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February 26, 2007

Comments

Brad Anderson

MS, I agree with you on all counts. I appreciate your earlier comments as well.

Theodore H Voth Jr

In a word, for now, I just don't want anyone, brothers on the right or friends on the left, reestablishing (their own particular version of) the Church.

Love in Christ

TV2

Brad Anderson

TV2, has this not essentially happened already? Do we not need to recover what it truly means to be ecclesia?

chuck

We might have to start open threads for different the different questions. It is getting hard to deal with the variety:>) So, ....
Brad, the first difficulty that arises in this conversation is the level of abstraction. What I mean is that you tend to use the language of deconstructing and reconstructing on a different basis where I tend to talk about reformation or transformation. If we get past those phrases and got into exactly what we think needs to be changed, we might agree more or less, but at least we'd be clearer on what we agree or disagree on:>) I am entirely okay, in fact, favor, a more serious engagement with "democracy," especially "liberal democracy" in the Lockean form:>) And, yes, we disagree on the OT read on those passages. Mary helped me to see it as I do now. I take Deut. 17 as explicit affirmation from God that the people may have a monarchy, but that it needs to take on a particular form. I think the error was not in monarchy, but in having it conform to the standards inconsistent with God's intentions. In essence, they want to be like the other nations, not like God instructs in D. 17. On the rest of that first point, I do not see a necessary connection between democracy or a republic and seeing the state as an alternative soteriology, to use Cavanaugh's term.
I think three gets into the issue of getting clearer on what we mean by transformation, etc. I don't, for example, see a necessary connection between a democratic form and "self-absolutization."
I am not sure where to go on the next one:>)

chuck

Brad, on the next one. When I speak of critique from outside, I do not define "outside" as being non-participatory. In fact, to object from the outside is precisely a form of participation. I was thinking of "from the outside" meaning trying to change the system without feeling that I have to "take the reigns of power." On the point three I was making, the issue is the extent to which non-participation in the voting process or in outside critique, calling for just laws, precisely empowers those who abuse the system. This is why I completely reject, for example, George Will's understanding of the relationship between faith and politics.

chuck

Brad, on the next. No, I don't accept the attempt to equate the voter with Caesar:>) If voters were only capable of "self-interest," one might make, at least, some kind of argument. However, my fundamental argument about participation in life in general and politics as well is that God calls us to be 'other centered."

chuck

MS, thanks for those comments. I don't see participation, in the sense I've argued for, as necessarily involving us in compromise, any more than just participating in life in general:>) I also don't think churches have to make that compromise, though I certainly grant that far too many do.

chuck

TV 2, good thought, could you expand on it a bit? I'm not as clear as I'd like to be.

dlw

Chuck,
I read your post with interest and compared your language with that statement of faith I wrote along the way and found some interesting diffs.

Brad,
Expanding the degree of popular democratic participation is not an idolization of the state, but an application of the principle of subsidiarity that better enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The state has a subsidiary role to play in the advancement of the kingship of God and thereby changing both the institutions/ rules of how decision-making is made and people's habits/ disciplines for their inevitable (non) participation in such decision-making matters in that regard.

It is true that the Enlightenment did make a fetish out of capturing the State, but one can differentiate between altering the manner in which the sword of the state is wielded to better constrain human sinfulness from getting our people into power and keeping them in power.

Like I said before, I think a strong biblical case can be made for the subsidiary role of the state and thereby a tentative Christian commitment to participation in its proper administration and ongoing reform. I fear my impression of Hauerwasians are that they are somewhat like the Judaizers. I find them somewhat legalistic in their insistence that the proper role of the church is radically distinct from other "secular" groups. I think that just as Judaism historically impacted Hellenistic culture, that the non-Christian liberal political activists have also been impacted by Christianity. In my reading, when early Christians confessed Jesus as Lord, they denied that Caesar was lord and thereby implied the desacralization of the State. This desacralization of the State under girds much of modern political theory and the social sciences or "liberalism". It, like pressing for greater "democracy", is not inconsistent with Christianity, though it may subvert the importance of conversion.

dlw

dlw

MS,
I think the prohibition against compromise for Christians has to do with our refusal to compromise on what was passed on to us as doctrines by the apostles.

