Writings: Unpublished

Christ Did Not Come To Abolish the Natural Law But To Fulfill It

A Question and Answer Companion to "With and Against the Grain"

Author: John C. Nugent

08/26/11+ Share

This essay serves as a companion to my essay titled "With and Against the Grain: Stanley Hauerwas and the Tumultuous Tale of Natural Law." It raises and answers ten questions about natural law theory--questions about what it is, whether it has biblical support, whether we can witness without it, and whether we should abandon it altogether.

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After I presented "With and Against the Grain: Stanley Hauerwas and the Tumultuous Tale of Natural Law" at the Christian Scholars Conference, in Malibu California, June 2011, Keith D. Stanglin offered a formal response to it (as to other papers on natural law) and the floor was then opened up for additional questions. Time did not allow for robust responses to any of them, but they are important questions and I suspect that readers of "With and Against the Grain" may have similar ones. Here I paraphrase and briefly engage six of them, along with four of my own.


1. What exactly is natural law? (asked by William J. Abraham, not because he didn't know, but because he saw the need to distinguish between different uses of the term) 

Natural law is a slippery concept because it points to a construct that is hypothetically useful, but practically inaccessible. Though the concept of natural law does a lot of work for people's ethical, political, and theological systems, careful thinkers across time and space have not been able to agree upon its precise content. Some say it is exists in God but—because of the fallenness of humans, creation, and human experience in creation—we cannot access it without confusion. Others say it exists in creation and in human hearts, but that humans cannot rise above our diverse cultural, historical, and geographic contexts in order to see it clearly. As a result, what has seemed entirely natural to rational persons in one time and place seems quite alien to rational persons in other times and places. 

Natural law is also a slippery concept because even in one time and place it means different things in the contexts of different conversations. Here I present multiple senses of the term natural law: 

a) In conversations about God's existence, it stands for observations that scientists have made about how that world works that only make sense if there is a God. It thus furnishes proofs for God's existence. 

b) In conversations about the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament, it serves as the basis for distinguishing between Old Testament laws that are still relevant to Christians and Old Testament laws that may be set aside as irrelevant. It also sometimes serves as the basis for identifying what New Testament teachings are still relevant today. 

c) In conversations about how extra-ecclesial (outside of the church) political structures ought to function, it serves as divine revelation for public polity, ethics, and legislation. It thus furnishes a charter for all public life where it has been determined that the teachings of Jesus are irrelevant or unfit. 

d) In conversations about the truthfulness of Christian claims, it provides raw materials that believers may use to convince unbelievers. It thus serves as the common ground or point of contact between believers and nonbelievers.

e) In conversations about a neutral foundation or starting point for a universal philosophical system, it provides criteria for trimming away all propositions that are situation specific, socially-constructed, ideologically-motivated, or otherwise unusable. 

f) In conversations about what God wills his people to do when the Bible does not provide concrete answers, it serves as an additional source of divine instruction. 

Content-wise it has been equated with what everyone knows to be true from experience, general revelation from God, objective truth, that which is written on the human heart, the content of the Ten Commandments, the results of the scientific method, the moral law, what is permanent, how things are in this world, and how things should be in this world. It has been opposed to special revelation, Scripture, the way of Jesus, Torah's civil and ceremonial laws, personal/private ethics, and all truths that are temporary or situation-specific. 

Not all advocates of natural law use it in all of the above ways, but this sketch should give readers a sense of the broad range of natural law's uses and why some people are skeptical as to its ability to accomplish what it is often hoped to accomplish. 


2. Does the Epistle to the Romans teach natural law thinking? (my own question) 

There are two passages in Romans that appear to support the concept of natural law. The first is Romans 1:18-32. This passage is often used to bear more weight than it can support. The content of this verse may be summarized in terms of four points: 

a) Since God has made knowledge of his power and nature available to humans through what he has made, all humans are without excuse (vv. 19-20).

b) Humans have exchanged God's glory for idolatry (vv. 21-23).

c) So God gave humans up to impure body degrading passions (vv. 24-27) and debased minds that do what should not be done (vv. 28-31).

d) Humans know that those who practice such things deserve death, but they do so anyway (v. 32). 

