A Call for Political Philosophy

October 03, 2009
Posted by Administrator

There is no question that we live in politically volitile times. Not only is their political unrest in many places around the globe such as Iran and Korea; not only are we fighting terrorists and Islamic extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, but right here in the good ole USA the political polarization couldn’t be greater. With the economic problems and the election of Barack Obama as president, the political rhetoric has heated up more than I can ever remember it. And the debates over States’ rights, the conservative tea parties, Obama’s healthcare plan, various economic bailouts, immigration policy, the possibility of a looming war with Iran, not to mention the on-going “culture war” over moral issues like abortion and same sex marriage, I get the sense that our nation may be headed for political and social turmoil on a scale we haven’t seen since the Civil War. I hope I’m wrong about that but I won’t be surprised if I’m right.

In light of this, I believe that Christians, especially evangelical Christians, are in serious need of guidance through the political turmoil that we are already facing, not to mention the more severe upheavals that we may face in the near future. The guidance I have in mind is a guidance that evangelical philosophers can provide, namely, a well-thought, biblically grounded political philosophy. Most Christians simply do not have any significant training and education in the purpose and function of civil government and its application to the issues of the day such as nationalized healthcare, distributive justice, foreign intervention, war, etc. They simply fly by the seat of their pants and follow the folk political theory they are brought up with whether that be liberal or conservative.

At the risk of exposing my own ignorance, it seems to me that evangelical philosphers (even Christian philosophers in general) haven’t done a lot of serious work in political philosophy recently. We have (no doubt rightly) focused our attention on matters more obviously apologetic such as natural theology, philosophical theology, and historical evidences for the faith. But just as we have made significant forays into ethics in order to help Christians find Christian positions and provide cultural salt and light on matters like abortion, homosexuality, and cloning, it is time perhaps to venture into political philosophy to help Christians (and our society generally) know how to form a just and responsible state.

I would very much like feedback from readers of this blog as to whether or not my sense for this need is correct and, if it is, how we might proceed in fulfilling it. (For what it’s worth, Jim Spiegel and I, in our recent book The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy, included a chapter on political philosophy that we hope can have a positive influence in this regard among undergraduates–and others!)