Pulpit Ministry & the Presidential Election, Part 2

Posted with persmission from Theologically Driven.

In my last post, I suggested that the role of the pulpit in preparing a congregation for the upcoming presidential election is more complex than simply identifying relevant biblical values at stake in the election and offering corroborating textual support. Instead, we need to offer a theological matrix whereby the believer may successfully identify the most relevant concerns and weigh them appropriately. In short, it is the pastor’s responsibility to develop and communicate a biblical worldview that allows the believer to recognize and promote God’s expectations in areas where specific biblical guidance is not forthcoming. Note the following:

(1) The matrix begins with the realization that, in this dispensation at least, the spheres governed by Caesar and the church, respectively, are distinct (Matt 22:21). The church has no place in normalizing the legislation, adjudication, or execution of civic initiatives; nor has civil government any place in normalizing the doctrine and praxis of the church.

(2) This does not mean, however, that the church is prohibited from speaking to civic issues. Since the Scriptures contain information relative to civil structures and God’s purposes for instituting them, it follows that the pastor who preaches the “whole counsel of God” must necessarily address God’s intentions relative to human government just as surely as he must necessarily address God’s intentions relative to His other major civil institution: the family.

(3) The Scriptures effectively describe believers as being citizens of two kingdoms—citizens of heaven and participants of this world’s civic structures. Christians are both members of churches and citizens of nations. But it is important to note that these two spheres, while in some senses independent of one another, both fall under the broad jurisdiction of our sovereign God—and he has told us in his Word how both spheres (which he himself has designed—Rom 13:1) are ideally to function.

(4) This being concluded, the first function of the pulpit relative to the American presidential election is to inform believers what God explicitly expects human government, following the dictates of natural law, to accomplish. This information may be discovered in NT texts such as Romans 13:1–7; 1 Timothy 2:1–2; and 1 Peter 2:13­–17. Specifically detailed here are the following functions of civil government:

  • Civil government is to correctly distinguish what is wrong from what is right and to employ appropriate means to inhibit the former (capitally and militarily, as necessary) and establish the latter (Rom 13:3–5; 1 Pet 2:14).
  • Civil government is to maintain a civic milieu that allows God’s ecclesiastical sphere to operate freely (1 Tim 2:2; 1 Pet 2:15). This function probably includes additional spheres (e.g., the social and economic spheres), but the Scriptures specifically mention only one of these spheres: the ecclesiastical sphere.
  • Civil government is to collect taxes to achieve these goals (Rom 13:6–7; Matt 22:21).

I hasten to add that this list is by no means described as comprehensive in nature. Further, the texts in view demand submission even if civic governments exceed these appointed purposes. What is important, however, is that these are God’s only explicitly revealed purposes for his creation of human government. God’s people need to know this. And the pulpit is a viable place for communicating this.

(5) The second function of the pulpit relative to the American presidential election is to encourage God’s people to apply due diligence to select the candidate who is most likely to accomplish God’s revealed purposes for civil government. While pastoral tact and knowledge of one’s specific audience must of course govern the specificity with which a pastor will accomplish this second function, I have found this clip from a recent sermon delivered by John MacArthur to be instructive to this end.

Conclusion: To summarize, then, the pastor’s function relative to the presidential election differs very little from his function relative to any responsibility that church members have in the civil realm. He exposes the relevant texts, fits his discoveries into a theological system/worldview, and suggests appropriate applications.

[node:bio/mark-snoeberger body]

2504 reads

There are 8 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate these thoughts.

I would add that a great many Christian Americans (and other Americans) are unaware that there are ideas about human nature and the nature of society behind the political approaches we see today. (Recent examples: here and here)

How people see crime, poverty and government action is virtually determined by these underlying ideas. I wish more Christians were aware of not only of these ideas but how Scripture affirms one set and rejects the other. For Americans in general, I wish more were at least aware of what belief-system (aka social philosophy) they are buying into and its place in history. The result would be more consistent responses to social issues and policy questions (the left would be more consistently left and the right more consistently right--in this sense, the "polarization" many decry is a positive thing. It means we might eventually have a national conversation that goes deeper than tactics.)

