Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Book on Christians and Politics [Scott]

I’m thoroughly enjoying Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible. Finally, here’s a Christian theologian who connects the dots: Christian belief is not just about John 3: 16, but transformed living which includeds the transformation of government. True, political success can’t save souls eternally (only the gospel does that), but it can promote a more just society for the weak and oppressed. To that end, Christians should exert significant influence on government.

Grudem begins by challenging five wrong views regarding Christians and government: 1) Government should compel religion. 2) Government should exclude religion. 3) All government is evil and demonic. 4) Do evangelism, not politics. 5) Do politics, not evangelism.

Most helpful to the pro-life cause is Grudem’s refutation of #4—namely, the faulty view that Christians should do evangelism not politics. Sadly, well-intentioned leaders like John MacArthur and Cal Thomas have discouraged pro-life Christians from engaging the culture through politics. They essentially claim that we should just preach the gospel because that is the only way we can change people’s hearts and change our society. As they see it, the church is only called to preach the gospel, not preach about politics. True, each of these authors allows for limited political involvement (what that looks like is never quite spelled out), but the general message to pro-life Christians is clear: Only preaching the gospel will reform culture. Everything else is largely a waste of time.

Unborn humans are at risk because of this faulty view and I’ve challenged it myself elsewhere. Meanwhile, Joe Carter has debunked the idea that Christians spend too much time on politics. Grudem, however, nails the core problem with MacArthur, et al: They wrongly take one of the ways that God restrains evil in the world (changing hearts through the gospel) and assert that it is the only way that God restrains evil (thus rejecting the role of civil government). Truth is, God gave both the church and the government a role to play:
I agree that one significant way that God restrains evil in the world is through changing people’s hearts when they trust in Christ as their Savior (see 2 Cor. 5:17). But we should not turn this one way into the only way that God restrains evil in this age. God also uses civil government to restrain evil, and there is much evil that can only be restrained by the power of civil government, for there will always be many who do not trust in Christ as their Savior and many who do not fully obey him.
Exactly. As I’ve said before, pro-life Christians don’t have to choose between preaching the gospel and reforming culture. They can do both.

3 comments:

  1. I always ask those who make this argument, how many Christians have abortions? They don't seem to know that over 10% of abortions are performed on women who say they are born-again Christians. And even if they say these women truly aren't Christians, I ask them, why do they think they are?

    In fact, I was just debating on-line yesterday with a "Christian" woman who works for a pro-abortion organization that performs abortions overseas.

    The problem is that what people consider "evangelizing" isn't really evangelizing. Becoming a Christian isn't simply praying once so that God can do great things for you. It is about changing your entire worldview so that Christ becomes Lord and Saviour.

    The problem is we have a lot of Christians who see Christ as their Saviour but not as their Lord and so they never govern their actions accordingly.

    Christians who condemn any kind of pro-life political activity as antithetical to the gospel don't understand the gravity of the situation and worst of all, don't understand the gospel.

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  2. I am thankful that there is conversation happening about the relationship between Christian living and politics. I do believe that the Gospel is about transformed living, and I believe that politics can play a role in promoting a more just society for the weak and oppressed. However, I think there are two primary assumptions made in this post that are concerning to me.

    First, you seem to use the term "politics" and "pro-life cause" interchangeably. However, there is much more political activity in which Christians can engage in addition to or beyond pro-life activity. Such an assumption limits the discussion of the other facets of politics in which Christians can and should consider being engaged.

    Second, and most concerning to me, is that you appear to taking a pro-life lens and using that to examine the rest of the Christian life, rather than using the Christian faith to shape all of your beliefs, including the way in which you engage in pro-life support. This is most clear to me when you discuss only one of the 5 points as that which is "most helpful to the pro-life cause". Even what is being read and what you are learning about Christian living and engaging in politics seems to be interpreted only through how that can impact the pro-life cause. To be sure, caring for life can be an important facet of Christian living. However, that is not the whole of the Christian life. We must be sure to keep the lens of our Christian faith as the primary way we interpret all of our activity, political and otherwise.

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