What are the primary and subsidiary roles of government? And in this age of moral relativism, is it wise to make political arguments from a biblical perspective on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage?
The Gospel Coalition blogger Justin Taylor took the time to answer these questions (and many more) by reformatting an essay titled “Law and Moral Purpose” by Professor Robert P. George published in First Things a couple of years ago.
We’ve touched on the roles of government before here and here so I was most interested in what Professor George had to say about engaging the political discourse with moral truths. For example, is society too far gone “to be reached by moral argument”?
We must, to be sure, practice the much-neglected and badly underrated virtue of prudence. But we must have faith that truth is luminously powerful, so that if we bear witness to the truth about, say, marriage and the sanctity of human life—lovingly, civilly, but also passionately and with determination—and if we honor the truth in advancing our positions, then even many of our fellow citizens who now find themselves on the other side of these issues will come around.
And why are some people afraid to speak the “truth”?
They evidently believe that people who claim to know the truth about anything — and especially about moral matters — are fundamentalists and potential totalitarians. But, as Hadley Arkes has patiently explained, those on the other side of the great debates over social issues such as abortion and marriage make truth claims—moral truth claims—all the time. They assert their positions with no less confidence and no more doubt than one finds in the advocacy of pro-lifers and defenders of conjugal marriage. They proclaim that women have a fundamental right to abortion. They maintain that “love makes a family” and other strong and controversial moral claims. The question, then, is not whether there are truths about such things as the morality of abortion and the nature of marriage; the question in each case is, What is true?
Everybody approaches politics with truth claims. It could be from the worldview of Christianity, Islam, Pagan Mysticism or some smorgasbord of several religions blended with personal experience. The question is, which belief system do you believe answers the most fundamental questions about life and liberty, law and government?