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A variety of perspectives exist within the Christian community when it comes to political issues and political involvement. This comprehensive and readable book presents a political philosophy from the perspective that the Gospel pertains to all of life so Christians should be involved in political issues. In brief, this is an analysis of conservative and liberal plans to do good for the nation, evaluated in light of the Bible and common sense. In this ground-breaking book, recognized evangelical Bible professor ...
A variety of perspectives exist within the Christian community when it comes to political issues and political involvement. This comprehensive and readable book presents a political philosophy from the perspective that the Gospel pertains to all of life so Christians should be involved in political issues. In brief, this is an analysis of conservative and liberal plans to do good for the nation, evaluated in light of the Bible and common sense. In this ground-breaking book, recognized evangelical Bible professor Wayne Grudem rejects five mistaken views about Christian influence on politics: (1) “compel religion,” (2) “exclude religion,” (3) “all government is demonic,” (4) “do evangel-ism, not politics,” and (5) “do politics, not evangelism.” He proposes a better alternative: (6) “significant Christian influence on government.” Then he explains the Bible’s teachings about the purpose of civil government and the characteristics of good or bad government. Does the Bible support some form of democracy? Should judges and the courts hold the ultimate power in a nation? With respect to specific political issues, Grudem argues that most people’s political views depend on deep-seated assump-tions about several basic moral and even theological questions, such as whether God exists, whether absolute moral stan-dards can be known, whether there is good and evil in each person’s heart, whether people should be accountable for their good and bad choices, whether property should belong to individuals or to society, and whether the purpose of the earth’s resources is to bring benefit to mankind. After addressing these foundational questions, Grudem provides a thoughtful, carefully-reasoned analysis of over fifty specific issues dealing with the protection of life, marriage, the family and children, economic issues and taxation, the environment, national defense, relationships to other nations, freedom of speech and religion, quotas, and special interests. He makes frequent application to the current policies of the Democratic and Republi-can parties in the United States, but the principles discussed here are relevant for any nation.
Part 1 BASIC PRINCIPLES
Chapter 1 Five Wrong Views about Christians and Government 23
A Government should compel religion 23
B Government should exclude religion 29
C All government is evil and demonic 36
D Do evangelism, not politics 44
E Do politics, not evangelism 53
Chapter 2 A Better Solution: Significant Christian Influence on Government 55
A Understanding the Bible rightly 55
B Liberal distortions of the Bible 56
C Biblical support for significant Christian influence 58
D Historical examples of Christian influence on secular governments 62
E Is the United States a Christian nation? 64
F What about Old Testament laws? (the question of theonomy) 65
G Should Christians only vote for Christian candidates? 66
H Without Christian influence, governments will have no clear moral compass 68
I The responsibility of pastors to teach on political issues 71
J The obligations of all Christian citizens 74
K Churches and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines 75
L Conclusion 76
Chapter 3 Biblical Principles Concerning Government 77
A Governments should punish evil and encourage good 77
B What about the detailed laws for Israel given in Exodus-Deuteronomy? 83
C God is sovereign over all nations 85
D Governments should serve the people and seek the good of the people, not the rulers 86
E Citizens should obey the government (except in certain circumstances) 87
F Governments should safeguard human liberty 91
G Governments cannot save people or change human hearts 96
H The relationship between church and state 99
I Governments should establish a clear separation of powers 101
J The rule of law must apply even to the rulers in a nation 103
K The Bible gives support for some kind of democracy 105
L Nations should value patriotism 109
Chapter 4 A Biblical Worldview 116
A God created everything 116
B The one true God reveals himself and his moral standards clearly in the Bible 117
C The original creation was "very good" 119
D There is moral evil ("sin") in the heart of every human being 119
E God placed a curse on the entire natural world 122
F God wants human beings to develop the earth's resources and to use them wisely and joyfully 123
Chapter 5 The Courts and the Question of Ultimate Power in a Nation 124
A Ultimate power: Who will have it? 124
B According to the Bible, what should judges do? 128
C What has actually happened in the United States? 131
D Limiting the power of the courts by appointing "originalist" judges is the most important issue facing the nation today 150
Part 2 SPECIFIC ISSUES
Chapter 6 The Protection of Life 157
A Abortion 157
B Euthanasia 178
C Capital punishment 186
D Self-defense and ownership of guns 201
Chapter 7 Marriage 213
A Biblical teaching: marriage is only between one man and one woman 213
B Incest, adultery, and homosexuality are prohibited in biblical ethics 217
C What about polygamy in the Old Testament? 219
D Divorce 219
E Civil governments should define marriage for all citizens 221
F Arguments about marriage from reason and experience apart from the Bible 222
G Legal arguments about marriage 228
H Recommendations about specific laws and policies related to marriage 233
