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THE  LIGHT  TO THE WORLD

A non-denominational Christian  journal 

  
 
 

7  Perspectives Christians Relate to Political Engagement

By Joseph Mattera

 

The Bible has a lot to say regarding the role politics and political leaders have on a nation. Suffice it to say, it is significant!

Proverbs 29:2 says, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people mourn." Based on this passage, we can make two assumptions related to the influence of political leadership.

The first assumption that can be made is that the nation's leader affects an entire country's morale and culture. The second assumption is that there is such a thing as wickedness and righteousness regarding policy and people. Hence, there are often distinct ways to delineate between people and political parties based upon biblical values. Although in a two-party system, as we see in the USA, it is virtually impossible to vote for a candidate or align with a party that exactly represents the word of God, we have to vote based upon kingdom principles rather than political affiliation.

Believers can be adversely affected by wicked leadership. In Jeremiah 29:7, God instructs His people to seek their city's welfare and peace and pray for it. When the city prospers, the people will prosper. This is also why the apostle Paul admonishes believers when they assemble to pray for kings and those in authority. Paul had a desire to see the church live in peace and godliness (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

We see in Scripture how influential one leader is related to shaping the policies and laws of a nation.

For example, when Joshua and the elders who outlived him died, Israel's whole nation stopped serving the Lord and fell into great wickedness (Judg. 2:7-11). Because of Solomon's (the son of King David) sin, Israel's nation was divided during the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 11). Because of the insecurity of King Jeroboam, the whole nation of Israel fell into idolatry and apostasy (1 Kings 12-13). Furthermore, righteous kings like Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah and Josiah led Judah toward biblical reforms and renewals. In contrast, wicked kings like Ahab, Ahaz, Manasseh, and his son Amon led the nation into further apostasy.

In recent years in the USA, we have seen how presidents have helped shift the nation's laws and policies towards or away from biblical values related to marriage, family and pro-life.

Hence, the church must understand the various perspectives related to political engagement to vote in a manner that reflects the biblical position more concisely. The voting bloc of the 40-50 million so-called evangelicals can quickly shift the nation in every election towards candidates that best reflect righteous laws and policies.

Unfortunately, the church is just as divided as the nation is. One of the primary reasons is the various perspectives the church has related to political engagement. My objective with this article is to try to bring more biblical clarity.

The following are seven perspectives contemporary Christians have related to politics:

1. Nationalism: Some can argue that nationalism is a form of idolatry because its adherents tend to put their nation above God's kingdom. As a matter of fact, there are "Christian nationalists" who blur the lines between the kingdom of God and America, especially since many of them claim that the USA had a Christian founding.

Thus, whenever the church, which is a holy nation according to 1 Peter 2:9, mingles its identity too much with another nation, it eventually lacks discernment and alienates various people groups from the gospel.

As an example from recent history, the majority of the church in Nazi Germany fell for a form of nationalism, which resulted in them supporting Hitler and morphing into the "Reich church." Thankfully, one-third of the German churches, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other leaders, launched the "confessing church" movement. This movement attempted to remain faithful to the Scriptures during a totalitarian national socialist regime. Consequently, whenever we wrap the gospel with the flag of a nation, we can lose our discernment and run the risk that we will become proponents who advance anti-biblical policies and views.

2. Patriotism: Patriotism, as distinguished from nationalism, is a good thing.

As Christians, we are citizens of heaven who are called to be good citizens who love and sacrifice for our country's good (Phil. 3:20). As a committed Christian, being a patriot doesn't mean we always agree with our nation's laws, values, and wars. As a patriot of the USA, I honor those who have fought and died to protect our life and liberty. Scripture's posture is to honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God and honor the king (1 Pet. 2:17). Thus, being a patriot in many contexts comports with the teaching of Scripture.

3. Apolitical subculture: Historically, many Christian movements are generally in line with the pacifist view of the Anabaptists who disengaged from culture to form their own subcultures. During the present day, we see such groups as the Amish, Mennonites and classical Pentecostal fundamentalists, which are similar to the Orthodox Jews of today, focus primarily on building and maintaining their own strong subcultures. Generally, they do not run for office or integrate with the surrounding communities except when they have an opportunity to serve their neighbor. Members of such groups rarely vote unless there is a critical issue that affects them, such as zoning. (The Amish vote is less than 10%.)

When they run for office, they usually do so merely to represent their own interests.

When they vote, they will be proponents of political leaders who fund and benefit their particular community, even if their policies are against biblical values. They reason that their own community's well-being is their priority, not laws regarding traditional marriage and abortion that regulate the gentile world. The biblical position is not one of isolation but one of penetration of culture with the gospel. While we are called to have strong Christian subcultures, we are also called to be His witnesses to every nation (Acts 1:8-9).

4. Dominionism: Dominionism is based on an erroneous view of the "cultural mandate" found in Genesis 1:28. In this passage, God told Adam to have dominion over every living thing (but not over people since the earth was yet to be populated). Proponents of dominionism espouse the view that Christians are called to Christianize their nation. They believe that doing so fulfills God's command given to Adam as well as Jesus' call to disciple the nations (Matt. 28:19). However, some would argue that Jesus was not referring to modern geo/political nation-states (which began after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648) but people groups with a common culture (ethnicity).