It is explicit in this passage that all people should know God’s nature, power, and judgment upon sin. It is not clearly stated that all humans have innate knowledge of ethics and therefore share common ethical ground. This is why both Testaments instruct God's people to study and learn God's decrees as revealed in Torah and Jesus (since we don't know them innately), and to exemplify and to teach them to unbelievers (e.g., Lev 10:11; Deut 4:1-9; Isa 2:3; Mic 4:2; Jonah 4:11; Matt 28:19-20). God's people are never instructed to seek out the truth that is within them or to remind the nations of what they already know deep down inside. What all people should know according to this verse is that God exists and that failure to seek out his requirements in order to adhere to them leads to death. Yet rather than worship God and seek to know his ways, humans worship idols that lead to a degraded life and a distorted mind. In sum, according to Romans 1, unbelievers know only enough about God that their decision to ignore him and live as they please warrants his judgment upon them. 

The second natural law passage is Roman 2:13-15 where Paul raises the possibility that Gentiles could “by nature” fulfill the works of the law. This passage is interpreted by natural law advocates as teaching that knowledge of God's law and morality exists outside of Moses and perhaps even Jesus. 

One response to this interpretation is to note that what the Gentiles may know by nature, in this passage, is the same for Paul as what the Jews know by revelation: "Gentiles, who do not have the law, do instinctively ["by nature" in Greek] what the law requires." This passage may therefore not be used to pit natural law against divine revelation. Furthermore, since Jesus' teachings fulfill rather than abolish the law of Moses, what Gentiles know "naturally" is no different from the way of Jesus. 

Another response is to recognize that the term "Gentiles," in this verse, may not be referring to unbelievers. Central to the argument of Romans is that Gentile believers are no better or worse off than Jewish believers and that Gentile believers need not observe identity markers of the Jewish law—like circumcision—in order to be fully grafted into God's people. Verses 17-29 of this chapter make explicit that Jewish privilege, especially as signified by circumcision, is the topic of this chapter. We must ask, then, whether there is sufficient evidence in this context that the Gentiles being referred to are Christian Gentiles that certain Jewish Christians were seeking to elevate themselves above. Such evidence is provided in verses 14-15, which refers to the law being "written on the hearts" of those Gentiles who do instinctively what the law requires. Jeremiah prophesied that in the New Covenant the law would be "written on the hearts" of God's new covenant people (Jer 31:33). The author of Hebrews provides ample evidence that the early church applied this passage to Christians (Heb 8:10). 

It is thus quite likely that this passage is arguing that Gentile converts to Christian faith are the persons doing what Torah requires and that they are doing so because of their new covenant hearts, independent of their being instructed in the finer points of Torah and without have received the mark of circumcision. As new creatures in Christ, they live the set apart lives that circumcision was divinely ordained to signify among the Jewish people. The burden of proof is therefore upon natural law advocates to demonstrate that their claim that heathen Gentiles were living out Torah instinctively is consistent with everything Paul says elsewhere about the depravity of the fallen, unbelieving, unregenerate mind. Note especially Ephesians 2:1-3, which states that before their conversions believers were "by nature" children of wrath who lived for the desires of their flesh like everyone else. 

Paul's use of the term "natural" in 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 also demonstrates how slippery the term "natural" can be. In this passage, Paul points out that “nature” teaches men and women to keep their hair cut at different gender-specific lengths. Yet most scholars agree that this passage is talking about social custom and not physiology. 


3. Does not the wisdom literature of the Old Testament presuppose a natural law morality? (my own question) 

One cannot deny that the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job regard as authoritative the collected experiential wisdom of humans, some of whom had no access to special revelation (e.g., Proverbs 31 is attributed to the mother of a pagan king). In fact, the wisdom literature as a corpus may be defined as "human experience in God's good creation reflected upon rationally." 

But the main objection to natural law theory, as articulated by scholars like Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, is not that humans cannot learn lessons from the natural order without the help of special revelation, but that what humans learn from the natural order is often placed by natural law advocates in a fundamentally different category from what we learn through special revelation. They object to the practice of saying that the natural order teaches principles that apply to life in the public sphere, whereas Jesus taught fundamentally different principles that apply only to church life and the private sphere. 

A classic expression of such natural law thinking is Martin Luther's article "On Secular Authority." In this piece, Luther divides all of reality into two realms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. In the kingdom of God, according to Luther, Christians satisfy God inwardly, bishops rule over inward matters, and to God belongs heavenly, permanent things, especially human souls. In the kingdom of the world, according to Luther, Christians satisfy the prince outwardly, governors rule externals like life and property, and the state oversees earthly, temporal things, especially external discourse, life, goods, and honor. 

