Budziszewski, J. Evangelicals in the
Evangelicals have come out of political hiding. Whatever faults they may have, they have captured the minds and hearts of the majority of American Christians. Despite some shallow appeals to political action—for instance, the less promising elements of the Moral Majority—Evangelicals were forced to draw upon older intellectual streams, notably those of the Reformers. It is Budziszewski’s contention that for all the good Evangelicals have done in politics, they have harmed themselves by failing to draw from the natural law tradition (37). Budziszewski outlines four major thinkers as representative of the Evangelical political tradition: Carl F. Henry, Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, and John Howard Yoder.
Budziszewski launches into a 100 page essay dealing with the pros and cons of the Evangelical political tradition. He begins with Carl F. Henry. Henry’s notable achievement was sounding the trumpet for Evangelical engagement with his The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, uneasy because it had no voice to say to the world. Henry was quick to point out that the biblical message involves both personal regeneration and social transformation. Budziszewski, however, critiques Henry on the grounds that Henry’s system, while allowing for the possibility of general revelation, in practice denied it. With this downplaying of general revelation comes a denial of natural law. And if natural law is denied, on what grounds will Henry engage the secular man? Budziszewski objects that Henry’s call for Evangelical action amounts to little more than “evangelize.” Henry could appeal to the “shared conscience” but in the next breath said that conscience applied only to the regenerate (53-54).
This book, like most of Budziszewski’s work, was well-written and to the point. Budziszewski skillfully exploits holes in arguments. He has done us the favor of pointing out our weaknesses where we would miss them. He shows how we often take general revelation for granted. However, this does not necessarily conclude a natural law, as Edgar has pointed out. Sure, one can appropriate truths from general revelation. I think the problem, and Budziszewski implies this, is that Evangelicals have posited and either-or position on Scripture and natural law. Will this book convince you of natural law? No. Does it make a good case for natural law? While that is not the point of the book, it can encourage Evangelicals to see for themselves whether the same truths are found in general revelation that are found in special revelation.