The Paradox of Christian-Based Political Advocacy: A Reply to Professor Calhoun Academic Article uri icon


  • Professor Calhoun, in his Article around which this symposium is based, has asserted that it is permissible for citizens to publicly argue for laws or public policy solutions based on explicitly religious reasons. Calhoun candidly admits that he has long grappled with this question (as have I, though he for longer), and, in probably the biggest understatement in this entire symposium, notes that Professor Kent Greenawalt identified this as a particularly significant, debatable, and highly complex problem. Is it ever. I have a position that I will advance in this article, but I wish to acknowledge at the outset that this is a difficult and complicated issue. It intersects with issues of constitutional law, theology, political theory, jurisprudence, philosophy, law and moralityand thats just off the top of my head. As soon as one issue is addressed, twelve others raise their head and confound. I am also mindful that Professor Calhoun has been grappling with this issue for far longer than I have. I respect him and his thoughtful treatment of this issue immensely. Part of my trepidation in addressing this subject is that, as will be seen in this response, Professor Calhoun once held a very similar opinion on this issue as me. However, he has evolved beyond it, whereas I (to date) have not. And my position is simply this. Arguing for laws based on their Christian nature sends a theological message to the public, that compliance with such laws will please the God of the Christian scriptures. But, in fact, law concerns behavior, or works, and Christian doctrine teaches that works do not please God, but only faith pleases Him. Therefore, arguing for such Christian works sends the wrong message about the Christian gospel, which should be concerning for all Christians (myself included).

published proceedings

  • Washington and Lee Law Review Online

author list (cited authors)

  • Barnes, W.

complete list of authors

  • Barnes, Wayne

publication date

  • January 2018