According to this framework, in the kingdom of God, where Christian faith prevails, the way of Jesus is doable and expected. In the kingdom of the world, where Christ is rejected, the way of Jesus would not work due to human disobedience. So a different ethical standard is necessary. That standard is natural law.  

Luther, and natural law advocates who espouse a similar philosophy, therefore effectively deny the relevance of Jesus to every aspect of life prior to Jesus' second coming. But Hauerwas and Yoder argue that God's kingdom is not only the way things are going to be after Christ returns, but it also furnishes the criteria for how things should be governed now. My article on Yoder's doctrine of vocation in Radical Ecumenicity demonstrates Yoder's vision of how the way of Jesus is relevant to every aspect of life, especially areas that impact wider society. 

Since Jesus was seated at God's right hand, with all powers and principalities being subjected to him, Jesus is Lord over all realms over which the powers and principalities exercise dominion. His lordship is therefore the criterion by which they are judged and will be found lacking. Christ knows what it best for every aspect of created life not only because he has been exalted as Lord over it and will someday return to redeem it, but also because he was directly involved in creation itself (cf. John 1, Heb 1, Col 1). The Redeemer is the Creator, so Christ should never be pit against creation. 

This has important implications for how we understand the wisdom literature. To the extent that human reasoning is able to transcend the limitations of the Fall's effects on creation and the human ability to learn lessons from it, all truths about how the world best works will stand in full agreement with the world's creator, who is Jesus. Since God has revealed his will for all humankind most fully in Jesus of Nazareth, we should assume that his instruction is, in fact, how the world really was designed to work. It alone fully aligns with the grain of the universe. 

Another way to approach this question is by challenging the simplistic view of wisdom literature that sometimes underwrites it. In other words, the wisdom literature is not a collection of objective principles that show how easy it is to apply lessons learned from creation to the public sphere. The Proverbs require wisdom to be applied properly precisely because the noetic (intellectual) effects of the fall impair the human ability to interpret them and live by them properly (cf. Prov 26:7, 9). Job teaches that conventional lessons learned from creation do not take into consideration all of the relevant information, which is why Job's friends fail miserably despite relying on orthodox traditional experiential wisdom. Likewise, Ecclesiastes teaches that lessons learned from creation can only take one so far—since they break down over time and drive to despair those who expect them to consistently deliver what they promise—and that special revelation is necessary to guide us more properly (Eccl 12:13-14). 

Also relevant is that all three so-called "natural law books"—like Torah, the prophets, and Jesus—seamlessly integrate instruction regarding public and private matters. For example, instruction in "religion" occurs alongside principles concerning economics and jurisprudence (e.g., Eccl 5 and Prov 15). 

The wisdom books therefore support Hauerwas and Yoder's contention that the split between realms of life, which subjects one realm (the public/governmental realm) to natural law teaching and another (the private/religious realm) to the way of Jesus is unsustainable insofar as these books acknowledge no such split and insofar as they highlight the need for further light from God to properly inform human behavior in all realms. The New Testament acknowledges Jesus as that further light. Note especially how John 1 draws upon Proverbs 8:22-31 to equate Jesus with the word/wisdom of God who existed before creation and who served as God's primary agent in creation (see also Heb 1 and Col 1). Jesus does not offer new teaching about a different realm that is irrelevant to the public sphere; he fulfills the teaching of the Old Testament by demonstrating how its teachings apply in both public and private ways in light of the dawning of the messianic age that the Old Testament law, prophets, and writings (including wisdom literature) anticipated.


4. Without natural law, on what basis may believers speak to unbelievers? What is the point of contact between belief and unbelief? More specifically, when trying to convince unbelieving public officials to enact just legislation, we cannot expect them to simply do what Jesus taught since they lack faith, so what neutral standard may be used as leverage to persuade them to do the right thing? (the first part of this question was asked by Keith D. Stanglin; I unpacked it a bit in the second part of this question in ways that Keith may or may not have intended) 

An assumption behind this question is that the approach outlined in Scripture is not enough. The Old Testament teaches in multiple places that if God's people will live out Torah with full integrity, the nations will be drawn to them (e.g., Deut 4:1-9). The New Testament teaches that if we live out the way of Jesus, our light will shine and the world will be drawn to God through our witness (e.g., Matt 5:16; 1 Pet 2:12). 

