Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Biblical Framework for...Politics?

Note: This is a cross post from my blog for men. I recommend this book for teachers because it's practical, speaks to many issues your students are struggling with, and will help you think more systematically about how to apply the Bible to contemporary and complex issues. -- Glenn

I've been working on a biblical framework for Christian views of government and political action on and off, for several months. This is the approach I use to systematically apply the principles and practices from the Bible to complex situations. (I wrote an ebook on how to create biblical frameworks if you're interested -- it's an important skill, especially for leaders and teachers.)

And then I heard that Wayne Grudem, a serious scholar whose work I've respected, especially his Systematic Theology, had a new book on this topic.

Wayne Grudem's Politics According to the Bible is subtitled "A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture." That's a huge claim, and after reading through this thick book (691 pages, including an excellent index), I think Grudem delivers on his promise.

I recommend this book to you. My thoughts on its strengths and and a few concerns, too:

The first three chapters in themselves are worth the price of the book (including the time to read it!). Grudem carefully describes "Five wrong views about Christians and government," "A better solution: significant Christian influence on government," and "Biblical principles concerning government." Like other books he's written, the arguments are cogent, firm but gentle-spirited, and begin with Scripture.

He fearlessly tackles specific issues, with contemporary events (this book was finished in Feb 2010): abortion, marriage, family, economics, environment, national defense, foreign policy, freedom of speech and religion. No fluff here. The subject index is excellent, by the way, and you're likely to use it. In some ways this book reminds me of Richard Baxter's A Christian Directory, a monumental effort to help families apply Scripture to every day situations large and small.

The writing style encourages you to think along and process information carefully. It's writing that fosters reflection, rather than being consistently preaching. (Don't misunderstand me, Grudem makes direct statements. He's not wishy-washy at all. But he writes in a way that won't shut off dialogue in your head, even if you're not completely agreeing with some part of his argument.)

The biblical principles are applied across many areas of political concern. Grudem pulls in multiple principles as a means of threading through complex situations. I didn't find an example where Grudem was inconsistent in how principles were applied.

Now, some concerns.

Many (probably most) of my Democrat or liberal-leaning friends are going to be infuriated if they read this book. With few exceptions, Grudem comes down towards conservative and libertarian perspectives. I suspect that my friends who are concerned about the environment will be disappointed in Grudem's heavy reliance on some work by Bjorn Lomborg, a respected but not universally-heralded scientist and statistician.

I hope that Grudem's approach (first, identify the biblical principles that apply, then apply them using logic and data) will keep these friends engaged. But if you consider the people who have written positive reviews, they're not the folks most respected by the political left. Still, I recommend the book for it's value and opportunity to promote careful thinking and dialogue.

The other concern that I have is for my conservative and libertarian brothers and sisters. It's a waste if they say, "See, the great Wayne Grudem has 'proven' our ideas are biblical," and don't understand his thought process working forward from Scripture. Grudem challenges a number of bad ideas about Christianity and the political right.

Am I going to finish my biblical framework? Probably not, though I won't throw out my notes. Politics According to the Bible does it better than I could have.

Note: The Amazon links above are not an affiliate link, I'm not going to earn a commission if you purchase the book.

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