I see "political compromise" as part of our participation in public decision-making, preferably apart(but not necessarily completely exclusive) from our self-interests.

I hope you can understand my sentences as they seem to be a bit more complicated than Chuck's. I'm not appealing to the concept of society nor a God-given, somewhat deterministic-oriented notions of God's purposes for the state that we Christians need to help put into place. I'm arguing that we Christians engage in making fallible means-ends calculations in how the state might better use the sinful means of the threat or use of violence to constrain human sinfulness. I believe that careful deliberation in this regard will help us, rather than hinder or detract from, our proper goal of overcoming evil with good without hypocripsy(Romans 12).

dlw

chuck

Welcome, dlw. I'm sorry I haven't gotten to your statement, yet. I've saved it for review, the last few weeks and through next is pretty heavily loaded:>)

dlw

Well, don't let reading it get in the way of writing a whole lot at your blog and responding at length to every person who comments therein. ;-)

dlw

Brad Anderson

dlw, thanks for your dialogue. I'm not a fan of the theory of subsidiarity, so I'm afraid you'd have considerably more convincing to do on that point.

The Enlightenment didn't just make a fetish out of the state; rather, along with the emergence of the Enlightenment, a new type of state was born. This was one that sought to dissolve competing claims to loyalty on the part of the people (more local claims like guilds, etc.) and reformulate things such that society consisted of atonomous individuals in direct relationship with the modern state. This was a very different thing than the Middle Ages. Check out Cavanaugh's "A Fire Strong Enough to Consume the House."

I think the distinctive role of the church is clear in Scripture, especially within a canonical reading thereof (1 Pet 2, Exod 19). While we may disagree on the nature of that role, its uniqueness is unmistakable. In fact, this view extends well beyond Hauerwasians. I'm really not sure how one could come to a different conclusion. Can you elaborate on your objection?

I agree with you in part regarding your reading of the early church versus Caesar (though I don't know if I'd put it in the same terms); however, I disagree strongly with your notion that modern political theory continues such desacralization. Rather, it resacralizes it in a different form, one that in many aspects is antithetical to the Kingdom.

Brad Anderson

Chuck, the connection between liberal democracy and state soteriology is exactly Cavanaugh's point.

Brad Anderson

Chuck, my point about the people (not just "voters" in that particular capacity) being Caesar was just to probe, especially regarding who is ultimately responsible. Neverheless, I've become convinced that, in the words of a mentor of mine, "Americans are a ruled people."

dwl,
I forgot to mention in my previous response to you that, in fact, I did not say expanding participatory democracy was idolizing the state. I was exploring a secondary point with Chuck wherein I was suggesting that to the degree the "people" in a democracy are Caesar, idolizing the state becomes idolizing oneself, which is blasphemy.

Brad Anderson

dlw, sorry I transposed your initials! :-)

chuck

Brad, my point is that I don't believe the connection is necessary.
On your next point, I am not clear on your point. It is offered, seemingly, in distinction to something I said, but I'm not sure what:>)
By the way, any ideas about how to divide this up to continue the conversation? I could do open threads on three or four points....

chuck

dlw, odd as it might sound, these responses don't take nearly as long as a good, thoughtful read of something written by another:>)
But, I will get to it. I am doing some lectures at Asbury College next week. The topic is: "The Iraq War: A Pacifist Inquiry." It is very similar to what I did at the seminary, and I think I provided a link.

chuck

dlw, one more point. If you'd like to offer a guest piece, perhaps a few of us could develop this conversation to the next level by different ones of us taking on different points...

dlw

Chuck, what do you mean by a guest piece?

here? or where?

dlw

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