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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 human laws.
–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, 475.

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 legitimate self-interest.

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 Charles 
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 public associations.

Roger Williams

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. [Jeremy] 
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.

Jonathan Edwards

“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 spiritual sense.
–Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (1754).

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