Full Text for Study Guide for Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics by Robert Benne (Text)

Study Guide for Good and Bad Ways to Think About Religion and Politics by Robert Benne (Eerdmans, 2010) Introduction The advent of a national election in a few months intensifies the question of how Christians should be involved in the political sphere. It is a good time for Lutherans to think more deeply about this question ]vo]PZš}(>µšZŒ[]š]vš]}všÁvšZšÁ}l]vP}uX/š]]š]vš]}vv}š‰Œš]}v}Œconfusion. But it is a distinction that makes a profound difference for the sake of both the Gospel and Christian life lived out in the world. In one of his last sermons, a sermon on Psalm 8 preached in 1545, Luther observed that the kingdom of Christ is one of hearing while the kingdom of the world is one of seeing. Discussions of the place of the church in the public square inevitably lead us to reflect on how the Triune God is active in His creation. >µšZŒ[šZ]vP}všZšÁ}l]vP}u}v}šPŒPš'}[š]À]šÇ]vš}šZZ}oǐ‰ZŒ}(ZµŒZleaving the world to its autonomous devices. God is a work in the world in two different ways, with ]((ŒvšuvUvÁ]šZ]((ŒvšvX,v>µšZŒvµšZ]uPŒÇ}(šZŒš}]v]š'}[right hand governance whereby He causes His Gospel to be preached to bring sinners to faith in Christ and through faith inherit eternal life. On the other hand, the left-handed work of God is identified with the eye, with seeing. In this kingdom, God uses law to measure and curb human behavior so that His creation is not plunged into total chaos and this world subjected to futility is preserved until the Last ÇXµšZ}Œ]š]]všZl]vP}u}('}[o(šZvÀoµš}všZ]}(À]všZš]}ŒÀoXHere distributive justice is the order of the day. But in the kingdom of His riPZšZvU'}[ÀŒ]š]šZabsolution, the proclamation of a forgiveness of sins not achieved by merit or worth. When the two kingdoms are mixed or muddled, law and Gospel are confused. Lutherans are concerned to keep the teaching of the two kingdoms straight and clear for the sake of the Gospel which alone gives forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. Luther fumed that the devil is ]vvšoǐl]vPš}^ŒÁv}}l_šZšÁ}l]vP}uš}PšZŒX^švÁ}µoo]lv}šZ]vPššŒthan duping folks into believing that salvation comes through secular government or conversely that the church is the institution to establish civil righteousness in the world. Either confusion displaces Christ and leaves sinners in despair. In a fine treatment of the two kinP}uU'ŒZŒo]vP}ŒÀ^dZP}‰o](]]všU](šZšÁ}l]vP}u](]]vš_~'Xo]vPU^dZ<]vP}u}(ZŒ]švšZ<]vP}u}(šZt}Œo_]vLuther: An Introduction to his Thought, Fortress Press, 1970, p.189). The teaching of the two kingdoms is necessary for the sake of the Gospel. This teaching guards us from turning the Gospel into a political ideology. The Gospel works eschatologically not politically as it bestows pardon to sinners and establishes peace with God. It is a faith creating word of promise heard with the ear, trusted in the heart, and confessed with the tongue. Christians, who live by faith in this promise, also live in this world