adequate secular reasons — or not

On Kathleen Parker’s claim that religious conservatives need to make arguments for their positions without invoking God, Larison surveys the arguments and the links. About this controversy I have just two things to say:

1) The issues at stake were thoroughly and intelligently hashed out more than a decade ago in this book by two Christian philosophers, Robert Audi and Nick Wolterstorff. Audi thinks that religious believers in the public sphere always need to present “adequate secular reasons” for their views; Wolterstorff has his doubts about that.

2) What religious believers should be doing in these situations depends on what they hope to achieve. If your primary concern is to influence public policy, then of course you should use the arguments that are most likely to persuade people whose support you need, which may mean keeping some of your own distinctive convictions in the background. But some Christians believe that something is more important than influencing public policy, and that is bearing public witness to Christian faith and practice. And if that’s your primary goal, then coming up with “adequate secular reasons” for your beliefs is pretty much the last thing you’ll want to do. But then of course you shouldn’t complain if people find your arguments puzzling or even repulsive.