Crossway has recently started publishing a new series of books called Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. Over the coming months I plan to read each and review them.
I started with Political Thought: A Student’s Guide by Hunter Baker as we are in the midst of a presidential election. I teach a high school rhetoric class and an omnibus class both of which are looking at and analyzing political commercials, blogs, debates and the candidates websites among many other things. They are using what we have learned about rhetoric skills in their analysis. I used some of the material Hunter Baker presented to explain to both classes what is meant by political though.
The book is well-organized and presents three famous social contract philosophers: Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. These are definitely summaries but Baker articulates clearly the philosophies of each and focuses on their dominant themes of order, equality and liberty. For me, this was worth the price of the book. When I shared this, students understood the concepts and were drawing examples of these themes being used by the presidential candidates. They laughed when I read from the Locke section, “Their rights come from God”, as the night before they had heard Ryan use a version of that phrase in the vice presidential debate.
Baker goes on to further develop the themes by giving each of them a separate chapter. On the section of freedom he shares John Mill’s utilitarian concept, and in each section he gives examples that students will understand. He then looks at justice and ends the book by addressing what is good politics and the contributions of Christians.
I recommend this book for students who want to understand politics and the foundational principles on which our country was built. There is a glossary, index and questions to help students reflect on and process the material. This is a guide, a total of 121 pages so it not meant to be a tome but an introduction for students. I think it does that well but would have liked to see a bibliography included so students could read further. Political Thought adds to a better understanding of the Christian intellectual tradition and I look forward to reading other books in the series.