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.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

6948 reads

There are 104 Comments

edingess's picture

I suppose I am left to believe that not only would Jesus and Paul haved voted, they would have voted for a Universalist (W), a Catholic (McCain), and now a Mormon. I wonder about that. I am not saying Jesus would NOT have voted. But I am very clearly wondering IF He would have and who He would vote for this November. I just have a hard time seeing Jesus vote for a baby killer or a Mormon. Maybe its just me.

Would Jesus have sent out His twelve apostles with voter registration cards in hand to sign us up? Would they have insisted on a specific party? Good questions and worthy of an answer I think. Well, maybe not. Smile

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

Larry's picture

I am going to spare myself the agony of carefully reading and responding to everything and jump straight to an easy part.

edginess wrote:
By voting, I am approving that man's principles, am I not?
Not necessarily and not in it's entirety. If this were true, we could never vote for anyone. I don't even like my own principles sometimes. Like your later questions, this fails to recognize that, because of sin, we live in a complex world. And we have to live here. So let us live wisely, and at times, that means a vote for the person who will do the least harm in hopes of saving something for the future. As I have commented before, your approach seems like the guy who turns down $100 because he can't have $1000. There is someone who will gladly take that $100, and they will use it against you. And that is what left us with Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotamayor, two reliable pro-abortion votes for the next two to three decades. Would McCain have appointed anybody differently? Perhaps. One thing is for sure: They wouldn't have been worse. And wisdom means sometimes you take the path of least evil or best chance, even when that chance is slim.

Very few will turn down radiation and chemotherapy for cancer because there is only a 25% chance of it working. We recognize 25% is better than nothing, so we take that chance. Perhaps we should exercise the same kind of desperate wisdom in other areas as well.

How visible we should be in politics is one thing. I think the church should be completely invisible in politics. No church, and no pastor, should be known for their political opinions. Christians can do what they want, I suppose.

Should Christians avoid politics? (The article title.) No, not necessarily though in some contexts it is probably wise. I routinely avoid politics, though I was sorely tempted to jump in this week when I heard a guy making $3000 a month (according to him) claiming he pays more in taxes than millionaires. That is simply wrong on all counts. But I stayed out of it.

Asking whether Jesus or Paul would have voted isn't really the issue. It is an unanswerable question. What we can give some answers to is which is the best direction, given available options, for our country. It would be nice to have a perfect man to run for office. However, politicians and religious leaders killed the last one though he will certainly get his revenge soon enough. Until then we are instructed to live wisely in this present world, and that includes the way that we vote.

There is a kind of voting called "plunking." It is when you are facing a vote for some office (such as school board) which will take the top two vote getters. Plunking means you only vote for one, thereby helping your candidate by denying a vote for someone else. It is the same principle used when voting for someone that we might not fully support, but we vote for them to cancel out a vote for a worse candidate. And that is a wise way to vote at times.

Quote:
The church is worried about gay marriage and yet over 50% of marriages in the church end in divorce, just as high as the world and some say slightly higher.
Bad statistics don't make good points. Here, Google is your friend, and if you have internet access it is free. So use it and recognize that this is a bad statistic. So let's abandon it. Furthermore, let us also recognize that gay marriage is a legitimate issue even if divorce happens at any rate (be 1% or 100%).

Quote:
Let me give a real life example from a PCA church that I am intimately familiar with.
Let us also recognize that anecdotes don't make good policy informers. There is enough missing in your story that we are unable to make an informed judgment about it. Even you say, "The next thing I know ..." which should leave us all wondering what happened in the meantime and what you don't know. And since there is probably some stuff you don't know, that should serve, IMO, as a caution to using the story for any sort of point, aside from the difficulty of knowing things.

Shaynus's picture

Ed,

Quote:
Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your world. Suffice it to say that you are no doubt speaking from extreme bias due to where you live every day.

Why do you say I'm biased? Because I know about politics and voting? By the way, that's called "name calling." It's yet another logical fallacy you can't help but unconsciously give to try to support yourself. You know nothing about where I live every day. Do you know what I do for a living? Where I work?

Would you say it's a good thing to be knowledgable of candidates and vote?

Quote:
Are you telling me that Christians "ought" to have voted for John McClain rather than Obama? We just keep getting deeper and deeper into foolish legalism here.

