Author Archives: EPSA

EPSA has seen the length of its days

The Evangelical Political Scholars Association is no longer an active organization.  The idea of an online, great ideas oriented political conversation amongst thinking professionals did not succeed. That’s life in the start-up world. But the Internet is forever, so these posts will endure for electronic archeologists to discover for as long as the earth and WordPress endure and the Lord tarries. Enjoy as you please.

McLuhan’s Political Thought

EPSA member, Grant Havers, was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in their exploration of Marshall McLuhan’s not irretrievably buried political philosophy. McLuhan was Roman Catholic, and a philosophy professor at St Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, where a few EPSA members have studied.

On the page where you can access the audio interview, “The Conservative Marshall McLuhan,” we read:

Since the 1960s, McLuhan famously avoided taking what he called a ‘moralistic’ stance on the goodness or badness of electric media. But close readers of his major writings are in for a surprise. What emerges is distinctively conservative: tribalistic, stringently moralistic and opposed to the liberal, modernist, individualist age of modernity. This week, The Philosopher’s Zone investigates McLuhan the right-wing moralist.

Grant Havers is professor of philosophy and politics at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada.

Havers on James Burnham and the Anti-elite Conservative

EPSA member Grant Havers writes for Telos 154 (Spring 2011), considering James Burnham and how the right is inherently as anti-elite as the left. Havers considers Burnham’s conservatism especially through Burnham’s reading of Machiavelli. See here.

Idolatry in Our Politics

In the recent issue of The City, a fine little (free!) journal published by Houston Baptist University, Joe Knippenberg gives us “Faith in the Age of Obama” (fall 2010).

Where for President Obama, love leads to government action, for President Bush, government has to leave room for love. The former emphasizes his hope for the efficacy of government action, the latter his respect for its limits.

In concluding, he writes,

For me, it is both a matter of fact and an article of faith that government cannot do all that some of us expect of it. But it is also a matter of fact that finite, fallen, and fallible human beings will continue to worship idols.

David Innes has his own thoughts on political idolatry at Worldmag.com as we approach the midterm elections (“Victory and Idolatry,” October 20, 2010).

Politics is good because God gave us government for our good. But He did not give it for our sufficient good, or to provide for every good. Christians, more than anyone else, should tailor their hopes accordingly.

Excessive and misplaced hope takes two forms in times like these. One is almost millenarian in what it expects to enjoy on the other side of Election Day. … But there is also a kind of despair in politics that is the same excessive and misplaced hope, only jilted and embittered. I see it among Republicans who are migrating toward third parties. They have good reason to be down. …

When people allow themselves to get carried away by millenarian political fantasies, it is easy to become discouraged. Now we will recover our republican constitution! Now we will be a land of social justice! Now America will be free! American will be fair! But in a world of sages and fools and a relatively confused massive middle, politics is about incremental improvements and setbacks.

In politics, it is hard to do good without giving wicked people a platform for their wickedness, or without falling into wickedness oneself. But political life is not optional, and neither is doing good.

P.S., subscribe to The City, free of charge.

Kendall on Our Civil Religion

Grant Havers at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada, has published this review of Willmoore Kendall’s and George W. Carey’s The Basic Symbols Of The American Political Tradition (Catholic University of America Press, 1970). You can find the essay, “Willmoore Kendall for Our Times,” at www.VoegelinView.com.

This work, which is primarily based on Kendall’s lectures on the American political tradition given at Vanderbilt in 1964 (including additional lectures edited by Carey in the last chapters), reveals one of the most astute minds ever to shape American conservative thought. As Kendall’s last work, it also provides an essential antidote to the ailments afflicting American conservatism today.

Grant’s recent book is Lincoln and the Politics of Christian Love (University of Missouri Press, 2009).

Social Justice of a Different Sort

Anthony Bradley comes to the defense of the concept of “social justice” in his recent WORLDmag.com column ‘Social Justice’ has Christian history,” Sept. 15, 2010). But he comes at from the right (so to speak), showing the roots of the phrase in Pius XI’s 1931 papal encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno (QA).

For Pius XI in QA, social justice referred to the central and necessary set of conditions where each person makes free, non-government-coerced contributions to the common good. It included keeping in check the power of the State and the freedom of Christians to form their own institutions in civil society. It ensured that economics and morality were not alien to one another in concept or in practice. Social justice according to Pius XI referenced the necessity of private property against the tenets of socialistic thinking, because the right of private ownership not only enabled individuals “to provide for themselves and their families but also that the goods which the Creator destined for the entire family of mankind may through this institution truly serve this purpose.” It mentioned the importance of wealth creation to provide a basis for charity and prohibitions against arbitrary wage demands by third-parties “which a business cannot stand without its ruin and consequent calamity to the workers.” Pius XI’s definition of social justice included the importance of subsidiarity and a return to the moral formation so that people would not confuse freedom to do good with passions that have been disordered because of original sin.

Anthony Bradley is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College in New York City, a research fellow at the Acton Institute, and author of Liberating Black Theology. He has recently joined the Evangelical Political Scholars Association.

Humbling Presidents Under the Law

David Corbin and Matthew Parks, both at The King’s College in New York, have proposed a useful political tradition that would be inspired with biblical wisdom, and they have posted it at First Things, “The Constitution Pledge” (Sept. 8, 2010).

It was the duty of the Old Testament kings of Israel to administer justice according to the law that God had given to Moses. Embedded within that law, long before any king actually reigned in Israel, was the following command: “And when he [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law…. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes.” (Deut. 17:18-20 [ESV])

This was to remind each Israelite king, ” that he is yet a servant, rather than a master.”

Corbin and Parks suggest that a candidate for the office of President of the United States pledge during the campaign that, if elected, he will write out by hand the Constitution in its entirety, and hand the manuscript to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court just before he administers oath of office.

Dr. Corbin is an Associate Professor of Politics and Chairman of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Department at The King’s College in New York City. Dr. Parks is Assistant Provost and a Lecturer in Politics at The King’s College in New York City.

Their proposal received a mention from Jon Seidl at The Blaze, something that Glenn Beck operates.