While political science conjures a sense of action and practicality, and philosophy is usually understood to be a wholly cranial activity pursued by tweedy old men in rooms normally reserved for captured princesses, the two studies are essentially inseparable. Both political science and philosophy are concerned with understanding human nature.
The difference is that, whereas the answers philosophers supply simply raise more questions, the goal of political scientists is to formulate solutions to real problems and use their knowledge of humans to suggest usable models of government for keeping them in line. Their success depends entirely on their assessment of human nature, and the extent to which God enters their hypotheses and theories.
Karl Marx believed humans were aspiritual material beings, and he didn't believe in God--Marxist Communism as a political theory, therefore, is fundamentally flawed. Thomas Hobbes believed in God, but he also denied the spirituality of man (it was more nuanced than that) and believed all men were driven by nothing more than fear of a violent death. Even further back, Niccolo Machiavelli may or may not have believed in God, may have been satirizing popular views of mankind rather than presenting his own, but certainly presented a model for government that is un-Christian at best.
Navigating political theories can be a difficult business. Writers like Marx, Paine and Rousseau frequently make excellent points and sometimes even seem to be expressing biblically-consistent ideas. Even worse, too many commentators don't understand the historical progression of political thought and believe some writers and theorists are expressing Christian views when in fact they're only presenting Enlightenment or humanist principles.
Sometimes those thinkers are expressing biblical concepts, at least partly. That's why (and this is true of any study) Christians need to be more familiar with their Bibles than with secular thinkers when studying government and political science. Yet this is in no way to suggest that political theorists, secular or Christian, can't help us considerably either in understanding how governments should operate, or why they operate the way they do.
When it comes to secular thinkers, most of our resources are classics; few modern thinkers are particularly innovative, usually doing little more than re-hashing the work of writers like Rousseau, Marx, Hobbes and Jefferson. So we have a lot of de Tocqueville, Thomas Paine, The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers, scribblings and essays by the Founding Fathers, some Rousseau, etc.
We also carry several books of the "this is what it does" variety--primarily educational books for younger students that describe the three branches of the U.S. government, or the duties of the president, or the F.B.I. and why you don't need to be afraid of it if you aren't breaking the law, etc. Overviews for adults or high school students tend to focus on the overall history and structure of American government.
Then there's the whole other type of book that kind of makes our selection unique. Part of our goal at Exodus is to provide books that reflect a Christian worldview and apply it directly to every aspect of life. We carry titles like Christianity and the Constitution by John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the State by Rousas John Rushdoony, This Independent Republic by the same, and several more with specifically this goal in mind. If we don't understand how we ought to think about government and politics as Christians, what use can we possibly be on a cultural level?
You'll also find a lot of the really old foundational texts, like Aristotle's Politics, Plato's Republic, and Cicero's speeches and writings, all of them instrumental in shaping the current debates and policies. Government is not born or maintained in a vacuum, and it would be a very good thing if more citizens and leaders accepted that fact and behaved accordingly. Have a great idea for putting everything on the right track? It's probably been done before, and it probably failed.
Unless, of course, it was spiritual revival. At the end of the day, while we definitely believe there are biblical and unbiblical systems of government that either promote or discourage adherence to God's Law, it's only the turning of a people's hearts to Jesus Christ that will bring about lasting reform. It is possible to legislate morality; but it isn't possible to legislate changed hearts.
Peruse our Government Resources to supplement a civics course, write a paper, or simply to help shape your views. Study any book, whether it's by a Christian author or not, prayerfully, comparing every statement to God's Word. Follow the Bible, logic, and your convictions. Most importantly, when you reach a conclusion don't overanalyze and intellectualize it—political thought is intended to motivate to action, and by God's grace we live in a society wherepolitical involvement is still allowed and encouraged. Let's keep it that way.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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