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Christians and the Common Good: How Faith Intersects with Public Life Paperback – April 1, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gutenson, the CEO of Sojourners, the Christian anti-poverty group, has written a treatise designed to help persuade evangelicals to heed the Bible's emphasis on social justice. Gutenson, who previously taught at Asbury Theological Seminary, brings conservative credentials to bear. He makes valid points about how some Christians take Scripture out of context or draw misleading connections between select biblical passages and modern-day controversies such as abortion or homosexuality. But his insistence that one can rightly discern God's intentions relies on the same hermeneutical method used by his opponents-those who discern God's intentions in individual salvation rather than social action. Moreover, his support for government safety nets such as Social Security, Medicare, and living wage laws sound like Democratic Party bumper stickers. Evangelicals searching for a social action platform may appreciate the book, provided they are willing to wade through turgid academic prose.
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From the Back Cover

How Does God Intend for Us to Live Together?

Christians across the spectrum have soured on religious involvement in politics, tempted either to withdraw or to secularize their public engagement. Yet the kingdom of God is clearly concerned with justice and communal well-being. How can Christians be active in public life without getting mired down in political polarization and controversy?

For too long, the question of faith in public life has centered on what the Bible says about government. This book argues that we should first ask how God intends for us to live together before considering particular public policies and governmental institutions. By concentrating on the nature of God, we can move past presuppositions regarding the role of government and form a reasonable framework for engaging in healthy discussions about how best to serve the common good.

"An ideal book for Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, and other discussion groups. . . . I am thankful that [Charles Gutenson] has brought together his substantial theological training and his public policy concerns in Christians and the Common Good. At a time when the relationship between faith and politics, the role of government, and the vocation of the Church are all hotly contested issues, [his] keen theological insights, deeply biblical approach, and clear political analysis will be a great help to us all."
--Jim Wallis, Sojourners (from the foreword)

"Few of us have been businesspeople and biblical scholars and political activists. Charles Gutenson has been all three, and he brings the insight and wisdom of this broad experience to this helpful, thoughtful book on wise Christian political engagement."
--Ronald J. Sider, president, Evangelicals for Social Action

"Charles Gutenson has undertaken an exceptionally thoughtful analysis of how Christians who are serious about politics should think about the common good. It is beautifully written, swings clear of polemical jargon, and provides much food for thought. This is a splendid springboard for political discussion and action."
--William J. Abraham, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587432870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587432873
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,097,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sean Gladding on April 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
While it may be good manners to avoid talking about religion and politics in mixed company, in "Christians and the Common Good" Chuck Gutenson invites the reader to join him for a conversation about both. For Chuck that conversation is firmly grounded in the bible - more specifically, the epic Story the bible narrates about the Creator God's intentions for the world God has made. Acknowledging the fact that for many Christians who claim the bible as an authoritative text there appear to be only a handful of texts that guide our thinking about politics, Chuck devotes the bulk of the book to guiding us through the canon of scripture and what it reveals about God's intentions for politics - the way we structure our common life. He asks helpful questions along the way to help re-frame the way many of us think about faith and politics. The challenge he places before us is to commit ourselves to God's intentions for our shared life before any one political party or our own narrow political agenda. He does not argue for any one governmental system, but rather that we assess all systems on how well they serve the common good of human flourishing, as described in scripture.

This book is a timely gift to help us think biblically, honestly and in a non-partisan manner about what it means to keep the two great commandments: to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I hope it will be widely read, discussed and acted upon. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Scripture tells us that Christians are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. In Christians and the Common Good, Charles Gutenson explores this dynamic as it applies particularly to the contemporary American context. As one who considers myself a Christian anarchist (think radical Anabaptist) I am often wary of books that propose Christians ought to be involved in governing civil society, but Gutenson does a marvelous job arguing from scripture and offers much to the discussion about the way the church should function in local, national and international communities. He has a particular focus on rebutting the myth that Christian faith is only, or even primarily, about one's individual salvation. Likewise, Gutenson takes on popular notions propagated primarily by the religious right by expanding the discussion beyond a few hot-button issues and re-centering the discussion in the larger narrative of scripture rather than a handful of proof-texts. Though I am not always in agreement with all the details of his scriptural interpretation or application, there is no doubt that Gutenson is both a talented theologian and savvy political thinker. His overview of relevant biblical texts and his appropriation of those texts to our society is both refreshing, because he really gets at the issues that seem to be close to the heart of God, and challenging because, like the gospel message itself, his suggestions call for each of us to be willing to sacrifice our comfort on behalf of others.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book presents a clear picture of what it means for Christians to be involved in the political process. The author provides an understanding of how Christians should interact between church life and political life. He examines a number of scriptural passages with the understanding that one cannot make direct connections between modern life and the Bible. He then takes this interpretation and creates principles for political life. He uses these principles to make suggestions for movement in the political sphere. The Author doesn’t make specific policy proposals but rather gives an impression about what our common political life should look like.
I have heard the phrase that one does not take the Bible literally but rather seriously. This book is a great example of what that would look like especially in the political sphere.
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I highly recommend this book for five kinds of readers: 1. Those who think that all Evangelicals lean toward right wing politics. 2. Evangelicals who do lean to the political right and cannot understand Evangelicals who are more centrist in their politics. 3. Christians of all types who want to read a systematic introduction to how they might enter public policy discussions in a manner that reflects the deepest Christian commitments to Scripture. 4. Anyone interested in how people of faith might enter into American pluralistic politics in a manner that honors strong particular religious faith and respects American pluralism. 5. Christians who think that the gospel calls them to some version of "anarchy" or sectarian withdrawal from the world.

Chuch Gutenson navigates these very tricky waters at the intersection of faith and public life in a manner that invites discussion and disagreement. He neither insists the reader sees the world exactly the way he does nor does he shrink in the face of possible disagreement. Instead he gives a very powerful set of arguments from his own reading of scripture to show why he thinks Christians should embrace a preferential option for the poor in the contemporary polity. Anyone who is interested in the why and the how of Christian involvment in public life should read and digest the argument of this book.
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