16 May 2006

Marshall on Wallis

I have just received via conventional mail the spring 2006 issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs, formerly known as The Brandywine Review. Although its full contents are not yet on-line, I will nevertheless call attention to an excellent and hard-hitting review by Paul Marshall of Jim Wallis' best-selling God's Politics: "God's Politics — Or Lack Thereof." Marshall's review is paired with a more positive one by Richard Pierard. One point Marshall makes is worthy of note. Citing Wallis' contention that the place to start is with the biblical prophets, Marshall correctly notes that, historically, christian attempts to understand the place of politics in God's world have begun with Genesis and the Law:
[Wallis] never carefully relates what the prophets say to the Torah, hence acknowledging that they challenge their rulers on the basis of God's law, not on their own feelings of injustice.

It is telling that those Christians and church institutions that speak most readily of being prophetic almost never call those to whom they presume to prophesy back to a normative order distinct from their own preferences. In fact, they frequently appear to eschew normativity altogether, championing what might be called a quasi-Kantian notion of personal autonomy — quasi, because it is shorn of Kant's countervailing sense of duty. Ironically, doing "justice" thus becomes a matter of refraining from judging and instead simply affirming people's autonomous choices inclusively. Yet as a recipe for genuine justice this amounts to pretty thin gruel.

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can be contacted at: dtkoyzis@gmail.com