Christian Political Ethics

Christian Political Ethics

EDITED BY John A. Coleman
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 308
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  • Book Info
    Christian Political Ethics
    Book Description:

    Christian Political Ethicsbrings together leading Christian scholars of diverse theological and ethical perspectives--Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anabaptist--to address fundamental questions of state and civil society, international law and relations, the role of the nation, and issues of violence and its containment. Representing a unique fusion of faith-centered ethics and social science, the contributors bring into dialogue their own varying Christian understandings with a range of both secular ethical thought and other religious viewpoints from Judaism, Islam, and Confucianism. They explore divergent Christian views of state and society--and the limits of each. They grapple with the tensions that can arise within Christianity over questions of patriotism, civic duty, and loyalty to one's nation, and they examine Christian responses to pluralism and relativism, globalization, and war and peace. Revealing the striking pluralism inherent to Christianity itself, this pioneering volume recasts the meanings of Christian citizenship and civic responsibility, and raises compelling new questions about civil disobedience, global justice, and Christian justifications for waging war as well as spreading world peace. It brings Christian political ethics out of the churches and seminaries to engage with today's most vexing and complex social issues.

    The contributors are Michael Banner, Nigel Biggar, Joseph Boyle, Michael G. Cartwright, John A. Coleman, S.J., John Finnis, Theodore J. Koontz, David Little, Richard B. Miller, James W. Skillen, and Max L. Stackhouse.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2809-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    • 1 Christianity and Civil Society
      (pp. 3-21)

      In its contemporary usage the termcivil societytypically refers to the totality of structured associations, relationships, and forms of cooperation between persons that exist in the realm between the family and the state. Where such patterns of association, cooperation, and structured relationships are thought to be weak or inconsequential, as in the corporatist East of yesteryear (where individuals are said to have related chiefly to the State) or as in the capitalist and individualistic West (where personal relationships may arguably occur only within the family, and perhaps not even there), it has become commonplace to lament the nonexistence of...

    • 2 A Limited State and a Vibrant Society: CHRISTIANITY AND CIVIL SOCIETY
      (pp. 22-53)

      It would be foolhardy indeed, and risk a superficial mere ʺskimming view,ʺ to attempt, in the small compass of one essay, any comprehensive or encyclopedic overview on the topic of Christianityʹs position on the state and civil society. The competingStaatslehren(where there even is one!) of different Christian theological ʺfamilies,ʺ such as Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, Anabaptists, and the Orthodox, do not fully agree or even always converge on their doctrines of the state and society.¹ To avoid this trap of even trying to achieve a fully rounded summary of the varying positions, I will focus primarily on the tradition...

    • 3 Christianity, Civil Society, and the State: A PROTESTANT RESPONSE
      (pp. 54-64)

      I am delighted to have a chance to respond formally to John Coleman, for I have done so often in my mind and too seldom in person. He is one of the most important Christian thinkers in the area of social thought. Obviously a deeply committed Roman Catholic, he is also one who has taken some pains to study major strands of Protestant thought, just as many Protestants who are committed still to motifs from the Reformation have tried to sympathetically reengage the Roman Catholic tradition since Vatican II. However, I engage his chapter as one who is convinced that...


    • 4 Christian Attitudes toward Boundaries: METAPHYSICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL
      (pp. 67-91)

      Christians began to think systematically about the ethics of land, territory, and boundaries within a specific set of historical circumstances. European claims to dominion in the New World during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries generated a new range of questions in moral theology for Catholics and Protestants alike, theology developed most notably by Cajetan, Vitoria, Soto, Suarez, Molina, Las Casas, Gentili, and Grotius. Yet these authors did not generate normative principles for addressing questions of dominion and boundariesde novo; they drew on a tradition of categories, distinctions, and concrete practices that give substance to the Christian imagination regarding political...

      (pp. 92-110)

      Some of the more interesting things that Christianity has to say about territorial boundaries come by way of its views on the nation, national identity and loyalty, and nationalism. Historically, of course, Christianity—or, rather, Christians—have said different and sometimes quite contradictory things on these topics. Some have considered each nation to be specially ordained by the eternal God, while others have stressed the mutable historicality of national compositions and boundaries.¹ Some have virtually equated loyalty to the nation with loyalty to God, while others have regarded it as inimical to pacific, universalist Christian faith. As with any historically...