Nope. But I would say God will judge us all for reasonable outcomes of our votes. He calls us to make judgement calls, and because we part of the government system in the US, he holds us accountable for our judgement calls just like he would a king over Israel, even if in a diffused, general way.

Quote:
Finally, I have no idea who these men are. None! I don't know them. I do not know their character or anything else about them. All I know is what I hear. Yet, God is going to hold me responsible for voting for a man that I know absolutely nothing about, really and truly.

Did Soloman have to really and truly know the two mothers fighting over the baby? No, he made a judgement call based on the evidence before him. If we are to be wise judges of our candidates, we have to educate ourselves about them. God will hold each of us accountable differently according to the information we have and other influences. I couldn't say it would be a sin to vote for Barack Obama, or a sin to not vote based on conviction. But God will judge us for that. But willfully turning a blind eye towards your responsibilities as a citizen (and advocating that others do so) is a sin of not exercising judgement.

'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly." Lev 19:15

This brings the question "what is judging my neighbor fairly?" God calls us to judge each other in a sense. To size up a candidate and weigh positives and negatives is a good thing. It's imaging God. He does the same thing.

Quote:

When the church is seen to endorse a specific candidate, she must live with everything that candidate does after taking office. If that unbelieving candidate entangles himself in wickedness, guess who else is culpable by the worlds account? Thats right, the church. We put our own reputation on the line when we so visibly endorse certain candidates. And if the media is good a protraying those candidates in a certain light, they drag the church with them, good, bad, or indifferent.

Again, you make the mistake of mixing up categories of what the church is. No one here, including me, is saying the church (or individual churches) as an institution should endorse a candidate. Far from it. But I have faith in God that, given good teaching from the pulpit about things like life, marriage, fairness ect. that most Christians will make a good judgement on a candidate.

Jay's picture

Ed wrote:
Finally, I have no idea who these men are. None! I don't know them. I do not know their character or anything else about them. All I know is what I hear. Yet, God is going to hold me responsible for voting for a man that I know absolutely nothing about, really and truly. So what I know his position here or there. When we place elders in position, we know them very well. One could make the argument that since you really don't know these men you should not endorse them at all because they will reflect on you as a believer. You will be blamed for thier misgivings and poor leadership! I don't make this argument, but it sure seems to me that it could be a valid one.

Ed, are you saying that because you don't know anything about Obama, Romney, Paul or others that you aren't going to vote? And then following it up with a statement that God will not hold you responsible since you didn't vote because you can't know what's going on in their heads? You don't know what they value even though they're giving speeches and outlining political positions every day until Nov. 2? Obama's been in office for four years - that doesn't give us enough knowledge to vote for or against him?

Yikes.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Shaynus's picture

I mean, if you can judge my biases without ever seen me say anything at all, and yet you can't figure out the President, well that seems like selective judging ability.

edingess's picture

I never said I was not going to vote. I will vote. I always vote. I refuse to judge people on whether or not they engage in politics, voting or otherwise. I don't judge them for voting, not voting, or even who they vote for. I do not think it is safe.

Let me make this a little easier:

Read this book with an open mind and ask yourself some critical questions about Christianity and America:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0801013186/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=5785412697&h... ]Christless Christianity

What we see in American evangelicalism is really therapeutic utilitarian deism. The gospel of Christ has been displaced with the gospel of capitalism in the name of Christ.

Horton nails it when he says, "As this new gospel becomes more obviously American than Christian, we all have to take a step back and ask ourselves whether evangelicalism is increasingly a cultural and political movement with a sentimental attachment to the image of Jesus more than a witness to "Jesus Christ and him crucified."

I never said I could not vote for someone because I don't know them. I only said that fact is problematic when you think about it. I said that such an argument would not be easily answered. It could be far more correct than we think. It deserves attention. In my mind it is time for the true church to distance herself from her previous American identity. We need to see ourselves as Christians, disciples of Christ, not American Christians or even Christian Americans.

I oppose any view that says Christians must be involved or must not be involved in the political process on any level. Scripture does not support such view outside of what I have already mentioned. At the same time, I do think those who give more time to politics than they do Christ have misplaced priorities. It is a sin to be distracted by temporal causes when those causes lead to the neglect of more important eternal matters.

