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Thursday, August 25, 2005 

Should Evangelicals Get Out of Politics?

I have never really liked politics. Really I haven't. I have political positions, mind you. And I generally agree with one political party, which often holds to certain stances on particular "social issues" such as abortion and religious liberty. However, I have been growing more and more irritated with the current state of Evangelicalism as it relates to the political landscape. With the recent comments of Pat Robertson and the always controversial Dr. James Dobson, I am beginning to think that we as Evangelicals are missing the forest for the trees.

Now I haven't always been this way. Not long ago, I considered the possibility that a career in politics might better suit a born-debater like me. But, a few months ago, as God would have it, I stumbled across a blog by Steve Camp, the Christian music artist, turned theologian. He impressed me with his depth and in-your-face commentary on issues such as the contemporary Christian music scene. Here is his "107 Theses to CCM," which is well worth a read. A couple of months ago he started a new site here at blogger where he has posted a large number of articles against the movement he has (or at least someone has) labeled "Evangelical C0-Belligerence." Basically, he is saying that the Gospel was never meant to be sent by means of the vehicle of politics. He abhors the new alliance between Catholics and Evangelicals, by which they have both seemingly thrown out 500 years of theological debate, and united in a hope that politics can change the ethical and moral landscape of America.

I personally think he is on to something. I am sick of Evangelicals spending the majority of their time on political issues. Now, you might say, "D.R., didn't you just write three blogs on the Intelligent Design controversy? Isn't that a political position? Aren't you being a bit hypocritical here?" Well, my answer is "yes" and "no". First, I think ID shouldn't be politicized, but I acknowledge that it has been. I think it is better served as a powerful new tool in the hands of competent apologists. It is something that shows the deficiencies of a system that has never been well thought out in the first place. However, I really don't care if it is ever taught on a wide scale in public schools. I just want teachers to quit having their First Amendment Rights trampled upon by the ACLU and The Americans United for Separation of Church and State for even mentioning that evolution is anything less than pure scientific law.

But I will be the first to say that my theological position excludes the possibility that Christians will ever be able to influence this country enough, by political maneuvering, to revert it back to a time when pornography wasn't so readily available, when children weren't able to be killed by their mothers because they simply didn't want the inconvenience, and when the name of Jesus Christ invoked respect instead of hostility. The only way America will ever see a revival is by Christians seeking the face of God, being conformed into the image of Christ, and living incarnationally in the world in which they temporarily reside. We cannot compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ and expect to influence a world of lost men and women with the very truth that alone can set them free from sin and death.

Brothers and Sisters, let us press on for a prize won not by human efforts through man-centered debating, but rather for one taken hold of by means of the grace of God through living out our call, namely to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I thank God for men like Steve Camp, Phil Johnson, and Tom Ascol, whose dedication to the Gospel is not clouded by the politics of men. May we be men and women who seek the Glory of God, not the glory of a political system which will soon fade away. Remember there is no democracy in the heavenly realms.

DR,

Great post. I could not agree more.

We have to remember that there is a mindset among such leaders as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell that if society improves to a certain point then people will be more apt to accept the gospel. This is why they work so hard in the political arena.

Their motive is good. Their thinking is wrong. We live in a broken world. Scripture states that the universe groans under the curse of the fall. It also states that the pains of the fall will not be lifted until the return of Jesus.

It seems to me that there was never a better time to accept than when Jesus himself walked the earth. Yet, the majority of people rejected Him.

The church cannot change a society through enforcing a Character Ethic. Yet, people are changed when the church shares the gospel.

My $.02

D.R., I'm so proud of you. This is what it is all about. Have more edifying posts as this. I have been staying with my niece for the past 6 months and will be moving to a retirement community next week. I've been using her computer to dialog with you. Not sure if I will purchase another computer to take with me. So this may be farewell. Know that I'll be praying for you.

Good to hear from you, DR. I sorta agree. I agree we should take up the message of Jesus to preach:

Good news to the poor.
Freedom for the prisoners.
Healing for the sick.
Release for the oppressed.

As we go about that sort of Jesus business in the real world, if some want to call that political, then so be it, but go about it we must.

Seems to me.

Here's a thought from John Piper: "We should pray and work to shape our culture, its customs and laws, so that it reflects the revealed will of God, even if that reflection is only external and dim and embraced by unbelievers with wrong motives." This is undoubtedly a political move. And I think Piper is completely on target.

I also think that what Piper advocates here is 180 degrees away from folks like Robertson with his short-list of third-world assassinees.

True, the pains of the fall will not be lifted until Jesus returns. But that gives no Christian the right or the luxury of handing the whole thing over to Satan. The world currently in the midst of "the divine clean-up operation" to quote J.D. Crossan. And N. T. Wright agrees: "Heaven is a big deal, but it's not the end of the world!"

