Andrew T. Walker, associate professor of Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological seminary and associate dean of the School of Theology, names a Catholic scholar as his “greatest living intellectual hero.” His bookshelf bears the proof: it houses all the books, journals, and essays written by this hero, Princeton professor Robert P. George. Now, Walker is adding his own book to the George shelf: Social Conservatism for the Common Good: A Protestant Engagement with Robert P. George, due from Crossway in February 2023.
The New York Times once called George “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” He is a theologian, a philosopher, and a professor of legal theory at Princeton, where he founded the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the President’s Council on Bioethics, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology.
Yet, Crossway executive v-p of book publishing Justin Taylor says, “given that [George] is a Roman Catholic philosopher teaching at an Ivy League institution, not enough Protestant evangelicals know about his life and his work, what we can learn from him, or where we might differ.”
Walker’s book explores George’s most influential stand in academia: the “natural law” theory that all people have an inherent value system—an innate ability to understand those ideas and behaviors that allow life to flourish. He writes that George “believes that a divinely ordered universe allows for theists and nontheists alike to develop principles of human dignity and human rights since both are alike in their ability to reason.”
The book features writings by Walker and 13 other evangelical scholars, who apply George’s natural law approach to urgent issues, including abortion, human rights, the nature of marriage, and religious freedom. Walker’s aim is to show how an evangelical Protestant commitment to the Bible can marry with George’s natural law perspective, and thereby strengthen evangelicals’ voices in the public square.
For example, J. Daryl Charles, a writer on Christian social ethics, argues in the book that if believers want to get to “first base” with people who don’t accept the authority of scripture, George’s natural law theory offers a viable approach: “Arguments in support of traditional marriage or normative sexuality or against abortion... have both merit and authority not only because ‘God has said so’ but also because they are patent to all, logically reasonable and observable based on human perception of scientific, biological, social, psychological, and moral reality,” he writes.
Walker makes clear that, for him, the Bible’s teachings must lead any argument. In a dialogue that concludes the book, George replies that he sees no contradiction, writing, “Just as faith illuminates the truths that reason can identify, reason can help us understand the meaning of what is revealed.”