I am not juding your biases. Rather, I am noting that they come through in your posts, and it is no surprise to see that you are as heavily involved in politics as you are. I think it is fair to consider that your built in bias is more responsible for your position than biblical exegesis. I, on the other hand, use to think as you do. But a more critical exegesis of the text, coupled with a willingness to admit that perhaps I was too American has caused me to rethink my identity in Christ.

Another example of rank hypocrisy that is no doubt more common than not:
One church member boasts about getting several people to register to vote for the marriage amendment in NC. This same man knows of an illicit divorce that took place in his church against Scripture where disicipline should have taken place. Because he was able to get all these people to register to vote, he thinks he really did Christ a service. At the very same time, he displayed his dispising of Christ by refusing to heed Matt. 18:15-18 all in the name of individual privacy, a very American idea that is antithetical to Christianity on several levels. The sad thing is that this poor brother thinks God is particularly pleased with his actions. The truth is that God has something against him.

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

Shaynus's picture

Quote:
I am not juding your biases. Rather, I am noting that they come through in your posts, and it is no surprise to see that you are as heavily involved in politics as you are. I think it is fair to consider that your built in bias is more responsible for your position than biblical exegesis.

But you wrote.

Quote:
Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your world. Suffice it to say that you are no doubt speaking from extreme bias due to where you live every day.

What double-talk (which by the way, is a sin). That's just it, I'm not heavily involved in politics. I work in IT at a very non-political job and don't get heavily involved beyond voting and random political discussion. You seem to have "no doubt" about me, but unable to make basic character appreciations about Barak Obama or Mitt Romney.

edingess's picture

You do realize there is a differnce between someone being able to recognize bias and the actual judging of that bias, right? I have judged your comments to be biased. I have not judged the bias of your comments outside of the "ought" that exists in your view around politics. I don't think it is ipso facto wrong to be involved or not to be involved. I do think it is wrong to judge people who do not take your particular view on the matter of poitical involvement. Is that too difficult to discern? I don't think I can say it much clearer than that.

Read "Christless Christianity" and think about the issue some more. That's all. No reason to beat each other over this.

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

Shaynus's picture

You'ved judged my comments to be biased based on what information? Please speak plainly. Because I think if you did tell me, you'd reveal your own biases. I await your answer to my question. Thanks.

edingess's picture

Quote:
Above, I talked numbers. I've attended meetings in the US Capitol of pollsters and researchers who look at how many Christians vote and how. We basically track the rest of the population in voter turnout, which is about 40-50% of eligible voters. Just given the sheer numbers, if Christians actually used their voice, there could be huge ground-shifts in who is elected. Assuming all Christians voted in the 2008 Presidential election, and 70% of them voted for the pro-life candidate John McCain, who would have appointed conservative justices to the US Supreme Court. There would be about an extra 16 million votes for a pro-life candidate. John McCain lost by about 10 million votes in the popular vote. The electoral vote is even more telling. Your own state of North Carolina barely went to Obama by a mere 14,177 votes, or .3%. I think you Christians in NC could have worked a little bit found a few more Christians to get out and vote. President Obama went on to appoint two justices to the US Supreme Court who will ensure more years of the evil of abortion. Christian voices and votes really really matter, but we just don't use them. God judges us not only for our actions, but for our inactions, and the foreseeable effects of our actions.

Um....this. The average person would not know this nor would they attend such meetings. Obviously your interests here are not typical.

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

Shaynus's picture

So bias equals above average knowledge or interests? You've redefined the term.

edingess's picture

Quote:
So bias equals above average knowledge or interests? You've redefined the term

One of the phenomena I see happen in forums constantly is the proverbial rabbit hole. I am not a rabbit, so I will not nibble on this one. My case as it stands is clear and should you want to demonstrate, with Scripture that I am wrong, I am willing to continue the discussion. Here is the general conviction I bring once more:

It is not a sin for Christrians to be politically engaged -or- unengaged so long as they are obeying civil authorities where possible, viewing civil authorities properly, and praying for these civil authorities. Since these are the explicit instructions of Scripture, this is what I believe to be unambiguously true.