But the question is not that simple. If we live out this sort of witness and unbelieving rulers notice we are different, then what do we say to them? On what basis should we make our appeal to them? One response is to continue in our witness. It is our faithful witness that has their attention to begin with, so why switch to something else to make our appeal? We believe that our God and his messiah are creator and redeemer and we believe that the kingdom they brought is relevant to all aspects of the created order, so we share with the wider public what we have learned from our most reliable source about what is best for everyone. The wider public need not affirm our source to see the wisdom in our position. We submit our wisdom at the public conversation table alongside the collected wisdom of every other party to the conversation, all of whom have their own authoritative sources. We seek to persuade them to do what is right not on the basis of their submission to Christ's lordship since they have not professed his lordship, but on the basis of their stated commitment to uphold the common good. 

We need not construct an allegedly neutral platform, convince them that such a platform is truly neutral since they will not be inclined to think it is, and then use it as the basis of our proposals. If we cannot convert them to Christ, why should we try to convert them to natural law? Instead, we must develop our proposals on the basis of God's kingdom as revealed in Scripture and we can argue for them with arguments that our listeners will be able to hear. Since no two audiences or dialogue partners are the same, we will have to listen to what values each party holds and then make our kingdom-grounded plea to them in terms that each one in particular can appreciate. 

Like the Apostle Paul who used synagogues and prophecy fulfillment to speak to Jews and pagan religious centers and the notion of an unknown God to speak to Athenians, we carefully study the value systems of our conversation partners and we mediate Christ's will to them in terms they are able to hear. If our dialogue partner already subscribes to a notion of natural law, we might find it a useful entry point. But to begin with the assumption that natural law theory is always the best vantage point from which to speak to unbelievers does not do justice to the complexities of the current cultural climate. This approach was so helpful in the past only because the notion of natural law in previous generations, at least in the Western world, was deeply shaped by Christian presuppositions. That common heritage no longer obtains to the degree it once did. 

What then is our point of contact? Our common humanity, our shared public spaces and institutions, and whatever other overlapping convictions we discover we share with particular dialogue partners as we learn to listen carefully to them. 


5. Is it not a contradiction to claim, as Hauerwas does, that natural law is not a valid basis for Christian influence upon the public square and then to glean support from secular philosophy as to the contingency and communal dependency of knowledge? If secular philosophy is what veered natural theology off track, is it not dangerous to rely upon such philosophy in suggesting how to get it back on track? (asked by Keith D. Stanglin) 

This question does not do justice to the point Hauerwas is making. Hauerwas only objects to natural law as a source of knowledge deemed independent of Christ and made applicable to a realm of life to which the revelation of Christ is made irrelevant. He further objects to Christians using a natural law framework devoid of Christ to develop ethical proposals that do not assign God's revelation in Christ a privileged position. 

It is true, nonetheless, that Hauerwas draws upon Wittgenstein, MacIntyre, and other philosophers to support his case that knowledge is community dependent and that, even when it purports to be community independent, a wider vantage point reveals that it remains the product of a distinct community with a distinct set of practices that support and reinforce its knowledge. 

Hauerwas does not take such insights in a hypermodern direction by deducing from community dependency that the positions of all communities are equally valid or true. Both true claims and false claims are equally articulated and sustained by the practices of communities. So when God wanted to reveal his truth to the world, he did not drop an objective legal code into the world and command all people to adhere to it. Instead, he formed a community that would order its way of life according to God's truth, and he sent this people into all nations in the form of scattered communities that live that truth out in culturally appropriate ways among every ethnic group in every land. It is evident, then, that the philosophical standpoint Hauerwas advocates did not originate in postmodern philosophy. It is grounded in Scripture and was articulated eloquently by Aquinas. 

In any event, Hauerwas never objected to philosophy as such. He objects to modern philosophical standpoints that divide reality into separate spheres, insulate certain spheres from Christ, and replace his revelation with natural theology. 


