The Political Meaning of Christianity: Chapter One (1)

The Political Meaning of Christianity: Chapter One (1) February 25, 2024

The Political Meaning of Christianity: Chapter One (1)

Today I will comment on Chapter One, “The Exaltation of the Individual,” the first two parts: “Christian Love” and “The Exalted Individual.” Feel free to comment if you have read these pages (19-35); if you have not read them, feel free to ask a question.

Author Glenn Tinder begins with “The prophetic attitude that defines the Christian view of politics is incomprehensible apart from the Christian concept of love.” (19) Here he argues that Christian love is “agape” which he defines as totally selfless love, love that is not attracted by any value gained by loving. “Human love, then, should be patterned after divine love.” (20) According to him, a key doctrine of the Christian faith, grounded in the agape love of the Creator for humanity, is that “A human being is destined to live in eternity and is fully known only to God.” (25)

Tinder ends this portion of this chapter with an “arrow” of what is to come: “In its prophetic character, then, agape is…other-worldly. But it is also immediate and worldly. It requires observance here and now. It cannot be fully obeyed, partly because of our moral deficiencies and partly because of the constraints of worldly reality. But it cannot be ignored, and thus it has implications for politics and government.” (25)

Tinder’s book is written for Christians but non-Christians are, of course, welcome to read and consider its message.

I remember thinking as I read this book years ago that Tinder must be influenced by Reinhold Niebuhr. The pattern of thought between them is similar if not identical.

On to “The Exalted Individual.” Jumping over much of this section’s discussion of things like “destiny,” I come to the crux of it: “The Lord of all time and existence has taken a personal interest in every human being, an interest that is compassionate and unlearning. The Christian universe is peopled exclusively with royalty. What does that mean for society?” (32) What it means is this: “The principle of the exalted individual implies that governments must, as far as circumstances and imagination permit, be considerate, egalitarian, and universalist.” (33) For true Christianity, as opposed to distorted “Christianity,” then, every individual is noble. (34)

So what do I think? What do you think?

So far I have found nothing with which to disagree. Tinder has here spelled out, however briefly, the foundation of Christian ethics especially as that relates to “politics” meaning life together on this planet (not “partisan politics” as people usually think of politics in an election year!).

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure you have read the portions of the book under discussion here. If not, feel free to ask a question about Tinder’s view. Do not pontificate or preach! Keep you comment or question relatively brief (no more than 100 word), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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