A principle of interpretation is perspecuity. On matters of profound importance, and sin would be one of these, the Scripture is clear. For anyone who wishes to place an "ought" on the backs of American Christians in the area of political involvement, the burden to show that Scripture clearly teaches this is on YOU! Once more, if Christ demands I answer for what I am saying, I shall point to Peter and Paul's words and pray for mercy.

This being said, do I think Christians in modern times are too political? Yes I do. I think we spend too much time on political issues and nowhere near enough time on spiritual issues. Most people who ramble on and on about politics in the church and how the church MUST be involved have never even seen on instance of Church discipline and some of them have been around 40+ years in the church. Is that a problem? It is a monumental problem. We spin our wheels about politics all the while, EC nonsense, comtempative prayer, meditation, experiencing God, purpose-driven garbage is hitting like tidal waves. We abandon the basics of Christian teachings, to include the gospel, and spend out time on politics, thinking we are saving our country. Donald Grey Barnhouse preached a sermon about what would happen if Satan were in charge today. He did this over half a century ago. "Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, "Yes, sir" and No, ma'am," and churches would be full every Sunday...where Christ is not preached."

The church is called to preach the gospel. In case you have forgotten, that is a very big job and we haven't a lot of time left. Let us be about the business of the kingdom of Christ and of God, not of America.

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

edingess's picture

Christians are not commanded to be "good citizens" as defined by secular governments. Christians are commanded to be "good citizens" as defined by Christ! For most secular governments, one must cease being a genuine Christian in order to be a "good citizen." And that is true in America as well. Secular government says good citizens are tolerant of abortion and the gay lifestyle. Otherwise, you are a bigot and a threat to freedom. To make the case you wish to make, you must establish what a good citizen is outside of how American culture defines it. I would be interested to see how such a case in put together if indeed anyone has the time to construct one.

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

edingess's picture

Since men are arguing that Christians MUST be involved in politics and that God expects it, then it is our duty and responsibility, then it must be a sin not to be involved. Since that is the case, I wonder how many cases of rebuke and discipline these same men have engaged in when they witness people refusing to do what they say Christians MUST do. If you see your brother sinning, you must go to him and show him his sin. If he does not listen, you now have to proceed along the course of Matt. 18:!5-18.

Some will say, well, it isn't that serious. Sin is always serious. If it is a sin not to engage politically, then confrontation is necessary. If it is not a sin, then what in the world are we doing wasting all this time on the matter. If it is not a sin, my point is made because that IS MY POINT.

I know, we want out cake and eat it too. I think not. You are either all in on this one or your not.

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

Shaynus's picture

Shaynus wrote:
So bias equals above average knowledge or interests? You've redefined the term.

The old quote the person and utterly ignore the question. . . I'll try again. This isn't about a rabbit hole, it's about your integrity and ability to argue correctly. To call someone "extremely" biased without being able to back it up is slander (which is also a sin). You're so concerned about the judgmentalism of other people, but can't see your own.

edingess's picture

Shaynus wrote:
Shaynus wrote:
So bias equals above average knowledge or interests? You've redefined the term.

The old quote the person and utterly ignore the question. . . I'll try again. This isn't about a rabbit hole, it's about your integrity and ability to argue correctly. To call someone "extremely" biased without being able to back it up is slander (which is also a sin). You're so concerned about the judgmentalism of other people, but can't see your own.

I will not engage in a discussion with anyone who begins engage in this kind of language. I provided you my justification for concluding that your interest in politics are far more than the average person. I suggested that your own "higher-then-normal" interests may be fueling your position more than a simple exegesis of Scripture.

If I am wrong, then just say so. If my judgment has missed the target in that very minor point, then it misses the mark. If that is the case, then it must be something other than your above average interest in politics causing you to take the postion you do. If you want to claim it is based on a straightforward exegesis of Scripture, then present your exegetical evidence for examination. Either way, the reason for your position is no where near as relevant as its truthfulness. How one gets to error is not as important as the fact that they are in error. I am not saying it is never important or even that it is completely unimportant. There are times it can help to know the "how" because this may help us fix it. Anyways, I ramble.

Lets either get back to the topic or just drop it altogether. I have made some pretty strong statements and you have not interacted with them. I would like to see how you view some of these positions.

