Should Christians Avoid Politics?

head in the sandFrom the archives. First appeared on 2/27/09. (Original discussion thread.)

If recent polls may be believed, most Americans now see their country as seriously troubled. For conservatives the times are especially disturbing. We are deeply opposed to the political philosophy now in power but are also alarmed at the resulting economic policies. We believe the solutions now in progress will be more damaging than the problems they are supposed to solve.

Among principled conservatives feelings about the situation range from intense frustration to utter futility. To many, the segment of Bible-believing Christendom that eschews politics is looking more and more like home. They are eying the creed that participation in politics has little or nothing to do with our responsibilities as followers of Jesus Christ and finding it increasingly attractive.

Over the last few months, I have also felt the appeal of tuning out. But certain realities have doggedly called me back to the belief that in a nation such as ours Christians can and must be involved in politics. And we have this responsibility even if—perhaps especially if—it appears we will accomplish nothing.

God cares what nations do

A principle feeding my conviction that believers should be involved in politics is the fact that God has expectations of nations. He is not “judge of all the earth” in a solely individualistic sense, nor is He concerned only with the salvation (and transformation) of individuals. Consider, for example, God’s rebuke of the nations in Amos 1:3-15. Here He finds fault not so much with how individual citizens have behaved but with how they have acted collectively as a nation. And they are judged accordingly.

Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron.” (NKJV, Amos 1:3)

What’s more, at least once in Amos the judgment of a nation has nothing to do with its treatment of Israel or Judah.

Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime. But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth; Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting and trumpet sound. And I will cut off the judge from its midst, and slay all its princes with him,” says the Lord. (Amos 2:1-3)

Here God holds the national entity called Moab to an ethical standard which it had violated by its handling of the remains of the king of Edom (a nation condemned for sins of its own in Amos 1:11). Apparently, God has ethical expectations for what nations do when acting as nations. In other words He cares about national policy.

Given the fact that policy in America is shaped by the involvement of the electorate, we cannot separate policy from politics. If God cares about what nations do as nations, He cares about what the United Sates does as a nation, and He cares about the politics that shape what we do.

We are the government

Amos and other prophets show that God expects nations to treat other nations properly. Similarly, Romans 13 reveals that God expects nations to govern their own citizens properly, and He assigns specific responsibilities to government. Verse 4 indicates that the governing authorities “bear the sword” and serve as diakonoi (servants) and ekdikoi (justice givers or punishers) for God. The words good and evil appear repeatedly in the passage, emphasizing that government’s duties are ethical and moral.

It’s impossible to take these verses seriously and conclude that God does not care what happens in Congress or in my state assembly. But the implications of the passage for a society such as ours extend much further.

By design, the United States is a nation of laws shaped by the influences of representative democracy. The founders did not aim to give every man an equal voice in state or national policy, but they did aim to give every man an equal voice in whom he would send to act on his behalf (not necessarily to vote as he would vote but to build policy that protects the best interests of his family and his nation). Regular elections—coupled with the right of public protest—were built in to ensure that policy-making is never wholly separated from the citizenry.

To say it another way, in America the difference between government and the governed is intentionally blurred by law so that citizens have governing responsibilities (policy-shaping responsibilities), whether they want them or not. To be a citizen is to be an indirect policy maker. In that sense, we are all “the government.”

The fact that we are all legally entangled in the policy-making process means that the question is not “Will I be involved in politics and try to shape policy?” but rather “Will I shape policy well or will I, by passivity and silence, shape it poorly?” What we commonly refer to as “not involved in politics” is just a way of saying “not putting any effort into policy-making responsibilities.”

Because our government is structured the way it is, the moral and ethical responsibilities of government in Romans 13 are our moral and ethical responsibilities as citizens. The only difference is that, for most of us, our involvement is that of indirect influence rather than direct execution.

The place of prayer

I have often heard that the role of the Christian in earthly politics is simply to pray. Isn’t this what we are commanded to do?

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

What the Scriptures require here is clear. Believers must pray for and about those in power and do so with the goal that they will essentially leave us alone.

The passage might seem to imply that we should also leave them alone, but that view extends the passage beyond what it actually says. Rather, prayer is never a substitute for action in Scripture, just as action is never a substitute for prayer. For example, Jesus commanded us to pray that the “Lord of the harvest” would “send out laborers” (Luke 10:2), yet He still commanded us to “go into all the world and preach” (Mark 16:15). The apostle Paul said it was “his prayer to God for Israel that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1), yet he included outreach to Jews throughout his ministry. Likewise the call to pray for “all who are in authority” does not preclude acting deliberately to influence them.

Taking action when we have neglected prayer is foolish and irreverent, but praying when we ought to be acting is foolish and irresponsible. Imagine that fire fighters have been summoned to the site of a burning apartment complex. They arrive, take positions, unpack the hoses, and connect them to hydrants. But rather than douse the flames, they pull out their cell phones and repeatedly dial 911 as the building burns.

The analogy is imperfect. God possesses the power to intervene directly in the affairs of men and “put out fires” in response to prayer alone. But should we assume that direct intervention by Himself alone is His intention when He has not said so and has given us the means to attack the flames ourselves?

Morality shapes everything

A final reality that keeps me from adopting the “politics is none of our business” stance is the fact that the moral condition of a community impacts everything else in it. I cannot fulfill my responsibilities as husband and father as effectively in Sodom as I can in better surroundings. And if Lot chose poorly in going to “the cities of the plain” (Gen. 13:12), am I not choosing poorly if I allow “the cities” to come to me? What’s certain is that we and our families cannot be unaffected if moral decadence descends all around us (2 Pet. 2:7-8).

Proverbs underscores this principle.

A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back to pervert the ways of justice. (Prov. 17:23)

The proverb describes a perilous situation. A morally corrupt man influences or makes policy but does not do so according to principle or law. He perverts “the ways of justice” by seeing that someone is punished arbitrarily rather than for wrong-doing. As this blight spreads in a community, people see less and less relationship between their behavior and what government does to them. Lawlessness increases, and eventually no one anywhere is safe.

If I live in such a place, I can only successfully protect my family and my property (God-given responsibilities) as God intervenes to prevent what is otherwise the inevitable course of nature. But will He intervene in that situation if I could have stemmed the tide of lawlessness years earlier but chose not to?

