Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Politics or Gospel?

The PyroManiac, Phil Johnson, has a bit of disagreement with Jus Divinium of Triablogue. The disagreement seems to be over the role of the Christian in politics. While I am personally acquainted with neither of these gentlemen, this is the blogosphere, and I am going to give you my opinion of this debate. To summarize, Phil is arguing the traditional fundamentalist viewpoint that there is no “reasoned biblical rationale for connecting common grace with a ‘cultural mandate’ for the church,”(quoted in the response section, not the article proper). Jus, on the other hand, is arguing that Christian political activism is a legitimate enterprise of the church. Jus is defending Chuck Colson and his political scheme that includes working alongside Romanists and unbelievers to achieve political goals, and Phil is saying that this clouds, confuses, and distorts the gospel, referencing Colson’s Evangelicals and Catholics Together document as proof.
I think that they are both wrong. Phil seems to have a problem saying the Bible gives Christians and the Church a ‘cultural mandate.’ I would argue that Genesis 1:28 gives us a cultural mandate, the biblical directive that Phil seems to desire. In this verse, God tells us to have dominion over the entire earth and all that lives and moves within it. Phil admits that the individual Christian is to be salt and light in whatever area he finds himself, so the question becomes why is it wrong for the church to instruct him in exercising dominion? Why is it okay for a Christian to be salt and light as a politician or a dentist but not okay for the church to instruct that Christian on how to be salt and light in government and oral hygiene? I would also argue that Christ did affect the political climate of his time. He spoke and acted against moral injustices that faced him. He overturned the moneychangers in the temple, and he condemned the Pharisees and Scribes as hypocrites and whitewashed tombs. Christ made sure Pilate knew all authority on heaven and earth came from God, not from Rome. Paul used his Roman citizenship to further his purpose. The book of Proverbs contains wisdom for kings and rulers as well as ordinary men. The Word of God speaks to all areas of life, or as Kuyper put it, there is not one inch of creation of which Christ does not say, “mine.”
Yet Phil has a legitimate complaint about Jus and Chuck Colson. Too many people think that salvation for our country and maybe ourselves comes through the voting booth or the next Supreme Court nominee. When we begin to form political alliances with unbelievers. While Jus agrees that confusing the gospel and politics is bad and admits it should be rebuked, he fails to realize that Colson does just that. Phil is right that it is a historical fact that when a church compromises for the sake of political activism, it leads to ecumenism and, I would add, liberalism. The church’s job is to be the salt that preserves God’s culture, but this means defending God’s Law and Word, not promoting human political parties that have little to nothing do with God’s Law or Word. The church should cry out with all her strength about the mass-murder atrocity that is abortion, but she should not insert herself in the choosing of a Supreme Court nominee or throw the weight of God’s approval behind a political party or a person. When we look to Chuck Colson and his ECT or Dr. Dobson and his Focus on the Family political action committee for direction in casting our ballots, we have lost sight of the true nature of the gospel. The church should teach about voting and moral issues and should critique worldviews; however, organizing Political Action Committees does not fall under those auspices. I would encourage Jus to take another look at ECT, and see if the gospel may have been hidden.
Phil seems to argue that evangelism is the only method of changing the culture that the church can utilize. I disagree. Churches ought to condemn abortion, the Right-to-Die movement, and homosexual marriage. Churches ought to encourage Christians to oppose such things. Jus needs to recognize that political victory without the gospel spells certain death in the long run. Was Rome really better because Constantine was a Christian? Was the church? The answer is not the simple ‘yes’ Phil’s argument assumes. We have a cultural mandate as Christians and as the church, but it is so tightly wrapped up with the gospel that we can never set it aside, lay it down, confuse it, or replace it. The church ought to speak out on cultural issues, educate its members about them, but the can’t pick political parties or candidates for her members. The church also cannot compromise the gospel in order to achieve political ends. There is no benefit to outlawing abortion if we have to deny justification by faith alone to accomplish it.