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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Church, State and Public Justice : a brief review

Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views
edited by P. C. Kemeny
IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2007
254 pp, pbk, ISBN 978-0-8308-2796-1

IVP have done a great service over the years in producing the x views series (where x has been three, four or five). This one deals with a faithful Christian response to Church and State and public justice. Here we have a Catholic, Separatist, Anabaptist, Social Justice and Principled Pluralist perspectives.

All the essay are well written and easy to follow. Each essay is followed by responses from the other authors.

The principled pluralist view is expounded by Corwin E. Schmidt. Schmidt provides an excellent overview. He places his view in a creation, fall and redemption framework. He sees the state as being creational (as does Henry Meeter) rather than as a result of the fall (as does Kuyper). He recognises that Calvin broke new ground he didn't develop a full theory of the state. This was developed more by Abraham Kuyper with his view of sphere sovereignty, a the notion of a free church within a free state. Principled pluralism develops on these ideas and maintains that pluralism is good and that the role of the state, though limited, should be to ensure that justice is done by each of the different aspects of society. The state should also be an agent of common grace.

He argues cogently that:

Principled pluralism recognizes and accepts the diversity evident in public life and the presence of different structures of authority operating within different spheres of life. It affirms the state as a social structure possessing legitimate authority within a particular domain of life, but as only one among various structures to which God has delegated authority. (p. 152)

Christians should not escape from the political domain, even though it is affected by the fall. Christians are called to 'act with political modesty, to demonstrate tolerance for those with whom they disagree, to cooperate with others to achieve the public good...' (p. 153)

What is most remarkable about this position is that most of the other commentators seem to agree with it. Ronald Sider (Anabaptist) seems more concerned that this position has been labelled Reformed: "I agree with most of Corwin Schmidt's lucid description of principled pluralism. Most of it flows from fundamental biblical teachig and careful historical analysis' (p. 163). Clarke Cochran (Catholic) writes: this view 'comes closest to the Catholic position I describe' (p. 154); and J. Philip Wogaman (Social Justice) seems more concerned with Schmidt's amillenialism.

One day everyone will come to their senses and accept that the principled pluralist view is biblical and the best perspective!

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