Part Three: Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

Part Three: A proper understanding of God’s word and ordering God as our first love. Fearing God, not man, the Christian has permission and a compelling reason to engage in legitimate government and political activities in ways that honor the God who created all things and instituted government.

As I have established previously. Over half a century after the Church abandoned cultural domains due to fear of man, we’re living in the results.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare.” [Proverbs 29:25a]

“Satan spreads the net and fear drives people right into it.” – John Flavel

In my previous two posts, I attempt to establish a distinctly Christian approach to culture, politics, and government. In Part One, we established that politics is downstream from culture. In Part Two, we defined the purpose behind the Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government. In Part Three, I’ll attempt to give some reasons why the church should be involved in politics and government (as best I can with God’s help).

Either God is sovereign over all things, including political and government activity, or he is not. Either we fear God or we fear man.

Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

Yes.
That said, we can do the right thing the wrong way and get politics and government wrong. As Christ-followers, we must (with God’s help) endeavor to do the right thing the right way. That is the path of obedience that honors God.

First, we must properly order our loves and allegiances:

You shall have no other gods before Me.
The primary role of a Christian is not political. However, there will be political and governmental implications flowing from our first love and primary allegiance. The first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism makes it clear. “What is the chief and highest end of man?”The answer, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

“The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.”

Christians (who make up the church) commit the sin of idolatry when we place a politician, a political party or social cause above Jesus Christ. Christians also commit the sin of idolatry when we place our comfort, safety, family, celebrity, affluence, status, worship preference, nation, identity or ourselves above Christ. Christ is the sovereign Lord over all domains of human existence. Our job is to tell the world this truth and live in a way that reflects it so that the world may know that Jesus is Lord of all (whether they accept it or not). Our first love and allegiance is to Him. He is our King and we represent Him.

Second, we must have a biblical understanding of government:

Government was instituted by God for a purpose and resides under God’s providence [Romans 13:1-2, Daniel 2:21, 1 Peter 2:14, Isaiah 9:6]. Government is ‘built into’ reality and in to the ordering of things. Whether you are dealing with a modern first world nation or a small tribe or a company, you will find forms of government.

The institution of government is a blessing from God.

Just government restrains unbridled evil and violence from being unleashed.

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain” [Romans 13:3-4a].

“It [fear of civil governance] is necessary for the world’s peace, order, and comfort. This passion [fear] acts like a bridle, curbing our corrupt inclinations. If God had not planted it in us, our nature’s corruptions would make us incapable of any moral restraint from the most heinous and barbarous crimes. If fear did not clasp its chains and shackles upon our wild and boisterous lusts, we would suppress all milder motives and break loose from all bands of restraint; the world would be filled with disorder, tumult, theft, murder, and all manner of uncleanness and unrighteousness.

Decency would disappear from the world, No one would be safe; the capacity and opportunity to do mischief would result in the break-up of all societies, This observation is true: Whoever fears not them loss of his own life will master another person’s life. It is the law and the accompanying fear of punishment that keeps the world in order. People are afraid to do evil because they are afraid to suffer for it…. Blessed be God for law and government.” – John Flavel

Government twisted by evil men is a curse.

‘Unjust government operates outside God’s purpose when it violates, dehumanizes or exploits individual image-bearers, violates God’s moral law or good conscience. When this occurs, the Christian has two choices. Either engage or retreat (appeasement is also a retreat).

Third, we need a proper understanding of politics:

There are many definitions of politics. Merriam-Webster offers a helpful definition among several – “the art or science of government.” I try to keep things as simple as possible. So, politics basically describes the governing affairs (activities) of humans and societies. These activities create structures and forms of governance. Governance is ‘built into’ reality and the order of things. 

Politics is a distinctly human cultural enterprise.

Politics is the behavior of humans in regard to governance. Behavior is always guided by worldview. The dominant worldview of a society will shape the characteristics of that society.