      (pp. 113-140)

      There are several conceptual ambiguities about the term ʺpluralismʺ that need to be clarified. According to the dictionary, it is both a descriptive term, ʺthe quality or state of being plural,ʺ and a theoretical or normative term, ʺthe doctrine that there are more than one or two kinds of being or independent centers of causationʺ; ʺopposed tomonism, or dualism.ʺ¹ Accordingly, the phrase ʺethical pluralismʺ might designate the simple existence of a diversity or plurality of ethical positions, or it might refer to a doctrine holding that ethics, as the systematic evaluation of human action, isin its natureincapable...

    • 7 Pluralism as a Matter of Principle
      (pp. 141-152)

      David Little builds his case for a ʺweak theoryʺ of ethical pluralism largely on the basis of what he calls ʺconscientious individualism.ʺ In response, I would like to argue that something broader and deeper than conscientious individualism is needed to account for both the diversity of ethical responsibilities that humans bear and the diverse, often incompatible ways they exercise those responsibilities. By enlarging and strengthening the normative basis, I believe it is possible to develop a strong, principled argument for pluralism, which is not the same as a defense of ethical relativism.

      By a weak theory of ethical pluralism Little...


    • 8 Christianity and the Prospects for a New Global Order
      (pp. 155-169)

      It is no accident that the issue of reconstituting international society appears before us today, at a moment when the economic, medical, cultural, and communication structures that play such a critical role in modern society are changing rapidly. Although civil society in the past largely coincided with the boundaries of the state, it is now being reconstructed internationally in ways that strain the capacity of any government to order, guide, or control. In fact, some observers foresee little but chaos since societies are no longer confined within a single legal system and no one seems to be in control.¹ Even...

    • 9 Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: MUTUAL CHALLENGES
      (pp. 170-188)

      I confess to some trepidation in addressing the topic: Globalization as a challenge to Catholic social thought. Why not its inverse: Catholic social thought as a challenge to globalization? As we will see, they represent a mutual challenge to each other. Moreover, the title of this essay made me mindful of solemn advice earlier imparted to me: never try to explain the obscure by the even more obscure! Catholic social thought, notoriously, has been dubbed ʺour best kept secret.ʺ¹ Some of its key ideals and concepts, such as subsidiarity, justice as participation, solidarity, the option for the poor, and, especially,...


    • 10 The Ethics of War and Peace in the Catholic Natural Law Tradition
      (pp. 191-216)

      Law, and a legalistic morality and politics, can define peace and war by their mutual opposition. Any two communities are either at peace or at war with one another. If they are at war, each is seeking a relationship to the other (ʺvictory over,ʺ ʺprevailing overʺ) which that other seeks precisely to frustrate or overcome. If they are at peace, each pursues its own concerns in a state of indifference to, noninterference in, or collaboration with the concerns of the other.

      But sound moral and political deliberation and reflection is not legalistic. Despite some tendencies towards legalism, the Catholic tradition...

    • 11 Just War Thinking in Catholic Natural Law
      (pp. 217-231)

      I am in substantial agreement with the analysis in John Finnisʹs chapter. Indeed, it is as good a short statement of just war theory within the Catholic natural law tradition as I know of. Given this, I think the most useful contributions I can make are to underline certain points that seem to me to be important, to develop some of the distinctions Finnis makes, and to draw out some of the implications of his analysis. I will also say something more than Finnis does about conscientious objection and the duty of citizens to support their nationʹs war efforts.


    • 12 Christian Nonviolence: AN INTERPRETATION
      (pp. 232-260)

      I have four aims in this chapter. The first is to describe briefly something of the range of views that may fit under the heading ʺChristian nonviolence.ʺ The second is to give an account of the context out of which it makes sense to be committed to a certain kind of Christian nonviolence (ʺpacifismʺ). The third is to note how, from this pacifist perspective, the questions posed to just war theorists and realists are not the central questions about peace and war, and how focusing on them in fact distorts our thinking. The fourth is to attempt, nevertheless, to deal...

    • 13 Conflicting Interpretations of Christian Pacifism
      (pp. 261-278)

      Though he discusses Christian nonviolence with scholarly care, Ted Koontz remains a passionately committed Christian. By insisting that the questions nonviolent Christians ask about the ethics of war and peace are different from the questions asked by those who approach the topic from other directions, he reminds us of the importance of religious convictions, or the absence of such convictions, in shaping how we understand war/peace ethics.¹ Moreover, his forthrightness in articulating the conceptions of truth and power that arise from the tradition of Christian pacifism, and especially from the practices of Christian worship, opens the way for a fuller...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 279-280)
  10. Index
    (pp. 281-289)