Faith and Politics

Politics are one of the most highly controversial topics among Christians today. Understand that there are a lot of factors to be weighed and not everyone is going to come to the same conclusions. Also understand that many of the conclusions people come to are not always intellectually thought through with great scrutiny. Instead, I would submit that many well meaning Christians have been led to their political positions by emotionally charged rhetoric, self-interests, and base prejudices.

It is imperative that you understand that while there is an absolute answer to every problem, it is not always clear cut on how to determine or defend the solution. The Bible does not offer definitive answers to every situation. You must also understand that no political party has ever been right on every political issue and therefore any parties’ attempts to claim exclusivity as the Christian party is downright blasphemous to the character of Christ.

Now that those are out of the way we can begin to ask the question on how our faith and politic overlap.

Christians have a tendency to either over-spiritualize their political efforts or under-spiritualize them. There are those who see legislation as the primary effort for the moral stability of society. But is this a biblical model or uniquely an American concept? What about communist North Korea or Islamic Iran? Should Christians rise up against their oppressors? This is clearly contrary to the teaching of Paul and Peter (Romans 13:1-7, I Peter 2:13-17). Even theologians in Great Britain look on how many American Christians treat their political duties as out of control.

The argument for these Christians is that their faith is to inform their political convictions, but instead of developing a biblical model for political involvement they allow their conscience to be the sole authority for political activism. Take the issue of abortion. Yes it is murder and it is wrong. But murder was taking place in the early church as well, but the apostles did not form a political party to combat it. They stuck to the great commission knowing that gains in morality did not constitute gains for the Kingdom. When Peter was imprisoned he rejoiced. When Paul was imprisoned he praised God he had opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering. When Stephen was stoned there was no legal action taken to bring his attackers to justice (of which Paul was one). Christians today are drunk with political incentive. Understand, that the Bible never guaranteed safety or power. Instead we are privileged to suffer (Philippians 1:29) and those who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

On the other side of the coin are those who underestimate the importance of the role they play in American politics. As part of the governing populous, Christians must stand up for what is right and speak out against injustice. To ignore the horrendous acts of violence against the unborn is not characteristic of believers. However, Christians should not be noted as the ones who are picketing, but the ones who care. I understand the reasoning for abstaining from politics, social justice, and the extreme right because in many ways it paints a picture of an angry mob not a wrathful God. Understand that no one ever comes to the saving knowledge of grace by only seeing God’s hatred for sin. On a scale of depravity we were all on the same level before we were saved. Lying is included in Romans 1 as well as the horrendous sins you’re picketing. Would you have been brought under conviction or provoked to anger if Christians were picketing outside your home before you were saved, “Revelation 21:8 – Liars go to hell!”? But even Christian liberals need to understand that morality is not something to be ashamed about. We all need to stand up for life. The character of Christ is equally tarnished by those professing to be His followers that don’t show any conviction for morality.

The evident truths of Scripture leave room for believers to fall on several different conclusions. Remember that the civil war is suggested to have been fought over a moral issue but the most noted believer from that time was General Robert E. Lee who fought for the South. Good people will fall on different sides of sometimes very sensitive issues. We need to be accepting of that, faithful to evaluate our own positions, and committed to listen without prejudice.

These next two weeks we will be discussing the issues of politics and faith. I am aware that this is a major hot bed for many people and I don’t want to create controversy or a platform for Christians to lose their testimony, but I do want to invite people to interact, understand, and engage the topics at hand. Furthermore, if you feel I am off in any way, I want to invite you to lovingly exhort me so that I can continually refine my own pursuit for truth and accuracy.

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5 Responses to Faith and Politics

  1. Nate says:

    I want to applaud speaking to two very different audiences on this one. One line struck me though: “They stuck to the great commission knowing that gains in morality did not constitute gains for the Kingdom.”

    Not sure if can at all agree with this statement. What exactly constitutes a gain in morality? And is not the kingdom those who are counted “as righteous”, therefore increasing those who act righteously (through grace, albeit) is increasing the kingdom? And, by extension, rooting out all evil?

    The leap of faith toward Christ is the first step, but by no means the last if we are to be serious about building a culture of evangelism that applies to the entirety of our lives. Alternatively, a society can only gain in morality by gaining in the kingdom, because without God’s grace, a person cannot change. (I guess gets into the study of the metaphysics of sin/righteousness.)

    But the method is also important. From my perspective, changing the hearts and minds of people is the goal, is expanding the kingdom, but it cannot be done through law. God’s Law, as a law, at most illuminates wickedness and punishes it. Human law, which can be thought of as less than God’s Law, fails to even do this job adequately. Example: Law does not prevent murders, but it does provide the means for punishing them. Law does not change hearts. This can only be done through charity and relationship.

    The reason for Christians to get involved in politics is to prevent the encroachment of the less than God version of justice that would continue to make wickedness involuntary on an ever greater scale. (Salt and Saltiness, anyone?)

    This suggests to me that you’re looking at morality as something different and decidedly unrelated to righteousness. That or your view of expanding the Kingdom begins and ends with getting as many people as possible to take “the first step.” This may also simply be an eschatological difference about interpreting the purpose of the Church given the prophecy of Scripture. Thoughts?

    • Adam Miller says:

      Thanks for adding to the discussion Nate. I’m happy to address your concerns because I think they are valid. I state that the Bible is very unclear on particular issues and that it leaves room for different conclusions, but we need to approach it from a definitive perspective of what we know to be certain from Scripture. Obviously, my perspective, as open as I attempted to make it, is somewhat exclusive to a particular eschatology and may be less open to Amill or Post-Mill perspectives. However, I am trying to speak specifically to biblical commands and early recorded behaviors as opposed to abstract analogies.

      Let me reiterate my position. I believe that the great commission is the primary function of the church and therefore believers. I don’t believer social justice is emphasized in the commission, but it is definitely an outflow of that. I believe that Christians mar their testimony when they don’t take action of moral issues, but that doing so as a function of society without faith, is not pleasing to God. Sharing a cup of water is not the primary focus of the church, but when we don’t share water with those that are thirsty that puts a mar on the image of God through the image of the Body of Christ.

      Perhaps my statement which you reiterated above is not the most clarified thought in the article, but I don’t see any definitive reasons in Scripture where social action has been associated with bringing in the kingdom. Being salt is something I emphasize greatly, but we need to be careful when taking the abstract example and making definitive claims. I believe it clearly teaches that God has placed believers in society to have an impact on culture. I believe Christians should use their influence to create a better world, but that influence should be a testimony that draws people to Christ and does not mar His character.

      I hope that clarifies my point a little. I am sure our differences will lead us to different conclusions, but I hope that even we can find some common ground to approach the concerns of our culture and the need for a unified effort toward fulfilling the great commission.

      • Nate says:

        I think we have a lot of common ground :). We both want to spread the Gospel, we both want to see justice done in this world, and we both base that justice on Scripture. Whether I believe the act of owning a business is part of God’s Hand on this reality or if using the business to “fish men” is part of God’s Hand on this reality, both would require us to go out, start a business and run it according to Scriptural principles. Said differently, a man and a woman may love each other for entirely different reasons, but it’s still love. Who’s “more” right is like the disciples bickering over who is the greatest. What does it matter if we’re all serving the kingdom?

        My goal, besides exposing myself to the wisdom of others, is merely to clarify. Ambiguity is like shining a light with a sheet over it. Throw enough layers and the light cannot do it’s job of illuminating. Not unlike how the Israelites threw a veil over Moses after he came down from Mt. Sinai.

  2. Pingback: How Christians Should NOT Vote (part 1) | Worthy of the Gospel

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