I Pornography 238
J The importance of laws concerning marriage 244
Chapter 8 The Family 245
A Governments should encourage married couples to bear and raise children 245
B Parents, not the government, should have the primary responsibility for training their children 247
C A school voucher system should be adopted by every school district 250
D Discipline of children and spanking 256
Chapter 9 Economics 261
A Private property 261
B Economic development 268
C The money supply 271
D Free markets and regulation 274
E The rich and the poor 278
F Government and business 284
G Taxes 285
H The Social Security system 309
I Health care 313
J What is the best cure for recessions? 315
Chapter 10 The Environment 320
A Biblical teaching 320
B The current state of the earth's resources 329
C Energy resources and energy uses 354
D Global warming and carbon fuels 361
E CAFE standards for automobile mileage 383
F Cap and trade 386
Chapter 11 National Defense 387
A Biblical teaching 388
B How can we know if a war is a "just war"? 389
C Pacifism 390
D Defense policy in the United States 394
E Islamic jihadism (international terrorism) 401
F Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 414
G Nuclear weapons 418
H The CIA 424
I Coercive interrogation of prisoners 425
J Homosexuals in the military 433
K Women in combat 435
Chapter 12 Foreign policy 436
A Biblical teaching 436
B The United Nations 448
C Foreign aid 450
D Israel 457
E Immigration 470
Chapter 13 Freedom of Speech 484
A Biblical teaching 484
B The United States Constitution 485
C Restrictions on freedom of speech 486
D Campaign finance restrictions 486
E Campus "hate speech" codes and other restrictions of free speech on college campuses 492
F The "Fairness Doctrine" and talk radio 497
Chapter 14 Freedom of Religion 499
A Biblical and constitutional background 499
B Religious expression in the public square 503
C "Faith-based" programs 508
D Political advocacy by churches and their tax-exempt status 509
Chapter 15 Special Groups 513
A Why the topics in this chapter are different from earlier chapters 513
B Regulators: invisible bureaucrats who regulate people's lives 514
C Earmarks 520
D Affirmative action 521
E Gender-based quotas 525
F Farm subsidies 528
G Tariffs 533
H Trial lawyers, medical malpractice awards, and reform of tort law 536
I The National Education Association 545
J Native Americans (American Indians) 547
K Gambling 550
Part 3 CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
Chapter 16 The Problem of media Bias: When the Watchdogs Fall Asleep 555
A Public perceptions of media bias 555
B Surveys of journalists 557
C What happens to a nation when its watchdogs are silent? 570
Chapter 17 Application to Democratic and Republican Policies Today 572
A The courts and ultimate power in a nation 574
B Protection of life 575
C Marriage 576
D The family 577
E Economic policies 578
F The environment 579
G National defense 580
H Relationships with other nations 583
I Freedom of speech 584
J Freedom of religion 585
K Special groups within the nation 586
L Media bias 586
M Why do the two parties adopt these different policies? 586
Chapter 18 Faith and Works, and Trusting God While Working in Politics and Government 591
A What does it mean to trust God's sovereignty over the direction of world history? 591
B The future: Will the United States become a better or worse nation in the next few decades? 596
C The details of revival: What might it look like if God brought about a revival of the church and a transformation of the nation for good? 599
Scripture Index 602
Index of Names 608
Subject Index 615
Before explaining my own understanding of the proper role of Christians in politics, I need to examine what I think are five wrong views on this question-sadly mistaken views that have been propagated by many writers throughout history. Then in the following chapter I propose what I think is a better, more balanced solution.
A. GOVERNMENT SHOULD COMPEL RELIGION
The first wrong view (according to my judgment) is the idea that civil government should compel people to support or follow one particular religion.
Tragically, this "compel religion" view was held by many Christians in previous centuries. This view played a large role in the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) that began as a conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics over control of various territories, especially in Germany. There were many other "wars of religion" in Europe, particularly between Catholics and Protestants, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Also in the sixteenth century, the Reformed and Lutheran Protestants persecuted and killed thousands from the Anabaptist groups in Switzerland and Germany who sought to have churches for "believers only" and practiced baptism by immersion for those who made a personal profession of faith.
Over the course of time, more and more Christians realized that this "compel religion" view is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus and inconsistent with the nature of faith itself (see discussion below). Today I am not aware of any major Christian group that still holds to the view that government should try to compel people to follow the Christian faith.
But other religions still promote government enforcement of their religion. This is seen in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which enforces laws compelling people to follow Islam and where those who fail to comply can face severe penalties from the religious police. The law prohibits any public practice of any religion other than Islam and prohibits Saudis from converting to other religions. Islamic advocate Bilal Cleland writes at the pro-Islamic web site Islam for Today, "Legislation contained in the Quran becomes the basic law of the state."
