Yesterday I read this article by Ray Pennings over at Cardus.ca about the distinctions between the seeming resurgence of what is being coined Neo-Puritanism & Neo-Calvinism. The whole article is a good addition to the conversation that was started (or highlighted) in Bob Robinson’s article here. In it Pennings highlights 6 different areas (4 from Neo-Calvinism & 2 from Neo-Puritanism) that should draw our focus to possible discussions about these differing perspectives. He had some really great stuff to say on those points but that is not what I would like to draw your attention to today. Near the end of the article Pennings penned (punny right?) a wonderful paragraph about the limitations Christian often accept when they accept the existing framework of political discourse in North America.
Here’s the paragraph:
In contrast to the social and political perspectives of modern individualism and statism, both rooted in an Enlightenment/French Revolution conception of individual rights and social contract, a biblical view of society goes beyond the individual and the state. contemporary North American political discourse can be considered as the flipping of a single two-sided coin. On the one side, we have individual rights and free markets, while on the other side, we have the power of the state as a social engineer. Whatever way the coin lands, political discourse proceeds from an autonomously human view of authority. Intermediary social structures such as families, churches, businesses, and schools have only secondary or derivative status. Most Christian activism, on both the left and right, approaches public life by accepting this framework.
Almost exclusively, our current political framework for societal formation works around a humanistic dualism that is entirely opposed to a biblical, and broader, perspective. The humanistic understanding of societal formation (completely adopted from the Enlightenment and French Revolution) allows only two options: 1) an unhinged libertarianism where each individual is his/her own God (this is rampant in our current moral/sexual milieu), or 2) an unwaivering commitment to the State to build every facet of society (this is rampant in our current educational & arts scene).
Pennings does a wonderful job in this paragraph showing how most Christians involved in societal formation accept this framework. As Christians, there is no need to accept such a framework. Instead, with our knowledge that God is over all, there no longer needs to be a slavish dependence on either the individual or the State.
Food for thought.