Christian Faith and Politics
28 August 2014
What is the role of Christian faith in politics? I agree with the premise that though politicians have always been distrusted in many Western democracies, distrust of politicians has expanded to include distrust of all authorities, including institutions such as academia, governments, corporations and academia. It appears that though once upon a time Christians who entered the political system were trusted by Christians, there is now much more cynicism of the veracity of proclamations of faith by politicians. This is possibly due to their apparent unwillingness to overtly and emphatically oppose movements such as extreme feminism, identity politics, the injustices promoted by the ‘woke’ movement, the ‘cult of self’, transgenderism, failure to protect traditional notions of marriage, the dehumanisation and failure to protect the unborn child, the celebration of homosexuality, transgenderism, and other forms of perceived mental illness such as ‘borderline personality disorders’ and even frank sociopathy and psychopathy. In other words, how can a Christian participate in a political system where most people have ‘lost their way’ in terms of goodness, service, values and traditional moral norms without standing up against misanthropes and their destructive values. This suspicion of Christians in politics is even more acute when they are members of political parties which promote such things.
A ‘Calling’ by God to be a Politician
This is often cited by Bible-believing Christians as their reason for entering politics. Though God has called his people throughout Biblical history to interact with political leaders and rulers, the notion is fraught with ambiguity. This is largely because a ‘calling’, in the common Christian sense is a personal thing. Furthermore, unlike many ideologies and religions, Christianity is not a political system.
A Secular (or other) Society has no place for Christian Politicians
This is a commonly held view in the Post-Christian West. It is wrong for a number of reasons.
- Even though most democratic constitutions do not create a ‘theocratic’ institutions but ‘secular’ ones, many still acknowledge God in some way because their formulators did so. Recognising the Biblical truth that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things,” Jeremiah 17:9, it is understandable that even people of Christian faith historically involved in formulating democratic constitutions would avoid theocratic elements in their institutions. It is impossible to institutionalise God’s favour of one self-interested person or political party over another as they use the institutions of democracy to compete for power, regardless of their proclamations of faith, Joshua 5:13. So it is simply unwise to set up Constitutions which institutionalise Christian political power.
- Furthermore, there is insufficient evidence that Western societies are simply secular. In fact, most western societies have significant numbers of Christians in them. In democracies, Christians vote. Nevertheless, the question here is even if the bulk of a society has rejected God is it reasonable for A Christian to participate in leadership? Moreover, a question which follows is just because a society refuses to acknowledge God, does that mean God will not impact upon that society?
- Even if a society and it’s political classes refuse to acknowledge the existence of God, does it preclude the omnipotent, all-powerful God in who Christians trust from choosing sides and impacting His will upon that society?
- There is the widespread intellectual belief that it is good to separate “church and state” even amongst Christians. It does not follow that this means separating people of Christian faith from influencing the state, especially by their vote in democracies, just like any other citizen.
- If a Christian is the president, prime minister or ruler of a country, many people in the media and political classes argue that it makes the state a theocracy and so it is inappropriate for a Christian to be a politician. This argument immediately falls apart because the Christian ruler is not God. Christian leaders know this despite behavioural, speech and policy evidence that many secular ones do not!
- Secularism is a myth. When formal ‘religion’ is abandoned, secular ‘religiosity’ is just re-appropriated to non formally religious ideologies. These ideologies themselves are a from of ‘religion’, with their own sacred texts, rituals and virtuous ‘self-righteousness’ for adherents. In Western countries, the prevailing ‘secular’ ideologies are progressive, either slow amongst ‘conservative’ parties or fast amongst more radical ‘leftist’ parties. A secular from of ‘blasphemy’ occurs whenever Christian thought opposes some of the assumptions of both these forms of ‘progressive’ ideology. Democracy is not about ‘secularism’. It is about the ‘people’ ruling the policies of the government. Christian thought is just as relevant in a democratic process as any other ideology.
God is sovereign, not politicians
Christians believe there are no secular spaces where God can be shut out. Everything in the universe starts with God, including the existence of human beings. There is no place in the entire universe which God does not see, uphold, govern and have sovereignty. Therefore, the simplistic view that there is no place for a Christian politician in a secular society with secular institutions is incoherent. It is irrelevant whether the politicians involved have faith or claim to be atheists. God is still there with them, watching and assessing. Christians conclude that any issue for political consideration should begin with God.
