This is our second post on politics. The first is Politics in Church & Other American Heresies.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
— John 1:1-4
When I was asked to write about politics, I had a very simple thought: Where do I begin?
That is one of the most important questions in life actually. Where do we begin? Can our beginning be traced to a single-celled organism that spontaneously burst into life in some primordial soup and then began to multiply and evolve until mankind rose to his feet? Or did we begin in the mind and heart of an omnipotent and loving God who wanted to create a family to love and commune with?
One’s answer to that question sets the course for what he thinks about everything else. It creates a set of presuppositions from which he or she can try to make sense of this world. As Christians, we believe that we did indeed begin in the mind of God who then created us in His own image. Thus we are bound to His moral code of conduct. For those who believe that we are simply the product of a biological evolution, there is no rational reason to believe in a universal moral code of right and wrong. There is no reason to fear eternal judgment or eagerly anticipate eternal reward. Such a one may choose to view life as an opportunity to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Or he may try to forge some significance into his logically insignificant life and thus try to do good toward this world. To spite the burning internal sense of guilt, such people will strive to feel and appear good and will argue that morality need not be religion-based. Without a sovereign Morality Maker though, there can be no one authoritative enough to define the boundaries of morality and no objective standard on which such may be judged.
For those who believe in the God of Christianity, however, there is a standard given to us by God Himself: the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate in reliable sources of philosophical, historical, moral and spiritual truth. Its admonitions and commentary on relationships define healthy friendships and marriages, parent-child relationships, and employer-employee roles. It lays out with little ambiguity what behavior is acceptable, what is commendable and what is evil. My opinion is meaningless. God’s voice is the only one that matters.
So before we discuss politics we must first discuss our worldviews, our perspectives on what is reality and what standards are immutable. It makes little sense to declare oneself a Christian and not acknowledge the authority of the Bible. Without the inerrant nature of the Bible, on what can we even build our faith in the God of the Bible? Our feelings? Despite centuries of attacks and ridicule, the Bible stands unscathed in its ability to describe and explain the world as we actually experience it. Archaeology has unearthed a wealth of substantiation for its historical accuracy, silencing one objection after another. Scientists of various fields have found the Bible stands up well to the rigors of science and written books about it. Popular apologetic books include Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, The Case for Christ by Lee Stroebel and Why the Universe Is the Way It Is by Dr. Hugh Ross. But convincing people of the trustworthiness of the Bible is beyond the scope of this article. Nonetheless if you want a fun, 60-minute tutorial on how to explain why you trust the Bible, check out this lecture by Voddie Baucham.
So how does all this relate to politics?
Wherever politics attempts to solve a problem, to do a good, or to ensure justice, we should ask ourselves if the Bible has anything to say on the subject. If so, how do the proposed solutions align or conflict with the Bible’s dictums? And we must challenge ourselves as to whether we have any biases that could guide us in a direction opposite of the Bible. We may be biased because of our upbringing, our work environment or our personal interest.
The Bible has wisdom to share on just about any topic from justice to wealth management to poverty. It speaks to employment principles and family structures. A thorough familiarity with the Bible will prepare you for challenges in nearly any area of life. From it we can gain the ability not only to think of scriptures that apply to nearly any situation but of scriptures that can be misapplied as well.
Both parties have good people and scoundrels. Both parties can be applauded for important achievements and values or chided for scandals and bad behavior. The Democrats, for instance, can rightly be applauded for their compassion toward the poor and the downtrodden. One reason why so many Democrats care deeply about LGBTQ issues is that they view the LGBTQ population as victims of social injustice. Working to right injustice is certainly noble and biblical. The Republican Party, meanwhile, champions the freedoms and rights of individuals threatened by overzealous legislators whose confidence in their own wisdom leads to attempts to subjugate the people. The Republicans fight for the freedom of individuals to act on their faith-based consciences rather than be coerced by the government to give their support to causes they find immoral. That, too, is noble and biblical.
But the issues and the motivations of the two parties can be oversimplified and mischaracterized. Christian Democrats may be moved by James 2:15,16; Matthew 5:42, and Matthew 19:21. These commands to be generous and to help the poor may lead them to want to set up generous welfare and food stamp programs to help the poor.
If someone comes to you naked and destitute of daily food and one of you says to him, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”
— James 2:15,16
“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
— Matthew 5:42
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
— Matthew 19:21
Does that mean the Christian Democrat is more compassionate and godly than the Christian Republican? Not necessarily. The Christian Republican may be mindful of these verses but also mindful of other relevant verses, such as:
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.
— 2 Thessalonians 3:10,11
“For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
— John 12:18
Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in [b]pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
— 1 Timothy 5:3–8
Do you see why it’s important not to oversimplify and to settle for just the first scripture you think applies? When it comes to the poor, there are competing concerns to consider. God wants us to be compassionate and generous, but He also wants us to avoid falling into the trap of becoming enablers. Again, God wants us to help the poor, but He makes it clear that we can never solve the problem of poverty. God cares about the poor, but whom does He entrust with the responsibility of doing so? Not the government, but first the immediate family and then the Church.
Good members of both sides are motivated by compassion and scripture. And evil members of both sides are motivated by power, greed and ego.
Unfortunately, not even good intentions can make one good. People with the best of intentions make deadly mistakes. Paul commended his fellow Jews as having “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Their lack of knowledge led to a rejection of the Messiah and of forgiveness for their sins.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
— Psalm 110:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
— Proverbs 1:7; 9:10
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.
— Proverbs 12:15; 21:2
In conclusion, before we can examine the political issues of our day — or anything in our personal lives — we must know where we’re starting from. We don’t want to take for granted that we’re all coming from the same starting point or we’ll misunderstand and misjudge one another. So here’s where I am suggesting we begin: with a shared reverence for God and the Bible. Some people begin with their allegiance to a political party. As Christians, let’s keep such allegiances shallow. Our allegiance is to God, not Donald Trump, Joe Biden or any other politician. Like Abraham, we are to live as strangers in this world. Although we may legally be citizens of the United States, it is far more important that we think in terms of our citizenship in Heaven because we are only passing through here, and our citizenship in this country is only a temporary courtesy. If there’s ever a conflict between the two, we know where our heart lies — with God, the ultimate judge of right and wrong, good and evil.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”
— John Adams