Christmas is coming early this year for those who enjoy knowing and applying Biblical doctrine, and engaging in the day’s political issues from a Christian perspective.
That’s because Politics According to the Bible, 600 pages of Scripture-and-modern-issues magic, has recently released. Perhaps it comes just in time, just when some had begun wondering: okay, we know there are issues with Christians partnering with false-religion types like Glenn Beck, but how can we ally with other people for political and not religious reasons?
Politics According to the Bible may help answer this question. And especially for those on the young-restless-Reformed side who might be tempted to overcorrect for evangelical political excesses — “let’s just preach the Gospel!” — this is the perfect author for them.
Why? Because it’s written by Wayne “Systematic Theology” Grudem.
I’ve already added this book to my Amazon cart, and it is very rare I do that so fast — or that I do little more in a blog post besides shell for something new. Currently the book, listed at retail for $39.99, is on sale for $26.39. Get it while it’s hot (and with this Beck stuff ongoing, it is).
Part 1: Basic Principles
Chapter 1: Five Wrong Views about Christians and Government
Chapter 2: A Better Solution: Significant Christian Influence on Government
Chapter 3: Biblical Principles Concerning Government
Chapter 4: A Biblical Worldview
Chapter 5: The Courts and the Question of Ultimate Power in a Nation
No, that’s not the entire book. Those titles encompass its first 157 pages. Chapter 1 critiques “Five Wrong Views about Christians and Government.” So far I’ve focused on C and D:
A. Government should compel religion 23
B. Government should exclude religion 29
C. All government is evil and demonic 36
D. Do evangelism, not politics 44
E. Do politics, not evangelism 53
Under “Do evangelism, not politics,” Grudem actually critiques someone close to his own side, John McArthur, whom I hadn’t known took such a just-preach-the-Gospel approach to political involvement. (This seems to downplay the nature of our role as dual citizens, of the After-world and the current Old Earth, and our multiple vocations, primarily as God’s adopted sons but also as workers in different fields — including Ministry, business, art, motherhood, and/or politics.)
In response, Grudem does not offer a gospel of Better-Christianity-through-Politics, but shows that the Gospel, though based vitally in the message of God saving sinners, brings more results:
1. Too narrow an understanding of “the Gospel” and the kingdom of God
While I agree with Thomas and MacArthur on many other things, I cannot agree with their disparagement of the value of Christian political involvement for God’s purposes on this earth. I think it represents too narrow an understanding of the work of God’s kingdom and of the nature of the Christian gospel message.
“The Gospel” in the New Testament is not just “trust Jesus and be forgiven of your sins and grow in holiness and go to heaven” (though that is certainly true, and that is the heart of the Gospel and its foundational message). No, the Gospel is God’s good news about all of life! Jesus said,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20).
The phrase “all that I have commanded you” means more than John 3:16, as wonderful as that verse is. All that Jesus commanded includes everything that he taught as recorded in the four Gospels. This is because Jesus promised his disciples not only that the Holy Spirit would “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26), but also that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things” (v. 26) and will “guide you into all the truth” (16:13).
Grudem goes on to question McArthur’s belief that modern governments’ natures don’t matter:
The ideal human government can ultimately do nothing to advance God’s kingdom, and the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.
I think of the difference between North Korea and South Korea. Even if the dictatorial, oppressive government of North Korea has not completely halted the spread of God’s Word, its severe persecution has hindered it so much that millions of North Koreans are born, live, and die without ever hearing of Jesus Christ, and North Korea sends out zero missionaries. By contrast, the church in South Korea, where the government has allowed freedom, is growing, thriving, and sending missionaries around the world. Or compare the relatively small, repressed church in Cuba, which is unable to send out any missionaries anywhere, with the growing, thriving churches throughout many Latin American countries that have more freedom. Governments do make a difference to the work of God’s kingdom. This is why Paul urged that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2). That is, good governments help people to live a “peaceful” and “godly” life, and bad governments hinder that.
Can a theologian and Kingdom citizen be a patriot in an Old-Earth nation? Grudem seems to think so, and offers to prove his case from Scripture — along with secondary appeals to less-overt Biblical implications, and also references to facts.
So I highly anticipate reading his work, and catching up on something Christians may too easily miss: the Gospel is not a social gospel, and not a political gospel, but it does have implications for society and politics. Moreover, God’s people are indeed called, while they wait for the Kingdom, to be good citizens and teach His commandments on Old Earth.
I am well aware that the Bible is not an American book, for it was finished nearly 1,700 years before the United States existed! The principles and teachings in the Bible contain wisdom that is helpful for all nations and all governments. Therefore I have tried to keep in mind that people in other nations might read this book and find it useful for formulating their own positions on the political issues that they face in their own nations. Yet in my examples and my choice of political issues, I focus primarily on the United States, because that is the country I know best, the country I am proud to be a citizen of, and the country I deeply love.