The Christian and Politics: Is the Contemporary Church Obsessed with Political Solutions? (2023)

Darryl arise from

Do Christianity and Politics Go Together? Can individual Christians enter the political arena to improve society? Should the church use the power of politics to influence moral reform in America? It is important that we engage with issues as evangelicals increasingly enjoy policies to combat the rising tide of secular humanism. We believe the following points may help clarify the believer's relationship to government and politics.

1. Christians can participate in the political arena as individuals, but it is not the job of the church (collectively speaking) to change political/governmental institutions. Our Lord did not give His church a political agenda, but rather a spiritual commission to preach the gospel and disciple the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Such a mandate goes far beyond any political or cultural mission. Interestingly, the early church, living under a much more repressive government than ours in America, voluntarily submitted to Rome and never attempted to form a political party or change Roman laws. They refused to prioritize any political crusade over the gospel. They had a heavenly and eternal mission as opposed to temporal goals. They weren't just interested in creating a better society; They wanted to completely transform it with the gospel message. If the gospel truly is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), why should we preach anything else? Why do so many sincere but misguided Christians today downplay the centrality of the gospel to a message of moral reform through political action? Are our priorities not confused enough?

2. As Christ's ambassadors, we are not to disobey civil government (except, of course, when it forces us to disobey God's Word - Acts 5:29), but submit to it (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1). -two; 1 Peter 2:13-17) and pray for such rulers and authorities that we may live peaceful lives (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

3. We must understand that spiritual results can only be achieved by spiritual means. True moral reform is never achieved by mere changes in the law, but by changing the hearts and minds of the people. This means that we must recover the art of persuasion (although, ultimately, it is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit to persuade and convince people – John 16:8). As evangelicals, our greatest power is not in protest but in preaching the gospel, for if the gospel truly is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), why should we resort to rhetoric and political ideology?

Strange as it may seem to some, the problems we face in America today are not primarily political, or even moral, but theological and spiritual. As people are alienated from a holy God and have no knowledge of Him or His ways, we experience massive hedonism in our country. Therefore, the remedy must be theological and spiritual in the first place. No political or moral crusade can fix that. The great apostle of the Gentiles rightly said, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God to pulling down strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10). 🇧🇷 :3-4; compare Ephesians 6:10-18). As policy experts and former presidential advisers to Richard Nixon, we would do well to hear the words of Charles W. Colson:

Today's wasted enthusiasm for political solutions to our culture's moral problems arises from a distorted view of both politics and Christianity: too low a view of the power of a sovereign God and too high a view of human abilities. The idea that human systems, reformed by Christian influence, pave the way for the kingdom, or at least for rebirth, has the same utopian connotations found in Marxist literature. It also ignores the constant lesson of history, which shows that laws are reformed primarily as a result of powerful spiritual movements (rather than the other way around). I am not aware of any case where a spiritual movement was achieved through the passage of legislation ("The Power Illusion." Power Religion, ed. Michael S. Horton [Chicago: Moody Press, 1992] p. 32).

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4. When expressing our opinions and beliefs to government officials, we should never adopt an "in your face" attitude. Arrogance and shouting at political opponents may be the way of the world, but it is not the way of Christ. Instead, we are to respond with “prudence and discernment,” as Daniel did to Arioch (Daniel 2:14). We are to exhibit the kind of respectful conduct that Paul displayed before Festus and King Agrippa (Acts 26; cf. Titus 3:1-2; Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Peter 3:15). Regardless of our personal feelings toward our political leaders, we are commanded to "honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17).

5. We are not to consider any land or human government as our last home - "for our fatherland is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). First, we are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13; cf. 1 Peter 2:11). We look forward to a "heavenly land" (v.16) and God himself has promised to prepare a city for us (v.16). If that is true, why should we become so involved in the affairs of this world that we forget our heavenly homeland and the divine commission Christ gave to His Church?

6. We must not ignore the great political and cultural controversies of our time. As evangelicals, we are called to use our minds for the glory of God and to test all matters, religious or political, against the standard of Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). At the same time, however, we must recognize that the Bible does not always deal so clearly and directly with the problems we face today. Therefore, "we must take Christian approaches to politics and recognize that there will be a multitude of them, but we must not expect to produce 'the Christian political agenda'" (Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, George M. Marsden, The Search for Christian America [Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard, 1989] p.139).