Here is a question for you: A brother asked me this morning if a Christian could EVER vote for a condidate who is pro-abortion. What do you think? Have you ever voted for a universalist? What about someone who believes there is nothing wrong with homosexuality? What about someone who thinks it is alright to divorce for reasons other than adultery? How many principles of Scripture does one have to disagree with before you decide you can't vore for them? And why does it take that many? Why does it take 5 versus 3 violations? Or whatever the number might be.

I think people who argue that Christians "ought" to vote, "must" vote, etc. are completely unprepared for a discussion of this type. No one seems to want to dive into the deep end of the pool. I don't blame them. I wouldn't want to have to answer these questions either.

What was my answer? I said we must first ask the questions "how" or "if" Christians should be involved in the first place. But I will be thinking more about his question because it deserves attention.

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

edingess's picture

A man who endorses the murder of innocent babies or the man who dismisses the one God by claiming that we all serve and pray to the same God? Why is it better to vote for a pro-abortion candidate than it is to vote for a universalist?

Are Christians really called to shape the morality of the culture?

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

Shaynus's picture

If higher than average interests in a subject is bias, then your higher than average interest in this subject is also the product of bias. Thus, you can't hope to be objective if your definition of bias is high interest in a subject. It seems your bias is really against anyone who has real interest in politics.

JohnBrian's picture

From http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/03/30/not-your-religion-in-politi... ]Not Your Religion in Politics, but Mine by Michael Horton

Quote:
The rhetoric of a reinvigorated Christian right has turned off a lot of Americans who see evangelicalism more as a voting bloc engaged in identity politics than as a witness to the liberating King who has founded his own empire in his own death and resurrection.

from http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/03/31/in-gods-name ]In God’s Name again by Horton

This question is asked and Horton responds in the article:

Quote:
How much involvement should a Christian have in political discussion and engagement?

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

edingess's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
From http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/03/30/not-your-religion-in-politi... ]Not Your Religion in Politics, but Mine by Michael Horton

Quote:
The rhetoric of a reinvigorated Christian right has turned off a lot of Americans who see evangelicalism more as a voting bloc engaged in identity politics than as a witness to the liberating King who has founded his own empire in his own death and resurrection.

from http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/03/31/in-gods-name ]In God’s Name again by Horton

This question is asked and Horton responds in the article:

Quote:
How much involvement should a Christian have in political discussion and engagement?

Thanks John. I will certainly give this one a read. I closer to the beginning of these questions than I am to the end. At a minimum we should be askng them.

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

Shaynus's picture

From Horton:

Quote:

Distinguish between the church as institution from the church as its members. Abraham Kuyper expressed this distinction in terms of church-as-organization and church-as-organism. In the former sense, the church is Christ’s embassy of saving grace through the ministry of Word and sacrament. In the latter sense, it is believers-saved by grace-who are scattered into their worldly callings as salt and light. The institutional church is entrusted with the Great Commission, with no calling or authority to reform the world. Being shaped decisively by this Word, believers are called to serve their myriad neighbors in the world. Sometimes this provides opportunities for newsworthy impact, but that is not our concern. Our calling is to be faithful at our posts. Where the state has accrued a dangerous monopoly on cultural activity, politics is seen as the most significant sphere of activity. However, Christians can testify by their quiet faithfulness at their posts how essential are the daily and often mundane gifts. Ambition to make a noticeable difference in the world may be a God-given purpose and calling, but it can also be an expression of our pride and self-righteousness. It is easier to abandon the callings where God has placed us to love and serve our neighbors in order to “be somebody” and to be remembered for our “legacy.”

edingess's picture

Shaynus wrote:
From Horton:

Quote:

Distinguish between the church as institution from the church as its members. Abraham Kuyper expressed this distinction in terms of church-as-organization and church-as-organism. In the former sense, the church is Christ’s embassy of saving grace through the ministry of Word and sacrament. In the latter sense, it is believers-saved by grace-who are scattered into their worldly callings as salt and light. The institutional church is entrusted with the Great Commission, with no calling or authority to reform the world. Being shaped decisively by this Word, believers are called to serve their myriad neighbors in the world. Sometimes this provides opportunities for newsworthy impact, but that is not our concern. Our calling is to be faithful at our posts. Where the state has accrued a dangerous monopoly on cultural activity, politics is seen as the most significant sphere of activity. However, Christians can testify by their quiet faithfulness at their posts how essential are the daily and often mundane gifts. Ambition to make a noticeable difference in the world may be a God-given purpose and calling, but it can also be an expression of our pride and self-righteousness. It is easier to abandon the callings where God has placed us to love and serve our neighbors in order to “be somebody” and to be remembered for our “legacy.”