Just as declining morality ruins the relationship between law-abiding behavior and personal well being, it also ruins the relationship between labor and personal prosperity.

Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste. (Prov 13:23)

This proverb can be taken to mean that lack of justice has allowed the poor to be robbed, but the view that answers best to the evidence is that injustice has somehow led the poor to let their land lie idle. This meaning is more clear in the ESV.

The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice. (ESV, Prov 13:23)

The proverb describes a situation in which the land of the poor could have been producing abundance, but bad policy (or poor execution of good policy) made waste more appealing. The poor here probably feel that growing the crops will do them little good because the fruit of their labor will be taken away, either by robbers or by oppressive taxation. Either way, immoral policy has guaranteed that citizens and their families see little relationship between hard work and food on the table. As that relationship deteriorates in a community, production falls off. Soon there isn’t enough of anything.

We’re foolish if we believe that bad policy and moral confusion can spread indefinitely without eventually hindering our own ability to live and serve God. Yes, God can intervene to spare His children from the worst that lawlessness and want bring on a society, but should we assume that He will do so if we have the means to influence policy and morality for good but choose instead to “avoid politics”?

Some may object here that we “cannot legislate morality.” But in reality government exists for no other reason than to punish “evil” (what is morally wrong) and reward “good” (what is morally right). To the degree Christians can influence policy toward effectiveness in that purpose, we are wise to do so. To do less is to welcome a future of violence, chaos, and poverty from which God will have no obligation to deliver us.

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Mike Harding's picture

Thank you!

Pastor Mike Harding

JG's picture

I'd add one point that I think is important on this topic and often neglected. Because good government has a positive impact on our neighbours, acting to improve the way our nation is governed is part of loving our neighbours. Where we have the opportunity to influence government for good, it is the charitable thing to do.

Goodellsboy's picture

These are great points that I do not believe any believer will argue against. But your second to last sentence is the point of contention. How much should we be involved? SHould we hold campaign speeches in our church? Should we picket and march and write letters and make calls? Should we support from the church treasury the candidates that need financial support? These are the questions that haunt us at every election time. How much should politics be a part of the ministry of the church or the believer's life. I don't have answers. I just ask the question for the smart people to answer.

Shaynus's picture

Goodellsboy,

The question isn't how much you should get involved, but the how is really important. A few things to consider:

The church acting as an institution is different from the church militant (as in, all Christians now alive) getting involved as individuals. The church as an institution is to teach the word and apply it to daily life including government. But I think it's unwise for a preacher to say "thus says the Lord" very often about political policies unless its simply crystal clear. Not everything that's a sin should be a crime, and that's where a lot of Christians disagree. One could say that cheating at soccer is a sin, but not want the government to make it illegal. Two Christians could have the same position on a whether a sin is a sin, but differ on how the government should involve itself. For any moral issue I can think of, Christians can disagree on policy methods while still retaining a correct stance on the sin.

For example, I was an intern on Capitol Hill during the 2004 Marriage Amendment debate. Some preachers had a very "thus says the Lord" way of looking at whether the Amendment was a good idea. It made me uncomfortable to be honest, because they were giving the impression that God supported a particular method to achieve a righteousness goal.

So when you ask if "we" should picket and march and make calls: who is the "we?" Ask yourself if this policy is a way to reach a righteous outcome, and is therefore a method, or if it's righteousness itself that you're advocating. This would help you know if your church as an institution should be involved or not. For example, a church could speak out against the evil of abortion, but I don't think it would be wise for a pastor to advocate publicly that his congregation picket outside abortion clinics. That's a tactic that should be left up to the individual believer's conscience and wisdom.

I'm currently reading a new book http://www.amazon.com/Body-Broken-Republicans-Democrats-Same/dp/1936768305 ]"Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew" by Charles Drew , and it's been helpful. I'm supposed to write a review for my church and I may submit it to SI as well.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Goodellsboy wrote:
SHould we hold campaign speeches in our church? Should we picket and march and write letters and make calls? Should we support from the church treasury the candidates that need financial support? These are the questions that haunt us at every election time. How much should politics be a part of the ministry of the church or the believer's life. I don't have answers. I just ask the question for the smart people to answer.

I think there can be no hard and fast rule for how involved Christians should be (I'm not all all for campaign speeches in churches, though). So much of that has to do with vocation.
But in general I'd like to see more Christians be more intellectually involved at least: learn the history of the ideas behind the issues, understand the philosophies that drive the policies involved, vote accordingly. To me, that's a minimal responsibility for the citizen-government of a nation like ours.
...also take the time to understand the basic schools of thought on economics.
The "polarization" that is so lamented these days (tiresomely so) has real ideas at its heart and though many politicians are just finger-to-the-wind types, much of the polarization we're seeing is due to substantially different philosophies following their trajectories. And the more these ideas run their courses, the more they diverge.

DavidO's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think there can be no hard and fast rule for how involved Christians should be.

I understand what you mean by hard and fast, but if Christians get focused on national politics at the expense of the pilgrim mindset

the author of Hebrews wrote:
. . . having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

it's too involved.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't really disagree with that principle. It applies to every vocation, though. What about vocations that include jobs like farmer, police officer, lawyer, doctor, cook.... you name it. These are all aimed at this present world. But it's possible to engage in these labors with "the homeland" (in particular, the glory of the One who dwells there - Rev. 21.23) as the ultimate purpose.
I can't see any reason to put political activities/careers in a different category.

DavidO's picture

Sure. It's also possible, and frequently modeled and commended, to ignore what the ultimate purpose ought to be in the pure interest of "saving our way of life", etc.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I hear/read that observation in one for another pretty often. But I never see or hear much to help me understand what they're referring to. What does this call to ignore the ultimate purpose look like?

I suspect that in many cases, it's a problem of neglect or perceived neglect. A problem of what is not being said. But if we apply that standard fairly.... how often do we hear that selling cars or designing curtains has an eternal purpose? For believers it does, but the eternal purpose is not divorced from the temporal one. They're intertwined.
How do I labor "as to the Lord and not to men" if my job is to run a dry cleaners service? A huge part of it is to provide excellent service for a fair price and do my business honestly--in short, I pursue the eternal glory of the Creator (and Savior) who has lead me to this work by, in large part, striving for the highest quality temporal result. I pursue the eternal by means of the temporal.