7. Because of God's common grace, Christians can work with non-believers to try to promote civil justice and peace, and we can do this not just because it's good for believers and religious freedom, but because it's good for all people (Galatians 6). :10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15). The authors of The Search for Christian America wrote on this subject:

Some Christians speak as if there is an absolute antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thinking, neglecting the extent to which Christians themselves are tainted by sin and error, and the extent to which God's common grace leaves significant room for communication and cooperation among all. in the practice of everyday life. 🇧🇷 🇧🇷 Since we all live in God's world, we have some basis in God's common grace to discuss and shape public policy without explicitly invoking the Bible. In fact, people from all nations of the world have managed to agree on many principles of justice and human interest, such as in United Nations organizations and declarations. The fact that they differ markedly on other issues or in the application of their common principles should not obscure this degree of agreement. Thus Christians and non-Christians can agree on the value of charity to the poor and hungry, on the undesirability of genocide, on promoting literacy, on the virtue of loyalty to friends and parents, and many other things. 🇧🇷 135-136).

8. Since the advent of Christ, we are not to regard any nation as God's chosen nation, much less America as a "Christian nation." “The New Testament unequivocally teaches that Christ broke down national and ethnic barriers and chose to fulfill his central purposes in history through the Church, which transcends all these boundaries... The Lord of history does not purpose with these values. of a particular country or civilization” (The Search for Christian America, p.24).

9. The evangelical church of the 1950s and 1960s rightly criticized liberal churches for abandoning their responsibility to preach the gospel and turning to the "social gospel." Ironically, evangelicals today are doing exactly what liberal churches have been condemned to do, trying to better society, not through gospel proclamation and intelligent discussion of biblical truth, but through power strategies, policies, laws, and efforts to encourage the unbelievers. more to do so, in order to move on to live as Christians.

It seems that our main concern is not accurately preaching a God-centered gospel and its implications for Gentiles and believers alike, but with abortion, traditional values, and a romanticized vision of America as a "Christian nation." While these may be important questions, it is not the gospel or any other message that humanity most needs to hear. As the saying goes, some Christians know more about conservative politics than they do about Old and New Testament scripture. Evangelicals have no reason to regret their involvement in politics per se, only its obsession. As Charles W. Colson said:

This is one of the weaknesses of the evangelical movement today, so obsessed with politics. She believes that everything has to have a political solution. 🇧🇷 🇧🇷 You don't change a culture by making laws. You change a culture by changing people's habits. This is why the gospel is so central to the possibilities for cultural reform in American life (Interview, "Running the Race," Rutherford [Journal], Aug. 1996, p. 15).

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10. We must remember that political solutions are not definitive, but temporary. We cannot trust human governments (even the best ones) to provide the ultimate answers to the moral problems we face. For this we must look to the Scriptures and to the God represented in its pages. "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals in whom there is no salvation" (Psalm 146:3); "Thus saith the Lord, Cursed is the man that trusteth in men, and is made flesh by his strength" (Jeremiah 17:5).

What some Christian leaders are saying about bringing America back to God (with my response):

1. Robert Dugan, director of the Office of Public Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, believes he can offer a strategy for "those who seek to transform society through the political process" (Winning the New Civil War, p. 88). 🇧🇷

The above statement is theologically naive, for when has a society been transformed through the "political process" for spiritual and moral good? True moral reform will simply never come through the "political process", but only through lives transformed by the sovereign hand of God working through the greatest message in human history: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Randall Terry said, “If justice is to prevail, if paganism is to be restored, then we must strive to restore this nation to a Christian nation. Otherwise, we will lose the war for America's soul, and America as we know it will perish. And if we are going to reform and rebuild our country, we must consciously infiltrate America's power bases. We must consciously make men like John Adams and Teddy Roosevelt morally correct, not politically correct statesmen” (Why is a nice guy still in prison? pp. 80-81).

