Doing Community Organizing with
Those Who Differ with Us in Doctrine
Church History Support
William of Ockham
Medieval Christian thinkers like William of Ockham argued that God did not
exclude non-Christians from such matters as political rule and ownership of
property. In this shared participation, Ockham included the power of making and establishing
–William of Ockham. A Short Discourse on
the Tyrannical Ascendancy of the Pope,
in Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, From Irenaeus to Grotius,
Comment: We today continue to share in such systems. Political rule in a
democracy includes working together so that our laws and public conduct reflect our
Calvinists and Puritans
The Calvinists and the Puritans viewed all associations beyond a gathering or a crowd
as covenantal. They made a distinction between the church covenant, based on
each member’s possession of the Holy Spirit, and the civil covenant, which is inclusive,
based on each citizen’s possession of reason.
–cf. Johannes Althusius, Politica
methodice digesta, in Oliver O’Donovan and
Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 761-762; and Stephen
Mott, A Christian Perspective on Political Thought (Oxford U., 1993), 153-154.
Comment: Community organizing engages associations necessary for society in order
to determine that the public covenant is obedient to God in assuring the welfare
of the individual and the community. To withdraw because the covenant is
inclusive is to forsake this responsibility and to abandon God’s sovereignty in
Roger Williams compared the commonwealth to a ship in his letter to the town of Providence
(January, 1655). In this ship there are “both papists and
protestants, Jews and Turks.” None are forced to come to the ship’s prayers
or worship. The captain, however, must command that “justice, peace, and
sobriety, be kept and practiced” among all. All should obey and help in
the operation of the ship.
–Puritan Political Ideas, ed. Edmund S.
Morgan (Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), 222.
Early19th c. Evangelicals
“In their work the Evangelicals of the Anglican Church welcomed the support
not only of Dissenters but also that of the rationalistic Utilitarians.
Bentham, who supported the Evangelicals’ work of abolition, is credited with
the remark that if being anti-slavist made one a saint, saintship was for
him. The Evangelicals wanted reform because men were spiritual beings who
were actual or potential sons of God, while Bentham and his followers
wanted reform because men had dignity as rational creatures. Bentham
emphasized reason and utility based on the greatest good to the greatest
number. As long as the efforts of the Utilitarians were directed to the
good of men, the Evangelicals would co-operate with them temporarily for a
common good end without in any way giving up their religious principles.
Evangelicals and rationalistic humanitarians co-operated in the common
service of humanity.”
–Earle Cairns, Saints and Society: The
Social Impact of Eighteenth Century
English Revivals and Its Contemporary Relevance (Moody, 1960), 154.
“So in the more ordinary influences of the Spirit of God on the hearts of
sinners, he only assists natural principles to do the same work to a greater
degree, which they do of themselves by nature. Thus the Spirit of God by his
common influences may assist men’s natural ingenuity, as he assisted Bezaleel and
Aholiab in the curious works of the tabernacle: so he may assist men’s natural
abilities in political affairs, and improve their courage and other natural
qualifications, as he is said to have put his spirit on the seventy
elders, and on Saul, so as to give him another heart: so God may greatly assist natural
men’s reason, in their reasoning about secular things, or about the doctrines
of religion, and may greatly advance the clearness of their
apprehensions and notions of things of religion in many respects, without giving any
–Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
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