Summary of Chapter 2: LIBERAL DEMOCRACY AND THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (Pgs.59-89)


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Beckwith begins the chapter by explaining that Liberal Democracy (LD) has been absent from most of history and thus our Christian heritage.  Yet, Christians have largely embraced (LD) because it accentuates the liberty to worship, holds governments accountable, empowers people to form the mores of society, and because it seems consistent with the Christian worldview concerning its views of  persons and natural rights which are grounded on natural law (NL).

The term Liberal concerns the freedoms government is to guarantee and Democracy refers to the principle of self-governance and equality each citizen possess before the law.  Beckwith notes that self-governance deals with having a representative government which is ultimately accountable to the people.  Thus, for (LD) to work well a nation must be under the rule of law and have a developed civil society.  These laws are to be equally applied to every citizen and under all of this must obtain 1st principles that are unassailable by government or the masses thus guaranteeing the proper use of power to move a nation.

Accordingly, the duty of government is to protect certain freedoms while simultaneously having limited power by the law and individuals they protect.  For this to work and society to flourish, individuals must be civil.  This is where the problem with a relativistic society comes in.  Such a society kills objective truth, the result is that might makes right and the mob mentality wins the day because no “1st principles” exist above the people.  Sadly, we’re there today.

Beckwith continues and explains that by separation of powers each branch of government has jurisdictional authority to perform their duties unique to themselves.  This often affords a compromise of views held between differing parties and ultimately reduces the occasion for despotism or tyranny to arise.  Historically the Parties in the USA have been the Democratic-Republican Party and the Federalist Party.  Today, it’s the Democrats and Republicans holding opposing views on many issues precious to Christians (e.g., the state of the unborn, gay rights, public education policies, religion/state relations, etc.)

The Christian citizen is the subject of two cities (e.g., one of earth and one of heaven).  As resident aliens, Beckwith accentuates the fact that justice and doing good to others is based on people being created in the image of God and both Church and State can work together to achieve such ends.  Yet, the Church must beware of backing government programs which would halt evangelism.  Doing justice is part of God’s rebuke of the nations in the Old Testament and the Good Samaritan as a swift reprimand to the Church in the New Testament (Pgs.68-69).

Inevitably, to love neighbor will require that God’s truth interrupt the cultural moral climate and when this obtains, true tolerance is carried out and thus true civility will obtain.  For this to happen, it’s critical for Christians to know the laws of the land in order to use them for the advancement of the common good as Paul often did in the book of Acts with his Roman citizenship.

Beckwith accentuates how Paul understood that all authority comes from God (Rom.13) but it’s also limited.  Significant also is to fight the split view of knowledge within Western Society that says Science gives us objective facts binding on everyone and religion provides only private subjective values binding only on the community holding said values.  For when people have this view of knowledge it prevents the Christian worldview from even being considered for making public policy.

Beckwith holds that supporting non-Christian candidates can be done and sometimes it should be done, the grounds of which is competence to rule rather than religious persuasion.  A major mistake to avoid is to think that only a “religious” view (whatever that means) is not neutral.  The fact is that neutrality is impossible specifically because everyone has a worldview from which they try to make sense out of reality.  Thus, worldviews play a vital role in deciding the desirability of a candidate.  Moreover, one can champion democracy and natural law and be informed by their theological position for the good.

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