where we use our eyes to see, to discern, to evaluate. The realm of the political is not š}]u]µvP}oÇ}ŒµvÁ}ŒšZÇ}(šZZŒ]š]v[]vÀ}oÀuvšX'}]šÁ}Œlhere too. But He is at work here to protect and preserve His creation, making it a dominion where life v(o}µŒ]ZX'}[o(š-handed work is not to be confused with salvation but it is a good gift of daily bread to be received with thanksgiving by those who know the truth. So Lutherans neither put their trust in political processes nor do they eschew political involvement. The teaching of the two kingdoms is an indispensable gift in an age beset by temptations both to µoŒ]uvšŒ]v]uXZ}Œšvv[o]ššo}}lUGood and Bad Ways to Think About Politics (Eerdmans, 2010) would be an excellent text for personal reading or group discussion. The following study questions are offered to facilitate such reflection and study. Chapter 1- Introduction: Why Another Book on Religion and Politics? (1-6) 1. ,Œo]P]}µ]v(oµv]vuŒ]}uÁlŒŒµoš}(^u}Œv]Ìš]}v_MtZÇ}ŒÁZÇnot? (3) 2. How has North American culture privatized religion? (3) 3. How was the election of Jimmy Carter representative of a shift toward politicized religion in the United States? (4) 4. What was the effect of Roe versus Wade (1973) on the place of religion in the public arena? (4) 5. Benne notes the increasing visibility of American evangelicalism. How would you assess the influence of this broad movement in the political sphere? (4-5) 6. How has political activism characterized the so-oo^u]vo]v_v}u]vš]}vM~ñ 7. What is the place of Roman Catholicism on the landscape of American political life? (5) 8. What modes of religious involvement are harmful both to religious institutions and society? (6) 9. ,}Á}vv(]v^Œ]š]ovPPuvš_M~ò Z‰šŒî^dZ^‰Œš]}v]š_~ó-24) 1. Benne identifies the first bad way to think about religion and politics is to sharply separate šZuX,}Á]šZ]}vÇ^}šZu]o]švšµoŒ]š_v^ŒvšŒo]P]}µ‰}‰o_M~ó 2. tZ}ŒšZ^oš]À‰Œš]}v]š_M~ó 3. How would you explain the differenšÁv^‰Œš]}v}(ZµŒZvšš_v^šZ]všŒš]}v}(Œo]P]}vv‰}o]š]_M,}Á}šZ&]Œšuvuvš‰‰oÇZŒM~ô 4. How would you respond to the claims of militant atheists like Richard Dawkins who assert that religion must be completely sequestered from politics? 5. }Œo]P]}v]všZ‰µo]‹µŒ]vÀ]šoÇ}u^‰}o]š]ošZ}o}PÇ_M~õ 6. tZš]^o]Œoš}šo]šŒ]v]u_M~íì 7. vvÁŒ]š^[^oš]À‰Œš]}v]š[Œ}}šZŒÇ}vŒÀš]ÀŒo]P]}v[]v(oµvšZššZǐuo]vš}šZ}vP}]vPŒ}o}(o]ŒoŒo]P]}v[((}Œš]v‰}o]š]oo](_~ííXEusome Æu‰o}(šZ]o]vvš}šZ}o}P]oo]Œo]u[]ntrusion into the political realm. 8. ,}Á]šZ&}µvŒ}(}µŒvš]}vµvŒšv^šZ(ŒÆŒ]}(Œo]P]}v_M~íï-14) 9. ']ÀÆu‰o}(Z}ÁŒo]P]}vZv]v(oµvš]o]v}µŒvš]}v[Z]š}ŒÇM~íð 10. ]µvv[ššuvšW^^Œ]}µŒo]P]}v]vÀ]šoÇZ‰µo]]uv]}v_~íñ. Also see Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession. 