Terry naively assumes that righteousness will prevail only when America becomes a "Christian nation" again. But then again, like so many Christians engaged in the contemporary "culture war," he has not learned the lesson of history, which teaches that political power and legislation can never truly reshape the human heart. Terry also incorrectly assumes that the United States was a "Christian nation". While America has certainly been influenced by Christian values, it has never truly been a "Christian nation", unless, of course, we wish to water down the theological meaning of the term "Christian" and reduce it to a mere denotation of shared morality and virtue. . The only "Christian nation" mentioned in the New Testament are those who are spiritually born again by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9) and who, not only in the United States, but who live in every country and region of the world (Revelation 5:9; 7:9).

Other point. Contrary to what Terry and others may believe, God has not called us to convert entire nations, nor does our “success” depend on it. Indeed, we are called to be faithful and accurate in preaching the gospel to those who are not born again, but we are not expected to convert them; only God can do that (John 1:12-13; Acts 16:14; Romans 9). :15-18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; James 1:18). Therefore, we are called to be faithful to the gospel message, not necessarily numerically successful in "results" (as it is commonly defined), for it is God alone who adds to His church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7; Colossians 2:19).

Evidence that the early church did not have a political agenda:

1. We must remember that the first century period had many of the same problems we have today (abortion, crime, drunkenness, immorality, poverty, corrupt and wicked rulers, etc.), but they never sought any form of moral reform through political action, nor did they join the then numerous political/social fanatics who wanted to reform or overthrow Rome. No doubt they had every reason to do so, but they never did.

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2. Because the early church recognized that man's greatest problem was sin and therefore the remedy was spiritual in nature, they were not concerned with making a society under God's judgment outwardly virtuous, but focused their efforts on faithfully articulating the gospel and living lives that demonstrated the reality of its claims (1 Peter 2:11-17).

3. Because Jesus himself taught that “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36); because early Christians recognized that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" but spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:3-4); because they recognized that "our warfare is not against flesh and blood," but against demonic powers (Ephesians 6:12); because they recognized that their true citizenship was in heaven (Philippians 3:20); because they considered themselves "strangers and pilgrims" in this world (1 Peter 2:11); and because they desired a "heavenly land" (Hebrews 11:16), they did not focus their efforts on political action or even social reform (although the early church strove to care for the poor). They had their minds on heavenly realities and eternal goals, rather than trying to put temporary bandages on a society destined for eternal judgment.

Contrary to what some critics might assume, the point here was not "to have a mind so heavenly that it is useless on earth". Rather, it was a clear sign that his priorities were in order. It must be remembered that the early Christians still endeavored to care for man's physical needs (Matthew 26:8-9; Acts 6:1; Galatians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; Titus 3:14). 🇧🇷 Therefore, they were not guilty of neglecting the physical and necessary aspects of man under the pretense of false piety. Yet this was a far cry from any form of political action and even further from the modern "social gospel" which seeks to bring any political or social cause under the banner of the gospel.

4. The early Christians of the first century lived under a much more repressive government than ours in America, and yet they willingly submitted to Rome and never tried to form a political party or even change Roman laws that they considered immoral. They had a lot more right to do that than us in the States, but never.

5. When Paul and Peter addressed the issue of slavery in their respective epistles (Philemon and 1 Peter 2:18-20), they in no way encouraged Christians to rebel against the evils of slavery, but to remain obedient to their masters. , even cruel! But we must ask, if the early church had such political and social zeal, why didn't they form a Labor Party to protect the rights of slaves? Why didn't they round up all the runaway slaves and march in protest against Rome? Even arguing that this would not have been possible under Rome's tyrannical rule, could they not have done more than simply encourage slaves to remain obedient to their masters and tolerate their abuse? This doesn't make much sense to those who think that all, or at least most, of our problems can be solved through the political process. But for those who have the mind of Christ and recognize the inherent limitations of political/social action, it is divine wisdom.

6. When Christians were slandered and persecuted by their Gentile neighbors, Peter did not suggest that Christians form an "anti-slander Christian league", but encouraged them to "be patient" and not take revenge (1 Corinthians 2:12-20 -20). 1). 🇧🇷 3:13-17; 4:3-4, 12-19). Sound like the kind of advice that would come from someone with a political orientation? Would current leaders of the "Religious Right" encourage their followers to do the same?

