The Role of Christian Belief in Public Policy

In addressing how Christians should be involved in such public debates, John Stott describes three possibilities. First, Christians could impose their beliefs and values on society as a whole. He cites the thirteenth-century European Inquisition to combat heresy and the twentieth-century U.S. prohibition of alcohol as prominent examples.

A second and opposite approach is laissez faire—noninvolvement. The disastrous example Stott cites is the failure of the German church to speak out against the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

Rather than these two unjust and ineffective methods, he argues for persuasion by argument. “Because God is who he is, we cannot be indifferent when his truth and law are flouted, but because man is who he is, we cannot try to impose them by force” (Stott, 1984, pp. 43–57).

This approach might encourage argumentation about public policy from a perspective of consequences rather than right versus wrong; from prudence rather than morality.

Christian Bioethics 2007 13(2):199-209; doi:10.1080/13803600701473489


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