Politics According to the Bible, part 1

On this past Sunday, our church began the 1st session of our fall DU classes.  DU stands for Discovery U, and each session consists of 6 class periods (we meet at 5:00 – 6:30 for those who may want to attend).  A variety of classes are offered, ranging from Creationism v. Everything Else to Baptist History to Understanding a Biblical Worldview.  It’s a really good opportunity for discipleship.

The class I’m helping lead this session is titled, Politics According to the Bible,  and the material comes from the Wayne Grudem book by the same name.  The purpose of the book, and the class, is to understand current political issues in light of Scripture.  It should be an interesting class, and I look forward to learning from everyone.  Also leading the class is Doug Demosi, Rutherford County Planning Director, Chris Kelly, attorney, and David Puckett, retired District Attorney.

This past Sunday night, we began by getting a foundation that will help us, as Christians and citizens, understand the upcoming material.  The idea is to proceed from the “macrocosm” of what it means to be a Christian living within the governmental policies and issues of our nation, to the “microcosm” of specific issues, such as the protection of life, national defense, foreign policy, family, and so on.  All material is enveloped in the Scripture, the final and ultimate authority for us as believers.

A Biblical Worldview

Every person has a worldview.  This is, essentially, how we look at the world.  It’s like looking through lenses that color our opinion or belief of everything.  This worldview can be the result of our education, our upbringing, the culture we live in, even the media that we surround ourselves with.  Whether you realize it or not, you have a worldview.

As Christians, we have a biblical worldview, or, at least, we should.  Everything we see in this world, from our family to our culture to the world – and, yes, politics – should be looked at through the lens of God’s Word.  Grudem states that “it is crucial for Christians to understand these components of a biblical worldview,” and he goes on to present the building blocks of what should be the worldview of every Christian.

1.     God created everything.

2.     The one, true God reveals himself and his moral standards clearly in the Bible.

3.     The original creation was “very good.”

4.     Because Adam and Eve sinned, there is moral evil (sin) in the heart of every human being.

5.     Because Adam and Eve sinned, God placed a curse on the entire natural world.

6.     God wants us to develop the earth’s resources and to use them wisely and joyfully.

Moral relativism, popular today, stands in stark contrast to a biblical worldview.  Whatever is morally good and acceptable can be determined by cultural influence and philosophy.  People who do bad things are morally good; yet, they’re victims of the society in which they live.  In other words, they blame someone else for their mistakes.

As Christians live in our world today, the six building blocks presented by Grudem, and based on Scripture, are essential to not only our worldview, but our influence in politics, as well.

The U.S. Constitution and Freedom of Religion

As Christians, we are called to be a positive part of the political environment in which we live.  Paul stated in his letter to the Romans,

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. 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 13:1-7 ESV

With that in mind, and as we prepare to discuss our role and influence on government, it is important that we have a familiarity with the fundamental laws and doctrines that form the foundation for our own government.

We began with an overview of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, with a bit of history for the causes and purpose of this document.

The first plan of national government the U.S. had was not the Constitution, but a plan called the Articles of Confederation.  That gave only limited powers to a central government, with each state keeping the most important powers for itself.  while it was ratified in 1781, it did not work well:  States began to print money, tax goods crossing their borders, and some states even signed treaties with foreign governments.

In 1787 a convention was called to revise the The Articles of Confederation.  Instead of changing the Articles of Confederation, the delegates decided on a new plan: to write a Constitution setting up a federal government for the states.  Before the Constitution could become law it had to be ratified by 3/4s of the states (9 out of 13).  By July 1788 the states had ratified the Constitution and it was adopted.  It did not go into effect until March 1789, and it was not until 1790 that all 13 states had accepted the Constitution.

The U. S.Constitution starts with the Preamble:

We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

From there, we discussed the Freedom of Religion, tracing various court opinions and decisions throughout the history of our nation.  You can see the outline here.

From this overview, we will narrow down the scope of Christian involvement and influence on political issues.  That’s the point of discussion for next week, when we look at “5 Views about Christians and Government”.

Some Political Lagniappe

1.     Ever wondered about the voting record of our Congressional representatives?  Here’s a link to the 2011 Voting Scorecard.

2.     There’s often much discussion about displaying the U.S. flag in the church.  Here’s a good debate regarding whether we should or should not. 

3.     Think you believe in religious freedom?  See if your beliefs are tested in this case.

4.     Russell Moore weighs in on whether it’s right or wrong for a Christian to sue the government.

5.     In The American Moses, Gary Scott gives the historicity of George Washington in regard to his religious influence, or lack of it.  Scott states,

Was freedom of religion “compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws”? The First Amendment mandated that the United States could not establish a national church. Could such a nation endure?  If religion was voluntary, would citizens still act in the morally upright ways that were crucial to a republic’s success?

Washington, it has been determined, was not very vocal regarding his own religious beliefs, and certainly not as vocal as some of the founding fathers.  Yet, Scott did make these observations regarding Washington’s worldview in the context of a new nation:

…that popular government depended on virtuous citizens and that only religion, which in the American context meant Christianity, could inspire such selfless behavior. He frequently asserted that religion helped promote virtue, order, and social stability, and praised the efforts of churches to make people “sober, honest, and good Citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government.” He maintained that “general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry and economy” were necessary to America’s happiness and success. God had so designed the universe that there was “an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.” Religion and morality “are the essential pillars of Civil society.”

