In Search of anBiblical Philosophynof Politicsnby E. Calvin BeisnernBeyond Good Intentions:nA Biblical View of Politicsnby Doug BandownWestchester, IL: Crossway Books;n271 pp., $19.95nJust what is a truly Christian, ornbiblical, view of politics and government,nand what difference does it makenfor public policy?nDoug Bandow, senior fellow at thenCato Institute, treats this and manynother questions with a fresh perspective.nNot to be pigeonholed, he works for anlargely libertarian think tank but espousesnpolicies libertarians abhor. His viewsnresemble traditional conservatism butndiffer on important points. He rejectsnmost liberal policies, but embracesnliberalism’s concern for the vulnerablenand its rejection of mixing religion andnpolitics. Frequently, familiar premisesnlead him to surprising conclusions.nIn the first three chapters, Bandownargues that all of society will benefitnfrom Christian perspectives, that then”bipartisan welfare state” has begottennan unjust society, and that this makesnclear the need for a political paradigmnbuilt on biblical principles. In the nextntwo chapters, he constructs such a paradigm.nFirst he explores what the Biblensays about the role of the state, which isnchiefly that the state’s job is to preventn42/CHRONICLESnand punish fraud, theft, and violencenwhile protecting life, liberty, and propertyn(though he allows it some role innhelping the needy through positive action).nThen he describes seven “Scripturalnguidelines” for the state: “limitednstate power, respect for the believer’snright to worship God, regulation ofnviolent and fraudulent conduct, justicenand righteousness, help for the needy,nmoral and social responsibility, and godlynvirtues.”nNext Bandow reminds us thatn”Christian political involvement mustnbe different from secular or humanistnactivism because the believer is dedicatednto achieving a different ultimatenobjective, the Kingdom of God.”nHence Christians cannot use the statento coerce spiritual virtues, a point henreinforces with a survey of the sadnresults of Christians’ attempts to wednchurch and state to create the Kingdomnof God on earth.nThe meat of the book is in chaptersn7-9, where Bandow applies biblicalnprinciples to specific policy questions.nHe discusses eight criteria for applyingnbiblical principles to policy issues: (1)n”Is there a Scriptural principle onnpoint?” (2) “Does the Scriptural referencenapply today?” (3) “Is the Biblicalnrule mandatory or advisory?” (4) “Ifnthere is no Scriptural principle on point,nis the proposed policy consistent withnthe Biblical pattern of government?”n(5) “Does the proposal, if not barred bynthe Bible, weigh costs as well as benefits?”n(6) “If a policy’s objectives arenconsistent with God’s mandate for civilngovernment, does the specific measurenactually promote those goals?” (7) “IsnCHRONICLESnis looking for an assistant editor.nNewspaper or magazine experience preferred.nPlease send resumes to:nThomas J. Fleming, EditornChroniclesn934 North Main StreetnRockford,IL 61103nnnthe proposed policy the most costeffectivenway to achieve the godly objective?”n(8) “Does the Bible give primarynresponsibility for the issue to a differentn’government’ [e.g., family, church, individual,netc.]?” Observing the process bynwhich he analyzes problems and reachesnconclusions is instructive, regardlessnwhether we agree with his conclusions.nBandow applies his method to twongroups of issues: first, “eight issuesnwhere Scripture is not silent” (abortion,nbirth technologies, criminal justice, divorce,ndrugs, education, pornography,nwelfare), and second, 14 “mattersnwhere Scripture provides us with littlenguidance” and which must therefore benapproached on prudential rather thannprincipal grounds (agriculture. CentralnAmerica, comparable worth, militaryndraft, economic regulation, environment,nforeign aid, income redistribution,nIsrael, military alliances, minimumnwage, nuclear weapons, protectionism,ntaxes).nEspecially helpful in this discussion isnBandow’s clear distinction of principlenfrom prudence. Two serious weaknessesnare his lack of sufficient elucidation ofnthe primary principles underiying hisnanalysis (“justice,” for instance, goesnundefined) and his lack of sufficientnexamination of specific biblical passages;nhe misuses some passages and ignoresnothers pertinent to the issues.nThe greatest weakness in BeyondnGood Intentions is Bandow’s failure tonformulate what he calls for — “an overarchingnpolitical philosophy” soundlynrooted in biblical exegesis. Withoutnthat, evangelicals’ policy views arenbound to float freely begetting thensplintered grab bag of special interestsnthat cannot cooperate toward widerangingngoals or a common vision ofnthe good society.n”Men and nations,” wrote RussellnKirk, “… are governed by moral laws;nand political problems, at bottom, arenmoral and religious problems.”nBandow ably demonstrates this truth,nexplores some problems inherent in it,nand points the way for Christians tongrapple with them. That makes BeyondnGood Intentions rewarding reading.nE. Calvin Beisner is author ofnProsperity and Poverty: ThenCompassionate Use of Resources in anWorld of Scarcity (Crossway Books).n