Mike Harding's picture

Excellent article.  I would expect nothing less from Dr. Snoeberger.  Aaron Blumer will address this subject at our Proclaiming the Truth conference this coming January.  The theme of the conference is "Christ and Culture:  Proclaiming the Truth in a Changing World".

Pastor Mike Harding

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, I'm having quite a bit of "fun" prepping for the workshop.

Part of the challenge is helping people understand why the ideas of long-haired dead guys are still a huge part of our approach to today's issues.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Good job Mark!

Thx for your work.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

James S. Lowery's picture

". . . helping people understand why the ideas of long-haired dead guys are still a huge part of our approach to today's issues."

Would that have anything to do with "honoring our f/Fathers"?

Jim Lowery

Richmond, VA

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In a round about way it would. One of the two major branches of political philosophy has a very strong  bias in favor of change (and against tradition) because it sees human progress as being dramatic and virtually certain. William Godwin (among the latest in this line of thinkers) was so strong on these ideas, he felt that things like marriage and contracts should done away with: because you'll know more in five years than you do today, you should not make commitments that bind your conduct five years from now. (Oddly enough, Godwin married anyway... sometimes radicals find that they are not yet ready to live their own ideas)

The conservative intellectual tradition sees human progress as relatively small and in any given amount of time, far from certain. That, among other reasons, gives it strong bias in favor of reverence toward the experiences of past generations.

But my comment has to do w/the fact that the "long haired dead guys" of the 18th century (and a few before) hashed out the big ideas that are still governing how people evaluate social/political issues. So looking at their thoughts helps us see why attitudes and strategies differ. As Christians, putting these ideas in context helps us see that in the 18th century, new political philosophies were born that represented a marked departure from biblical ideas about man and society held by most thinkers before that.

That in turn helps us understand why "politics" is not biblically neutral.

So one important "long haired dead guy" happens to be a short haired dead guy. William Godwin.

GregH's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

As Christians, putting these ideas in context helps us see that in the 18th century, new political philosophies were born that represented a marked departure from biblical ideas about man and society held by most thinkers before that.

I for one am glad that many of these new political philosophies made their way into the US Constitution through such Enlightened radicals as Thomas Jefferson.  For those that would want pre-18th century government and political systems like those in Europe, you are welcome to them, but I am glad we have progressed past them.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Actually both major branches of political philosophy had their advocates in the 18th century. Most of the ideas that shaped our nation came from the branch that viewed human nature and society along traditional (i.e., conservative) lines. Jefferson didn't contribute much but was, in any case, pretty far to the right of Condorcet and the other French radicals. The Federalist Papers clearly view human potential as limited and the constraints of both tradition and government as extremely important. 

So the choices are not monarchism vs. "new philosophies"--not really. The old liberal thinkers advocated due process, constrained democracy, etc. but did not embrace the vision of human progress popularized by the new radicals (Rousseau, Condorcet, Godwin).

Montesquieu (1689-1755), as an old liberal, pretty much invented the three branches of government idea and advocated the end of slavery--yet favored the idea of hereditary aristocracy. Other examples of political thinkers who embraced old liberal ideas of equality, democracy etc. but rejected new liberal ones include Edmond Burke and Adam Smith... and on our side of the pond, Hamilton/Madison/Jay and John Adams. (Jefferson is hard to classify because his political thought was less consistent.)

Thomas Hobbes (d. 1679), is arguably an old liberal as well. He was a supportive of absolute monarchy but also argued for a version of social contract theory along with equality of all before the law... but would not have backed the later vision that says human nature is inherently good deep down and has unlimited potential to bring that goodness out under enlightened social engineering that frees it from its bondage to corrupting traditions.

It's that vision that was born in the 18th century and has done no one any good from day one.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.