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Union University Department of Political Science
Department of Political Science

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Watson Presents Paper on Evangelical Political Thought

Apr 30, 2008

Dr. Watson presented a paper as part of a panel on Evangelical Political Thought at the Paul Henry Institute’s Symposium on Religion and Politics at Calvin College on April 25th, 2008. Dr. Watson partnered with Dr. Bryan McGraw and Dr. Jesse Covington of Wheaton and Westmont colleges respectively. Evangelicals have been involved in politics as long as there have been evangelicals. Evangelicals preached independence from Great Britain in the 1770s, took active roles in the abolitionist and temperance movements, and led the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. But the panel addressed the question of whether there is a tradition of thought to accompany evangelicals’ history of active involvement in the public square. Dr. Watson’s paper, “Introductory Musings on Evangelical Political Thought,” argued that evangelicals need to work on constructing a tradition of political thought that would coalesce around the identifying features of evangelicals. A tradition of evangelical political thought should not be afraid to borrow from other traditions. While holding to their convictions, evangelicals should not attempt to reinvent the wheel but must learn from other Christian and non-Christian political traditions. At the same time, evangelicals are marked by a commitment to the centrality of Scripture. Unlike other traditions that might rely only on unassisted human reason, Dr. Watson held that evangelicals must find a way to responsibly interpret scripture so that we can respond to tangible political claims found in its pages. The panel was an opening discussion that will lead to more work and conversations.