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Frank’s  argument that “Government is reformed when men are first reformed” is persuasive, and I doubt that anyone could seriously disagree with it.  I was all prepared to raise the issue of Acts 16 and Paul’s strategic use of his Roman citizenship, but Dr. Beckwith got there first.

So instead, I’ll raise another passage that I take to be Pauline in nature:  1 Timothy 2:1-3, where Paul writes: 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

I have frequently wondered whether Paul has some  sort of causal relationship in mind between the ‘peaceful and quiet life’ and the fact that God desires all men to be saved (leaving aside for the moment the usual theological questions that are typically raised of this verse).  It seems at first blush that there is some organic connection between the stability of the political order and the Gospel’s going forth.  For all the injustices of the Romans, they also built roads like the world had never seen before.  

If Paul’s vision is not political, then, it seems it exists within the context of the political and—we might go so far as to say—the political order ought be shaped in response to it.  That is, I think, one of the central arguments of Oliver O’Donovan’s brilliant Desire of the Nations.  While not a defense of Christendom per se, he argues that the political order is “intimately bound up in Christian mission”—that the Gospel destabilizes and temporalizes political power, thus demanding the obedience of rulers and the exercise of political authority on grounds besides power.  Writes O’Donovan:
The rulers of this world have bowed before Christ’s throne.  The core-idea of Christendom is therefore intimately bound up with the church’s mission.  But the relationship between mission and Christian political order should not be misconstrued.  It is not, as is often suggested, that Christian political order is a project of the church’s mission, either as an end in itself or as a means to the further missionary end.  The church’s one project is to witness to the Kingdom of God.  Christendom is response to mission, and as such a sign that God has blessed it.  It is constituted not by the church’s seizing alien power, but by alien power’s becoming attentive to the church.

I might go one step further than O’Donovan, though, and say that the alien’s power attentiveness to the Church is additionally conducive to the Gospel’s spreading.  At least that’s how 1 Timothy reads to me.

More on: Politics

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