The Christian And Politics

For me, stepping into that voting booth the first time was a sort of rite of passage. I was, at last, really and truly, grown up. At least enough to vote.

And back in that day, we were taught in school that voting was not a privilege. It was a responsibility—a civic responsibility no less important than following the laws of the land. Voting was nothing short of doing the bare minimum for the community in which I lived.

Still, that first time punching a hole into the computer ballot didn’t feel weighty due to a sense of duty. It made me feel empowered. After all, I was transitioning into the world of adulthood. I now had a say in Things.

Unfortunately, that attitude didn’t last long. First came the results reporting—radio and TV routinely projecting winners before the polls closed on the West Coast. Often I would be driving home from work, planning to vote on the way, only to hear who would be the winners. So why should I bother?

Eventually such premature reporting was banned, but by this time, I’d seen a trend. In the gerrymandered district I lived in, nearly all of the local and state offices went to the candidate I opposed. My vote was not changing anything. My vote wasn’t really counting for anything.

And still I voted. Because I learned it is my civic duty.

The more I have come to understand my role as a Christian, the more I am willing, even eager, to do my duty.

The concept of doing ones’ duty is quite unpopular these days. In its place we have admonitions to be true to ourselves. Presumably that means, if I don’t feel like voting, then by all means, I shouldn’t vote. To do so when I had no desire to, would be hypocritical. 🙄

Interestingly, Christians seem to be at a divide when it comes to the issue of politics. What should be our role?

Some have jumped on the Focus on the Family bandwagon to transform the “Moral Majority” from silent to vocal. Others have rallied around preachers like Alistair Begg who says our efforts should be toward making disciples and our focus on things eternal. After all, this world is not our home; we are renting space, not buying.

Today the Campus Crusade sponsored program, Family Life Today discussed this issue. Author and guest Wayne Grudem discussed his book, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture.

What I liked most about the discussion was the admonition to take our place in the public arena when it comes to discussing issues of morality and ethics. Why should Christians be silent? Why should we withdraw?

Mr. Grudem made an excellent point about the various people in the Bible—from Esther and her uncle to Daniel and Nehemiah—who had influence and responsibility in foreign governments. Not just in the theocracy or even the monarchy of Israel. These various individuals held sway over kings and governors (think Paul). They held high office. And God used them in significant ways.

What I liked least was Mr. Grudem hedging by saying he thinks the Bible is saying this or that about our role. In other words, he admits some of his positions are formed by his own interpretation of the Bible.

I realize it is harder and harder to reach a consensus when it comes to declaring what the Bible says. But some things are clear. For instance, God says in Proverbs that He hates lies. The gospel writers record Jesus as saying that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. It would be contradictory, then for a Christian to formulate a principle that says lying is expected behavior. In other words, the Bible is clear on this point.

I would like to have seen Mr. Grudem restrict his positions to those things we can say unequivocally are clear in the Bible. Nevertheless, he gave me lots to think about when it comes to the idea of voicing our opinions in the public arena.

What is your view of the Christian’s role in politics?

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Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Comments (11)  
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11 Comments

  1. Becky, I think you hit the nail on the head! It’s our civic duty, and God expects us to be salt and light in our duty to the nation we live in here on earth as well as in our personal daily lives.

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  2. P.S.; Since I won’t be able to vote on Tuesday, I voted early. 😀

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  3. Becky, my copy of Politics According to the Bible arrived earlier this month (for me, it was like Christmas came early this year). For several years Grudem has been one of my favorite writers; he is skilled at doctrine-wrangling, demonstrating a key awareness of how to read Scripture, synthesize and understand its truths, and live them out in love.

    What “sold” the book to me was a preview of his first chapter, in which he outlines five wrong ideas Christians have had about government. (I overviewed that preview, and linked to the free PDF download of the chapter, on YeHaveHeard.)

    Grudem critiques the overdone “Moral Majority” type activism (though says fewer Christians really believe this than the world likes to think), along with the notion that, as you described it, our efforts should be toward making disciples and our focus on things eternal. After all, this world is not our home; we are renting space, not buying.”

    I did not know this was Begg’s view; instead, Grudem reluctantly critiques the this-world-is-not-our-home-so-we-should-just-preach-the-Gospel stuff from John MacArthur. Grudem reminds readers that God has left us on Earth for a reason, to evangelize and teach people all that Christ has commanded (the words of the Great Commission), and surely that doesn’t just include “spiritual” truths but also includes how the Gospel affects society and common-grace morality and government.

    What I liked least was Mr. Grudem hedging by saying he thinks the Bible is saying this or that about our role. In other words, he admits some of his positions are formed by his own interpretation of the Bible.

