Can there be an evangelical political theology?


Despite their long and vibrant tradition of social activism, evangelical political theology is apparently notable only because it is so stunted. At least, that’s how the story goes. Mark Noll made the point in his widely influential book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind when he suggested that while nineteenth century evangelicals were “thinking about politics,” their work was “rarely theoretical as such.” More recently, Eric Gregory reaffirmed the claim in his entry on the subject in The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology.

The complaint now has such a distinguished history that it is almost itself a kind of tradition. Twenty years before Noll’s book, Derek Tidball made a parallel argument that evangelical activism needed a more academic infrastructure. Twenty-five years before that, Carl Henry kicked off the evangelical revival by suggesting in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism that “we have not applied the genius of our position constructively to those problems which press most for a solution in a social way.” And that only thirty-seven years after Charles Erdman suggested in The Fundamentals—which unfortunately today are more often dismissed than read—that “These social teachings of the Gospel need a new emphasis today by those who accept the whole Gospel.”