So when it comes to lines of work, seeing the eternal value of "saving our way of life" seems easy to me compared to "making better hard drive components" or "selling really good makeup" or "creating a more beautiful landscape." (OK, admittedly, that last one would be a stiff competitor, but if I were not a pastor, to me, work aimed at influencing public policy would be the next best thing....OK, except for maybe teaching, which is very like pastoring anyway in a lot of ways.)

DavidO's picture

I can't tell you the number of times I have heard a Christian activist imply to a congregation that the key to Jesus being able to keep his promise to his church (that the gates of hell will not prevail against it) was dependant on a letter writing campaign by all God-fearing people across the land to prevent House Bill something or other from passing.

Obviously I exaggerate somewhat. But in seriousness, I've heard a lot of pulpit time dedicated to this over the years. Thankfully not at my current church.

EDIT: I should make clear I am not talking about actual politicians, but lobbyists, watchdogs, and other activists. "Keeping our Christian nation" was a big part of the fundamentalism I grew up in.

Shaynus's picture

David,

I think you and Aaron should really drill down into what the differences are in "involved" in politics and how one puts too much hope in politics. I live in the Washington DC area. I see a lot of Christian activists acting as if the kingdom of God depended on the GOP. In one sense, you could say they're too involved in politics, yet I don't think their level of involvement is the problem. The problem is where they place their hope. In my experience of knowing lots of Christians at high levels of government (my roommate is the personal assistant of a US Congressman, several of my friends work in Sr. levels Congressional offices) the best Christians know the place of government as really important, yet less important than the Kingdom of God.

David, I'm with you when you decry people who are all uptight about keeping America a Christian nation. I used to live two floors below Wallbuilders founder David Barton. I went to his seminars and found he put too much hope in good government for eternal purposes.

All that said, plenty of Christians work in politics and see the dire circumstances our country is in. They are working feverishly to halt a liberal agenda that would push the country away from freedom. I think it's really important work. I don't think they generally mistake their work in their churches with this kind of secular work in terms of importance. There is a way to work feverishly for a more biblical government that doesn't make biblical government an idol that displaces God Himself. Sure there are excesses you could point to, and I don't like them, but there is a lot of balance as well.

Shayne

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for the specifics, guys.
There are some problems with framing here... I think we're not ever going to see that completely go away because some of it is theologically driven by various forms of kingdom confusion (which tends to correlate with post millennialism and its cousins among other things).
At the same time, these guys are not completely wrong. America began as a culturally Christian nation and though it's hard to prove a strong correlation with "studies," societies that are "culturally Christian" have tended to have many more people in them who were genuinely Christian. So the relationship between personal faith in Christ (the only place real transformation happens) and the continuation of institutions strongly influenced by Christian thought is not to be dismissed--though it is complex.

I've made a case elsewhere that striving for a culturally-Christian society (by means of persuasion, not coercion) is a worthy goal for many reasons including love of neighbor (life is better where wisdom is honored in a people's customs), love of our own children (who will have to live in the world we leave them if Christ doesn't return first), and an environment of "pre evangelism." In this piece I touched on the idea that God cares how nations behave as well as caring about what individuals believe.

The "environment of pre-evangelism" is an area I'd like to do some more work on some time. I increasingly hear the notion that we should want a more decadent society so that people can more clearly see the vanity of moralism. I think this idea is very hard to support from Scripture because it rests on the premise that people see the truth of their sin more clearly by sinning more.
(I'm trying not to just laugh that idea off... because apparently many are dead serious about it... but it's a strain. The truth is that it strikes me as absurd.)

The real problem with many of the "fighting for a Christian America" folks isn't usually that they're wrong about the (culturally) "Christian America" idea; it's more a problem of not being well informed (rosy and naive versions of the faith of the founding fathers, for example) as well as problems of idealism and really, really ineffective persuasive strategies (e.g., mostly preaching to the choir, using really confusing language on separation of church and state, etc.).

Long post, but one more thought...
On the GOP... It's a mess but it's the best we've got right now. Since I'm not an idealist, I don't really expect to encounter a perfect party or perfect candidate, so the state of the GOP is not deeply disturbing to me. Ultimately it's about the right ideas winning the day and there are many voices making thoughtful cases for the right ideas. Sometimes they gain ground, sometimes lose it, but slow progress is sometimes evident and that's good enough for me.

edingess's picture

First, the idea that Christians SHOULD be involved in politics is silly. Such a viewpoint implies a biblical mandate that is wholly absent from the text. Can a Christian be involved in politics without sinning? Well, political involvement in and of itself is not a sin. Voting is fine. I vote in every election. Should Christians vote? If one means that it is wrong for a Christian NOT to vote, I would argue that such a view is guilty of Americanizing Christianity. I would go so far to say that laying such a mandate on people is playing God. If a person objects to voting, who am I or you or anyone else to correct them? From what Scripture would we speak? Dare we twist the text in order to propogate the Americanizing of Christianity? Someone says that a Christian should be a good citizen and a good citizen votes. Really? Who exactly gets to define what a good citizen is? Who says a good citizen votes? The world or Scripture? A good citizen, a really good Christian citizen contradicts the wordly culture with his/her life and message. A good citizen evanglizes the community. A Christian citizen realizes that all the outward conformity in the world is not really going to make a difference in the end. So what you have a high moral culture. If men are God-haters, they are still vile and wicked in God's eyes. A morally high culture is just as wicked as the most decadent culture if it is without Christ. And surely American culture is without Christ.

The Church can't even manage itself, let alone influence political direction in this country. If you think she can, forgive me, but you are living a delusion. The Church needs to go back to the simple preaching of a simple gospel and trust an absolutely free and sovereign God to transform lives the way Scripture says He does. She needs to get back to the basics of discipleship, indoctrination, and evangelism if she is to have any hope of inlfuencing the culture toward God.