11. What are the theological reasons for theocracy not providing an attractive option for classical Christianity? (16) 12. How does Benne describe the teaching of the two kingdoms in contrast with theocracy? (17) 13. Benne describes a second way of separating religion from politics as keeping religion free of ‰}o]š](}ŒšZšu]PZš}všu]vš(]šZX,}Á}vvŒ]š]‹µšZ]^šŒ]v_approach? (18-20) 14. What are some historical examples of the sectarian approach? How does Stanley Hauerwas represent a newer form of the sectarian approach? (20) 15. tZšÁ>µšZŒ[Œ‰}vš}šŒ]v]uM~îí 16. Why does Benne criticism the stance of Christian Luthhardt? (22) 17. How does Lutheran theology hold faith and worldly life together so as to avoid segregating the two into separate categories? (23-24) Z‰šŒï^dZ&µ]}v]š_~îñ-38) 1. What happens when religion and politics are brought together so closely that they meld together? (25-26) 2. How does the political use of religion lead to cynicism? (27). Can you cite recent examples from American life? 3. How did both Stalin and Hitler attempt to use religion politically? (28) 4. Do you see the fusion of religious identity and national identity as helpful or harmful? (29-31) 5. Wµod]oo]ZÁŒ}š^^}]o]u]šZ}volj}]o}v}u]Çšu(Œ}ušZZŒ]š]v‰}]vš}(À]Á_~ïíXtZšl]v}(^(µ]}v_}d]oo]Z[šZ]vl]vPŒ‰ŒvšM}Ç}µšZ]problematic? 6. ,}Á]šZ]^šŒ]PZš-o]všZ]vl]vP_~]vtentional) exhibited in the so-called Religious Right? (33-34) 7. tZš]µv]všvš]}vo^šŒ]PZš-o]všZ]vl]vP_M~ïñ-38) Z‰šŒð^Œ]š]ovPPuvšWD}À]vP(Œ}u}Œš}Wµo]W}o]Ç_~ïõ-80) 1. ,}Á}vv(]všZ^}Œ_}(šZZŒ]š]v(]šZM~ïõ 2. /vÁZšv}:µŒ]o]Ì'}[oÁM~ðì 3. How do the Ten Commandments reflect the love of God? (40-41) 4. tZš}]šuvšZš'}[oÁ^]µ]oš]vš}Œš]}v_M~ðï 5. ,}ÁZZŒ]š]v]šÇ^‰ŒÀ]ÀoÇ}v]š]}v‰}o]š]oo](_]všZtšM~ðð 6. ZŒ]š]vvšZŒ}‰}o}PÇUšZ}šŒ]v}(uvUµvŒšvZµuv]vP}šZ^Æošv(oov_}Œ]vPš}vvX,}Á}šZ]]v]PZšZ‰the way that human dignity is recognized? (46-47) 7. What are the political implications of the doctrine of sin? (49-50) 8. vvÁŒ]š^tZvšZ'}-man (Jesus Christ) is rejected, the man-god rushes into take his ‰o_~ñíXtZšŒµŒŒvšÆu‰o}(šZ]všuvš}(]}ošŒÇM~ñí-53) 9. How does Christian faith keep politics in the world where it rightly belongs? (52) 10. Government exists for the purpose of preservation not salvation. (53). How would does Romans 13:1-7 affirm this? 11. tZšŒ^šZ}vŒš‰o}(Œ‰}v]]o]š]_šZš'}ZP]ÀvHis children? (54). See ^dZdo}(µš]_]všZ^uoošZ]uX,}Á]'}Á}Œl]vP^]v}Pv]š}_]všZ‰oM(55) 12. ,}Á}šZšš‰Œ}‰ŒoÇoo}ÁšZ^(ŒÆŒ]}(Œo]P]}v_Á]šZ}µš(µ]vPZµŒZvstate? (55-56) 13. vvÇ^>µšZŒ(u}µoÇoŒšZšP}}}oŒulP}}Z}Uv}š]v(Œ]}Œ}v Á]šZo]ššoŒ}}všZu_~ñòX,}Á}šZ]Zo‰µµvŒšvšZ‰}ÁŒ}(šZ}šŒ]v}(vocation? 14. ,}Á}ZŒ]š]vŒ]vPšZÀ]Œšµ}(^(]šZUZ}‰Uvo}À_]vš}šZ]Œoo]vP]všZ‰}o]š]orealm? (58-59) 15. What are the factors that condition our move from the Christian core to issues of public policy? (60-71) 16. ,}ÁÁ}µoÇ}µ(]v^]À]oŒo]P]}v_M~òï-64) Do you see civil religion as positive or negative? Why? 17. How are arguments for autonomy used to banish religion from public life? (65) 18. How ]^µoŒu}Œo‰Z]o}}‰ZÇ_µ(µoš}}o]vu}À]vP(Œ}u^Œo]P]}µoǐu}ŒošZuto public policy? (66) 19. tZš]šZŒ}o}(^Œ}vvŒŒ}Áo(-]všŒš_ZŒ]š]vlš}‰Œš]]‰š]v(}Œu]vPpublic policy? (70) 20. ,}Á}vv[Œ]ption of the process of engaging religion and politics as concentric circles help us avoid the twin dangers of separation and fusion? (71-75) 21. How does this model work with life issues such as abortion and marriage? (75-77). 