Good news for the public square
Timothy Laurence (Ed.)
Lawyers Christian Fellowship
126 pages, £9.99, ISBN: 978-0-9506454-3-8
The draining away of Christian convictions from public life and the corresponding influx of atheism and relativism has created a new environment for Christians in the West.
For the first time in many generations, we are on the back foot on even previously unquestioned issues like marriage and sexuality. Our voice is not only unheard but unwanted in the ‘public square’. This situation has created the need to look again at our engagement in politics, no longer as the establishment but as the underdog.
Timothy Laurence has compiled this book from lectures by David McIlroy, Mike Ovey, Jonathan Chaplin and Wayne Grudem. It is written to encourage Christians to love God and our neighbours through a biblically shaped contribution to public life.
The aim is to provide, not detailed solutions to particular issues, but a framework within which Christians may engage in politics, ‘with practical love, shaped by the gospel, wisely deployed’ (p.xii).
The starting point is the identification of four elements of government: authority (what is its role?); truth (how shall we know what is true about society?); goodness (what is our vision for what is good?); and hope (what is our ultimate goal and how do we get there?).
Laurence sees these themes echoed in Christ’s words in John 14:6: ‘I am [authority] the way [hope], the truth, and the life [goodness]’. A chapter is devoted to each of these four ‘sides’ of the public ‘square’.
Within this fresh framework, familiar themes are discussed: creation and redemption; general and special revelation; the meaning of Romans 13:1-7; the place of the church and individual Christians or Christian organisations, respectively, in public life.
It is made clear that Christian political activity must not be equated or confused with gospel work, but rather flows from the gospel. Indeed, a diagram shows Christ as the centre and source of everything, including the love in Christian hearts.
‘This love is worked out through Christians to its ultimate goal in history. On its way it brings organic transformation’ (p.118).
Perhaps this is a bit optimistic. Transformation, as the book elsewhere acknowledges, needs more than our love; it needs the sovereign work of God’s Spirit in the lives of many. But the book is realistic about the ‘limited way’ (p.118) in which Christian action, inspired by love, will align public life with God’s rule.
This book should be read by all who are concerned to find a well-reasoned biblical case for Christian political engagement.