Gerson and Wehner, who served in the George W. Bush White House, offer City of Man as a beginner’s guide to sorting out religiously motivated involvement in public policy. They rightly reject the demand of some secularists to disqualify any religiously based input in a policy discussion. They point out to the secularist that his foundation for human rights and the dignity of man can not be sustained logically. My beef with the authors is that they put too much stock in natural law as universal foundation for sound public policy debates. If natural law is so clear, it seems like we should have much more agreement on its content.
For Christians who want to opt out of political involvement because it is somehow dirty or out of bounds for godly people or because they are embarrassed by Christians who have been wrong in the past, the authors rightly point out that the neat separation of spiritual from worldly affairs is illogical and unbiblical. Christians who are fully practicing their faith can not ignore involvement in this key component of Christian ethics that includes speaking into civil government and public policy.
Gerson and Wehner caution Christians against confusing ethical content in the scripture intended for individuals with the content intended for the state. Similarly they warn against confusing instruction for churches with instruction for individual believers. These problems have derailed Christians in the past. Christians also need to understand that any mention of ancient Israel in the Bible can not be blindly applied to any civil government today.
In addition to the message of public policy the authors address the method of public discourse. The recommended approach is Tim Keller’s: non-abrasive, culturally sophisticated, theologically conservative, in search of common ground where possible. Interacting respectfully with others will gain more influence than delivering a monologue of black and white statements.
City of Man invites Christians to be active in the public policy discussion but offers little guidance for the actual content of the discussion. I’m going to continue looking for a better book to introduce this critical topic.
What are your recommendations?