For example: Societies where Christianity is the dominant worldview will look a lot different from societies where Marxism is the dominant worldview. Hindu dominant societies are very different from Muslim dominant societies. Government and politics that emerge from different worldviews will take varying forms.

Forth, we must recover the true meaning and purpose of politics:

Currently, in the West, we have a new understanding and redefinition of ‘politics’. If you take a moment to ask people what they mean when they say, ‘politics’, their definition sounds nothing like the traditional meaning.

I submit to you the modern description of ‘politics’ sounds more like what I call “sectarian tribalism” masquerading as politics. Melding the two definitions, “Sectarian Tribalism” is excessive devotion to a party or group that is marked by loyalty to one group over others expressing negative sentiments (or hatred) of outsiders.

Therefore, we must recover the true meaning and purpose of politics. Let’s focus on three teleological questions. Teleology is a fancy word that means ‘purpose’. When we know what something is for (it’s purpose), we can properly understand its relationship to reality. Chainsaws and scalpels both cut things. However, they have two very different purposes. Here are three questions that help us drill down into the purpose of government, politics, and the church.

1. What is government for?
2. What is politics for?
3. What is the Church for?

Politics describes the governing activities of humans in society for good or for ill. Either political activity cultivates, promotes and protects righteousness, justice, peace, and human flourishing or it promotes evil and death. Politics can be used for either purpose. But, politics is not an end in itself, it is merely a means. The means and the ends should be equally important to the thoughtful Christian.

Fifth, we can look to our Bibles for examples of political activity for guidance.

Legitimate political activity is legitimate cultural activity. The Bible is full of ‘political’ characters. Both good and evil. Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Nehemiah, David, Esther, Nicodemus, and Paul expressed political influence in their place and time. While not it’s primary purpose, there are strong political implications and themes running through scripture.

Sixth, we can challenge the privatization of faith and abandonment of cultural domains by the church.

Our Christian forbearers would not recognize modern privatized Christian faith. Even as it is commercialized, Christians are trained to keep their faith to themselves. Nevertheless, Christians cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts, and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love God or the people God created in his image.

Christians who decry cultural engagement or specifically engagement in politics don’t realize they are the beneficiaries of their Christian forbearers who set the conditions of their freedom (to decry cultural or political engagement in the first instance). In other words, they saw off the limb on which they sit. If it wasn’t for the Church, the Reformation would not have occurred, slavery would not have been abolished and America would not exist (neither would hospitals, orphanages or the scientific method). All these emerge from the Christian worldview.

Some say, “We shouldn’t get involved in cultural or political issues!” I’ve heard this drumbeat over and over again from Christians. The problem is that humans are cultural beings. It is impossible not to be involved in cultural issues. Culture includes politics (governing behaviors and activities).

What they are trying to say is, “We don’t want to take a public position on a controversial issue that could be seen by the watching world as ‘political.'” In other words, they desire to appeal to the world by not offending the world’s political sensibilities.

Seventh, we confront sinful fear of man by offending the world… its the loving thing to do:

Some Christians fear that taking a stand might offend some pagans. God forbid standing for righteousness creates controversy and offends someone.

Guess what? Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Bible are controversial and offensive to the world. The unbelieving world hates God, hates the Bible, and hates Christians. In fact, there was a time when Christians were so offensive, they were thrown to the lions, burned at the stake, crucified and sawed in half. By trying NOT to offend the goats, we offend and abandon the sheep and leave them to the wolves.

Issues like, human trafficking, corruption, pornography, debt-bondage, abortion, medical euthanasia, dismantling of the nuclear family, identity confusion, etc. left unaddressed by the church bring death to society. This creates an “anti-culture” and the result is “deathworks” (topics for another time). Examples here: one, two, three, and four.

