Introduction to Politics

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Course Level:
Course Length:
15 weeks

Course Description:

This course addresses fundamental questions about the nature of politics, questions about religion and politics, the individual and the community, liberty and tyranny, and does so through a selection of great political literature, essays, films and theological classics. It lays the foundation for all subsequent study of politics in the curriculum.

Course Objectives:

Students will be able to identify, articulate and intelligently discuss fundamental political questions.



  1. Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.”
  2. Bible selections. - Gen. 1-3; Ps. 2; Ez. 36:22-28; Jer. 31:31-34; Hab. 2:14; Rom. 13:1-7; Acts 23:2-5; I Cor. 15:22, 45; II Cor. 5:17; I Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 13:17; I Peter 2:13-17; Rev. 19:11-16, 21-22)
  3. Wolters, Albert. Creation Regained, Second ed. (Eerdmans, 2005) - pp. 13-86
  4. Goldsworthy, Graeme. Selections from Gospel and Kingdom.
  5. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “Theological Foundations for an Evangelical Political Philosophy.”
  6. Hopfl, Harro, ed. Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority. (Cambridge, 1991) - pp.3-23; 30-84.
  7. Unam Sanctam, 1302
  8. Augustine selections from The City of God and from On Christian Doctrine
  9. Bloom, Allan. The Republic of Plato.
  10. Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World.



    Course Requirements

    • Series of “focus assignments” (15%)
    • Book review essay (10%)
    • Midterm exam (20%)
    • Essay (30%)
    • Final exam (25%)
    • Book Review: a 750-1000 word book report on one of the following (no more than 10 reports on each book) is due September 7. The books are on reserve at the library. Of course, you are also free to buy the book of your choice. Answer the following: What problem is the author addressing? Why does he see it as a problem? What does he say in response? Add your personal reflections. These authors are raising serious issues. I want to see evidence that you have seriously engaged with them. I also want to read a polished paper. The form and substance of your paper will be graded 50:50.
    1. Boice, James M. Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World: Learning to Think and Act Biblically. (2001)
    2. Dockery, David. Renewing Minds. (2007)
    3. Guinness, Os. Fit Bodies Fat Minds. (1994)
    4. Marsden, George. The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. (1997)
    5. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. (1997)
    6. Noll, Mark. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. (1995)
    7. Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth. (2004) Introduction and chapters 1, 9-11, 13.



    • Introduction
      • August 28 Introduction & the use of your mind in politics – start working on your book review
      • September 2 The use of your speech in politics – read Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” FA#1
      • Sept. 5 First paper due, 4:30 p.m. (750-1000 word book report)
    • Religion & Politics
      • Sept. 4, 9 The Kingdom of God – read Bible selections & Wolters FA#2
      • Sept. 11 The structure of Christian political thought – read Goldsworthy & Wolterstorff FA#3
      • Sept. 16 The structure of Christian political thought – read Luther & Calvin FA#4
      • Sept. 18 The Theologico-Political Problem – Unam Sanctam
    • The Individual & the Community - Plato, The Republic
      • Sept. 23 Definitions of justice: Cephalus (327a – 331e) FA#5
      • Sept. 25 Definitions of justice: Polemarchus (332a – 336a) FA#6
      • Sept. 30 Polemarchus (cont’d)
      • Oct. 2 Thrasymachus: the struggle in all of us – the moneymaker’s art & recap (336b to end of Bk I) FA#7
      • Oct. 7 Justice challenged & defended: the City in Speech (Book II: 357a – 376c) FA#8
      • Oct. 9 Political Education & Noble Lie (376c – 417b, end of Book III) FA#9
      • October 14 Midterm examination (through Book I of The Republic)
      • Oct. 16 Discussion – midterm, major themes of the course so far, etc.
      • Oct. 21 Unity in the city, Justice in the soul (Books IV-V) FA#10
      • Oct. 23 Philosopher king; Images of philosophy in relation to politics (Book VI to 503b) FA#11
      • Oct. 28 The Cave (VII to 520e)
      • Oct. 30 The Theologico-Political Problem – Augustine FA#12
      • Nov. 3-7 Each student is required to view one of the four assigned films this week
      • Nov.4 Election Day!
    • The Cave & Christ
      • Nov. 6 Citizenship and Statesmanship
      • Nov. 7 Second paper due, 4:30 p.m. (1000-1300 word essay on Plato’s Republic)
      • Nov. 11 Forms of Government (Book VIII) FA#13
    • Liberty & Tyranny
      • Nov. 13 Discussion of the films (start reading and pondering Brave New World)
      • Nov. 18 Huxley, Brave New World ch. 1-3 FA #14 (ch. 1-10)
      • Nov. 20 Huxley, Brave New World ch. 4-10
      • Nov. 25 Huxley, Brave New World ch. 11-18 FA #15 (ch. 11ff.)
      • Nov. 27 Thanksgiving Break
      • December 2 Huxley, Brave New World
      • Dec. 4 Conclusion: Putting it all together