We are not called to elevate the morals in our culture. We are called to proclaim the gospel and if this does not move morality, all the politics and movements on the planet surely won't. The problem with the American Church is that she has become so involved in moral issues and political issues that the world thinks she is merely one more politically oriented agent pushing her own ideologies onto the government and the rest of the culture that does not want them. In other words, she is not viewed as the Church any longer. She looks like all the other political entities vying for influence, power, and control. In that environment, the real danger is the loss of the gospel.

Politics are a far bigger distraction and a hinderance to the gospel than they are a help. They have served as a major distraction for the Church over the past 50 years or so and the results within the body are nothing short of dire. Let us return to a sharpened focus on our very narrow mission given to us by our Founder, Lord, and Master, Jesus Christ. Let us preach the gospel, baptize converts, and make disciples throughout the whole world. The business of kings, times, and epochs is really the business of God. Pray for them so that we can live a tranquil life. But let us not allow the delusion that somehow this is our mission and it is our duty and mission to influence legislation and goverment. The best way to influence is to preach!

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Joel Shaffer's picture

Ed,

I generally agree with and many of your statements and your distrust of politics as savior. I think most of us here have witnessed the demise of Christianity when the politics and the church are mixed. Tony Campolo once said, "mixing Christianity and politics is like mixing ice cream with horse manure. You will not ruin the horse manure, but you will ruin the ice cream."

However, the problem that we face is that disciple-making does not happen in vacuum. In fact, the context for the Great Commission is "loving your neighbor as yourself." Without it you can't even make disciples. Each of us is surrounded by real situations including those that are political. For instance, in my city of Grand Rapids, the public schools have been rightly labeled "drop-out factories." It is in my interest to love my neighbor by voting for education board members who by their actions will influence policy on a systematic level that help stem the tide or even gain headway with this problem. Of course the break down of the family, crime and violence, teen pregnancies, and many other social pathologies have created these problems and because sin is the problem of course the gospel of Jesus is the solution. But in many of these problems mentioned, there are bad laws or lack of laws that have also contributed to the problem as well and in a small way we can love our neighbor as our self through certain means of political action. But I do believe we do have to be careful how we go about getting involved in politics because unfortunately many Christians over the years lacked discernment with their political activism and it destroyed their gospel witness for Christ.

edingess's picture

I have nothing negative to say about how you are addressing the problem in Grand Rapids. Personally, I would not say this is loving your neighbor. The problem with that approach is that other believers who do not follow your course cannot be accused of NOT loving their neighbor because they are NOT involve in the way you are. They may have done as Paul instructed Timothy and committed it to prayer. Personally, I think one of the biggest distractions to disciple-making is American or Western politics. When the scope of a thing becomes too broad, effectiveness suffers greatly. When we make a disciple, we are making a radical follower of Jesus who is not afraid nor concerned about what a God-hating culture thinks about him/her. Politics, by its very nature is acutely concerned about what others think.

I am more convinced than not that you cannot be reasonably successful in Western politics, on the larger platforms that is, without a substantial lack of integrity and genuiness in your background. And I am convinced that what Christ requires from a disciple, Western politics detests and demands it not be practiced. Hence, it follows that for a genuine Christian to actually make it to the high-profile, highly visible, more powerful offices in Washington, state capitals, and large cities is almost inconceivable.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

edingess wrote:
First, the idea that Christians SHOULD be involved in politics is silly. Such a viewpoint implies a biblical mandate that is wholly absent from the text.

My question was actually not "should Christians be involved" but "should Christians avoid..." "Christian should avoid" is also "wholly absent from the text."

endingess wrote:
Can a Christian be involved in politics without sinning? Well, political involvement in and of itself is not a sin. Voting is fine. I vote in every election. Should Christians vote? If one means that it is wrong for a Christian NOT to vote, I would argue that such a view is guilty of Americanizing Christianity.

You used the word "argue" here but you haven't actually offered an argument (evidence/supporting reasoning)--just assertions.

Quote:
I would go so far to say that laying such a mandate on people is playing God. If a person objects to voting, who am I or you or anyone else to correct them?

Again, you've not supported your claim here that saying voting is required is "playing God." Why should we believe that?
As for the "who am I?" question, the OP offers several arguments--essentially four.
(a) God cares about what nations do
(b) In America the citizens are not distinct from the government.
(c) Prayer is not a substitute for action.
(d) Morality shapes everything (a results argument)
An "argument" would involve identifying which of these is/are incorrect, and why.

Quote:
Someone says that a Christian should be a good citizen and a good citizen votes. Really? Who exactly gets to define what a good citizen is? Who says a good citizen votes? The world or Scripture?

This is simpler than you're making it. Romans 13 says obey the powers that be. In the US, the law is king, so the law is what defines what a good citizen is. Our law--beginning with the piece of legislation that defined us as a nation (Declaration) and then the foundation of our Constitution--designs the government to operate with the active participation of the citizenry.
I would not say that missing a vote is necessarily a sin. There could be higher priorities that stand in the way on any given occasion... much like showing up for work late is not a sin if you stopped to drag an accident victim from a burning vehicle. But in general, voting is a minimal duty in a nation designed to depend on its citizens' participation in governance.

Quote:
A good citizen, a really good Christian citizen contradicts the wordly culture with his/her life and message. A good citizen evanglizes the community. A Christian citizen realizes that all the outward conformity in the world is not really going to make a difference in the end. So what you have a high moral culture. If men are God-haters, they are still vile and wicked in God's eyes. A morally high culture is just as wicked as the most decadent culture if it is without Christ. And surely American culture is without Christ.

There's a mix of assertions here, some of which are not in dispute and are not related to others that are in dispute. The Bible does not speak of 'worldly culture,' but it does speak of the kosmos--which is both outside us and within us (lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life). It is not synonymous with "society."
Nobody here is questioning that a good Christian evangelizes. Nobody is denying that outward conformity is not the same as true transformation--and that, as long as it remains merely outward is not going to save anybody in the end.
It doesn't follow that we should let things get as bad as possible between now and the end!

Quote:
The Church can't even manage itself, let alone influence political direction in this country. If you think she can, forgive me, but you are living a delusion.

Again, assertions without support. But listen to yourself here. If the church can't influence the "political direction" because it's so incompetent why should we believe it can handle "the simple preaching of a simple gospel"? But in any case, I'm not arguing that involvement in government is the role of "the church." It is the role of citizens.