We should not confuse offending the world with being mean or hateful or bigoted. The world knows timid Christians are afraid of being called names. So, name-calling is a very effective tactic used against us. The world desires that the church not only tolerate but celebrate and promote sin. Therefore, sinful fear of man drives many pastors and well-meaning Christians into the snare of complacency, appeasement or silence.

For example: Pastors will gladly speak out against the scourge of human trafficking or poverty because the worldly culture has accepted those positions. Pastors avoid issues like abortion, pornography, ideological indoctrination, and gender confusion because the worldly culture has ordered them not to speak on those issues. Fear drives them into a snare. Meanwhile, evil is allowed flourish.

Fear of offending someone or creating controversy acts like a prison. Many rationalize, justify and defend their position by stating that the church ought not to involve itself in cultural or political issues. Leaders can cover it up with theological garb and try to proof-text congregants into submission. But, at the root is fear of man. Discerning Christians can see right through the smoke and mirrors.

What most seminarians don’t get is that theological training and resources are widely available for free or low cost for those who want it. So, the posture that many pastors take of “leave theology and understanding to the trained experts” is losing ground and status. Nowhere in the Bible does God insist that only seminary graduates are capable of the proper handling of God’s Word. Training in wisdom, public theology and cultivating an integrated Kingdom vision are hard to find in institutions. I’m not against seminary training (some of my best friends and mentors have degrees from wonderful Christ-centered institutions). Seminaries are a means, not an end. 

Furthermore, I am not saying that politics and government ought to over-shadow the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I’m not saying that at all. However, from God’s Word flows the truth about reality and a moral imperative that is undergirded and infused with the Gospel of the Kingdom. We should not confuse the Good News (proclamation – how we’re saved) with God’s commands (how to live).

We speak from the Bible about issues that affect God’s image-bearers. But, we do so carefully and fearfully to ensure that our first love is God. When we speak about cultural issues, we are discipling the nations, pointing them to Christ and commanding them to obey Him (not our political inclinations). This is extremely difficult to do because Christian leaders are under social pressure to keep silent about the deathworks and evil all around us. Nevertheless, our fear of God, love of the truth and love for the lost will offend the world. That is a biblical reality.

Eighth, we must understand that the Bible is a worldview book and God is sovereign over all things, even politics:

If our worldview is not big enough to contain politics, then our worldview is too small.

Attempting to avoid politics is a political act that will have political ramifications. At the end of the day, avoidance is a deflection and cover for fear. Again, fear is a tyrant that can drive Christians into many snares. Taken to its logical conclusion, this non-political illusion is unlivable within the Christian worldview.

When the Church abandons cultural domains like politics and government, bad ideas take root. Those ideas become laws and inflict harm on the most vulnerable in society. Do Christians not believe that we won’t be held to account for stepping aside while other image-bearers of God are harmed, violated, enslaved or killed? [Proverbs 24:11-12, Matthew 25:35-40, Micah 6:8]

“In the beginning God created…” The conditions have been set by the creator. Within those conditions God’s co-regents operate. We exercise dominion and stewardship over all which God has placed in our care. Dominion is not domination. Stewardship is not tyranny. Don’t allow the world to redefine the meaning of these biblical principles.

Loving God above all else puts our human tasks and activities in the right perspective (including politics). Our loves and allegiances must be ordered under God. He is our primary love.

Christ is King and sovereign over all things… All things means “all things.”

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

Ninth, we must be ready for every good work and proclaim the only hope for a dying world:

We must have a proper understanding of God’s Word and ordering God as our first love. Fearing God, not man, the Christian has permission and a compelling reason to engage in legitimate political and government activities. We can joyfully and boldly enter political activities in ways that honor the God who created all things and instituted government in the first instance. In doing so, we bring a good into the lives of other humans who bear God’s image. He also calls us to be his witness, to show no partiality as we do justice. Doing justice is often a political act that is expressed in most instances through government.

