Elshtain and Wolterstorff on Public Faith

Here is an interesting panel discussion of Prof. Nicholas Wolterstorff’s paper entitled “Theology, Morality and the Public Life” moderated by Prof. Beth Elshtain.

Wolterstorff comments on Rom 13:1-7:

If we reject the view all too prevalent nowadays, that government at bottom is nothing else than the playing out of self-interested power relationships and if we instead embrace the traditional view that the goal of government is to secure justice and the common good, then I think it is clear that the judiciary is not unique among the branches of government, when we distinguish branches, in rendering judgments about justice. Most legislation presupposes judgments about justice. The legislation usually being a remedy for some supposed injustice, albeit, a remedy of a different sort from a judicially mandated punishment and so, I think, the executive has the mandate then to implement two sorts of remedies for prior judgments about injustice. The remedy which takes the form of legislation and the remedy which takes the form of punishment for infractions. So the ruler, says Paul, is a servant. He has a striking word in Greek, a diakonos, a deacon, a minister, a leitourgos, a liturgeat. The rulers are deacons and liturgeats of God for this purpose. How are we to interpret those words. I think the thought, quite clearly, is that the power and the right of
the State to render judgment in the legislative form or in the judicial form has been transmitted to it from God so that among the ways in which a theistic account of political authority is distinct from all others is that it regards the authority of the State to do certain things as transmitted to it from someone or something which already has that very same authority.

Read the whole thing.

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