MY UNDERSTANDING OF THE ISSUE
Let me start off with my own experience as an architect nearly sixty years ago. During my studies, which included a course on sociology, I came across a definition I found insightful and helpful. The definition concerned democracy. It stated, ‘Democracy involves the balance of individual freedom and corporate responsibility’ (which is often described as the common good).
I realized that as an architect I could design a house for a client but where it was built and how it was built was governed by zoning laws, building codes and all sorts of regulations. In other words, you just couldn’t build anything you wanted, anywhere you wanted, anyway you wanted. It was all balanced out by the needs of the ‘common good’ regulated by various government agencies. Individual freedom was balanced out by corporate responsibility.
Now people, politicians and the public tend to move to one side or the other emphasizing either ‘individual freedom’ or ‘the common good.’
Let’s take some examples –
On one side you have people, including the NRA, who emphasize freedom based on the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. On the other side you have people shocked by what happened at places like Sandy Hook Elementary School arguing that in the interest of the ‘common good’ there should be a limits, such as a ban on automatic weapons. Here the political right tends to be for individual freedom. The political left for the common good.
But this is not always a right – left issue. Take another example.
The proponents of gay marriage have framed this as a civil rights issue and that individual homosexual couples should be free to marry. Opponents would point out, amongst other arguments, that it is for the common good of society to support the historical family unit, because it supports the traditional institution of marriage, involving a father and a mother. Once again the battle is between individual civil rights and the common good of society.
In other words it is not always a right versus a left issue because people and politicians tend to swing from one side to the other depending upon how it effects them personally or the people who support them politically. It is often more emotional than logical. For example you have left wing politicians supporting abortion, yet claiming they personally don’t.
Go through the political issues and you see this tension running through them all. People will argue for the legalizing of marijuana as individual freedom. Similarly some would argue for legalizing prostitution. And you could go on.
Now is there an answer for this? At least for the Christian there is an answer based on principle not just pragmatism alone? Let me suggest where the battle takes place and how a Christian should respond.
REASON VS REVELATION
In a totally secular society, reason alone tends to dominate the discussion of these issues. You only have to read the editorials and opinion pieces in the newspaper and online, as well as letters to the editors, together with programs on cable TV and radio, to see how reason has become the basis of making political decisions, often tainted by personal preference and political support.
But for the Christians who take the Bible seriously, as true and authoritative, then reason is subject to the revelation of the Word.
For example, the issues in favor of gay marriage can be presented in an appealing manner emphasizing individual freedom. On the basis of the revelation and teaching of God’s word, one has to reject it as being contrary to God’s original plan for mankind. ‘In the beginning God created man and woman’ and marriage was God’s original strategy as a fundamental building block for society.
Now that will not satisfy a secular humanist but it is the starting point for biblically committed believers. The ultimate question is not individual freedom alone or even the common good but what the Bible says. The tragedy is that even some preachers today, even so called evangelical preachers, have forsaken biblical teaching for what they consider a more relevant message for today’s culture.
Now I will be the first to declare that some of the issues are very clear cut, such as marriage, abortion, etc and others are open to genuine disagreement but at least as bible believers, lets start with the revelation and teaching of scripture and not just reasoning alone. We will need to present our convictions in ways that secular society can grasp, but let us start with the truth of God’s word.
There will always be specific issues that sincere bible believing Christians differ on (After all that is also seen doctrinally concerning issues like church government, baptism, eschatology, etc) but lets seek to bring the revealed truth of God’s word to bear on the critical issues facing society today.
I would be interested to received your response to this article as I for one seek to relate to the issues of today’s world in a way that is in line with God’s word.