The Christian engages in political activities because we love and fear God. In doing so, we love our neighbors as well. Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them. As a people redeemed through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they lived redemptive lives and cared for people. Our hope is not in the state or politics. Our hope is in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We are the bearers of hope. Hope and love can be expressed anywhere, even politics.

Tenth, Christians must be courageous in the place and time God put them:

We are not called to a “holy huddle”. We are called to disciple the nations (societies). It is no accident that we live in this place and time in this cultural moment (Act 17:26). We obey God’s commands as individuals and collectively as His Church. From the pulpits to the pews, we each have a role to play. We have a prophetic voice. We understand what is wrong with the world and the solution. We worship a God who is sovereign and is not indifferent to the evil in the world. He will hold us to account for what we say and what we don’t say.

When Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place. Jesus Christ carried out his ministry in public, therefore, we must recover a public theology and put to death our privatized faith.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

Every Christian has the opportunity to be courageous in their time. We are to be salt and light in the world God created that is marred and distorted by sin. We bring Hope.

When it comes to politics and government, we can celebrate what is good, contribute what is missing, fight what is evil and restore what is broken. We can rest at night knowing our God reigns and is sovereign over all.

Parting Encouragement for my fellow pilgrims from all places and times:

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We will cast down the powers of darkness that are in the world by our faith and zeal and holiness; we will win sinners to Jesus; we will overturn false systems; we will convert nations. For God is with us, and none shall stand against us. This evening let the Christian warrior sing the war song and prepare for tomorrow’s fight. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” – C.H. Spurgeon (adapted by Alistair Begg)

Dive Deeper: Here are resources on the Christian tradition of resistance against tyranny (click here)

*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Part Two: The Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government

Christians cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love our neighbors or God. Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them.

This post is the second on a series on the Christian’s role in regard to politics and government. Part Two is better understood by reading my previous post. Click here to read “Politics is Downstream From Culture”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

When Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place.

Hundreds of books have been written on the topic of the church’s role in culture, politics and government. Some are helpful others are quite harmful. My intent is to bring clarity and point to a biblical vision for the individual Christian’s role in culture, politics and government. Our roles and expressions will be different but our cause is the same. We are His ambassadors, reflecting His glory and offering a reason for the hope we have. Please note, I am making a distinction between the individual Christian and the institutional church in this post. We’ll dive into that later.

Let me begin with understanding a few things and some approaches we are NOT to employ:

1. I understand the modern over-emphasis of the social implications of the Gospel at the expense of the salvific Gospel is problematic and heretical. I reject the liberal theological approach and understanding of the Gospel, also referred to as the ‘Social Gospel.’

2. I understand that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is a spiritual and a battle of ideas (the mind).

3. I understand we are to approach culture and society as Christians not politicians or “culture warriors.”

4. I understand putting our faith, hope or trust in anything except Jesus Christ as Savior is idolatry.

Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them. As a people redeemed through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they lived redemptive lives and cared for people. They built hospitals, orphanages, built cathedrals, wrote music, poems, and books, and involved themselves in all manner of social and cultural activities. They abolished the universal historical slave-trade and sacrificed themselves for fellow image-bearers because human beings mattered.

A redeemed and transformed life transforms society.

How Christians abandoned positions of influence in society.

Secularism did not occupy society in America by dislodging Christian ideals of freedom, virtue and faith that formed the foundations of America. In the mid-19th century, Christians vacated the public square as a fearful overreaction to the liberalization of biblical faith. In other words, instead of engaging bad (heretical) ideas in the public square, Christian leaders thought it best to retreat inside the institutional church. This left societal domains deserted and empty of Christian influence for the most part.

Nature abhors a vacuum and Satan knows a good deal when he sees one. So, secularism didn’t invade as much as it occupied the empty cultural spaces left by the church (Christians). We simply allowed secular armies to march through the institutions of the church, the family, education, arts & media, and government. They took them over with little to no resistance – they are little more than squatters on Christian properties. Dark ideologies such as Atheism, Nihilism, Marxism, and Secularism took up residence on prime cultural real estate and inside powerful institutions, not lost but vacated by Christians.

