Of theology and politics

Ephraim Radner - Is Christ Relevant to Politics - Photo by Arturo Castaneyra on Unsplash

By

May 29, 2018

Sound theology isn't just important for pastors, priests and professors. "It's important for every Christian's every concern - including political ones," according to this article in Faith Today magazine.

With a provincial election looming in Ontario, it is timely to revisit this interview with Wycliffe Professor of Historical Theology, Ephraim Radner, excerpted below. 

How can theology inform our political thinking and engagement?

As Christians we are called, wherever we are – whether the public or private sphere – to be informed and to live according to what we know to be God’s purposes for human creation. Theology helps us understand – through its articulation of what Scripture tells us and how it applies to our lives – what God’s purposes are for us as human beings. That’s fundamental. Theology can inform anything we do.

How do we decide which goals and values should shape our political decisions?

We live in a society in which [Christians] are a minority. The question is, What kind of a society is going to allow us to hold our values, privately and publicly, with the least amount of pushback? Are Christians going to be permitted to order their lives according to their faith? Who is going to let us do that?

The primary power Christians have in the political sphere is that of witness. The way we live and order our lives witnesses to the transcendent God revealed in Jesus Christ. Our ability to do this will make a difference in the larger public sphere, so our capacity to witness is important.

The early Church changed the political order of the world that way. How Christians treated one another, the whole reorganizing of life together among rich and poor, widows, slaves – these were social realities, driven by deep gospel commitments and understandings, and people noticed it. That’s where conversion came. So our freedom is for the sake of our witness, not for the sake of our safety. Christians should have no interest in their safety.

One of the key political acts of the Christian should be aimed at the integrity of the Church’s life, not at the larger society. We really should be concerned about whether the Church itself has a coherent life, so that over time and across geography there is such a thing as a Christian point of view. We obviously can’t have any effect on larger society if we ourselves as Christians can’t agree with one another, teach one another, are not consistent in our actions, and so on. To me, that is the greatest political challenge of Christians today – an integrated, healthy, unified Christian Church. We don’t have that, so it’s not surprising that we have little purchase in larger society.

***

For the complete feature story, see this article in Faith Today magazine.