A right consideration of what is best for human beings being governed by rulers begins with God. For example, human choice in the killing of unborn children does not override that God has already declared that preserving life itself is a higher ethic, Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17. Governing authorities need to look to God rather than their own ideologies when determining right or wrong. Whether or not rulers acknowledge God, God’s expectation is that they ask how is the matter they consider viewed by God to whom they will give account. A sovereign God is ultimately the One who gives all things their meaning. A sovereign God is ultimately the One who defines whether something is good or bad for those being ruled.
And it is a sovereign God who appoints and removes human rulers, whether they are secular or not, Daniel 2:20-23. It is difficult for many to accept but even a ‘bad’ ruler, even an ‘evil’ one is there by God’s permission regardless of the process by which they gained their power. Even the historical rise and fall of empires and nations is determined by God, Acts 17:26-27. And this will be true of the post-Christian West.
God has a purpose for non-Christian governing authorities
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:13-14. It is only in this sense that Christians can participate in politics. Note that in God’s eyes, government and justice are intertwined. Yet the question which arises is ‘what is just? A biblical doctrine of justice (righteousness) is vastly different to the justice ideology of ‘wokeness.’
- The Biblical doctrine is that government is a restraint on evil. And in this sense it is a blessing on humanity from God, Christian and non-Christian alike. It is part of God’s common grace to humanity. In this sense, even a bad government is better than anarchy.
- The purpose of God may be also to punish people and nations. God might lift that restraint on evil by giving nations cowardly, foolish or evil rulers. When this is seen in the Bible it is a sign of God’s judgment. God allows such rulers create a society where evil is exalted. And as a consequence people suffer and those nations decline, Romans 1:28-31. This is the fatal flaw of the post-Christian West.
God is the wise one, not politicians
“For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!” Ecclesiastes 2:16
God is the ultimate wise one. Politicians would do well to try and understand his ways, even if they do not trust Him. It is ultimately futile for the political, media and academic classes to try and reason their own decisions without acknowledging God, or even breaking from what God has declared to be wise, Psalm 2:10-12. Logically, it is because their wisdom is inferior, Psalm 2:2-3.
Inversion of God’s moral standards must never be supported by Christian politicians. For example, politicians who support the elevation of homosexual marriage to equivalency with heterosexual marriage, who support the overthrow of heteronormativity in the education of children, or those who support free choice in abortion irrespective of circumstances, are not Christians regardless of any religiosity they might demonstrate in speech or deed. Like all people, non-Christians struggle to understand what is right and wrong. It is common, for example, today in the West to say ‘what dignifies humans’ is right. Yet how is this understood? The incoherence of such arguments is demonstrated in the morality of extreme feminists and others who say that autonomy of a woman to get someone to kill her unborn child is preserving human dignity, while at the same time being outraged by paedophiles who pray on vulnerable children. This has been exacerbated by ‘state-sanctioned’ child abuse due to the inability to discern the moral bankruptcy and incoherence of transgender ideology. There is no liberty in these things. There is simply confusion, distortion of sexuality, identity and misdirection.
It is here that it is difficult for most Christians to accept the continued participation of Christian politicians in political parties which espouse such destructive ideologies. And they should not accept it. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”, Matthew 5:13.
Allegedly the wisest ruler who ever lived was Solomon. He asked for wisdom to do good, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong,” 1 Kings 2:9.
Christian Politicians must accept non-Christian governing authorities
This is often given as a reason for participation by Christians in politics. It is clear from the Bible that Christians allow themselves to be subject to non-Christian government, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment”, Romans 13:1-2.
The question which follows is why should a Christian involved in politics not be subject to their political party, and the laws of the political classes create, even if they are distasteful or disagreeable. Though there is a strong Biblical element of truth in such a view, it is also a cop out for those Christians who are willing to compromise with the world around them and participate in it’s depravity. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as a Christian ‘anarchist’ or a Christian ‘secularist.’
