Faith and Scholarship Integration Essays
David C. Innes, Associate Professor of Politics
Understanding the relationship between the Christian faith and any academic discipline must start with understanding the relationship between God and the universe in general. God created all things. He is thus sovereign over all things, and all things exist for his glory. He created man as unique among the creatures: in his image as vice-regent. To fulfill this mediatorial role, man applies Godís sovereign will for his creation as God has revealed it in general and special revelation, by reason and Scripture.
But manís government of the creation extends not only to agriculture and engineering, but also civil government. Man himself must be governed, and he must govern his affairs righteously, according to Godís righteous will.
The study of politics, i.e., political philosophy or political science, is the attempt to give a rational account of political things, including human passions, relationships, and institutions in their political significance (e.g. self-love, fatherhood, and executive authority) and the political principles according to which they are rightly ordered. This account proceeds at the levels of both the theoretical and the practical, the general and the particular. The theoretical account provides the context in which historical situations or particular truths are able more clearly to be understood. At the same time, a practical account of government and politics as they present themselves, both in our day and in the past, provides the material from which a systematic account of politics can be developed. More immediately, however, it provides a civic education which enables citizens to participate with greater understanding in a healthier public life.
Human beings necessarily and by nature live in community with one another, but are constantly in strife over how that is to be done. Who is to rule and how? To what end or ends is our civic life to be directed? These nettlesome disagreements call for a political science, so that our life together may be ordered rationally, i.e., functionally as well as justly. To a large extent the study of politics can proceed on the basis of natural reason or general revelation as do the studies of anatomy and medicine. But unlike these studies, the study of politics is complicated by the strong passions that attach to the distinction between what is and what ought to be, the just and the unjust. Yet, this spiritedness in the defense of what is right often compromises the rational faculty itself. Because of sinful passion, human beings stray from truth and prudence into futility and destructiveness. Because of this condition, human beings must depend ultimately upon the Bible, God's special revelation, and upon the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our political reasoning and judgment. Accordingly, politics must be understood in the context of the promises and counsels of God as revealed in Scripture, the highest authority in human affairs. Thus, faith takes the role of true guide and corrective in regard to a humble political science.
Developing a faithfully Christian understanding of political life is necessary not only for the professional political scientist, but for every citizen of the Kingdom of God who, in this world, is also inescapably a citizen of an earthly country. As a Christian political scientist, it is my calling to help the Church of Christ more accurately discern between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, and equip it to function more effectively as salt and light in this world, wise to its doctrines but innocent of its ways (Matthew 10:16).