    I realize it is harder and harder to reach a consensus when it comes to declaring what the Bible says. But some things are clear.

    Grudem does make clear in the book what is undeniably Scriptural: for example, Jesus’ startling pronouncement that some things “belong” to Caesar and others to God, and the preciousness of human life. It’s when Grudem brings in specific economic practices, or how much government interference is too much — say, in banning incandescent light bulbs by 2014 (!!!) — that he has to back off and suggest This is my opinion, based on Biblical hints, but not directly outlined in the Bible. Fortunately I think you’ll find him very firm about the topics on which the Bible is very clear.

    Now I’ll have to go find that Family Life broadcast myself and hear what else Grudem has had to say.

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  4. Well, I was never taught that it was my civic duty to vote, so I would like it if you would tell me why it is my civic duty. Did your teachers make a case from scripture when they taught you that?

    I’m not saying it’s not my civic duty. I’m just saying no one has ever told me why it’s my civic duty. They have mostly assumed that I would know it was my civic duty and if I failed to vote it would be because I’m purposely shirking my duty.

    Thanks for bringing up Mr. Grudem’s book. I may check it out.

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  5. I agree with him. We need to vote by the BOOK. However, there are some instances where we have a choice between worse and worser. I see a change in that now where people are finally taking voting seriously. It is a duty. We shouldn’t be silent.

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  6. I see in some races we have a choice between better and worse.

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  7. Sally, I was taught about civic duty in public schools. When I was in sixth grade, we had weekly meetings that we ran democratically. The president, as I recall, was elected and ran the meeting using Roberts Rules of Order.

    But I think it was junior high when it began to take hold, though I remember in high school we followed campaigns closely, wore our favorite candidate’s button and held a mock vote in our class.

    So, no, there was no Scriptural basis. It was simply the idea that you were expected to pitch in and do your part, sort of like in a family when everyone does his chores. By pulling your weight, you don’t burden anyone else. So paying your taxes, voting, obeying laws—these were the things good citizens did to carry their weight.

    I happen to think that fits in with Scripture. Voting is a type of rendering to Caesar. At the same time, doing my civic duty is a form of loving my neighbor, especially if I am an informed, prayerful voter.

    Becky

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  8. Krysti, Nikole thanks for the feedback. Must be nice to have the voting taken care of. I still need to study a few of our propositions.

    Becky

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  9. Stephen, I still have some reservation about what Mr. Grudem said. I may blog about it, so I won’t take the time to explain it all here.

    He was the guest again today, so you may want to listen to that one too. He said some excellent things about judges.

    Becky

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  10. This is why you can’t base all opinions strictly on scripture. You can arrive at the duty of a Christian to vote (when he lives in a country where citizens can vote) by arguing from principles, but you cannot find the command to vote in scripture. You cannot find a command to take any active role in government in scripture, because scripture was written in times and places where most people simply had no such thing.

    Similarly, with the question of how much government interference is too much; for that, you need a political philosophy. Your political philosophy should jive with ethical principles, gathered both from revelation and from Natural Law, but Natural Law and revelation are insufficient to tell you exactly how a government should be structured. The Bible will not tell you, no matter how you read it, whether the government should outlaw incandescent light bulbs.

    And, of course, Christians are permitted to disagree on many matters of political philosophy if they do not contradict faith or morals. You can be a consistent Christian monarchist or democrat, for example. You cannot be a Christian communist.

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  11. Hi, D. G. Thanks for stopping by.

    I agree that some people misuse Scripture, either by dismissing the passages that don’t square with their beliefs, or ripping verses out of context to prove their ideas.

    I don’t think, however, that the mistakes others make should rule what I do.

    The Bible doesn’t favor a particular party or form of government. In fact, when Paul wrote that Christians were to submit to government leaders, they were under one of the most corrupt governments of all time. Was the Bible saying that imperial dictatorship was the best form of government and Christians should support it? Obviously not. The admonition to submit is a principle that crosses the boundary of all forms of government. To a point.

    The key is to know what the Bible says and to be trusting and obedient.

    Since I know the Bible says I am to be submissive to government, if it outlaws incandescent light bulbs, I am to submit.

    I can petition my government not to pass such a law, but how much time, energy, money should I put into trying to prevent the passage of said law? or to get it revoked? That’s when I think we have to remember that this world is not our home.

    However, on moral and ethical issues that Scripture talks about clearly, I think Christians should not be silent. But “not silent” to what degree? Is it sufficient for me to air my views on Facebook, or must I blog about them too? Must I advertise in the newspaper? Write books? Picket? Engage in civil disobedience?

    Those are the tough questions I think we Christians are going to be faced with more and more.

    Becky

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