Quote:
We are not called to elevate the morals in our culture. We are called to proclaim the gospel and if this does not move morality

This is a pretty tired false dichotomy I've answered more than once in the past. Two things in response: (a) No reason we can't elevate morals and proclaim the gospel (b) Matthew 5:13, 5:16.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
I am more convinced than not that you cannot be reasonably successful in Western politics, on the larger platforms that is, without a substantial lack of integrity and genuiness in your background. And I am convinced that what Christ requires from a disciple, Western politics detests and demands it not be practiced. Hence, it follows that for a genuine Christian to actually make it to the high-profile, highly visible, more powerful offices in Washington, state capitals, and large cities is almost inconceivable.

Ed,

Again I am very sympathetic to your view. At the same time, do you think you go too far? I find it interesting that we have the New Testament example of Erastus of Corinth. Paul gives greetings to him in Romans 16:23. "Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings." Many New Testament Scholars believe this Erastus to be the Erastus inscription from Corinth in the middle of the 1st century. ""Erastus in return for his aedileship laid [the pavement ] at his own expense." In fact, he payed a large sum of money to be a politician in Corinth. If you think America's politics was tainted and corrupted, to be a politician in Corinth as Erastus was would have been extremely difficult because of all the depravity, corruption, and idol worship in that city. Yet Paul goes out of his way to mention the political status of Erastus in his greeting. Was Erastus' job somehow a distraction to him being a disciple of Christ or disciple-making? Paul doesn't seem to be as hostile towards Erastus' chosen vocation as you seem to be. Now of course, we have to be careful not to read into the text something that isn't there and argue from silence. Was Erastus trying to develop a 1st century "take back the Roman Empire for Christ" such as the "Take Back America for Christ" slogans that I see and hear from 21st Christian political activists? Not at all. However, maybe he realized as the Reformers such as Luther and Calvin that a call to serve others (including public service and politics) is a matter of great and personal importance because you are loving your neighbor.

Again, Loving the neighbor is not evangelism or the gospel, nor does it have the power of transforming the hearts of people that the gospel has. However Loving your neighbor as yourself is the context for evangelism and for the preaching of the gospel to flourish.

edingess's picture

The argument is the same. Since there is no biblical mandate supporting "should" in the affirmative sense, I do not see one for "should" in the negative sense. What Christians "should" avoid are distractions from evangelism and disciple-making. In addition, Christians "should" avoid inserting commandments for or against things that Scripture is silent on. Christians "should" avoid thinking like an American christian and rather think like a Christian.

If you wish to state that Christians SHOULD vote, then the burden for making that case is on you. And I will carefully examine whatever texts you bring to the discussion to demonstrate that any view that posits this idea is legalistic at worse and anachronistic at best. The reason I do not say "should" or "should not" is because I have no mandate from Scripture. This exposes me to the risk of imposing my views on others and smacks of eisegesis.

Of course God cares about what nations do because nations are people. Yet, the government is distinct from the people. I will not be judged because my governement was wicked. Or I should say IS wicked. It is God who places Kings on thrones, not the church. Nor is it the business of the church to determine who the next leader will be. Once again, you come at this subject as an American first.

God defines what a good citizen is! The law says that one can be a God-hater and a good citizen. I disagree. The law allows for gay marriage. This will destroy the culture. Good citizens do not destory cultures. Laws are to be obeyed and respected so long as they do not contradict God. I know you know this.

I would say that if you did say that missing a vote is a sin, that you are sinning by even thinking along those lines. That is you placing Americanism onto the text, onto Christianity, and imposing your personal views on others. With all due respect, that is a dangerous game. How far do you want to push it?

I have not argued any dichotomy. There is no either/or in my statements. The church is NOT called to elevate the morals of a culture. That is to say, nowhere does Scripture teach that one of the duties the church has is to shape the unbeliever's practices. The church is NOT called to political or legislative reform. She is called to proclaim Christ, baptize converts, and make disciples. If these actions are not enough to influence a culture, then perhaps we need to ask more questions about what God is doing. Paul said things would grow worse and worse in the last days. His asnwer was not to engage in politcal activism. It was to preach the word, and to pray. That is what the text teaches on these matters. A Christians should obey the laws of the land where they do not contradict God, recognize that God rules the kings of the nations, evangelize his community, participate in the body of Christ, baptize converts, and make disciples. We cannot get this right and we want to engage in political activism.

The church is going bonkers over gay marriage. She says that it threatens the institution of marriage. And it does. But not one thread more than no-fault divorce laws. Not one. Yet, the church is far more worked up over the former than the latter. Why? Her theology and thinking are not only folly, they are hypocritical. 98% of Churches don't even have the guts to engage in church discipline. We have pastors parading around, spending 60 hours a week trying to stop gay marriage and they haven't engaged in discipline in 20 years. Moreover, they don't even have real discipleship going on in their churches. My question is, "Does the church have time to be engaged in politics given her current condition and the number of extremely significant problems she faces today?"

So lets pretend NC passes the marriage amendment. What has the church accomplished? Has she elevated marriage? If the church wants to get serious about marriage or any other cultural ailment, she must begin with herself. She can start by excommuncating spouses who engage in illicit divorce, despising God and his covenant of marriage instead of doing nothing or allowing members to resign and more to another church.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

edingess's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Quote:
I am more convinced than not that you cannot be reasonably successful in Western politics, on the larger platforms that is, without a substantial lack of integrity and genuiness in your background. And I am convinced that what Christ requires from a disciple, Western politics detests and demands it not be practiced. Hence, it follows that for a genuine Christian to actually make it to the high-profile, highly visible, more powerful offices in Washington, state capitals, and large cities is almost inconceivable.