The end of the world is a redeemed world, a redeemed Earth, a thoroughly redeemed and gloriously divine political program--isn't that what we mean, finally, by the Kingdom of God? No, getting out of politics is not a responsible answer. Arguably, all of life is on Earth is political. Just as all of life on Earth is spiritual.

A better answer, I believe, would be to decry the despicable confusion of Christianity with the right-wing political machine that one finds in Robertson, Falwell, etc., and instead act as voices of reason and truth and Christ-exalting devotion in every realm of life: politics, family, church, work: in short, life.

D.R. I understand that as believers we have social and civic duties and that we should perform them as it pleases God in our lives. With respect to politics it may be to hold office or simply to vote. Within society it could be in a life devoted to feeding and teaching third world countries or simply providing a cup of cold water in Jesus name. We all have our calling. I abhor any effort to involve the Church in any political or cultural movement. The Church already has a commission and it’s neither political nor cultural. The last time the lines became blurred between the responsibilities of the government, the Church and the individual we call the dark ages and we’ve not recovered from that yet. With respect to co-belligerence, this amounts to “they shall know you by your alliance against sin”. I think not. I am totally opposed to any unifying cause outside of the love of God through Jesus Christ.

I wonder if RaeLea's post has a message. She commends your article addressing Evangelicals getting out of politics, but held up for Bruce and there is or was not a more political site. I fear that is what the world wants - Christians keep your mouths shut while we indoctrinate everyone with our goals and ambitions. I don't think the church should endorse a political party, but biblical principles need to be talked about so that Christians vote biblically.

Kc above posted that he was against "any unifying cause outside the love of God through Jesus Christ." But, I wonder, if he would agree that the love of God through Jesus Christ is the ultimate unifying cause--breaking down all former barriers between all races, classes, nations, and peoples. And that ultimate unifying cause has huge implications and applications for ALL facets of life--the political included. Co-belligerence isn't the way. But a rejection of any and all attempts to influence the world by any means consonant with the mandate Christ gave his followers to be salt and light is an abdication, I think, of that calling. Otherwise, the meat continues to rot, and the darkness reigns unabated. I don't believe the Gospel can or should be reduced to merely evangelism--though, as I suspect most here will agree, that is the foundational and most important aspect of it.

'pends on what your definition of "evangelism" is.

Evangelism in the sense of sharing the Good News that Jesus taught and as I outlined in my previous comment is a great thing.

Evangelism in getting people "saved," getting them to "accept Jesus" or "born again" and all those other sorts of euphemisms for becoming more like the church at large (but not necessarily like Jesus) is less thrilling to me.

It seems to me that there is quite a debate than can be done concerning what it means to be like Jesus. One side says we overlook abortion and homosexuality and same sex marriage and concentrate on helping the poor. Their implication is that because we are against abortion and same sex marriage, that we are also against helping the poor. I changed my affiliation with a certain political party because they want abortions on demand and now want to redefine marriage. I have always cared about the poor and needy and still do. I will not put my allegience to a political party above principles. The thing I fear is that as our Nation falls deeper into moral chaos, that the hedge of protection from God will fall away and then no armies or earthly powers will help us.

Kelly I would agree but I would ask all who is it that judges and who is it that saves? We, as the Church, are to teach all things, not enforce them. We as individuals are to love without hypocrisy. It is the government that is to be a terror to evildoers. Dan I mean no disrespect but I’m concerned that those who accept that good news will trun away quickest when they are hated by the world and persecuted for the sake of His name. I Corinthians 15:9 (KJV) says “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” There is much good news for this life I agree, but doctrines of health and wealth fall short of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dan said:"Evangelism in getting people "saved," getting them to "accept Jesus" or "born again" and all those other sorts of euphemisms for becoming more like the church at large (but not necessarily like Jesus) is less thrilling to me."

Dan, it's less thrilling for me as well. I agree with you on this. Well stated.

Anonymous said: "I don't think the church should endorse a political party, but biblical principles need to be talked about so that Christians vote biblically......The thing I fear is that as our Nation falls deeper into moral chaos, that the hedge of protection from God will fall away and then no armies or earthly powers will help us."

What is a "Biblical" vote Anonymous? Does it hinge on two things for you? Abortion and homosexuality? Is this the major "morality" that concerns you? Since there are only two significant politcal parties and you left one for the other, do I conclude that you believe the one you now support is the only one that supports God and morality?

MJ Doyle

kc said:
"Dan I mean no disrespect but I’m concerned that those who accept that good news will turn away quickest when they are hated by the world..."

No disrespect taken, thank you. Jesus and the early church's Jubilee message of Good News to the poor was received by largely poorer folk in the first few centuries. They were persecuted and yet the church remained alive and vital.