     Movie Descriptions

    • The Killing Fields: Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with local journalist Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won't have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he's a Cambodian national, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in.
    • Hotel Rwanda: Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda--and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees, by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages.
    • The Inner Circle: Anyone who is sensitive to graphic depictions of violence and brutality should opt for this one. This is the true story of Ivan Sanchin, the KGB officer who was Stalin's private film projectionist from 1939 until the dictator's death. Told from Sanchin's view, the sympathetic but tragically flawed hero maintains unwavering faith in his "Master" despite the arrest of his neighbors and his involvement with their daughter, his wife's affair with the chilling State Security chief Lavrentii Beria and her tragic decline, and the deadly political machinations within the Kremlin he witnesses firsthand.
    • Anna and the King: Anna, a grieving missionary widow, is employed by the polygamous but modernizing king of Siam in 1860 to educate his sixty-eight children. The humor and politics of the culture clash are given equal measure. Unlike Yul Brunner's character in The King and I, Chow Yun-Fat's king is a picture of nobility. The actual King Mongkut was a man of deep learning, and originated the Thai alphabet. I have chosen this film as a study in the problem of political reform, even under an absolute, but enlightened ruler, and in general as a study in statesmanship in circumstances of social change and political upheaval.


    Recommended Reading

    1. Beale, Greg. The Temple and the Church’s Mission. (2004)
    2. Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. (1987)
    3. Golding, William. Lord of the Flies.
    4. Kemeny, P.C., ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views. (IVP, 2007)
    5. Kline, Meredith. Kingdom Prologue (or anything by this author).
    6. Kuyper, Abraham. “Calvinism and Politics” in Lectures on Calvinism. (1899)
    7. Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man.
    8. Orwell, George. 1984 and Animal Farm.
    9. Pearsey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. (2004)
    10. Schaeffer, Francis. A Christian Manifesto. (1981)
    11. Sider, Ron and Dianne Knippers, ed. Toward an Evangelical Public Policy. (Baker, 2005)
    12. Smith, Gary Scott, ed. God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government. (P&R, 1989)
    13. Strauss, Leo. Natural Right and History. (1950)
    14. Strauss, Leo. The City and Man. (1964)
    15. Strauss, Leo. What Is Political Philosophy? (1959)
    16. Van Til, Henry R. The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. (1959)
    17. Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology. (1948)
    18. Weaver, Richard. Ideas Have Consequences. (1948)
    19. Wells, David. God In the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. (1995)
    20. Wells, David. No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (1993)


    Recommended Films

    1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) - Dir. Frank Capra. Stars James Stewart
    2. The Great Dictator (1940) – Dir. & stars Charlie Chaplin
    3. Citizen Kane (1941) - Dir. Orson Welles. Stars Orson Welles
    4. All The King’s Men (1949) - Dir. Robert Rossen. Stars Broderick Crawford
    5. A Face in the Crowd (1957) – Dir. Elia Kazan. Stars Andy Griffith
    6. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) – Dir. Stanley Kramer. Stars Spencer Tracy
    7. A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Stars Malcolm McDowell
    8. All The President’s Men (1976) - Dir. Alan J. Pakula. Stars Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman
    9. Network (1976) – Dir. Sidney Lumet. Stars Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway
    10. Novecento/1900 (1976) – Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci. Stars Robert de Niro, Gerard Depardieu
    11. The Killing Fields (1984) – Dir. Roland Joffe. Stars Sam Waterson, Haing Ngor
    12. Mississippi Burning (1988) – Dir. Alan Parker. Stars Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe
    13. Metropolitan (1990) – Dir. Whit Stillman
    14. The Inner Circle (1991) – Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky. Stars Tom Hulce, Lolita Davidovich
    15. Schindler’s List (1993) – Dir. Steven Spielberg. Stars Liam Neeson
    16. My Fellow Americans (1996) – Dir. Peter Segal. Stars Jack Lemmon, James Garner (just for laughs)
    17. Gattaca (1997) – Dir. Andrew Niccol. Stars Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman
    18. Wag the Dog (1997) – Dir. Barry Levinson. Stars Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman
    19. Amistad (1997) – Dir. Steven Spielberg. Stars Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey
    20. Anna and the King (1999) – Dir. Andy Tennant. Stars Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat.
    21. Hotel Rwanda (2004) – Dir. Terry George. Stars Don Cheadle
    22. The Last King of Scotland (2006) – Dir. Kevin Macdonald. Stars Forest Whitaker.