In attempting to approach public life through the lens of Scripture, there will be ample opportunity for us to entrust the work of interpretation to Mike Huckabee on the right or Brian McLaren on the left, both men with a well-established track record of twisting scripture to advance a certain political agenda. But the actual work of understanding oneself as a member of the City of God and then trying to discern how that citizenship manifests in the world of public policy, debate, and ideas is going to be far more difficult.
In his book A Public Faith, Miroslav Volf writes about various "malfunctions" of Christian faith in the public square. Drawing on the old distinction between contemplative religions and prophetic religions, Volf describes one common malfunction in prophetic religions as "functional reduction."
Gradually the language about God is hollowed out from within, maybe by lack of trust and inconsequential use, until only a shell remains. And then that shell is put to what are deemed good uses. The prophets preach, but trust in their own insight—maybe informed by a nugget of psychological wisdom (Dr. Phil!) or a piece of social analysis (Noam Chomsky!)-- without even expecting that the faith might have anything distinct to say about the matter. Wittingly or unwittingly, a serious malfunction has occurred-- provided we understand the Christian faith not just as a version of some generic moral teaching, but as a prophetic faith in the Creator, Redeemer, and Consummator of the world.Briefly put, one of the chief dangers for Christians seeking to understand public life in light of the Gospel is the danger to seize on whatever text we find that supports our particular agenda, interest, or concern and then run with that, as if that was the entire word on the subject.
...the biblical narrative is just that-- a narrative. So you cannot snatch and grab what suits you and ignore the rest. And when you do, you are functionally reducing the Gospel from the glorious declaration that God is making all things new down to a cheap political talking point.
The entire post, "Politics and the Bible as Narrative," can be read here.