Adherents of this view believe that they are a failure if they do not turn the United States into a Christian nation, replete with Christian leaders, laws and precepts. Of course, who would not be pleased if a modern country, city or empire came to God? Such examples were seen in the Old Testament, with Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar and the city of Nineveh, as well as in the New Testament, when the gospel positively affected the towns of Samaria and Ephesus (Dan. 4; Jonah; Acts 8, 19).

Throughout the early and middle centuries, after Christianity's birth, whole people groups and empires were influenced by Christ. We saw this when Rome was Christianized after the conversion of Constantine in A.D. 312, and also when Germanic tribes would convert to Christianity after their king converted (King Clovis in A.D. 508). Kings like Charlemagne used the Word of God to civilize the old Holy Roman Empire.

The Middle Ages amplified the ideals and conflicts of the church and state, attempting to either work together or usurp one another. Consequently, many people fail to appreciate the uniqueness of the church as a holy nation and the fact that Jesus is coming back for a church without spot and wrinkle, not for a so-called Christian America (John 17:9, Ephesians 5:27). Those who fail to correctly understand that the church is the body of Christ and instead work towards Christianizing their nation can easily fall into the trap of making the church an extension of a particular political party.

5. Socialistic: Many today believe that the church should depend upon a massive civil government to ameliorate the vast needs in at-risk communities. Hence, they support candidates who promise to fight poverty, crime and educational challenges with an ever-expanding government, funded by high taxation. The result is political overreach in which people become the "serfs" of the messianic state that attempts to solve all its problems. With this view, the "nanny state" takes away parents' responsibility for their children's well-being in such areas as health and education. It also infringes on the church's role in its call to empower its members to serve cities and the impoverished within them. .

 

Of course, the 20th century has a litany of horrific failures of Marxist ideology. An embrace of such ideology has resulted in not only the vast poverty of its residents (Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea), but also in the death of approximately 100 million people as a result of their revolutions and wars.

The biblical position clearly has a separation of five jurisdictions or powers, with the civic government being 1 of the 5, not overriding the other four. The five jurisdictions are personal government and responsibility, family government, voluntary associations in business and commerce, civic government, and the religious or church sphere.

6. Symbiotic: This is a view in which the church and state become so closely connected that some argue they have a symbiotic relationship. We have seen this with the advent of Protestantism. Since Martin Luther was protected from the pope by German princes, the Reformation churches generally had a symbiotic relationship with their geographic regional authorities. After the horrific 30 Years' War between the Protestants and Catholics, the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 divided up church affiliation based upon geographic region.

During my international travels, I have observed how the Eastern Orthodox Church generally does not challenge their nations' policies as long as their rights are protected. We also see this in the history of the Anglican Church in England. In A.D. 1534, the Act of Supremacy was passed, which allowed England's king to become the head of the national church. This is what officially divided them from Roman Catholicism. Of course, whenever church and state are combined, the result is usually that the preached message is easily compromised by the desires, values and worldview of their general population.

Even today, many see this drift in the Church of England with the ambiguous position of Archbishop Justin Welby regarding traditional biblical issues.

7. Salt and light: The last and most biblical perspective regarding political engagement is that the church should function as salt and light to the powers that be (Matt. 5:13-16). Ephesians 3:10 tells us that the body of Christ serves as the wisdom of God to the powers in heavenly places. Since these powers (the Greek word is archetype) are the invisible powers behind the earthly powers, the implication is that the church is to display God's wisdom to those who wield both spiritual and earthly authority in the world (Eph. 6:10-13).

This wisdom has to do with every aspect of life, including how to order the world. To evince the world of God's wisdom, the Christ-follower should be shaped with a biblical worldview and be a prophetic witness to the powers that be.

With the wisdom of God, we should also function as the vanguards of culture, helping shape it and provide for it a "plumbline" as the "ground and pillar of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). The Bible does not say that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Democrat or Republican parties, but rather it cannot "prevail against the church" (Matt. 16:16-18). The church is the only hope for the world as the visible manifestation of the invisible Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, as the Roman Empire ultimately failed in its quest to unite a world divided by ethnicity, economics and gender, the gospel of the lordship of Christ accomplished what every other empire, government and political system failed to do (Gal. 3:28).

Hence, although the church is in the world, it is not of it. Again, God's kingdom does not receive its power from this world (John 18:36). Consequently, Christians can serve as good citizens in a political party by voting, being patriotic and serving their community without allowing the world's ideologies and constructs to assimilate and consume them.

Believers should become the generational gatekeepers of every aspect of culture to show the way, the truth and the life (John 14:7). We should always vote kingdom. We should neither be sucked into the groupthink nor have an undying loyalty to any political party.

May the Lord Jesus grant His church the wisdom and the favor to serve as His salt—and light the world. 

 

(taken from  https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-pulse/83044-7-perspectives-christians-relate-to-political-engagement-part-1

https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-pulse/83129-joseph-mattera-gives-3-more-perspectives-on-political-engagement)