More pastors are speaking out on the relationship between the Bible and politics. Unfortunately, some of them are creating a false dichotomy between the gospel and everything else, including politics. The gospel is the first step not the final step in regeneration. That’s why it’s called the “new birth.” The writer of Hebrews calls on his readers to leave behind “the elementary teaching about the Christ” and to “press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1). In the previous chapter we read the following:
“Concerning [Melchizedek] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Heb. 5:11–14).
As Christians we can’t be stuck in the gospel or new birth phase of being a “new creation in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). Everything is to be new, including how we should engage politically not whether we should engage politically. When we were renewed in Christ, we didn’t abandon family and church government. We didn’t set aside the principles related to economics and education.
The latest is pastor to speak out on the gospel and politics is Perry Noble of NewSpring Church. Noble writes on his blog: “It’s never pretty when the church crawls in bed with politics. EVER!” It’s never pretty when government steals your money, supports the murder of pre-born babies, and overturns and redefines God’s design for marriage. These things might very well bring God’s judgment down on us.
If a government is doing these things, don’t you think Christians should get involved to stop them if they have the means and freedom to do so?
Using the phrase getting “in bed with politics” poisons the well. Most people I speak with on their interest in politics say they want to kick the politicians out of our beds, pockets, schools, and businesses. My goal as a Christian interested in politics from a biblical perspective is to insure that civil government — a government ordained by God like family and church governments — stays within its God-ordained jurisdiction. I don’t want to increase the power of government; I want to decrease it so it will do what is biblically and constitutionally required. [product id="1471" align="right" size="small"]
Pastor Noble continues: “I have a question for Republicans and Democrats alike . . . how is putting your hope in a political savior going for you?” Pastor Noble, can you tell me what Christians are looking for a “political savior”? I certainly don’t view either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney as a political savior. The people I speak with on this subject do not want a political savior. We want to put a stop to political messiahism; that’s why we want Barack Obama out of the White House. That’s the first step. Will Romney be any better? Somewhat. But it’s because I don’t believe in politicians as gods that I will work until the entire political system is changed. That can’t happen from the sidelines.
There’s a lot more to be done at all levels of government, and in addition, families, churches, education, business, journalism, economics, international relations, etc. Civil government is the focus at this moment in time because it has too much authority and power over our lives.
I wonder if Pastor Noble tells parents in his very large congregation to pull their children out of government schools. Government schools are all about salvation through politics. I know he supports helping with tuition-free schools, but is he as adamant about government education as he is about politics?
Pastor Noble further writes, “Reality is that if the heart of a person is not impacted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ then…” He lists seven things that will continue. Here’s the seventh: “The sex slave trade is going to continue to flourish.” If we follow Pastor Noble’s counsel about not getting involved politically, then the sex slave trade will continue indefinitely. Let’s say that 90 percent of the world is Christian, leaving 10 percent that’s not. Who would be involved in government and making the laws? The 10 percent. They could keep the sex slave trade going while Christians piously sit on the sidelines waiting for the last 10 percent to be saved.
“And these things will NOT be changed through an act of congress but rather through Christ! People who are on these paths are not going to change unless something (or someone) changes them…and no law or legislation can do that, only the POWER of the Gospel.”
Really? No law can stop people from stealing other people until everybody is a Christian? It’s true that not everybody can be stopped by a law, but a majority of people are. It’s the threat of punishment that does it, even for non-Christians. God doesn’t throw His law away for the Christian once he or she is born again, and He certainly doesn’t throw it way for the non-Christian. The apostle Paul writes:
“But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” (1 Tim. 1:8-11).
Notice the last phrase: “according to the glorious gospel.” Paul didn’t see a dichotomy between law and gospel as long as the law was not viewed as a way to earn righteosness.
It was the Christian William Wilberforce who worked to stop the slave trade in England. The new anti-slavery laws prohibited everybody from trading in slaves, whether they had a changed heart or not. Was Wilberforce wrong to work for the outlawing of slavery because not everybody had responded to the gospel? Ask a slave who had been freed.
Pastor Noble gets some things right, but he also gets some things wrong. Our goal as Christians should be to understand the proper role the political sphere (civil government) plays in the Christian’s life and to act on that role as we should do in every other area of life.
I always want to know what a person is supposed to do once he or she has embraced the gospel. The new birth requires repentance, a change of mind. This does not mean to stop thinking about other things but to apply a new way of thinking to everything, and that includes politics just like it includes the family, economics (of which the Bible has a lot to say, including the role of the civil magistrate: Isa. 1:22–23), law, and politics.
Let’s take a look at what Paul writes to his pastoral charge, the young Timothy:
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Tim. 2:1–2)
Our prayers are to have a purpose. We aren’t to pray for those in authority so they will be successful in everything they do no matter what they decide to do. How can we live a tranquil life if we have to work two or three jobs to support our family because of an onerous taxing system that punishes employers and affects hiring and wages? [product id="1292" align="left" size="small"]
Politics affects family and property. The misapplication of civil authority can lead to abuses (1 Sam. 8:11–22). In what way should we pray for this type of political leader? I suggest that we should pray that he comes to his senses so “we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
These prayers are more about us than they are about him. Family and church governments are just as valid as civil government. The role of the civil magistrate is to protect the freedom of both. If we aren’t praying this way, then we are not praying biblically.
In the case of the United States, the President, Congress, and Supreme Court Justices take an oath to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution was designed to protect a very specific set of rights. When politicians violate their oath, we are duty-bound to pray that they uphold their oath, and if they violate that oath then we are obligated to remove them from office using constitutional means. May of these oath-breaking laws that civil officials pass have a direct impact on our life (abortion, war, healthcare), property (excessive and unconstitutional taxation and eminent domain), and the fruit of our labor (debt and inflation). Again, there is a particular purpose in our prayer: “that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” This can’t be done if civil officials are violating their oath of office.
Did the people who hid Jews from the Nazis violate the mandate of 1 Timothy 2:1–2? Did praying for Hitler mean that his policies should not be questioned and worked against? I don’t think so. The president is an elected official who is bound by oath to uphold the Constitution. When he or any member of Congress violates that oath, we have a constitutional right, according to the wording found in the First Amendment, to petition the government “for a redress of grievances.”
Their governmental positions do not nullify the Constitution. We are not violating the instructions given in 1 Timothy 2:1–2 when we oppose some governmental policy since our governmental system allows us to disagree and work against unconstitutional provisions. We don’t live under Caesar, and even if we did, Caesar was bound to follow God’s limitations on his civil office because God’s image is stamped on him.
We have specific constitutional freedoms in the same way that elected office holders have constitutional limitations. Our rulers do not have a “divine right” to rule. They are “ministers of God” (Rom. 13:4). The Constitution is our “Caesar” (Matt. 22:21); it has our image on it — “We the people” — and we have God’s image stamped on us. We are rendering to the Constitution what is due to it as specifically stated in the Constitution itself. Civil authorities govern at our discretion. We can vote them out of office and oppose them when they are in office.
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