7. It is interesting to note that when Paul appeared before government authorities on several occasions, he never involved such rulers in political or social discourse. No doubt these cases were great opportunities for him to complain about social ills like slavery and excessive taxation, but apparently he never did. If Paul really was so politically minded, why would he pass up these golden opportunities? Rather, as with Felix in Acts 24:24-25, we speak to this ruler about faith in Christ, righteousness, self-control, and coming judgment! Was Paul guilty in this case because he was so heavenly minded that he was no good on earth? Shouldn't he have campaigned vigorously for human rights and social reform (issues that would have affected a wider range of people) rather than simply limiting his discussion to soteriological issues? Again, where the political zealot sees a missed opportunity, the discerning believer sees faithfulness to the gospel and priorities that are in order.

Evidence that the United States was not founded or a "Christian nation":

1. The founding of our country was a mixture of Christian and Enlightenment influences. To say that it was only Christian ideas and influences that shaped the founding of the United States is an understatement about American history.

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2. While some of our Founding Fathers were Christians, many were not. For example, John Adams opposed the doctrine of the Trinity and spoke of the deity of Christ as "that dreadful blasphemy" which must be done away with. Thomas Jefferson was also an anti-supernaturalist and eventually produced his own version of the Bible that discarded all recorded miracles, including the resurrection! James Madison felt there was no way the government could sanction national days of prayer. The truth is that although the Founding Fathers all believed in a divine Creator, they did not necessarily hold unequivocal Christian conceptions of Him, nor did they believe that salvation was found only in the person of Jesus Christ. Many of them were deists rather than Christians. Therefore, when we encounter statements from them that speak of “God” or a “Creator,” we must immediately ask ourselves, “Which God do they have in mind?” A holy, personal God revealed in Scripture?

Some well-meaning believers have tried to argue that all, or at least the vast majority, of the Founding Fathers were Christians because they were registered members of Christian churches. But while it is true that many of them were registered members of Protestant churches, this does not mean that they were spiritually born again (which is the only type of Christian mentioned in the New Testament), any more than people today are. regularly. Christian churches are truly converted. It must be remembered that church attendance was common during this period, and it was very fashionable and appropriate to call oneself a "Christian". Furthermore, this does not mean that most of the founding fathers viewed life from a distinctly Christian worldview or that they had a mature biblical theological foundation in Christian doctrine. And even if, for the sake of argument, they were all genuine Christians, this is far from proof that they were striving to found a "Christian nation."

3. The founding documents of the United States (Declaration of Independence and Constitution) do not mention Jesus Christ at all. In fact, the Constitution contains not even a single reference to God! Isn't that very strange for a nation that should be a "Christian nation"? Why should supposedly Christian men omit the founder of their religion from such important documents that will serve as the foundation of their "Christian nation"?

4. The United States was the first Western nation to specifically omit Christian symbolism (such as the cross) from its flag and other national symbols. Why did the Founding Fathers refuse to use such Christian symbolism on the national flag when it is true that they intended to establish a "Christian nation"?

5. In 1797, the United States signed a treaty with the Islamic nation of Tripoli. This particular treaty was negotiated by George Washington, ratified by the Senate, and signed by President John Adams. But notice what is said in the actual document: "As the government of the United States of America is in no way based on the Christian religion, not itself being hostile to the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims, . . . the parties declare that no claim arising from religious opinion will ever lead to a violation of the existing harmony between the two countries" (Hunter Miller, Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States [Government Printing Office, 1930], vol.II, p.365).

Written by Darryl Merkel (1997)

Bibliographic recommendations:

Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, George M. Marsden, The Search for Christian America (Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard, 1989).

Michael S. Horton, Beyond the Culture Wars (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994).

(Video) How Evangelicals became Republicans

ed. Os Guinness e John Seel, No God But God (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992).

ed. Michael S. Horton, Power Religion (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992).

Thomas W. Frazier, Jr., „The Church: Living in Today's World Under the Cross of Christ“, hrsg. John Armstrong, Reformation & Revival [Journal] (Winter 1996, Bd. 5/Nr. 1), S. 65-80.


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