Each year our faculty and staff meet regularly for a time of integration reflection, study of Scripture, and discussion. This year as part of that time we are reading together Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft by Francis Beckwith. Here is part of the book description:
Politics is concerned with citizenship and the administration of justice–how communities are formed and governed. The role of Christians in the political process is hotly contested, but as citizens, Francis Beckwith argues, Christians have a rich heritage of sophisticated thought, as well as a genuine responsibility, to contribute to the shaping of public policy.
In particular, Beckwith addresses the contention that Christians, or indeed religious citizens of any faith, should set aside their beliefs before they enter the public square. What role should religious citizens take in a liberal democracy? What is the proper separation of church and state? What place should be made for natural rights and the moral law within a secular state?
I’m intrigued by where this might take us. People who know me know that I rarely comment on political issues. I’m not saying that is the best way to respond to the topic (to not speak to it), but I have found that the political reflections I’ve heard have often concerned me. I won’t get into that today, but I’m just putting that out there. It will be interesting to read and discuss the book.
We read the introduction this week (this is the preface to the series on integration – not just to this book), and the series editors discuss seven reasons why integration matters. I highlight a few points that either resonated with me or drew my attention.
- The Bible’s teachings are true. I liked this: “If we claim that our Christian views are true, we need to back that up by interacting with the various ideas that come from different academic disciplines. In short, we must integrate Christianity with our major or vocation” (p. 11).
- Our vocation and the holistic characteristic of discipleship demand integration. Nice: “Further, as disciples of Jesus we do not merely have a job. We have a vocation as a Christian teacher” (p. 11).
- Biblical teaching about the role of the mind in the Christian life and the value of extrabiblical knowledge requires integration. This is important in the field of psychology: “God has revealed himself and various truths on a number of topics outside the Bible. As Christians have known throughout our history, common sense, logic and mathematics, along with the arts, humanities, science and other areas of study, contain important truths relevant to life in general and to the development of a careful, life-related Christian worldview” (p. 13).
- Neglect of integration results in a costly division between secular and sacred. I liked this: “…faith is now understood as a blind act of the will…. By contrast, the Bible presents faith as a power or skill to act in accordance with the nature of the kingdom of God, a trust in what we have reason to believe is true. Understood this way, we see that faith is built on reason and knowledge” (p. 15).
- The nature of spiritual warfare necessitates integration. Intriguing: “Spiritual warfare is largely, though not entirely, a war of ideas, and we fight bad, false ideas with better ones. That means that truth, reason, argumentation and so forth, from both Scripture and general revelation, are central weapons in the fight. Since the centers of education are the centers for dealing with ideas, they become the main location for spiritual warfare. Solid, intelligent integration, then, is part of our mandate to engage in spiritual conflict” (p. 17).
- Spiritual formation calls for integration. “Among other things, integration is a spiritual activity…. integration has as its spiritual aim the intellectual goal of structuring the mind so we can see things as they really are and strengthening the belief structure that ought to inform the individual and corporate life of discipleship to Jesus” (p. 18).
- Integration is crucial to the current worldview struggle and the contemporary crisis of knowledge. Love this question: “Do the ideas of Christianity do any serious intellectual work in my field such that those who fail to take them into consideration simply will not be able to understand adequately the realities involved in my field” (p. 20)?