Missional Thinkers Weigh in on Politics and the Bible

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Earlier this year, Tim Suttle conducted a survey of pastors and theologians by asking them all the same question, “What is the chief political concern of the Bible?” He posted their responses in an article on Huffington Post and on his Paperback Theology blog here at Patheos.

Here are just some of the highlights from that compilation:

N.T. Wright, New Testament Scholar at University of St. Andrews: “The chief political concern of the Scriptures is for God’s wise and loving ordering of his world to be operative through humans who will share his priorities, especially his concern for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. This concern was embodied by Jesus in his inauguration of ‘God’s kingdom’ through his public career and especially his self-giving death, which together set the pattern for a radically redefined notion of power.”

John Milbank, Theologian specializing in Politics and ethics at the University of Nottingham: “It is identical with the main concern of the Scriptures as such: the restoration of the glory of God through the repair and fulfillment, and so harmonization of the cosmos, including, centrally, the human order.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Theologian and ethicist at Duke Divinity School: “The chief political concern of the Bible is to worship God truly.”

Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Scholar, Columbia Theological Seminary: “I believe that the central political question is the management of public power in order that there should be an economically viable life for all members of the community. Thus justice is front and center and some texts, especially in Deuteronomy, are for the distribution of wealth in order that all may be viable. Obviously such justice is marked by mercy, compassion and generosity. The purpose is to create a genuine neighborhood for all the neighbors.”

James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy and Congregational ministry, Calvin College:Shalom – the well-ordered flourishing that God desires for all of creation, and that brings God glory.”

Ellen T. Charry, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary: “I am persuaded that the chief political concern of the Older Testament is the cultivation of healthy societies, that is communities that adhere to divine guidance. The chief political concern of the Younger Testament is the revisioning of community in order better to meet the goal of stated above.”

Miroslav Volf, Systematic Theology, Yale Divinity School: “The vision of the city of God is the goal. We work for it not by forcing it down from heaven to earth, but by treading in the footsteps of the crucified and resurrected Christ.”

Brian McLaren, Author and theologian: “God’s solidarity with the poor, oppressed, outcast and forgotten.”

Sarah Coakley, Professor of Divinity, Cambridge University: “The reign of God is of much more consistent concern than justice (pace Wolterstorff). This is of course construing ‘political’ broadly.”

Read the rest on Tim’s blog and post your thoughts on these responses in the comments below!

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

  • Frank

    So based on these responses its antithetical to Christianity to support abortion so its not possible to vote Democratic.

    • http://www.missionalshift.com Steve Knight

      Well, that’s an interesting take on these responses, Frank. Care to unpack that a little more? “Support abortion” is a phrase most Democrats would probably take issue with, I’m guessing. (I’m a registered independent.)

      • Frank

        Sure. I cannot think of a more marginalized, oppressed, forgotten group than the >6000 unborn children aborted weekly, 97% due to reasons of convenience. I cannot imagine that it is compassionate or just to allow this to happen. So anyone concerned about justice and compassion or concerned about the marginalized and forgotten must start with the most innocent otherwise it is disingenuous. Think about about… These unborn children did not choose to be created, did not make any choices at all and are completely at the mercy of one person.

        And then we have the Democratic platform that supports abortion on demand with no restrictions and call it reproductive rights because naming what it really is would never fly.

        • David

          Let’s not forget the glorious hypocrites that wring their hands about abortion while opposing contraception. Those hypocrites deserve a special room in hell. Yes, the disingenuous are easy to find.

          • Frank

            Oh please. Talk about hypocrisy and partisanship.

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