Review: Introduction to Political Science

33666213Fred Van Geest is professor of political science at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Van Geest received his PhD from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. Van Geest specializes in the research of the intersection between Christianity and politics, and shares a special teaching interest in comparative politics and public administration.

Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective is an engaging and informative book that assumes no prior knowledge of the field of study. Van Geest provides “an overview of many of the different areas of study in politics and includes an exploration of the main ideas that are a part of political life, the institutions that make it function well, some of the main policies that are important to citizens, and international aspects of politics” (p. ix). The book is comprised of four parts—(1) Foundational Values and Ideas for Government, (2) Institutions, (3) Policy, and (4) Foreign Policy and International relations—and organized with both intentionality of use and effectiveness in mind.

Van Geest’s approach is to be admired. The purpose of the book is to help readers become more informed-participant citizens in the debates and discussions surrounding government choice and appeal (p. ix). The interaction therein was balanced and fair, and Van Geest (as much as I could tell as a lay reader) consistently takes a nonpartisan position. That said, it is clear that Van Geest is most concerned with presenting a Christian perspective (hence, the subtitle of the book), and he does an excellent job guiding the reader towards an appropriately Christian end—shalom. Van Geest rightly (in my opinion) sees politics as a blessing from God, as they essentially allow the world to function while collectively making decisions that affect larger populations.

As an interested reader with little prior knowledge, I have to say that Van Geest is a gifted communicator and skilled writer. He made politics fun and actually encouraged me to be more involved, politically speaking. The organization of the book is also very well done. Each chapter opens with learning objectives, contains helpful charts and graphs, and closes with key concepts, study and discussions questions, and a section for further exploration. It’s clearly designed as an introductory textbook and it accomplishes that role with excellence. My only concern (and a possible shortcoming) is that the subject index appeared to be much shorter (only 3 pages) than a book of this caliber should require for future reference.

Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective by Fred Van Geest is an important book that will be widely used in political science programs around the country. I learned a ton from this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a primer to field of study. That said, I will likely still consult Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture by Wayne A. Grudem as a first-stop resource. Grudem is much more comprehensive and issue focused, whereas Van Geest seems to be far more operational focused. The goal of the two are much different, and because of that they complement each other well and should both occupy shelf space. In the end, Van Geest comes warmly recommended!

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