This is my fourth in what will be a series of five posts, through which I’m seeking to offer congregations some hands-on help with the thorny issue of churches and political involvement. I’m hoping that church leaders will study my propositions, debate the details, and come up with their own, unity-enhancing resolutions for their congregations.
Admittedly, I’m writing for pastors and churches in the US, at the end of 2022.
Contact me if you’d like a Word document or PDF of all the posts combined, without the repeated introductions and reviews. This would be the ideal version to put in a newsletter, on a website or distribute to a congregation. Do not worry about copyrights.
Here are the propositions which I’ve shared in Churches And Politics: Rethinking The Issue, Churches And Politics: Rethinking The Issue, Part Two and Churches And Politics: Rethinking The Issue, Part Three.
(1) Humility is still in order.
(2) Consistent Bible interpretation, painstaking exegesis and careful exposition will still keep us out of a lot of trouble.
(3) The Bible is clear on the basic purposes for human government.
(4) Some forms of human government are more consistent with Biblical theology than others.
(5) Some norms for government are strong and clear in Scripture.
(6) It is folly to ally ourselves with political personalities, movements and parties.
(7) We must not shrink back from taking clear positions on Biblical/moral/ethical issues which have become political issues.
(8) Involvement in government is, and has always been, a legitimate way to serve God and humanity.
(9) Representing Christ well, whether we are voting, protesting, writing letters, running for office or talking politics over Thanksgiving dinner with our relatives, has always been an imperative.
Here’s my 10th proposition:
(10) Expectations for human government should be realistic and Biblically informed. Here’s what I mean:
* Most people in our nation and every other nation are, in the Bible’s terms, lost, blind, malicious, controlled by the power of the sin that dwells within them, and led about by the evil one (Matthew 9:36, Luke 15:32, Titus 3:3, Ephesians 2:1-10). Most people. Please think long and hard about the implications of this.
Scripture insists that in our natural state we are liars, blasphemers, adulterers and thieves (John 8:39-58, Matthew 5:28, Revelation 22:15). We do not love God and we do not seek God (Romans 3:9-18, John 3:16-18). Among other implications, this means that most people do not want human government to look anything like the 629 or so laws contained in the Law of Moses. Most people want what the citizens of the Roman Empire wanted: bread and circuses.
* Most of our leaders are not men and women “of God” – people devoted to knowing and following the One true God. What can we expect of such persons? Even the rare elected official or un-elected government servant who is a Christian, is going to be an imperfect person; a “good guy or gal” with a heart of gold but with feet of clay.
* Governance is extraordinarily difficult, in the best of times, when done by the best of persons. It is easy to govern poorly and oh-so-hard to govern well. It has been observed that “politics is the art of the possible.”
* The republican (small “r”) form of government, which I’ve written about earlier (#4), a government of laws, is a rare jewel in human history. It only works as long as the citizenry is willing to submit to the authority of a set of laws which they believe to be divinely given, or so brilliant and manifestly true that they are worthy of universal reverence.
* Biblical and post-Biblical world history reveals a consistent pattern of God judging nations for their rebellion against their Creator (Psalm 9:17). Nations which flaunt their insurrection against their Lawgiver with their boastful, prideful, arrogance and codify their rebellion with godless, perverse laws and policies, invariably experience the judgment of God. Christians need to acknowledge that the promise of II Chronicles 7:14 was given by God to Israel: by no means are the “my people” of this promise the Christian minority of the United States.
* The one nation which was founded upon a covenant with God, Israel, has not escaped God’s judgment. While its perpetuity has been promised, it has consistently reaped the consequences of its disobedience (Romans 11:11-32). Even American Christians who believe that the United States was, similarly, founded upon a unique covenant with God (I’m not one of them), have to admit that we are a covenant nation which is overdue for the judgment of God. The undeniable fact that God Providentially used America as a missionary sending nation does not mean that God will not destroy the United States and use some other nation or nations for this purpose.
* Nowhere does the New Testament urge Christians to claim spiritual authority over human governments, turning them into Christ-honoring entities before the actual return of Christ. The notion of conquering Cleveland (or your town) for Christ – sometimes called “triumphalism,” isn’t found in the Bible. We are here to be salt and light (Matthew 5:14-16) not kings and conquerors.
While government service is good, and bringing godly influence on our nation is beneficial for everyone, for the most part, the Kingdom we are to invest our lives and our hearts in is the Kingdom of God. We expand this Kingdom when we bring people into allegiance to Christ, the King.
* The number of professing Christians in America has declined significantly. Christian missionaries in Buddhist countries expect Buddhism to show itself everywhere in the culture. In America, Christianity, at one time, had a huge impact on our culture. The public schools my mother taught in – and to a great extent the ones I attended – were Christian schools because almost everyone involved was some type of Christian. This is no longer the case, and we are not helped by being angry about it. Today, anti-Christian forces in our land are throwing off the “yoke” (as they see it) of Christianity with a vengeance reminiscent of the angry Parisian mobs of the French revolution.
* As a government becomes increasingly ungodly – witness the last days of Judah and Israel in II Kings – the pronouncements of God’s spokespersons must become increasingly negative and the likelihood of persecution increases.