Room for Politics?

Jason Ellis brings up an interesting article from Michael Horton and asks

I’d appreciate any critiques of Horton’s line of thought from those who support having an OSJ. IMO: the OSJ is a distraction from the mission of the Church as Christ instituted it as understood by Augustine, Luther and Calvin as cited by Horton, especially in a tradition that emphasizes a distinction between saving and common grace, but I’m trying to be open minded:)

I see the strong two-kingdom style of Horton, but it does seem at odds with the other conservative True Reformed types. Horton’s view appears to leave politics to being politics, that there is nothing a Christian can do for or against the actions of the culture. Not quite a separationist, but certainly in line with the pietistic branch of the CRC. In that light the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) is probably best understood as an extension of Kuyperian thinking, where the Gospel life permeates our cultural living. While there may not be a single way to help the poor, there is a biblical obligation to help the poor. The manner of obedience may vary by culture and setting, but the duty of obedience remains.

For Horton, the Church stands apart from culture, and fulfills its own mandate. Here’s how he puts it:

Through its administration of Gospel preaching, baptism, the Supper, prayer, and discipline, the church is God’s new society inserted into the heart of the secular city as a witness to Christ and the age to come when He will be all in all.

As I tend toward the neo-Anabaptist side of things, with its skepticism about social  construction of Christian engagement (aka Constantinianism), and so prefer seeing issues in terms of principalities and powers, I have a mixed reaction. On one hand, I do applaud his distancing from the conventional Christian Right politics, nonetheless, I would ask Horton whether Horton has effectively abandonned having any word for the culture. How can we engage in a critique from his viewpoint? As a practical matter, I think Horton’s view ends up with a very moralistic reading of society, so that we get programs slapped with Bible verses.

Ecclesiastical entities such as  OSJ arise basically a result of the church’s presence in society. It is especially a result (ironically, from Horton’s side) of the Augustinian emphasis on fall. The heritage of Augustine in the West is that atonement and salvation are seen juridicially, as a matter of justice. If the core issue is that of reconciliation, then the political becomes almost inescapable.

In short, there’s more that God’s people can say to this world.

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