Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On Politics, Theocracies, and the Kingdom of God

Just what does the Kingdom of God have to do with this messy and often sordid business called politics? Even though the Scriptures command us to love our neighbors and help the oppressed, can’t we do so without getting all political about it?

Sometimes we can. By providing financial help, emotional support, and occupational-skills training, churches and para-church agencies can make it easier for unwed mothers to choose life for their children, thereby helping the fatherless. We can cry out to God for victims of government oppression, and we can pray that corrupt officials will come to know Christ or be removed from office.

But does there ever come a point when Kingdom concerns demand active political involvement? Since Jesus said His Kingdom is not of this world, what justification is there for Christians to bring His influence to bear in the realm of politics? A number of evangelicals, including Chuck Colson, have argued that there is a biblical basis for Christian political engagement. Some have called this the “Cultural Commission” or the “Cultural Mandate.”

It originated in Genesis, when God commanded Adam, who represented all of humanity, to subdue (i.e., have dominion over) the earth. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, mankind’s God-given desire to exercise authority on the Lord’s behalf was twisted into the desire to become God. In his article “On the Necessity of Christian Engagement,” Darrell Dow writes, “Consequently, Christ’s representative and vicarious death was necessary to . . . allow redeemed men to bring the creation into submission to God. It is only in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that man can fulfill his original mandate” ( Backwater Report).

Dr. David Alan Black, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said,
“One of the perversions of the gospel . . . is the emphasis upon personal evangelism to the exclusion of any social emphasis. For many evangelicals, the whole of the Christian experience is thought to be one’s personal relationship to God—often to the exclusion of one’s relationship with others or to the culture in general. Salvation is personal and individual, but it also social. Jesus is Lord of all. Politics, education, economics, the arts—all these are included under His divine Lordship.”

D. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ridge Ministries, echoes this sentiment:
“As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, . . . our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect . . . of human society.” (Coral Ridge pamphlet, www.coralridge.org)

Wait a minute! How can we do that without establishing a theocracy? Isn’t this about forcing our beliefs on others and legislating morality?

Essentially, all legislation is based on someone’s moral beliefs. If Christians don’t let their voices be heard through voting and other forms of political involvement, then only non-Christians will influence the formation of our nation’s laws. The morality of secular humanism, ethical relativism, atheism, the anti-life bioethics movement and a host of other ungodly ideologies will have free reign over our government without any voice to counter them.

At the same time, however, believers living in a constitutional republic such as ours must be careful not to infringe on the rights of those who do not share our beliefs. We must never use the power of the state to force unredeemed people to behave in redeemed ways. As Martin Luther King Junior said, “The Church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and critic of the state, never its tool” (“Strength to Love”).

While the civil government has a biblically ordained role to restrain and punish evil, Christians need to exercise discernment as they prayerfully consider what types of government action are appropriate and biblical in creating and preserving a just society where citizens have the maximum amount of freedom to choose the good. In my next post, we’ll discuss some practical ways that believers can use the political process to help maintain such a society.

3 Comments:

Blogger CrimsonLine said...

Great start! I'm looking forward to the next installment.

August 09, 2006 2:55 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Thanks!

August 09, 2006 4:34 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Excellent post in as much as quoted me :)

Rushdoony said that, "Every state or social order is a religious establishment. Every state is a law order, and every law order represents an enacted morality, with procedures for the enforcement of that morality. Every morality represents a form of theological order, i.e., is an aspect and expression of a religion."

If he is correct, then theocracy is an inescapable concept. Of course, a non-Christian people cannot possibly legislate in a Christian way. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that a Muslim or Mormon with a sense of justice is preferable to a "Christian" that does not. However, it does point to the need that evangelism and discipleship must precede any attempt at constructing a biblical social order.

Loved your "About Me" statement, by the way. I was simpatico with virtually all of it...well, except for 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'

August 29, 2006 10:45 AM  

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