Ed,

Again I am very sympathetic to your view. At the same time, do you think you go too far? I find it interesting that we have the New Testament example of Erastus of Corinth. Paul gives greetings to him in Romans 16:23. "Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings." Many New Testament Scholars believe this Erastus to be the Erastus inscription from Corinth in the middle of the 1st century. ""Erastus in return for his aedileship laid [the pavement ] at his own expense." In fact, he payed a large sum of money to be a politician in Corinth. If you think America's politics was tainted and corrupted, to be a politician in Corinth as Erastus was would have been extremely difficult because of all the depravity, corruption, and idol worship in that city. Yet Paul goes out of his way to mention the political status of Erastus in his greeting. Was Erastus' job somehow a distraction to him being a disciple of Christ or disciple-making? Paul doesn't seem to be as hostile towards Erastus' chosen vocation as you seem to be. Now of course, we have to be careful not to read into the text something that isn't there and argue from silence. Was Erastus trying to develop a 1st century "take back the Roman Empire for Christ" such as the "Take Back America for Christ" slogans that I see and hear from 21st Christian political activists? Not at all. However, maybe he realized as the Reformers such as Luther and Calvin that a call to serve others (including public service and politics) is a matter of great and personal importance because you are loving your neighbor.

Again, Loving the neighbor is not evangelism or the gospel, nor does it have the power of transforming the hearts of people that the gospel has. However Loving your neighbor as yourself is the context for evangelism and for the preaching of the gospel to flourish.

There is considerable disagreement over who Erastus was and if there were only one, two, or even three men by that name. The title given to him, "director of public works" intreoduces unnecessary confusion about his role. He could have held a high office in the city, or he could have been a city slave. We cannot be sure what his role was, how or when he got it, and if there was 1, 2, or 3 men with the same name. The temptation is to begin with American, Western, and modern thinking and read back into the text more than is there. WE know that the Greek term "HO OIKONOMOS" is used and this is a steward. Either way, this does not show that Paul would have been okay with modern American politics and the behavior that seems necessary in order to climb that ladder. I am not arguing that it is impossible for Christians to climb the ladder or even that they should not. That is not my position. I simply wonder if they can. I am not making an ipso facto judgment. My entire concern is that the church has lost view of her true mission and she needs to narrow her focus and stop being the American church and start being the Chruch of Christ (in America). I admit that such a goal is not easy. But I do think it is essential to the spiritual health and welfare of the body.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Shaynus's picture

Ed,

I think you're missing the difference between what "the church" should do, and what Christians should do as individuals. You keep talking about churches and pastors doing things that distract from the church's real mission. I agree. But that doesn't mean Christians should avoid politics, or get involved in them. I think we could make a case that Christians should be good businessmen. We can do this from implications of various texts on buying and selling, Proverbs, ect. Does that distract from the mission of the church? It could for individual businessmen who have out of balance priorities in their lives, but it doesn't change the fact that they should be good businessmen to the glory of God.

You said:

Quote:
I have not argued any dichotomy. There is no either/or in my statements. The church is NOT called to elevate the morals of a culture. That is to say, nowhere does Scripture teach that one of the duties the church has is to shape the unbeliever's practices. The church is NOT called to political or legislative reform. She is called to proclaim Christ, baptize converts, and make disciples. If these actions are not enough to influence a culture, then perhaps we need to ask more questions about what God is doing. Paul said things would grow worse and worse in the last days. His asnwer was not to engage in politcal activism. It was to preach the word, and to pray. That is what the text teaches on these matters. A Christians should obey the laws of the land where they do not contradict God, recognize that God rules the kings of the nations, evangelize his community, participate in the body of Christ, baptize converts, and make disciples. We cannot get this right and we want to engage in political activism.

I agree that "the church" as the church institutionally isn't called this way, but learn from the patterns and examples set forth in Scripture that we are to care about the health and well-being of communities and cities in which we live. Joseph was called to high power, and sought the prosperity of Egypt. Daniel did the same. Jeremiah said this to the Jewish exiles.

Quote:
[4 ] “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: [5 ] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. [6 ] Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. [7 ] But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. [8 ] For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, [9 ] for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah 29:4-9 ESV)

An inevitable part of seeking the peace and prosperity of the city is politics. With Aaron, I think you're giving assertions without support. Clearly you're passionate about the church's health and you feel it's being distracted from it's true mission. I just think you have too grim a view of the value of political involvement.

edingess's picture

I think your phrase "Christians as individuals" is revealing. While we are individuals, we are not individuals in a vacuum. In Mediterranean cultures, the hyper individualism that exists in America is non-existent compartively speaking. This does not mean of course that individual conscience is lost. What it means is that individuals are indelibly attached to "something" as individuals and even that attachment is not viewed separately from the individual. We must change how we see ourselves in the Christian group. This is part of the problem as I see it.

It is irrelevant to point to Joseph as an examplar for political involvement. God's purpose and plan for Israel was entirely specific to that group. The proper way to answer this question is to review the Greek text of the NT that actually deals with this specific issue. We travel back to that culture, removed from our own, and examine what Paul and other NT writers, to include our Lord had to say regarding government relations and politics. We have Acts as narrative, as well as the gospels to provide some examples. That is safest way to treat this subject.

I have said several times now that I am not making any prohibitions against Christians being politically engaged. Scripture would not support that approach. I am arguing two very basic things here: 1. People who argue that Christians "should" be politically engaged are wrong. There is no commmandment to that end in Scripture. In addition, I do not see any principles from which one might deduce such a point from Scripture. 2. The method by which the church impacts the culture, politically and otherwise, is through the preaching of the gospel, baptizing converts, and making disciples. In short, the best way to for any church to influence its immediate culture and the culture at large is by staying true to its very narrow missions. To sum it up: only a spiritually healthy church can truly impact the culture. That being said, the only real impact a church has on a culture is eternal impact and that only comes through preaching.

How long would a presidential candidate last who opened stated that he subscribed to any one of the great confessions of faith? How far would a compaign go that openly confessed that it took Scripture literally, believing it to be the word of God. How long would a politician be viable after saying that all those who reject the Christian worldview are under the judgment of God and eternally damned? Not a nano second, that is how long.

