Helping People to Meet God • Make Friends • Grow in Faith

To change the world

Last year I wrote about the church and politics. I had quite some feedback, so I decided to read a book on the topic. It is called “To change the World” by James Davison Hunter. The book includes a lot of background analysis. In the modern period it looks mainly at the interaction between Christians and politics in the USA. In that country the author sees three main approaches by Christians to the secular world:

1. DEFENSIVE AGAINST: this approach seeks to “hold the ground against apostasy” and even win back the larger culture to a situation where Christianity would regain its place of privilege. This is done in two ways: to evangelize unbelievers, calling for the nation to repent and come back to the faith; second to launch a direct and frontal attack against the enemies of the Christian faith and worldview.

2. RELEVANCE TO: this approach seeks to speak into contemporary culture; to be as relevant as possible to the people and issues of our time. It seeks to “rebrand Christianity”, so that it is no longer seen as irrelevant or even antithetical to modern culture.

3. PURITY FROM: this approach calls the church to extricate itself from the contaminating forces of the world and by so doing to return to its authentic witness.

The author sees some truth in all approaches, particularly the clarification by the PURITY FROM approach that Christians have too readily aligned God with national interests, state violence and exploitative practices. He nevertheless proposes an alternative: FAITHFUL PRESENCE WITHIN the world. This would recognize that the church is always in tension with the world, yet inextricably part of it. This does mean that Christians seek “the welfare of the city”, but are not taken in by the claims of the state, the market or other powerful forces seeking our allegiance. It means offering love and hope to the world.

Coming from the USA, the author also advocates for a reduction of Christian involvement in politics so that the Church can rebuild a more graceful approach. I’m not sure whether this applies here, but it certainly is food for thought.