Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

It is important for Christians hoping to live by God’s will to be aware of the delicate maneuver of such a choice. As critiques claim, Christianity is a “heteronymous” theology, but Mouw argues this is not bad or dangerous, if approached wisely. Christians, he says, are called to refer to the “credentials of the would-be-commander” as he appears in the Scriptures, so they can accurately discern who God is and why he commands what he does. Then, this analytic process should be carried forward with even more intensity when attempting to judge whether worldly authority truly aligns with divine will.

The Reformists thought Christians were called to engage God as free individuals. Calvin believed it is only when human beings gained freedom from the protection and hindrances of their social roles that they could receive awareness of their true selves before God. This understanding is not meant to don people with a sense of Nietzschian utter-autonomy. Rather, it is meant to provide people with new clarity about their correct communal obligations. The “naked will-to-will character of the central divine-human encounter” was stressed in Calvin’s thought in order to escape the existing conception of a compulsively “hierarchical” world, in which divine authority was seated in worldly, all-powerful monarchs. Against this, Calvin dreamed of a political formation that retained monarchy, but a monarchy as presented in Romans 13, where authority truly resides with legislators who sit somewhere “between monarch and the individual citizen.”

This, Calvin’s view of God’s desired order, reflected a God “whose imperatives aim at the creation of new possibilities for cultivating those virtues that God intended in creating human beings.” Mouw believes it is still critically important for Christians to engage life and God with this continual openness to new possibility. They should be receptive to the features, themes, and concerns of divergent philosophical dialogues—even, when necessary, the most remote patterns of emotivism—when they can clarify and improve the Christian mission. Without urging for an “accommodationist settlement,” Christians should engage in a “tribunal.” Rather than seeking to answer each other’s questions, Christians and secularists ought to follow the similarities between the questions being asked. They should create “links,” and in this way, Mouw believes, Christians can foster an interphilosophical dialogue that ceases to be “characterized by unrelieved hostility.”