Christians and the Common Good

How Faith Intersects with Public Life

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Christians across the spectrum have soured on religious involvement in politics, tempted either to withdraw or to secularize their public engagement. Yet the kingdom of God is clearly concerned with justice and communal well-being. How can Christians be active in public life without getting mired down in political polarization and controversy?

For too long, the question of faith in public life has centered on what the Bible says about government. Charles Gutenson, a theologian respected by both evangelical and mainline Christians, argues that we should ask how God intends for us to live together before considering particular public policies and governmental institutions. By concentrating on the nature of God, we can move past presuppositions regarding the role of government and form a reasonable framework for engaging in healthy discussions about how best to serve the common good. This lucidly written book will appeal to readers interested in ethics, theology, and politics and includes a foreword by bestselling author Jim Wallis. 

1. Introduction
2. Reading Scripture
3. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus
4. Biblical Vignettes
5. Human Governance and a Kingdom Agenda
6. Public Policy and a Kingdom Agenda


"Charles E. Gutenson has undertaken an exceptionally thoughtful analysis of how Christians who are serious about politics should think about the common good. It is beautifully written, swings clear of polemical jargon, and provides much food for thought. This is a splendid springboard for political discussion and action."--William J. Abraham, Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

"Few of us have been businesspeople and biblical scholars and political activists. Charles Gutenson has been all three, and he brings the insight and wisdom of this broad experience to this helpful, thoughtful book on wise Christian political engagement."--Ronald J. Sider, president, Evangelicals for Social Action

"This is an ideal book for Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, and other discussion groups. . . . I am thankful that [Charles Gutenson] has brought together his substantial theological training and his public policy concerns in Christians and the Common Good. At a time when the relationship between faith and politics, the role of government, and the vocation of the church are all hotly contested issues, [his] keen theological insights, deeply biblical approach, and clear political analysis will be a great help to us all."--Jim Wallis, Sojourners (from the foreword)

The Author

  1. Charles Gutenson

    Charles Gutenson

    Charles E. Gutenson (PhD, Southern Methodist University) is the chief operating officer of Sojourners. He formerly served as associate professor of philosophical theology at Asbury Theological Seminary and has worked as a pastor and a corporate executive. He...

    Continue reading about Charles Gutenson


"I've been blogging on the American political-religious landscape lately . . . and it's hard not to be cynical or depressed. But then Chuck Gutenson's book comes along. . . . It restores my faith in the possibility of Christian sanity in the public sector. Thanks, Chuck!"--Brian McLaren,

"A very readable book. . . . It is strong on biblical stuff, progressive in its vision of economic justice, fair and balanced about a host of vexing issues."--Byron Borger,

"Gutenson gently yet persuasively challenges the reader's assumptions about Scripture in a writing style superior to most progressive Christian authors I've read. Most impressive is his clear and succinct way of exploring how Christians ought to engage culture and think about public life without using rhetoric filled with ideological passion that detracts from what he is saying. . . . Christians and the Common Good is an outstanding introduction to understanding the intentions of God through the narrative of Scripture. It gloriously dismisses faulty interpretive habits while challenging the assumptions about particular passages or precepts found in the Scriptures. When it comes to the biblical journey, Gutenson has written a wonderful book."--Doug Stuart,

"This is an intensely fascinating book. . . . Christians and the Common Good made me think deeply about my individual, ecclesial, and national participation in social issues. . . . This text fascinates and compels the reader to wrestle with the relevant biblical motifs. Benefits of this book as a discussion text in a church or classroom far exceed its areas in need of clarification. It deserves to be read in the church and possibly undergraduate classes, but with a critical eye."--Dru Johnson, Themelios

"This book makes a way for those who would resist the current partisan political culture and act with hope to humbly and earnestly practice an engaged Christian faith. In this period of economic and social upheaval, I am most grateful for Gutenson's winsome, concise, and timely book. . . . Throughout the book, Gutenson provides questions that teach as well as open doors for discussion. . . . Gutenson does a masterful job of giving the reader a deep and broad survey of the biblical mandate for civic engagement. . . . This book is a powerful testament to the biblical call and real possibility of Christian involvement in the common good. I highly recommend it to individuals and churches who want to chart a course of loving engagement."--Sherry Maddock, Englewood Review of Books

"Christians and the Common Good is written for laity and clergy who wish to consider the role of believers and the church in public life. The book is accessible, clear, and well argued. I anticipate that it could be used in both church and secular settings to promote the thoughtful political discussions that Gutenson clearly cherishes and, indeed, models."--Deborah Kapp, Journal of Church and State