I am not opposed to Christians engaging in politics. I am not even opposed to Christians running for office. They would get my vote. I am opposed to imposing an "ought" in the matter. I am opposed to the delusion that outward influence somehow accomplishes something. Barak Obama and Mitt Romney: a liberal God-hating socialist(?) versus a neo-conservative God-hating Mormon. Which one "ought" we to vote for? You see, when you say Christians "ought" to be involved in the political games, you must also create ethics around "how" they "ought" to be engaged. Should they be for or against abortion? Should they be for or against gay marriage? Should they for or against Israel? Should they be for or against big government? The slippery slope is far more complex and time-consuming than one might initially imagine. Do we have time for this? Given all the other pressing issues we face and our supposedly eternal focus, do we really have time to devote tons of hours to something as temporal as vain as Western politics? Want to do social good? Feed the poor. Get involved in the local mission. Go hand out tracks on the street and talk to people about Jesus Christ. You see a couple in the church getting too close outside of marriage, have coffee with the one of your sex and talk about accountability. See someone divorcing, don't look the other way and despise Christ's words. Get directly involved and do all you can to recover the wayward.

I hope this clears the matter up. I really hope I don't have to say again that I am opposed to Christians being engaged in politics. I am not. At a minimum, what I would like to do is to get people to pause, and go back to Scripture and really think about this and ask all those critical questions again. That would be a win. Frank Turek recently said, here in Charlotte at FBC that unless Christians get politically involved we are no longer going to be able to preach the gospel! Wow! How little is that god? Perhaps persecution is better for the church than the broad freedoms we have become accustomed to? Perhaps!

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

edingess's picture

I suggest that all those who think they can really do something in the culture through political engagement read 1 Cor. 13 again. Paul says that all the social good in the world is absolutely NOTHING outside the context of the genuine love of God! One could give everything they have to the poor and it is NOTHING! What matters is God. Good is only good when it is done for the right reason. Even sexual restraint is wicked unless you do it out of devotion and love for Christ! We feed our love for self-righteous with such thinking if we are not careful.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

edingess wrote:
I suggest that all those who think they can really do something in the culture through political engagement read 1 Cor. 13 again. Paul says that all the social good in the world is absolutely NOTHING outside the context of the genuine love of God! One could give everything they have to the poor and it is NOTHING! What matters is God. Good is only good when it is done for the right reason. Even sexual restraint is wicked unless you do it out of devotion and love for Christ! We feed our love for self-righteous with such thinking if we are not careful.

Nobody is advocating that we try to do good in society "outside the context of genuine love of God." Some of us are certainly arguing that whether people love God or not, they ought to behave justly and decently.

I think it's already clear that you're not going to pay attention to strong arguments on this subject. But for the benefit of those who are thinking it over...
A question:
An atheist is walking down the street and encounters an elderly woman with cash visibly bursting from her purse. Is it better to rob her or not to rob her?
If he doesn't love God, does that mean he might as well rob her? (If he doesn't love God, does that mean neither God nor we should care if he robs her?)

Another one:
A pagan--let's say a Wiccan--happens by a burning building and hears an infant crying inside. A woman staggers out the front door crying "Please! Save my baby!" and passes out. Is it better for the pagan to rescue the child or to let it die? If he has no love for God, is his choice irrelevant?

What if we replace the atheist and the pagan with millions of people and make it a nation? If it is not a nation that loves God, should it go ahead and kill babies in the womb, oppress the poor (perhaps by paying them to stay poor), discourage productive labor (through confiscatory taxation). Should it invade neighboring countries just because it can? Should it execute everyone who speaks ill of its leaders?
(Should we not care what this nation does?)

In short, does 1 Cor. 13 really teach that if you don't love God you might as well be as evil as you can possibly be?
(I think the answer is obvious to most)

edingess's picture

I am moderately offended by this remark:

Quote:
I think it's already clear that you're not going to pay attention to strong arguments on this subject.

Moral influence is a by-product of gospel proclamation. This is as it should be, otherwise, we run the risk of displacing biblical preaching with the objective of moral influence and in so doing, we think we have really done something. The risk is that focusing on moral inlfuence may accompish something or may not, but the real danger is loss of focus on the real problem of morality to begin with: sin! And only the gospel can solve that problem. Dealing with moral influence as the problem is itself a problem. Moral decadence is not the problem. It is a symptom of the problem. The problem is sin. The problem is independence. The problem is autonomy. When we become preachers concerned with moral influence through politcal platforms, we chance losing the gospel. And indeed, who can say with a straight face that this has not happened in modern America? Surely the evidence strongly favors this. We know more about contributors to homosexual behavior than we do about the letters of Paul. I am speaking about the church.

The church should concern herself with preaching the gospel. If she does that at every opportunity, with the passion it deserves, moral influence, should God be so gracious, will naturally follow suit. This way we do not run the risk of downgrading the gospel, or worse, ignoring it.

From my assessment, I don't see any "really strong" arguments for why a Christian "should" engage in politics. And so far, I haven't received any very good rebuttals that would cause me to think I am off the mark on this one. My point in 1 Cor. 13 is very simple: you can spend your time trying to force unbelievers to live the life of believers and even if you are successful, what have you accomplished? The Jewish culture in Palestine was as moral as they come, relatively speaking. They had all kinds of rules. But Jesus called them vipers. And these really good moral men murdered God.

I would love to have a morally high culture. I just think two things are required to get there: 1. Biblical preaching and 2. Divine intervention. I deny that political activism is going to accomplish much of anything in and of itself. From my observations, the Church has been obsessed with politics for decades now with little progress influencing the government and with devestating consequences within her own community because of the lack of focus that has resulted.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Jim's picture

Jeremiah 29:7 (ESV):

Quote:
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare

Other versions:

  • NIV: "Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper"
  • NKJV: "for in its peace you will have peace"

This is by application and not intepretation (I'm not a Jewish exile in Babylon!)

  • I'm here! I was born here (A US citizen by birth). God placed me here.
  • I have a dual citizenship (Philippians 3:20, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ")
  • Paul was not reticent to leverage his own Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28, "Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”)
  • God calls it "good and acceptable" to lead a "quiet and peaceable life" (Broader context here: 1 Timothy 2:1-3)
  • Prospering is a good thing: 3 John 2, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. " (Note three levels of properity: "all things" ..."health" ... spiritually "as your soul prospers.")

Conclusion: I have a vested interest to be involved in society. In the political realm there are at least three layers of political entities that impact me and I can influence: My city: (City of Plymouth MN); My state: (Minnesota) and of course the Federal level. I have a symbiotic relationship with these. They depend upon my tax dollars. I depend upon them for my own peace and prosperity.