Yet accepting non-Christian governing authorities govern under God does not mean that Christian politicians or other Christians should do wrong. Even if they are expelled or punished. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil,” 1 Peter 3:17. Christian Politicians, like all Christians, must always choose good as defined by God, Mark 3:35, even when it is not permitted by their government.
It is important to recognise that there is no coercion in Christianity and there is no ‘law’ to be imposed. There are only moral and ethical values of what is good and evil. Righteous societies are created by righteous people living a righteous life, not by laws or political structures. So governing authorities, even if staffed by Christians, will always do so under another banner.
God’s sovereignty over governing authorities is a comfort to humanity and especially to Christians
The Bible says “ For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed,” Romans 13:3-7.
There is a profound implication in these verses that God ensures that the impulse in governing rulers will generally be goodness, regardless of how misguided or atheistic the rulers. Even if the politics and the philosophies of the rulers are wicked and harmful for a time, God will still be there when they pass, as God has fore-ordained. For it is not God’s purpose that government should do evil, and since he knows His people are subject to them, God will eventually liberate His people from wicked rule, 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 13:2, Psalm 94:3, Psalm 119:84, Jeremiah 23:26, Revelation 6:10.
Psalm 2: 10-12
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
This is also a comfort to Christians involved in politics who see evil implemented around them by other politicians. Yet they should not support such evil. God will not show them any favour for doing so.
The ‘myth’ of secularism from a Christian worldview
We live in a time where there is an attempt to create the fiction that God can be shut out out of human affairs. Evil is being called good, and good is being called evil. Christians who choose to be involved in politics need to understand that ‘Secularism’ is a myth. God doesn’t go away.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury,
There is nothing new about evil rulers, politicians and political parties seeking to build God out of their rule. But it is a foolish endeavour.
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.” Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1.
A truly secular society ultimately makes up right and wrong. There is no foundation for ethics or morality which will not shift. Such societies ultimately will be rule by the ethics of the most powerful enforcers. Goodness is not guaranteed or even likely. Many Christians will argue God’s influence is even more urgent in such days. And so, with a great deal of validity, they argue that Christians should become politicians, to be ‘salt and light’ where there is ultimately no hope.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Governing authority which acts to ‘do good’ is commendable by God
Governing authorities who do good are commendable by God, even if the rulers do not acknowledge God. God declares them His servants even if they do not acknowledge God, Romans 13:4. Many Christians in politics argue this role. they believe they influence non-Christian political classes to do what is commendable by God and therefore best for the societies which they rule. In sense such Christians argue they are assisting non-Christians be God’s servants, which is in their interest and everyone else’s interest. In a sense, not only do they mitigate evil which might be implemented by ignorant fools who think they are ideologically wise, but they help them do good. It is in this sense of being a ‘moral compass’ pointing to what is ‘good’ to which God might ‘call’ Christians to be politicians.
The danger to Christians in politics of self-delusion
Though commended by God for doing good after seeking wisdom from God, Solomon was actually “evil in the sight of the Lord,” 1 Kings 11:6. Though there were times Solomon even loved God, 1 Kings 3:3, his heart was ultimately evil. This was proven by what he approved, 1 Kings 11:5-7. Many Christians in politics are like Solomon. They persist in self-righteousness deluded by their initial zeal for God and their knowledge of His wisdom.
Yet their acts, and what the evil they are prepared to ignore demonstrates they are not Christians. God detests them. “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16
The question implicit in the question of Joshua to the angel of the Lord is whether politicians who are Christians are in it for themselves, their parties or for God? Joshua 5:13. The answer should be for God and His glory.
Secularism does not change the fact that God is sovereign over all rulers and authorities. God uses them to restrain evil and to punish and sometimes to judge. It is very easy to see the loss of a moral compass and the destructive ideologies espoused by our politicians in the West today. Christians interested in politics argue they are ‘called’ to be a ‘light’ in the world in such circumstances. Yet Christians interested in politics must always remember that it is not they who are the light of hope in the world, but Jesus who is supposedly their self-confessed Lord. Unfortunately, too many Christians in politics lose their ‘saltiness’ and are ‘lukewarm’, approving of the evil of their political parties instead of leaving them. In such cases, Christians should disown them as Christian brethren because God certainly does.
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