Perhaps you might want to read http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=Ar... ]Horton in context and pay a little closer attention to what you read.

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

Shaynus's picture

So having merely quoted a section of Horton's article, your omniscience led you to understand that I should pay closer attention? Who do you think you are, Ed?

Aaron Blumer's picture

Just realized I'm 40 posts behind in this thread. Somehow didn't notice it was racing on without me. Biggrin

So this observation might not be worth a whole lot at this point but I'll chip it in anyway...

edingess wrote:
To answer your question, Scripture quite clearly commands us to obey the laws of the land. The law states that one must come to a full stop at all stop signs. That is easy enough. It is clearly against the law to litter. Internet Porn is looking upon a woman with lust, and hence, is adultery. Since you want specific interaction with your post, here you go:

You stated that in a nation such as ours (whatever that means), CHRISTIANS CAN AND MUST BE INVOLVED IN POLITICS.


On the first couple of sentences... my point exactly. You had argued that it's "egregious" to say Christians should be involved in politics because the Bible doesn't say that anywhere. My response was that it is an application of principles. Stopping at stop signs is also application of principle (obey the law). Conclusion: the Bible does not have to say it.

As for "a nation such as ours (whatever that means)..."
Your not knowing what means explains much of your response. It's a huge part of my argument--and I'm pretty sure I explained it in the essay to some extent. In any case, what it means is this: we live in a nation where all of the citizens are participants in governance by design, that is by law. The law doesn't say "you must vote" but it does say that we are all participants in governance (legislature and executive are selected by us). It also strongly implies that our public discourse is part of the government as well (it's protected by law in the Bill of Rights).
So my argument here is that we are all "involved in politics" whether we want to be or not. We are citizen governors, so to speak. If we ignore it all, we are being politically unfaithful.
(But the degree of involvement varies according to vocation).

Just a couple of randomly selected points.

Also, for what it's worth, a short laundry list of what I am not saying here (though others may be)...
(1) that we should try to transform society from the outside in by legislation (it's really not about transformation, which is always fundamentally an inside->out process);
(2) that the work of the church is to transform "social institutions," lobby for legislation, endorse candidates, hold demonstrations or any of that;
(3) that every Christian has a duty to be a delegate at a primary or pass out lawn signs or make phone calls for a political party or make campaign contributions;
(4) that people should advocate political philosophy instead of the gospel

I'll probably add a few more after I skim the last thirty some posts.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Scanned several posts. Things got pretty off track... and a bit ugly.

The whole debate about how to vote in a particular race is another question entirely.
I guess I'll join the fray with a few general points on that question...

(1) A vote for a candidate is not an endorsement of everything he says or does. If that were the case, no Christian could ever vote for anyone (because all candidates are sinners).

(2) Neither belief in sound Christian political philosophy nor skill in governing correlate to whether a person is a Christian or not. (That is, whether the candidate is a Christian--whether he is justified--does not mean he knows anything beyond the gospel. The degree to which he is sanctified is far more relevant. But even the degree sanctification doesn't correlate all that strongly to having a Christian understanding of the ideas that make up a political philosophy. It correlates even less to the unique gifts of competent governing. It correlates strongly to good character, but though governing well requires good character, good character is not enough to enable a person to govern well.)

(3) Every vote has a positive consequence and a negative consequence. The positive consequence is an increase in a particular candidate's tally. The negative consequence is the lack of increase in any other candidate's tally. If one of these others is already ahead, a third consequence is that we have strengthened his lead.

(4) Consequences of votes matter. They are not all that matters (that would be pragmatism), but they matter.

(5) Since consequences matter, "voting your conscience" requires factoring them in (it is not more conscionable to ignore actual results but rather less conscionable).