During this period we observe the bifurcation of the Gospel and a reduction of the Christian vision. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” was deprived of its societal impact/implications and was reduced to a plan of personal salvation plus a pursuit personal holiness. In other words, the Gospel was rendered to a King without a kingdom and rendered Christians to a lifetime of holy navel-gazing. This theological movement finds a perfect home in a mid-20th century American culture growing more individualistic and autonomous. It fit nicely in our distinctly American “It’s all about me” ethos. At the end of the day, all evangelicals could do was get people saved (fire insurance) and focus on personal piety (moralism – being a good person). Remember, this result began as well-intentioned response to liberalism invading the church.

From a cultural study perspective, this over-reaction and retreat into the institutional church creates the conditions for liberalism to gain a foothold in the evangelical church. It’s a form of theological loss aversion. This is the reason why the woke social justice movement is gaining ground inside the institutional church. Christians of goodwill are simply not equipped to deal with the realities of life in the 2020s and are grasping for the tools offered by worldly culture. Instead of the robust practical and spiritual resources offered through biblical faith, the message has been reduced to, “get people saved from hell, be a good person, and everything else will be okay.”

As an aside, this is a big reason why the church in America struggles with discipleship and forming biblical community. A limited individualistic personal understanding of the “Gospel” lacks the force and inspiration to compel Christians to go and make disciples. In America, we want our Christianity the way we want our McDonald’s burger… “I want it my way” and “I want to be comfortable!” The result is a ‘Privatized’ faith instead of a public theology.

Honestly, there never was a “Culture War”, there was a slow abandonment. Limiting the Gospel to a personal plan of Salvation, a focus on personal holiness, a rise in biblical illiteracy, and side-lining of prayer and social engagement in order to form a ‘holy huddle‘ resulted in a removal from prayer in schools, dismantling of the biblical sexual ethic, legitimizing no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, rise of pornography, out-of-control fatherlessness, sexual confusion and legalized euthanasia. All the while Christians are told, “this is not our problem.”

As we see throughout the Bible, God works through His people. Our job is to know him, love him, worship him and be faithful in the moment. We demonstrate our love for God and the Lordship of Christ over our lives by serving him in all areas under his rule (everything – Psalm 24:1).

We cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love our neighbors. If we love God, we will love our neighbors. Christians ought to desire the best for all image-bearers as we bear witness to Christ as Savior and King. We offer hope by pressing into the darkness and chaos not by retreating from it.

Remember, when Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place. Christ is King over all domains of society, that means academics, art, music, media, politics, family, government, etc.

Below are some verses to meditate on and below that, a helpful video on Christians and politics.

Philippians 2:15 ESV
That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Matthew 13:43 ESV
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Part One: Politics is Downstream from Culture

Christians should approach culture as Christians, not as politicians. We are engaged in a bigger enterprise of making disciples of the nations (societies) and calling them to obey God’s commands. That means, Christians have permission and good reason to reach and reside in the mission fields of the academy, arts and music, media, elite circles and yes, even politics.

This is the Part One in a series on The Christian’s Role Culture, Politics and Government

“Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”

– Andrew Fletcher

Whoever tells the stories and writes the songs of a culture, shapes and directs that culture. Whoever creates and circulates the ideas of a culture, shapes and directs that culture.

The academy and the arts are the birthing centers and engines of culture. Ideas that emerge from the academic and artistic realms do not stay within their borders. Those ideas make their way out and spread throughout the society. Some ideas are good, some ideas are bad. As I’ve said before, ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

How do ideas shape reality and culture?

Below is a simple sequence…

Step 1: Academy – Ideas become theories about reality (past, present of future). Papers, books and programs are written, promoted and circulated in the academic realm.