6. Who is using natural law theory in the way that Stanley Hauerwas deplores? (asked by Keith D. Stanglin) 

One of the key foils of Hauerwas' work is Reinhold Niebuhr. Hauerwas' Gifford lectures on natural law (published as With the Grain of the Universe) engage Niebuhr's natural theology at length. In many writings, Hauerwas identifies Immanuel Kant as a key historical figure who embodies the position he critiques. He also associates this approach with the papal encyclical tradition prior to John Paul II (who turned the corner in several important ways). 

Bifurcated approaches to natural law remain alive and well today. The most visible and articulate representative is David VanDrunen, who wrote Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms (2009) and its more popular level counterpart, Living in God's Two Kingdoms (2010). J. Budziszewski, in Written on the Heart (1997) and What We Can't Not Know (2003), and J. Daryl Charles, in Retrieving the Natural Law, also advocate notions of natural law that ignore Jesus' contributions to our understanding of it and/or relegate to the private sphere his ethical teachings that do not seem "natural" to unbelievers (or many believers for that matter). 

Though citing contemporary negative examples demonstrates the abiding relevance of Hauerwas' critique, an equally important question may be: Who today is truly integrating Christology and natural law theory? Though my experience is certainly not exhaustive, beyond Hauerwas, Yoder, and some of their disciples, I cannot think of many. It is worth noting, however, that over 50 years ago Dutch theologian Klaas Schilder took important strides in this direction. This is evident in Christ and Culture (1947, based on a 1932 work, translated into English in 1976, available online). 


7. Thomas Aquinas and C. S. Lewis speak of an innate inclination toward God within humanity. Aquinas calls this a desire for God and Lewis speaks of it as the longing for God that is presently unsatisfied. In addition, Augustine speaks of the restlessness of the unregenerate human heart, finding its rest in God, and John Calvin claims that the sensus divinitatis is common to all people. What would Hauerwas say about a common human longing for God that is affirmed throughout the Christian tradition? (asked by Keith D. Stanglin) 

I cannot speak for Hauerwas, but I suspect he would want to affirm what Romans 1 affirms, but nothing more. He might then point to Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin's writings on the Ten Commandments to demonstrate that each of them also insists that one cannot really obey the first table unless one obeys the second table, and vice versa. In other words, proper knowledge of God entails obedience to him. So those who live how they want but still acknowledge the existence of a deity are not actually acknowledging the existence of the God of Israel and the Church. Israel's God is only known in obedience to him. The Church confesses that this same God is known most fully in Jesus. Though anyone can look at his or her life and recognize that something is broken and missing, that fact names human sin more than it does the specific God Christians worship. 

The statement "does not everyone know God innately?" often suffers from a weak definition of "know" and a weak definition of "God." As stated above, in the question about Romans 1, all people know only enough innately to get them into trouble with the one true God. Such knowledge is not sufficient to develop a constructive ethic, whether private or public. The historical fruit of that tree is idolatry and immorality. This is why God has revealed himself in history through Moses and Jesus in order that all men may come to know him truly. 


8. Is natural law simply the social construction of those who wield influence? (my own question) 

Historically-speaking, "natural law" appears to be the name that "the majority" gives to socially constructed convictions that "the majority" seems to agree upon. 

As Hauerwas notes, natural law made sense for Catholics when the Catholic worldview dominated the western world and was basically thought to be right by everyone whether or not they chose to obey it. Those categories also worked for Protestants like Luther because he theologized in and for the same Catholicized world. What seemed natural to Protestants was identical to what seemed natural to Catholics as well as atheists who were raised by religious parents. It seemed natural to all of them because they were born and raised in a Christendom milieu. 

For example, as Hauerwas reminds us, a recent problem for Catholics in America is that it doesn't seem as natural to everyone as it used to be that killing babies is wrong. This leaves us with at least three options: (a) God started writing different "natural laws" on different people's hearts, (b) natural law is a social construction that seemed to be universal because westerners were primarily conversing with westerners and western hearts all seemed to be saying the same things, or (c) society used to be sensitive to the natural law that God wrote on everyone's hearts but now they have become desensitized because of sin to such an extent that they can no longer perceive it. 