Aaron Blumer's picture

Horton wrote:
We propose a two-fold strategy. First, we will have to clear up this confusion about the gospel and cultural values. Being pro-choice I believe is morally wrong, but it is not heretical. God will never be anyone's mascot and will never allow himself to be worshipped in either the carved image of the donkey or the elephant. We cannot impose our will on the American electorate anymore and we will have to stop it. We'll have to stop shaking our fists at our neighbors. We must call the church to a cease-fire with the world over gays in the military and engage in spiritual warfare for their hearts and minds for the first time perhaps in forty years. Second, we'll not only have to recover gospel proclamation, but we'll have to learn how to interact positively again with our culture.

Above = from Ed's link.

I love to read Horton and like him a lot but he's talking nonsense here... in places. "We cannot impose our will on the American electorate..." Actually he means "we may not" as in "we should not." But he wrote the literal truth: "we cannot." In America, you don't get anything done unless you persuade (not coerce) significant majorities to agree with your ideas. The only way to "impose" a will is to find some way to subvert the system/behave illegally. I doubt it's possible even by illegal means because the division of government into a system of checks and balances makes that sort of stunt very complicated.

Jay's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
(1) A vote for a candidate is not an endorsement of everything he says or does. If that were the case, no Christian could ever vote for anyone (because all candidates are sinners).

I'm thinking about writing in Jesus for this year's election. Although moving from "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" to President of the United States seems like kind of a backwards step... Bleah

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

Thankfully, the King of Kings will not need a vote.
It is an interesting thing to note that peace on earth does not come until it is imposed by a war... so society apparently can be bettered from the outside in even though individuals are only truly changed from the inside out.

edingess's picture

As an FYI I noticed one post that was out of bound in my opinion and do not feel it merits a response. I will look at some of the additional thoughts Aaron has contributed and provide a response over the weekend. In the interest of transparency, you should know I am wrestling with this issue only recently, say six months or so. Please endulge me as I wrestle out loud on SI. Smile

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

edingess's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Just realized I'm 40 posts behind in this thread. Somehow didn't notice it was racing on without me. Biggrin

So this observation might not be worth a whole lot at this point but I'll chip it in anyway...

edingess wrote:
To answer your question, Scripture quite clearly commands us to obey the laws of the land. The law states that one must come to a full stop at all stop signs. That is easy enough. It is clearly against the law to litter. Internet Porn is looking upon a woman with lust, and hence, is adultery. Since you want specific interaction with your post, here you go:

You stated that in a nation such as ours (whatever that means), CHRISTIANS CAN AND MUST BE INVOLVED IN POLITICS.


On the first couple of sentences... my point exactly. You had argued that it's "egregious" to say Christians should be involved in politics because the Bible doesn't say that anywhere. My response was that it is an application of principles. Stopping at stop signs is also application of principle (obey the law). Conclusion: the Bible does not have to say it.

As for "a nation such as ours (whatever that means)..."
Your not knowing what means explains much of your response. It's a huge part of my argument--and I'm pretty sure I explained it in the essay to some extent. In any case, what it means is this: we live in a nation where all of the citizens are participants in governance by design, that is by law. The law doesn't say "you must vote" but it does say that we are all participants in governance (legislature and executive are selected by us). It also strongly implies that our public discourse is part of the government as well (it's protected by law in the Bill of Rights).
So my argument here is that we are all "involved in politics" whether we want to be or not. We are citizen governors, so to speak. If we ignore it all, we are being politically unfaithful.
(But the degree of involvement varies according to vocation).

Just a couple of randomly selected points.

Also, for what it's worth, a short laundry list of what I am not saying here (though others may be)...
(1) that we should try to transform society from the outside in by legislation (it's really not about transformation, which is always fundamentally an inside->out process);
(2) that the work of the church is to transform "social institutions," lobby for legislation, endorse candidates, hold demonstrations or any of that;
(3) that every Christian has a duty to be a delegate at a primary or pass out lawn signs or make phone calls for a political party or make campaign contributions;
(4) that people should advocate political philosophy instead of the gospel

I'll probably add a few more after I skim the last thirty some posts.

On this point I could not disagree more. Obey the law and stopping at stop signs is not really an application of principles any more than obeying those who are over you in the Lord or wives submitting to their husbands in all things. The command could not be more direct. I will read over the rest and respond later.

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

Pages

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