22. How does this model work with issues of religious liberty? (77-78) Z‰šŒñ^dZWŒš]ovPPuvš}(Zo]P]}vvW}o]š]_~ôí-113) 1. /(Œo]P]}vZ}µoPvŒooÇ^À}]]vš](]š]}vÁ]šZ‰](]‰µo]‰}o]]U‰}o]š]oparties, or ]}o}P]_~ôíUZ}ÁZ}µo]švPPÁ]šZšhe political realm in the United States? 2. ,}Á]^]v]Œšvµv]všvš]}vo]v(oµv_}Œv^šZ]}(ZŒšŒ_(µvuvšo]vZ‰]vPChristians for political influence? (82-88) 3. tZÇ]^]v]Œšvµv]všvš]}vo]v(oµv_]vµ((]]vššZ}ouans of Christians exerting political influence? (88) 4. How do ^šZšZ]}(}v]v_]všŒišvouvš}(]všvš]}vo]šÇ]vš}šZZŒ]š]v[involvement in politics? (88-89) 5. Should churches endorse particular political candidates? Why or why not? (89-90) 6. ,}Áu]PZšZµŒZ‰oÇ^u]šš]vPŒ}o_(}ŒŒ]}µ]µ]}v}(ÀŒ]šÇ}(ZŒ]š]vresponses to political issues? (92-94) 7. tZšŒšZšÁ}l]v}(^]Œš_]vÀ}oÀuvšŒ]ÇvvM~õð-95) 8. Benne describes one kind of direct ]vÀ}oÀuvš^šZZµŒZ}]o}v]v_~õðvšZ}šZŒ^šZZµŒZÁ]šZ‰}ÁŒX_~õðX,}Á}Z}(šZu}}(]Œš]v(oµvfunction? Why are they controversial? 9. tZšŒ}uÆu‰o}(šZZµŒZ(µvš]}v]vP^}]o}v]v_M~õò-98) 10. How can the social service organizations founded and supported by the churches provide a persuasive voice in the public arena? (98-99) 11. tZšu]PZš}vš}}µvšŒššZo}}(šZ‰](]ooÇZŒ]š]vZŒšŒ}(šZZµŒZ[social service agencies? (99-100) 12. What factors should guide church bodies in crafting and issuing social statements? (100-104) 13. ,}Á}vv]vš](ÇšZ^‰Œ}u]µ]šÇ_}(o]Œou]vo]vWŒ}ššvšZµŒZ]vul]vPsocial pronouncements? What effect does it have on the laity? On the general public? (102-104) 14. What guidelines does Benne offer for well-crafted social statements? (104-105) 15. dZ^]Œšv]všvš]}vo_u}}(š]}v]}všŒ}ÀŒ]ovŒ]lÇ~íìò]šuŒZošZuse of power by the church. Should it ever be used? Why or why not? (109-112). Also see Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession as you reflect on this issue. 16. ,}Á}šZµ}(^À}Ç_]ooµšŒššZu]Pµ]šÇ}(^]Œšv]všvš]}voš]}v_M(109) 17. vv}voµ^Zo]P]}vv‰}o]š]uµšŒ]PZšoÇ}vvš(}ŒšZP}}}(}šZ_~ííïX(šŒŒ]vPvv[}}lUZ}Á}Ç}µšZZoovPš}Œš]µoš]vPšZ]}vvš]}vM For Further Reading and Study Baker, Robert (editor). Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011 ÇŒUKÁoX^^‰]Œ]šµovdu‰}ŒoZµoW'}[dÁ}Zou_~‰‰X~‰‰Xïìõ- 325) in DŒš]v>µšZŒ[Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008 Benne, Robert. Reasonable Ethics: A Christian Approach to Social, Economic, and Political Concerns. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005 Benne, Robert. The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995 o]vPU'ŒZŒX^dZ<]vP}u}(ZŒ]švšZ<]vP}u}(šZt}Œo_~‰‰Xíóñ-191) in Luther: An Introduction to his Thought, translated by R.A. Wilson. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977 Green, Lowell C. Lutherans Against Hitler: The Untold Story. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007 Wµo}vU^šÀvX^du‰}ŒoµšZ}Œ]šÇv/š>]u]š_~‰‰Xîðð-264) in Lutheran Theology. London and New York: T & T Clark, 2011 ^U,ŒuvvX^ZµŒZ'}ÀŒvuvšv ^µoŒµšZ}Œ]šÇ}Œ]vPš}šZ>µšZŒv}v(]}v_]v The Lonely Way Volume I: 1927-1939, edited by Matthew C. Harrison. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002, pp. 173-245 -Prof. John T. Pless Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, IN 12. 21. 2011