The City Summer 2011

Page 40

S U M M E R 2011

CHRIST & CULTURE ]engaging0the0world} Paul D. Miller


hristians are called neither to theocracy nor quietism. The Bible gives very little to those who want to read from it a fully articulated constitution and public policy agenda, and even less to those who try to wash their hands of all responsibility for the fate of the Almighty’s creation. It is not our vocation to run the world, nor our luxury to sit and watch it burn. Not that Christians haven’t argued both positions. Theocracy is a perennial temptation to the church. Rousas Rushdoony’s argument in favor of “theonomy” in The Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) and Greg Bahnsen’s in Theonomy and Christian Ethics (1977), influential among the American Christian Right, echoes a heresy with a distinguished lineage, one that ensnared Medieval Popes and Massachusetts Puri‐ tans alike. Because God is the rightful Sovereign, they argue, this present creation must be put into actual subjection to him and his law. Yet Christ said “My Kingdom is not of this world,” and clearly distinguished between two authorities when he commanded his dis‐ ciples to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.” Withdrawal is also a temptation. John Howard Yoder argued in The Politics of Jesus (1972) against any kind of “realistic” compromise with the world. In his view, Jesus is a “model of radical political action,” where “radical” means “pacifist” and, general non‐conformity to the polities of this world. Stanley Hauerwas made a similar argument in The Peaceable Kingdom (1983) and Against the Nations (1985), among other works, and Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw recently updated the argument in Jesus for President (2008). The general stance shares inspiration with the likes of St. Benedict and Menno Simms. But nei‐ 39