“What if we thought about our politics and economics from the person up?” asked Dr. Anthony Bradley in a recent lecture at the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding.
According to Bradley, an associate professor of theology at The King’s College and research fellow of the Acton Institute, conservative Christians continue to isolate themselves because they are allegedly the only ones to “get the gospel right”, while progressives isolate themselves because they are allegedly the only ones who care about justice and changing the world:
What is the way forward? A recovery of the theory of personalism, which emerged after WWI. Ideological tribalism became more about who “wins”, dehumanizing people for political and economic ends rather than caring for their needs. Personalism calls us to love and care for others simply because they are people. Variations of this theory influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his thinking about social justice; Pope John Paul II and his opposition to the Soviet Union and his ethics of abortion and euthanasia; and even Francis Schaeffer and his creation of L’Abri. Unfortunately, personalism began to dwindle thereafter.
In Christian personalism, there is an inherent sense of worth and dignity in all humans because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are endowed with intellect and reason, making observations about the world around us through our senses. We have been given royal status from God as stewards over all creation. We are also given the gift of creativity, expressed through the arts, agriculture, and technology. All of these point to and reflect the character of God.
When we see people, we don’t see autonomous individuals abstracted from the rest of humanity; instead, we see persons wired for community, interdependent and deeply integrated into its social fabric. Persons are not means to political, economic, or even evangelistic ends. They are not objects of mission or projects to be served. As persons made in God’s image, they were made for the end purpose of living in relation to and in communion with the triune God.