Since (a) seems quite unlikely, we are left with (b) and (c). Those unwilling to consider (b) should own up to the fact that affirming (c) means that common ground uses of natural law will not be as effective as they wish them to be. It also means that proponents of this view are making the interesting historical claim that people today are more sinful than people in the past—a claim that sounds a lot like the perennial belief that Jesus is going to return in "this generation." Of course, even this does not do justice to the complexity of the situation because what seemed "natural" to westerners in the early second century did not seem "natural" to easterners during the same century. This raises the honest question—Was there ever truly a time when all people everywhere affirmed the same core convictions about reality? The simpler solution is to confess that what seems natural to people in any age is highly influenced by the prevailing views of wider society. Though a good deal of it may indeed line up with God's truth, the fact that in the moment it is impossible for persons to distinguish between God's truth and socially constructed truths (e.g., the belief that women and slaves were "by nature" intellectually inferior to free men). 


9. In light of its limitations, why not simply abandon the concept of natural law altogether? (my own question) 

If God created this world to function in a certain way, then it remains relevant and functional to speak of how this world works best. Believers should not abandon to unbelievers every notion that is distorted and misused. Part of what it means for the Church to be a demonstration plot of God's kingdom is for God's people to articulate a vision of the natural that is more true to nature than unbelievers have eyes to see. We should therefore confess with John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 that Christ is creator, that he is the most definitive revelation of God's will, and that he is therefore best positioned to reveal to us what most aligns with the grain of the universe. It is thus fitting to say that Christ did not come to abolish the natural law, but to fulfill it. 


10. What does this look like in the Church? (asked by Mac Sandlin) 

The alternative to constructing and utilizing a natural law ethic to govern both human behavior in the public sphere and conversations with unbelievers is to order every aspect of our lives together as God's people according to the way of Christ. 

John Howard Yoder spells out what this looks like in Body Politics. As believers function together according to the way of Christ spelled out in Scripture, we learn how God wills all people to lead, spend money, deal with conflict, make decisions, and interact with people who are different from us. To the extent that members of Christ's body observe such practices in their life together, they gain valuable experience and instruction for how to handle similar activities in their homes, neighborhoods, shopping centers, schools, and jobs. 

The Church in this way serves as a demonstration plot of God's kingdom. It is the place where right living is supposed to be most visible and most consistently experienced. Christians therefore acquire as a part of their congregational life the skills necessary for applying God's kingdom as revealed in Christ to all other public spheres. For example, those who lead in the Church look to Christ for what leadership ought to look like. They learn from him that in the kingdom leaders do not lord over but serve the people they lead, that the least in the body are of utmost importance to God, and that those wishing to be first must be last. Church leaders therefore make those principles primary in how they lead God's people in the Church. 

All members of the Church should experience Christ-like leadership through the leaders among them. Some will lead as elders, some as teachers, some as facilitators of specific ministries, some as parents, and others as mentors. Whether leading or being led, all members are experiencing Christ-like leadership directly. Then, as they participate in their jobs or other community roles, they take what they have experienced on a congregational level and they bring that experience to the wider public. They therefore lead at work in a Christ-like manner and, in so doing, bear witness to God's kingdom to their co-workers. When others at work benefit from Christ-like leadership, they come to appreciate its value. It then impacts how they think about their own leadership responsibilities. 

By being positive examples of the kingdom in various public realms, God's people impact public policy as they broaden society's frame of reference as to what is possible. They may or may not be imitated. They may or may not be asked to give an account of what they do and why. They may or may not be given more leadership responsibility. Regardless, they continue to live the way of Christ that they are learning as part of a Christian community gathered around the Scriptures to discern what Christ asks of them. History has shown that this strategy makes a positive difference in the world. It is believers who so valued the sick and the illiterate that began educating the poor and providing health care to the sick. The wider society came to see the value of such service, and so began public schools and hospitals. To the extent that such institutions stop valuing the contributions of believers who represent the way of Christ, those institutions will suffer, as history has also shown us. 

In sum, the value of a Christocentric perspective on what is natural is that God's people will spend more time studying and applying the way of Christ and less time trying to formulate and justify alternative mechanisms for making a difference in this world. The more believers keep the way of Christ central to every aspect of their lives, the more faithful and fruitful their witness to the kingdom will be. 

For a more holistic snapshot of how the way of Christ informs the public sphere, see my article in Radical Ecumenicity, "Kingdom Work: John Howard Yoder's Free Church Contributions to an Ecumenical Doctrine of Vocation." To see how the centrality of Christ might apply to a specific legislative issue (capital punishment), see my article "The End of Sacrifice," available at walkandword.com under "writings," subcategory "unpublished writings."