Step 2: Arts (music, poetry, film, narrative) – Ideas are expressed in forms and mediums designed to bypass logic and reason, impacting and shaping the social imagination and emotions.

Step 3: Elites and Media – Ideas are then adopted, popularized and promoted by celebrities, cultural leaders, business leaders, and mass media outlets in various forms in an effort to ‘legitimize’ new ideas. Those ideas ‘take hold’ in the popular imagination and are adopted by a growing majority of people in a population.

Step 4: PoliticsPolitics is basically the last bastion of pure cultural power – for good or for ill. This is where popularized ideas are ensconced in legislation and become law. In other words, politicians and judges basically say, “Since this idea is what the majority of people want, let’s make it the law of the land.” (e.g. abolition of slavery, voting rights, civil rights, abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, etc)

Politicians are basically responding to cultural forces (ideas) that originally emerged in the academy or perhaps the arts. The process above usually occurs over decades or centuries.

Scroll right on the images below to get a visual idea of how how ideas shape culture works using an example of Darwinian Evolution…

Politics is downstream from culture.

Therefore, it is a mistake and waste of energy to attempt to influence or change culture at the political level. To put it another way, if you see pollution in a river, you must travel upstream to find the source of the pollution. If you are seeing bad laws being passed or politicians advocating for harmful ideas, by all means stand against them, campaign against them and vote against them. However, you must understand where those politicians got their bad ideas in the first place. You must go upstream!

I’m not saying Christians should abandon the political process or refrain from running for political office or cease advocating for just laws. I’m not saying that at all. On the contrary, Christians ought to exercise their civic duties and express their convictions and callings in the political realm.

However, we Christians must learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, we ought to engage in politics as we would other cultural enterprises like raising families, educating our children, caring for the needy or how we spend time and money – All for the glory of God and the good of all people created in His image. At the same time, Christians ought to go upstream in the culture to exercise their gifts, talents, and express their convictions and callings in the realms of the academy, arts and media.

Why? Because those realms are inhabited by human beings made in God’s image and we care about them. Can a Christian honestly claim to love God and love our neighbors while allowing bad ideas to harm our neighbors and distort God’s image or Word?

The answer is, No! Scripture is clear that God will hold us to account for our thoughts, words and actions. There is no excuse for Christian navel-gazing, indifference, apathy or retreat to a holy huddle. We are not a liberty to not care about the world God created or people made in His image. Not caring is not an option.

“Rescue those being led away to death, and restrain those stumbling toward the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” does not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)

At the same time, Christians should approach culture as Christians, not as politicians. We are engaged in a bigger enterprise of making disciples of the nations (societies) and calling them to obey God’s commands. That means, Christians have permission and good reason to reach and reside in the mission fields of the academy, arts and music, media, elite circles and yes, even politics. Those cultural realms are inhabited by human beings who need to know that God loves them too and sent his son to redeem them from sin.

God is the ultimate solution to the problems in the world, not politics or politicians. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of Christ, we accurately diagnose the problems and point to the only solution.

Recap:

  • As I demonstrated above, politics is downstream from culture where ideas are formed, shaped and promoted.
  • Christians have a right and obligation to engage in ALL legitimate human enterprises, institutions and cultural realms for the glory of God and the good of ALL image-bearers.
  • Christians ought to exercise their civic duties and express their convictions and callings in the political realm. Knowing politics nor politicians are the ultimate solution.
  • Christians ought to travel upstream in the culture to exercise their gifts, talents, and express their convictions and callings in the realms of the academy, arts and media.

“There’s not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord over all, does not cry, ‘Mine’!

– Abraham Kuyper

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Live in such a way that the light of Christ shines brightly in the time and place in which God put you. God made you and saved you for this time and place.

Next time we’ll go a little deeper…. The Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government

*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

What will 2021 be like?

What will 2021 be like?

it will not be anything like 2020

Last week I was having a casual conversation with a friend and they remarked, “I can’t wait for 2020 to be over, 2021 can’t come fast enough.”

