Faith, Presuppositions, and Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, is following the path of Rick Santorum in attempting to formulate policy consistent with his faith. “Ryan said his work ‘as a Catholic holding office’ conforms to the social doctrine ‘as best I can make of it.’”  One of his principles being scrutinized is his “principle of subsidiarity” which is described in the Wall Street Journal as

really federalism—meaning government closest to the people governs best—having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good.

In support of his position, Ryan refers to a 2009 encyclical:

In …”Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict called for protecting the rights of workers and reducing income inequality. He wrote that “Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. …Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.”

But talk of the Roman Catholic “faith” can be a misnomer; maybe that needs to be Roman Catholic faiths, because there are voices in the Catholic Church that have a different vision. The Christian Post tells us

Last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned lawmakers against voting in favor of Ryan’s plan. “We join with other Christian leaders in calling for a ‘circle of protection’ around our brothers and sisters at home and abroad who are poor and vulnerable,” the bishops wrote, adding that the true measure of the nation is “how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated.”

The Bishops’ could appeal to another encyclical, “Christianity and Social Progress,” by Pope John XXIII:

 Nevertheless, in some of these lands the enormous wealth, the unbridled luxury, of the privileged few stands in violent, offensive contrast to the utter poverty of the vast majority. In some parts of the world men are being subjected to inhuman privations so that the output of the national economy can be increased at a rate of acceleration beyond what would be possible if regard were had to social justice and equity. And in other countries a notable percentage of income is absorbed in building up an ill-conceived national prestige, and vast sums are spent on armaments.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Catholics United, an “organization dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition,” critiques Ryan on a presuppositional basis:

Mitt Romney’s newly announced vice presidential candidate, Catholic Congressman Paul Ryan, has a long-standing standing relationship with the teachings of atheist philosopher Ayn Rand. Because of their stern pronouncements against serving the weak, poor and marginalized, the teachings of Ayn Rand are antithetical to Catholic social teaching.. . . Despite the formative influence of Ayn Rand on his involvement in public life, on April 26, Congressman Ryan publicly claimed to have renounced the teachings of Ayn Rand, yet has failed to explain how any of his policies have changed.

So, they reason, since Ryan’s ideas come from an atheist, they must be based on atheistic presuppositions. Since Ryan, as a Catholic, cannot be an atheist, he must repudiate her ideas and articulate policies more in keeping with Catholic presuppositions like justice and common good.  To add a little twist to this part of the story, right wing evangelicals like Ryan. So do right wing evangelicals also have atheistic presuppositions?

Which is to say faith and presuppositionalism don’t seem to be clearing things up. Can I just be a conservative and leave it at that?


Filed under Church and State, evangelical politics, Presuppositionalism

4 responses to “Faith, Presuppositions, and Paul Ryan

  1. Never mind that you can separate Rand’s political & economic views from her atheism. She grew up in the USSR and saw what an economic failure it was.

    • You’re suggesting, Erik, that a person’s thinking may flow out of their observations – like learning from what is in front of them – rather than their metaphysics? You’ll never be accepted into the presuppositionalist community with that kind of talk.

  2. John Hutson

    Actually, I think what they’re more worried about is her “stern pronouncements against serving the weak, poor and marginalized.” So if one believes the civil magistrate has any business helping the poor or encouraging citizens to do so, such presuppositions might give one pause.

  3. So Catholicism’s adherents have diverging social teachings, just like Reformed churches have theomomists and 2ks. So much for the alleged uniformity in Catholicism.

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