How I find myself involved (and it is probably not as deep as it should be):

  • Prayer: (I don't always pray for our President but I did so today). I doubt that there is much to dispute about re praying for authorities
  • Respect and obedience. I pay the taxes ... I try obey the laws (although I made a mistake last year re failure to pay license tabs on my 2nd vehical. http://coldfusion-guy.blogspot.com/search/label/Arrested ] I was arrested for this and face a soon court appearance)
  • Voicing my conservative opinion
  • Occasionally communicating with elected leaders (recently I had coffee with my state senator)
  • Supporting electoral involvement financially (as I am currently doing for the election of Romney)
edingess's picture

Quote:
How I find myself involved (and it is probably not as deep as it should be):

I am unclear what this means. The is the whole sticking point. "Should" we be involved is an imperative. Such an imperative must be the product of exegesis. Moreover, if we are going to place political invovlement into an ethcial framework, we must also spell out the specifics of that imperative. In other words, those who assert that Christians "should" be involved in politics have the burden of providing guidelines for "how" we "should" be involved in politics. Before you know it, we have spent hours, days, weeks fleshing out something that isn't even the role of the church.

I am not suggesting that it is wrong to operate under the laws we have to further the gospel so long as those laws are not contradictory to Christ. I think we should. However, that is a far cry from the radical engagement proposed by most evangelicals today and it is a far cry from placing a mandate on others that Scripture itself does not place.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think of political action, such as attending school board and city council meetings, and voting for candidates that I believe will "establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, etc" as part of the doing good for my neighbor equation, as per verses like Proverbs 3:27-28. Let's face it, it isn't as if it's difficult to educate oneself about the issues at hand in our communities, show people we care about their lives, and vote our conscience. Ain't no skin off my nose, and it helps the folks.

I agree that radical or intensive engagement, unless one intends politics to be their vocation, is more than the average Joe or Suzy Homemaker can do and still keep their spiritual, domestic, and employment ducks in a row. But IMO everyone should try to do the basics, especially if you have plans to complain about it over the watercooler. Wink

Shaynus's picture

Like Aaron, I don't think you're open to reason here. An example would be dismissive attitude towards the OT passage I brought up, where God tells Jews to seek the prosperity of the city. Instead of dealing with the thrust of the argument, you say we just have to look at Acts. Well sir, that's not a fully biblically based argument. If you cut out parts of scripture from the discussion, it ceases to be scripturally based. You make the argument, err assertion:

Quote:
You see, when you say Christians "ought" to be involved in the political games, you must also create ethics around "how" they "ought" to be engaged. Should they be for or against abortion? Should they be for or against gay marriage? Should they for or against Israel? Should they be for or against big government? The slippery slope is far more complex and time-consuming than one might initially imagine. Do we have time for this? Given all the other pressing issues we face and our supposedly eternal focus, do we really have time to devote tons of hours to something as temporal as vain as Western politics? Want to do social good? Feed the poor. Get involved in the local mission. Go hand out tracks on the street and talk to people about Jesus Christ.

Apparently God thinks that seeking physical and cultural good is actually a worthy investment of time. We glorify God in all our work. (And by the way, how much time have you taken writing these posts, when you could have been witnessing!) To be sure, we'll all answer for how we use our time, but I don't think God is sitting there with his stop watch worried that an extra few minutes a day of listening to the news on the radio, and contemplating how they should vote would distract us. I live near Washington DC. I'm a political science major from Bob Jones University. I know something about politics and use that in witnessing. I have a great many friends who are politically active and we talk politics. It's actually super easy to the gospel from a political discussion. I'm frustrated by your insistance that thinking about politics is a waste of time, and will detract from evangelism when it doesn't have to. I've proved it in my own experience.

Quote:
[5 ] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. [6 ] Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. [7 ] But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.(Jeremiah 29:5-7 ESV)

"Seek the welfare." That's pretty broad, and it sounds very "ought"-like. It could include art, business, commerce and yes, politics. If unjust laws are perverting justice, then seeking the welfare of the city might involve getting elected and changing those laws. It might also include working with the poor and witnessing. But the point is that God cares about the health and prosperity of even a pagan city. If God cares, then we "ought" to.

edingess wrote

Quote:
Moral influence is a by-product of gospel proclamation. This is as it should be, otherwise, we run the risk of displacing biblical preaching with the objective of moral influence and in so doing, we think we have really done something. The risk is that focusing on moral inlfuence may accomplish something or may not, but the real danger is loss of focus on the real problem of morality to begin with: sin! And only the gospel can solve that problem. Dealing with moral influence as the problem is itself a problem. Moral decadence is not the problem. It is a symptom of the problem. The problem is sin. The problem is independence. The problem is autonomy. When we become preachers concerned with moral influence through politcal platforms, we chance losing the gospel. And indeed, who can say with a straight face that this has not happened in modern America? Surely the evidence strongly favors this. We know more about contributors to homosexual behavior than we do about the letters of Paul. I am speaking about the church.

I don't think it's necessarily wrong to treat symptoms without getting to the root issue. Government treats symptomatic evil by being a terror to bad works. If you have a problem with government not dealing with the root issue, then your problem is a self-made one. Government wasn't designed to treat the roots, yet it's still necessary and God ordained. Paul in Romans 13 is warning Christians from despising their government, even one that tried to kill them, because even in its imperfection it still restrained evil. Government is a good force and as such shouldn't Christians get involved with good forces?

Quote:
[13:1 ] Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [2 ] Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [3 ] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4 ] for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. [5 ] Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. [6 ] For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. [7 ] Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
(Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

Jim's picture

edingess wrote:
.... something that isn't even the role of the church.

I follow (generally) the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulative_principle_of_worship ]Regulative principle of worship . What God has ordained the church to do it should. And what God has not ordained the church to do, it shouldn't.

The church (as an assembled group of believers) is not ordained to be political. It is to be gospel-driven. One such positive example of this would be 1 Thessalonians 1:8, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything"

The citizen interacts with government directly (the "symbiotic relationship" I spoke of in my previous post) (my chart below). On the top illustrates the horizontal flows (or mutual dependencies) that the citizen / individual has with the government and the church.

The lower vertical chart, I disavow. The citizen does not interact with the government through the church!

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