of modern societies, but rather a faith that ventures boldly into the shared spaces.  There, it enjoys—and hopefully exhibits—a spirit of hospitality.  But it never forgets who built the home, and will soon renovate it to perfection.”

This idea perfectly encapsulates the method for how Christians are to be involved in our public square.  We cannot force non-Christians to behave as Christians, but neither can we neglect our duty to represent the Kingdom of God in our democratic society.  This should not make us feel defeated, as if we have lost the battle for the soul of our nation.  Rather, we should rest secure in the knowledge that Christ has already won the final victory over sin and evil.  Our task is simply to live the reality of Christ’s victory on the Cross in such a way that others are drawn to serve Him as we do.  Our political engagement can be evangelistic, especially in a pluralistic society, when we recognize this fact.  We should humbly love and engage our culture, eagerly anticipating the return of its true King.

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