Read the rest here.

7 Comments

Filed under Politics

7 responses to “Politics According to the Bible, part 1

  1. Politics and religion don’t mix very well. However, I wish you luck in your endeavor, and I pray that your studies do not lead to division among your own group or from other Christ followers.

    • I agree with your initial statement, and I do appreciate and covet your prayers. We have approached this class with much humility and respect, knowing that there may be significant conversation, some of it very passionate. We did begin our class by establishing some very important rules: Scripture is the final and ultimate authority; Scripture will also dictate how we respond to and treat each other; and, where the application of Scripture can differ, we refer back to the previous rules.

      As a Christian, my view of government and political issues is viewed through the lens of the Bible. As a matter of fact, everything in this world is viewed through that lens. That’s what we refer to as a biblical worldview. Our purpose for this class is not to wave the banner of one political view or platform over another, but rather to look at political issues with that biblical worldview.

      Hopefully, in this class, we Christians, while not agreeing on every particular point of application, can agree to use the Scripture as our guide.

      We do covet your prayers, and I invite you to follow the postings regarding the class.

  2. I appreciate the invitation and I will try to follow along.

    It is difficult for me to accept scripture as the final and ultimate authority, and I think this is at the root of the problem for Christians that disagree politically.

    To me (a relatively new Christian), scripture, especially the Old Testament, is full of both contradictions and archaic ideas that Christians seem to selectively choose to support their political philosophies or agendas.

    When I think/debate politically, I have to set scripture and religion aside so I can view things objectively–taking into account the limitations and even failings of the church. This does not mean I set Jesus aside; I always try to view things through his eyes and feel things through his heart. I just don’t need scripture to support what Jesus puts on my heart.

    Politics is ultimately about what is right and wrong, and I don’t think God intends for us to search through His word to figure out the right thing to do. Once we accept Christ, we should already know.

    I hope that makes sense and that you can be sensitive to others that may feel the same.

    • Jason:

      I appreciate your reply, as well as your honesty. And, I’m happy to hear that you’re a Christian.

      You are absolutely correct in your statement regarding Christians who disagree politically. Some Christians will not use the Scriptures at all in regard to their political views; some will use Scripture and, at times, because they haven’t studied the Scriptures thoroughly, will use them in misapplication for political issues.

      Here’s what I believe:

      1. As a Christian, I must believe in the totality of Scripture, that it is God’s revelation of himself to this world, and that it contains no error. It is infallible and inerrant. If, though, I felt that some parts of the Scripture were erroneous, or that some were fallible, it follows logically that all Scripture could be wrong, i.e. the deity of God, Jesus’ death on the cross. If that were the case, we have no hope.

      2. I encourage you to look at the Bible as a whole, with the theme of God’s plan for humanity running through it. Everything in the Old Testament points to Christ. You can see Christ in everything – from Genesis to Revelation. Here’s a good post regarding the inconsistencies of OT v. NT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/09/making-sense-of-scriptures-inconsistency/

      3. There is a morality present in the Bible. There is also a morality present (in most) people. We know the difference between good and bad. The goodness of God is clearly evident in Scripture, and what God originally created in the beginning was very good. Yet, we believe that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and that desire to choose evil, or wrong, is present in all of us. We can be good, moral people; but, we can also be bad, immoral people.

      4. I think politics is ultimately about protecting “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And, God has ordained governments to do that (Romans 13). As a Christian, because I see everything through what I hold most important to me (God as revealed in the Scriptures), I feel it is important to be part of influencing political discussion with that view.

      5. What we know about Jesus is revealed to us from the Scriptures.

      6. I disagree with you about thinking/debating politically when you say you “view things objectively.” Can we really view anything “objectively”? Regardless of who we are, I believe we approach everything with some sort of view, and that view is based on our culture, our upbringing, our status, and so on.

      I don’t think you should go into a political debate and state, “God says…” or “the Bible says…”, but I very much believe you can enter into debate with the Word of God as the basis for political opinion and political issues.

      And, I will promise you this…I will respect others – their beliefs and their personhood – regardless of what they believe. That, too, is in the Scripture, and as a Christian, I am called to do that. I will most definitely be sensitive to the opinions and beliefs of others. While I may not agree, and may not support those beliefs, I will respect and love the person.

      I look forward to talking with you some more as the weeks pass.

  3. “For far too long, politicians have been able to name check God or point vaguely to the Bible to gain the imprimatur of heaven for their particular policies or their political party. That sort of “God on our side” politics has been bad for both our religious and our public life.”

    “But substantive debates about Christianity and politics are potentially healthy for both.”

    “A century and a half ago, Americans engaged in a collective conversation about the Bible and slavery that was both civil and informed. Is it too much to hope that an intelligent debate about Christianity and the economy is now in the offing? If so, we will likely have Ryan (and Romney) to thank.”

    Stephen Prothero – CNN Belief Blog contributor

    Link: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/14/my-take-paul-ryan-will-provoke-a-debate-on-catholic-politics/

  4. Pingback: Is the Truthfulness of Genesis 1-11 Worth Defending? « Mike Lee

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