Disclaimer: B&H Academic provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for writing the review.
Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo recently published a book entitled One Nation Under God, aimed at providing Christians with a resource in discussing politics in our society today. The authors understand how Christians either go to the extreme of not wishing to get involved with or discuss politics or to allow politics to be the resolution to all our issues in society, so Ashford and Pappalardo’s goal was to provide Christians with a balanced view on how Christians can engage in educated, respectful political discussions in our society while still remaining true to our nature as Christians.
Before the authors jumped into specific political topics, the first six chapters of One Nation Under God focused on outlining an understanding on how Christians should approach politics in general, by first showing how politics played and plays a role in the central events of the Bible (creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration), onto discussing the four competing views of public life and advocating for a “grace renews nature” approach. The authors then briefly touched on how to declare the Gospel as public truth, then go on to engage in how to relate church and state by examining the lives of Jesus, Paul, and Peter, and how to avoid the extremes of statism and a theocracy in our American politics through a proper church/state balance. The last two chapters in the first section before an interlude discussed how to practice politics in a post-Christian country, examined pluralism, and how to discern between using “thick and thin reasoning” when ganging in public politics as Christians.
Chapters 7-13 focused on specific political issues in our society today (such as life and death, marriage, economics, the environment, race relations, immigration, and war) and provided a framework for Christians to discuss these specific political issues in the public realm. Overall, the authors argued from a conservative, evangelical Christian standpoint (sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, etc). When doing so, however, they were balanced in their discussion and worked through competing arguments as well, not merely exclusively presenting their standpoint without examining conflicting viewpoints. In some of the chapters where some of the political issues were not quite as directly inferred from the Bible, the authors at times had to use their own judgment and reasoning to come up with as solid as a viewpoint as possible, and while the authors did their best to derive their viewpoint from Scripture, Scripture is not fully explicit on a few of the topics mentioned in their resource (such as immigration, etc.). Each of these chapters ended with a series of discussion questions ideal for a small group or Sunday School setting, as well as a list of recommended resources on the specific issue. The book ends with an brief overview of Augustine’s City of God and further encourages Christians to engage in the public world of politics.
Overall, Ashford and Pappalardo’s book was excellently written. They wrote from an evangelical, conservative, Christian perspective, yet at the same time remained respectful in their discussions of the various political issues, as well as remained balanced in their presentations of the various issues. They incorporated in conflicting viewpoints and civilly discussed the material in a way that did not disrespect people that did not hold to their viewpoints. All in all, I agreed with most of the content of their resource, especially the content that directly corresponded to Scripture (sanctity of life, traditional marriage, etc.). In a few areas of the resource that drew more from their own opinions and did not directly correspond to Scripture, I either did not 100% agree with their viewpoint or would at least need to perform additional research before fully endorsing their viewpoint on certain topics (such as their viewpoint on principled pluralism, as well as I differed a little in their approach to immigration). However, even in the areas of the book that I did not 100% endorse, I am thankful that the authors brought up a discussion about such topics, as well as I am thankful that Ashford and Pappalardo touched on political topics that Christians are not generally discussing (such as the environment) and offering a Christian, balanced perspective on such topics.
I enjoyed reading One Nation Under God, and I would highly recommend it to any Christian wishing to better discuss politics in the public today and do so from a Christian perspective while still remaining respectful in communicating with the public. The book is ideal for a small group or Sunday School setting as the discussion questions give readers a chance to interact with the material and to formulate their own discussions on politics, even if everyone in the small group setting does not see eye to eye on each of the political topics being discussed. I would also highly recommend this resource to elected officials, especially Christian elected officials who engage in the public on a daily basis to strengthen their faith while fulfilling their duties as elected public officials. It is certainly a resource every Christian, especially Christians in America, One Nation Under God, should read, as it allows Christians to no longer sit on the sidelines of our political system but to become actively involved in the politics and issues of our nation and how to respectfully engage in such political topics in the public from an evangelical, Christian standpoint.