Public faith

This week the ‘public theology’ think tank Theos produced a report on the role of Christianity in politics Neither Private nor Privileged: The Role of Christianity in Britain Today (PDF file). It argues Christians face:

…the challenge of navigating between theocracy on the one hand and a privatized faith in a secular society on the other is very real…

It advocates that:

…the specific actions the church should take depend on the nature of the state – that the closer its moral orientation is to the gospel, the greater the capacity for cooperation. The church therefore has the obligation to closely examine the moral orientation of the state, how its policies and actions contribute to the public good, not religious belief; and measure them against the church’s conception of the public good that underlies its public witness.

  • Brian Crowe

    Fair Deal thanks for drawing attention to the Theos report. Following Iris Robinson’s remarks, it is a timely statement of how Christians should engage with the public square – Mrs. Robinson’s remarks being a textbook example of how this should not be done.

    The language of ‘public good’ or ‘common good’ – rather than Iris’ theocratic overtones – has long been invoked by the Christian tradition (sources as diverse as Thomas Aquinas, Richard Hooker and the Westminster Confession) as a way of understanding the state’s responsibilities.

    In a pluralist society we will debate exactly what the common good is – but it should be clear that the careful reflection evident in the mainstream Christian tradition is not represented by Iris Robinson’s unfortunate forays into the realm of public theology.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Brian Crowe

    As far as I can see your criticisms address style but have nothing to say about substance.

  • Brian Crowe

    WerthersDerivative – no, not the case. I have previously posted on Slugger and elsewhere on this. Iris Robinson’s comments on ‘the law of God’ and the State are wrong not merely in terms of presentation, but in terms of content.

    The classical Christian tradition has stated that ‘natural law’ is discoverable by all through reason, and that the role of the state is to promote the ‘common good’. In contrast, Iris Robinson talked about government ‘representing the morals of the Scriptures’.

    I earlier pointed to Thomas Aquinas explicitly denying that the role of the State is to impose Christian morality on society:

    “human laws do not forbid all vices … but only the more grievous vices … and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like”.