Something quite prevalent in our media landscape and within the church is the ‘Christian Response’. As issues crop up, the media and the church will go looking for a ‘Christian Response’ on that issue.
But how reliable is a ‘Christian response’ to an issue? How much will that response represent the views of Christians everywhere?
The first thing we need to look at is the diversity of the Christian community and the role of ideology. The Christian church, God’s universal people, are not some monolithic group of clones, each parroting each other perfectly. There are some core issues that are cut and dried for most of the Church. For example, the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity was a hotly contested issue from the 2nd to the 8th century but in genuine Christian circles (i.e. not Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or liberals), it is relatively uncontroversial and the historic formulations are widely accepted. Some times orthodox positions of theology can creep back into the contested field and unfortunately be denied by leaders in the Church(Rob Bell, I’m looking at you!). However, by and large, there are a core of issues where the theology is settled.
Outside of that small handful of issues, there aren’t many issues that a wide variety of opinions can be sourced from Christians. There can be wide diversity within a single Christian church, let alone across the umpteen billions of Christians in the world, and so a singular position on political issues in particular is unlikely.
Some times there is consensus on an idea but not on its application, especially on issues where the Bible has much more to say. Divorce is something the Bible strongly condemns as contrary to God’s design for marriage. However, as Jesus points out, there is a provision for divorce in the Law of Moses because of those with hard hearts. There is quite a specific framework for understanding marriage and divorce in the Bible. Consequently, divorce is seen as a bad thing almost universally by Christians but the appropriate policy approach to divorce wouldn’t be as guaranteed.
Should we ban divorce because it is counter to God’s view on marriage? Should we go back to a policy of ‘at fault’ divorce, where parties must establish there is someone in particular that has caused the divorce, in the hope it discourages divorce? Should we retain the ‘no fault’ divorce policy because of a recognition that in a fallen world divorce will happen and drawing it out serves no one’s interest? Getting all Christians to agree on one position would be folly.
Still further from that is where there is only a general Biblical framework to go by. For example, a tax on carbon dioxide isn’t mentioned or eluded to in the Bible and although there is a concept of stewardship of creation that can be drawn from Genesis 1&2, it isn’t elaborated to much in the rest of the Bible. Is there a Christian response to it?
Well yes and no. It is here where ideology comes into the picture in a big way. No person is without ideology for as soon as one idea is connected to another, you have an ideology and humans constantly draw from a deep well of ideas and concepts. For Christians, a position on something like a taxes on greenhouse gases is going to be a mix of secular ideology and theology, with your ideology impacting your understanding of the Bible and vice versa.
If your view of the environment is that nature is to be preserved, even at the expense of economic growth, and that humans have already started to exceed the sustainable use of natural resources available to us, then you’re going to be very sympathetic to the message of many scientists that humans are fuelling dangerous climate change through carbon dioxide emissions and therefore on government action by taxing CO2. When it comes to your thinking on the Bible, you’ll emphasise that we have a responsibility to look after what God has put us over the rule.
If you’re more of a small government, pro-free market type (like myself) and therefore resist any government’s attempt to expand its reach and to raid your pay packet, a carbox tax is going to be thoroughly unappealing. You’ll be more inclined to see economic development and prosperity in the Third World and the sort of natural adaptation that humans regularly engage in as the solution to any potential climate change. When you look at the Bible, the pervasive nature of human sin and selfishness will stand tall when thinking of new bureaucracies and the expanded taxation powers of government.
So no, there is no universal Christian response to anything but at the same time, we are blessed to have a plurality of views which Christians can in good faith debate and discuss and disagree on. The kind of unity that forces everyone to hold the same view on everything is a false unity, not even backed by the New Testament. Christians, with a conscious understanding of their own biases and ideology, should be keenly involved in the debates that surround the policies of government, with no forced compulsion to hold the ‘company line’.