Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tsun En Lu on Christians and the Pluralistic Society

How do Christians live in their engagement with society in the public square, especially with those of other persuasion and those in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society? In this paper, Pastor Tsun-En Lu interacts with John Rawls's idea of Justice as Fairness and criticize his views from a Christian viewpoint. An excerpt:

罗尔斯 (John Rawls) 的〈正义论〉 (A Theology of Justice) 复兴了自由主义的哲学传统,重新定义民权,不但启发了廿世纪末的宪法理论研究,并且持续地在廿一世纪影响美国的宪政精神与大众的舆论文化 之中。罗尔斯的理论对基督教产生相当的冲击,因为它以平等为名,把基督教的信仰命题相对化,并尝试跨越传统的政教分离原则,为政府和教会的传统权威中划出 一条属于自由主义的新界线,进而排斥了基督教在公众论述中诠释公义概念的机会。

[Unfortunately, this paper is in Chinese and has not been translanted yet, so sorry to English readers].

Dave Chong responds to it here.

In an increasingly pluralistic society in America, Pastor Lu’s critique of Rawlsian conception of ‘justice as fairness’ is a much-needed contribution to the ongoing dialogue on Christian engagement in the public square. How do multi-religious, multi-ethnic societies today carve out a civil space that safeguards the liberty, equity and rights for all? This burning issue is further fueled by sometimes strident attempts by secularists to keep religious faith as a private choice that has no room in the realm of politics.

This paper and review are now open for comments.


Augustinian Successor said...

Kam Weng's proposal of the covenant framework is not necessary. This is because without appealing to their religious traditions, both Christians and Muslims have much in common already.

1. Natural law. The 10 Commandments is a republication of the natural law => the law in its first use = political use.

2. The kingdom of this world/ old creation.

By extension, Christians do not need a specifically religious interpretation of this world in order to engage faithfully with non-Christians.

This is why Christians and non-Christians can get together for a common moral cause.

This is different from culture and philosophy which is based on a specific worldview. This is where the Gospel comes in to shatter all pretensions and schemes - ambitio divinatis.

Thus, the solidarity between Christians and non-Christians is not based on common grace, but original sin. And this is why the Law was 'instituted' by God in the first place, because of our sinful/old nature. Hence, the church can play a useful role in ensuring the Law in society is properly upheld, as long as the Law is distinguished from the Gospel. This means that Law is never a way of salvation, spiritual or social. The Law is never the final word. Only the Gospel is.

This should not obscure the fact however that the Law when established in its proper use is for the sake of man, not vice-versa. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is the Law is to be used in service of the neighbour in the daily vocation of life. So that the Law is only appropriate to the historical situation of man.

If and when the Law becomes obsolete either by divine revelation or reason, then it is proper and necessary to change the Law, not as to its substance (principles) but its form or application (context) so that substance itself which embodies universal values are upheld.

So, the church does use the Law to bring in the Kingdom of God but to care for this Kingdom, in preparation for the consummation. Only then can the Law be a guide, friend, tool, etc. for the church.

Other than that, the Kingdom of God comes solely by the proclamation of the Gospel which destroys all human wisdom.

PuritanReformed said...

Just a quick word here:

Such worldview applicational issues are indeed interesting, and we would like to thank Pastor Tsun-En Lu and Dave Chong for furthering discussion on the interaction between Christians and non-Christians in the civil sphere. This is most certainly a more complex issue to discuss, and where we would end up is mostly determined by our views on many other doctrines.

It seems to me that Dave as a Kuyperian focuses a lot on the issue of common grace and the cultural mandate. As non-Kuyperian Reformed, I think the whole issue of common grace has been blown way out of proportion. Rather, I think Jason's view, of the commonality being that all of us are fallen sinful beings created in the image of God is the ground upon which cooperation could be done, is indeed close to the truth. More specifically, I think the common ground in the civil sphere is General Revelation as found in the conscience of men.

CREDO500 said...

Thanks Tsun En for exploring the subject, and David’s contribution to this important discussion, even though the comments will somehow raise questions and disagreements. The controversy on the doctrine of common grace deserves more attention, and the answer may ends multilayered and complex.

In regard to natural law, early reformed tradition (apart from the Roman idea) taught that God had inscribed his moral law on every human heart. Through the testimony of conscience, this law binds all people and is known by all, even apart from special revelation.

Concerning the two kingdoms, early reformed tradition (16th and 17th centuries) made a distinction between spiritual kingdoms and the civil kingdom. God rules both of these kingdoms and Christians are members of both, but God rules the former as its redeemer and the latter as its creator.

Considering Jason and Daniel’s denial position, at the very least, I think covenant idea offered something that modern contract theory did not. Therefore, it’s important to recover the idea from the early reformed tradition in influencing the modern federalism and constitutionalism.

Nevertheless, the “covenantal” politics (in relation to the social-economical justice and the corporate mutual responsibility in a plural world) shall depends on divine revelation, the bottom line is that secular interpretation of covenant (compact/contract) is nothing if not referred/related to its SUSTAINER!

The Hedonese said...

IMHO we share more in common with our non-Christian friends than meets the eye. It's not a false dichotomy - either we share original sin or we share in common grace? (though a strong historical case can be made that Calvin himself teaches a grace that is common to all)

Since man is made in the image of God, though marred by sin, we would expect to see both horror and beauty in humanity as Schaeffer so ably helped us to learn a generation ago.

The good part is not only do we share 'natural law' (which is a loaded term hehe Van Til will probably say the notion is more Catholic than Reformed), but with Muslims we also share a deeper commonality which is not to be dismissed lightly but may offer fruitful avenues for exploration and social action