I don't know exactly what you mean by doctrines of health and wealth, but my understanding of Jesus' message is that he was talking about a Kingdom of God. Now and evermore. On earth as it is in heaven.

I don't see the separation of "kingdom living" in to this life and next, but that it is all one way of living.

Art Gish wrote in his book, Living in Christian Community, something like, "Why is it that Christians are living for that day up in heaven when we all have enough, when we can freely share, when everyone is cared for and no one is lonely, where there is no hatred or greed or war AND YET, they are not living that way now?"

That's all I'm talking about. Living that way now. On earth as it is in heaven.

Dan thanks for the courteous dialog. The difference, as I understand it, is that in this life we are called to serve where in the life to come we shall rule and reign. Jesus said that those who identify with Him will suffer in this life as He did. I honestly always try to remain open to a better understanding of the scripture.

MJ Doyle, I don't believe I said that I left one party for another. I stand for the same things, whether it is either of the two parties that makes their views known. The main reason I left the party of my original affiliation was because of their platform. If we do not protect life from the beginning (unborn), what good are all the other matters?

Anonymous, I went to a candlelight vigil last week in support of Cindy Sheehan. There was an elderly lady there holding a sign that read "Choose Life Not War". It reminded me that we as christians, should protect life at all stages from beginning to end. That includes, but is not limited to, proper shelter/housing, health care for all, food, working for peace and social justice all over the world, eliminating the death penalty, war etc. Repaying violence for violence only escalates more violence. We must find a way to choose life in everything or there is NO good in all other matters. You know on earth as it is in heaven kind a thing, like Dan said.

MJ Doyle

MJ Doyle, I think I understand where you are coming from. I have read your posts over at Mainstream site. My point is that our respect for life is hollow if we do not start with the most innocent (baby in the womb) and then the helpless (invalid), plus war cannot be compared to abortion and euthanasia.

Kelly -

First off - good to see that you're alive and still kickin!

Second - I think my comments may have been misunderstood. Yes - I believe the universe is under the curse and that it groans until the day Jesus returns. And yes - it will remain that way despite our BEST efforts.

Yet - we are called to labor in this world. We are to share the gospel. God calls people to medical missions to share the gospel and bring medicine to diseased peoples. As we labor, we are to remind ourselves that we labor for the glory of God and to fulfill a command and receive great joy from that. Unfortunately, our labor will never result in a utopian society.

Unfortunately, the idea that the world is getting better and better has a small following in my denomination (PCA...Yes - I'm PCA now if you hadn't heard.) Many in my denomination believe that the gospel will impact so many lives that the result on society will be the establishment of Christ's kingdom. (Postmillenialism)

As for me, I'm reminded of my depravity every time I look in the mirror....I long for the return of Jesus.

Let me just register my substantial agreement with the posts of Dan and da Bishop above, especially the Gish quotation and the call to labor despite the avalanche of satanic and sinful opposition we are sure to encouter, respectively. (And I served in a PCA church in New Orleans...!)

Maybe we're not all talking past each other...

(And the post-millenium view is quite attractive to me in some ways...but, you're right, it doesn't seem to jibe with reality. And I'm not sure the pre-mil view jibes with the whole of scripture, rightly interpreted. Maybe it does. I'm just not sure. That leaves me kinda in the middle.)

Good posts, these.

One of my other favorite bloggers also wrote about this topic. Brent graduated from Southern Seminary about a year ago. Here's the link: http://www.colossiansthreesixteen.blogspot.com/ The article is "The elephant, the donkey and the cross" I commend reading it.

anyhow, i have a degree in political science because i used to think that politcs were the most important agent for change in the world. pretty much the whole world acts like that's the case, and i was never challenged to think otherwise, until i started seeing that the Word of God has a lot more to say than simply how to live as an individual.
sadly evangelicals are only seen as being interested in politics in the knee-jerk reaction category (i'm waiting to see a book called "How Then Shall We Boycott?"). it's only been a couple decades since Schaeffer told us that our scoiety is not Christian. when are we going to start realizing that he was right, and start offering hope to the hopeless instead of hostile backlash to those who don't need to be whipped by us no matter how offensive they are to God? i'm pretty sure i was just as dead in my transgressions before God forgave me as any current card-carrying member of NARAL or GLAD or NOW.

This subject was posted quite a long time ago, but I was just reading and digesting all the different views. The last one I read here mentions Schaeffer and I wondered if this was referring to Francis Schaffer. I have seen him on tv in days long past (he's deceased now) and I would not think that he felt that Christians were to not be actively involved in political matters. He saw the signs of the liberal takeover years ago and was disturbed by it.

It's a pity that I think Christianity is the biggest rip-off since someone started wailing at rocks and mud idols because I would probably say it's an interesting posting.

I like your posting

Good Luck.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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