The "compel religion" view is also used by violent groups around the world to justify persecution of Christians, such as the burning by Muslims of an entire Christian village in Pakistan, killing six Christians in early August 2009, or the warfare waged by Islamic militant groups against Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan African countries. The "compel religion" view has also led to the violent persecution of Christians by some Hindu groups in India. In 1999 it was reported that fifty-one Christian churches and prayer halls were burned to the ground in the western state of Gujarat. An Australian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two young sons were burned to death in their jeep by a Hindu mob in Orissa state on the eastern coast of India. In 2007 it was reported by the Associated Press that Hindu extremists set fire to nearly a dozen churches.
But it must be noted that other Muslims and other Hindus also favor democracy and allowing varying degrees of freedom of religion.
In the early years of the United States, support for freedom of religion in the American colonies increased both because of a need to form a united country with people from various religious backgrounds (such as Congregational, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Quaker, Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Jewish) and because many of the colonists had fled from religious persecution in their home countries. For example, the New England Pilgrims had fled from England where they had faced fines and imprisonment for failing to attend services in the Church of England and for conducting their own church services.
In 1779, just three years after the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which demonstrated the increasing support for religious freedom in the United States. Jefferson wrote:
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
Several teachings of the Bible show that "government should compel religion" is an incorrect view, one that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible itself.
1. Jesus distinguished the realms of God and of Caesar
The first biblical argument against the "compel religion" view comes from Jesus' teachings in Matthew 22. Jesus' Jewish opponents were trying to trap him with the question, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" (Matt. 22:18). To say "yes" to Roman taxes ran the risk of appearing to support the hated Roman government. To say "no" to Roman taxes would make Jesus sound like a dangerous revolutionary against Rome's power. Taking his opponents by surprise, Jesus said, "Show me the coin for the tax," and "they brought him a denarius" (v. 19). After that, here is how the teaching unfolded:
And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:20-21).
This is a remarkable statement because Jesus shows that there are to be two different spheres of influence, one for the government and one for the religious life of the people of God. Some things, such as taxes, belong to the civil government ("the things that are Caesar's"), and this implies that the church should not try to control these things. On the other hand, some things belong to people's religious life ("the things that are God's"), and this implies that the civil government should not try to control those things.
Jesus did not specify any list of things that belong to each category, but the mere distinction of these two categories had monumental significance for the history of the world. It signaled the endorsement of a different system from the laws for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. With regard to Old Testament Israel, the whole nation was a "theocracy" in that God was the ruler of the people, the laws were directly given to Israel by God (rather than being decided upon by the people or a human king), and the whole nation was considered "God's people." Therefore everyone in the nation was expected to worship God, and the laws of Israel covered not only what we today would consider "secular matters" such as murder and theft, but also "religious matters" such as animal sacrifices and punishments for worshiping other gods (see Lev. 21-23; Deut. 13:6-11).
In Jesus' statement about God and Caesar, he established the broad outlines of a new order in which "the things that are God's" are not to be under the control of the civil government (or "Caesar"). Such a system is far different from the Old Testament theocracy that was used for the people of Israel. Jesus' new teaching implies that all civil governments-even today-should give people freedom regarding the religious faith they follow or choose not to follow and regarding the religious doctrines they hold and how they worship God. "Caesar" should not control such things, for they are "the things that are God's."
2. Jesus refused to try to compel people to believe in him
Another incident in Jesus' life also shows how he opposed the "compel religion" view, for he rebuked his disciples when they wanted instant punishment to come to people who rejected him:
And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:52-54).
The disciples apparently thought they had an excellent way to convince people to come to hear Jesus in the next village. If fire came down from heaven and wiped out the Samaritan village that had rejected Jesus, then word would get around and Jesus and the disciples would have 100% attendance in the next village. What a persuasive method to "compel religion"!
But Jesus would have nothing to do with this idea. The next verse says, "But he turned and rebuked them" (Luke 9:55). Jesus directly refused any attempt to try to force people to believe in him or follow him.
3. Genuine faith cannot be forced
The nature of genuine faith fits with Jesus' condemnation of any request for "fire from heaven" to compel people to follow him. The underlying reason is that true faith in God must be voluntary. If faith is to be genuine, it can never be compelled by force. This provides another reason why governments should never try to compel adherence to any particular religion.
A clear respect for people's individual will and voluntary decisions is seen throughout the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. They always taught people and reasoned with them and then appealed to them to make a personal decision to follow Jesus as the true Messiah (see Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 28:23; Rom. 10:9-10; Rev. 22:17).
Genuine religious belief cannot be compelled by force, whether by fire from heaven or by the force of civil government, and Christians should have no part in any attempt to use government power to compel people to support or follow Christianity or any other religion.
But what about the laws God gave to Israel in the Old Testament, especially in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy? Those laws required people to give tithe money to support the Jewish priesthood and temple services, and they required people to make certain specified sacrifices to the Lord every year (see Lev. 23). They even ordered severe punishments for anyone who tried to teach another religion (see Deut. 13:6-11). But these laws were only for the nation of Israel for that particular time. They were never imposed on any of the surrounding nations. They were part of the Old Testament system that came to an end when Jesus established a "new covenant" for God's people in the New Testament. Such a system was ended by Jesus' teaching that some areas of life were "things that belong to Caesar" and some areas of life were "things that belong to God." Such Old Testament laws enforcing religion were never intended for people after Jesus established his "new covenant," or for any time after that.
4. Not a worldly kingdom
In another incident, just after Jesus had been captured by Roman soldiers near the end of his life, he told the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate,
"My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world" (John 18:36).
Jesus refused to have his disciples fight with swords and military power, because he was not attempting to establish an earthly kingdom like the Roman Empire or the various other nations in the history of the world. Earthly kingdoms are established by armies and military power, but Jesus' kingdom would be established by the power of the Gospel changing people's hearts, bringing people to trust in him and obey him.
This does not mean that Jesus' kingdom has no effect on the world. Indeed, it transforms and overcomes the world (1 John 3:8; 5:4-5), but it does so by changing people's hearts and their deep convictions, not by military power. The power of government should never be used to compel a certain kind of religious belief or adherence to any specific religion, whether the Christian faith or any other faith.
In summary, the "compel religion" view is contrary to the Bible, and it is simply wrong.
5. Practical implications of rejecting the "compel religion" view
What are the practical implications of rejecting the "compel religion" view? One implication is that governments should never attempt to force people to follow or believe in one specific religion, but should guarantee freedom of religion for followers of all religions within the nation.
Another implication is that Christians in every nation should support freedom of religion and oppose any attempt by government to compel any single religion. In fact, complete freedom of religion should be the first principle advocated and defended by Christians who seek to influence government.
Sometimes non-Christians express a fear that if Christians get too much power in government, they will try to force Christianity on everyone. This is a common argument made by groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for American Progress, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Some critics even suggest that right-wing Christians are trying to establish a theocracy in the United States by incremental means. Michelle Goldberg writes, "The Christian nation is both the goal of the religious right and its fundamental ideology, the justification for its attempt to overthrow the doctrine of separation of church and state.... Right now ... is high tide for theocratic fervor." To counter this kind of false accusation, it is important for Christians involved in politics to affirm again and again their commitment to complete religious freedom in America (and in every other country).
A third implication has to do with governments giving direct financial support to one church as an established "state church." Such government support is a more benign form of the "compel religion" view, but it is still one that I do not think is right. This support occurs in some countries where the civil government uses tax money and privileged status to support one single religion or denomination as the "state church." Such action was prohibited to the US government by the First Amendment-"Government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"-where an "establishment of religion" meant giving governmental support for only one church, the "established church."
An established church does still exist in some countries. For example, in the United Kingdom today the Church of England is still the state church; in Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden the Lutheran Church is the state church; and in many countries with a highly Catholic populace such as Spain, the Roman Catholic Church is the state-supported church. In Germany, church taxes are accessed on Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish wage-earners, up to 8 or 9% of their total income. The state then disperses these funds to the churches to be used for social services.
I recognize that some Christians in these countries argue that the benefits that come from having such a state church outweigh the negative effects, but I still cannot see sufficient warrant for it in the New Testament. I see no evidence that government tax money, rather than the donations of individual Christians, should be used to support the religious activities of a church. In addition, the historical pattern seems to be that direct government support weakens a church rather than strengthening it. (Notice the extremely low church attendance at state-sponsored Lutheran churches in Germany or Sweden, for example.)
6. What about giving some tax benefits to churches?
If the government gives some tax benefits to religious organizations, is that another example of the "compel religion" view? For example, in the United States, churches do not pay property taxes on the land and buildings they own, and individuals do not have to pay income taxes on the amount of their income that they donate to churches or other charities.
Excerpted from Politics-According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem Copyright © 2010 by Wayne A. Grudem. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted September 24, 2011
Dr Wayne Grudem really goes in depth into the history of America and how much the political climate has changed and remapped our country. This is a great book for anyone interested in knowing the vision the Founding Fathers had for this country; when we started going off track; and what is our responsibility toward government today. This book is for any 'thinking' person who really cares about the future of America.
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