I hear that sentiment repeatedly. 2020 has been a watershed year across the world. It appears as if a shift has occurred across society and throughout culture. Let’s assess the good and bad of 2020 before diving headlong into 2021. In last week’s post, I pointed out that 2020 was “the year of fear.” Stick with me as I wade through the muck and mire of the bad news – the good news will be worth it, I promise.

The Bad News

In America, we have experienced a virus emerge from a Chinese town that engulfed the world in a pandemic. We have seen major social upheaval along ethnic, academic, corporate and political lines. We have witnessed a heated presidential election that is still being contested. We see businesses, churches and other ‘non-essential’ entities shutdown while perfectly healthy humans (including small children) are forced to wear face-masks through unconstitutional mandates – enforced by fellow volunteer citizens who revel in public ‘face-shaming’ as their civic duty. Keep in mind, the human face is the primary means through which a human being reflects the image of God. If you want to degrade, humiliate and objectify another fellow image-bearer, force them and their children to cover their faces.

We have been taught that “loving your neighbor” actually means isolating yourself from your neighbors (and family). Furthermore, you must ridicule your neighbor for not wearing a mask, not towing the party line or not bowing to the woke mob. Apparently, “loving” has been redefined to mean coercing and shaming because in the new era of ‘social justice’ virtue signaling is far more important than actual virtue.

The new scientific orthodoxy has ‘proven’ that rioting and looting are ‘COV ID-safe’ but worshiping God and singing in public are deadly – that masks and social distancing work, until they don’t – that biological sex is fluid and Jeffery Epstein really killed himself (well, the science isn’t settled on Epstein yet)… But, working a ‘non-essential’ job to put food on the table is downright criminal.

Meanwhile, statistics have shown the two of the most life-threatening places in America are nursing homes in New York and pregnant mothers’ wombs – in a nation where people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are ensconced in law and protected (unless you happen to be located in a womb in NYC, then not so much). Job numbers are down while depression, loneliness and suicides are up. Fact checkers can ‘fact check’ those facts – but facts are funning things in a world of relativism, ‘inconvenient truths’ and ‘settled science.’ And, if you don’t agree with the media narrative, you are given a heavy dose of a new drug called ‘Censorship.’ I think its imported from the CCP.

Finally, we are being reminded that God is on His throne, but you better get your COV ID vaccine just in case He isn’t. Many Christian leaders are living and preaching like nihilistic deterministic pagans with one life to live. Media propaganda echoes from many pulpits across the land as a new prophetic voice (divorced from the Bible and trafficking in falsehoods) runs off with the sexy little zeitgeist. Note bene: I said ‘many’ not ‘all’ because there remains a remnant of leaders and churches attempting to take a stand for truth and righteousness.

The Good News

(See ‘The Bad News’ section above but with a reclaimed, redeemed and restored Christian vision infused with grace).

This morning I was reading FW Boreham’s essay, “Catherine Booth’s Text” (1922). I reflected on the past year. What has carried us to the point that you are reading what I’m writing? The answer is, “GRACE!”

Catherine Booth was a spiritual titan of her time. She built her life around a single text, “My grace is sufficient for thee…” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). In his essay, Boreham beautifully describes how the realization of those six words transformed the lives and ministries of John Bunyan, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Catherine Booth, the Apostle Paul and countless others. He argues that we accept the first four words with ease – “My grace is sufficient…” but the last two are only realized in a deep moment of extreme need – “for thee.”

Boreham sharpens his point by saying, “It is always easier to believe that there is a Savior for the world than to believe that there is a Savior for me.” He continues, “Martin Luther believed and preached confidently that Christ died for all mankind, long before he could persuade himself that Christ died for Martin Luther. John Wesley crossed the Atlantic to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to the Indians; but it was not until he was verging on middle-life that he realized the possibility of the forgiveness of his own.”

Closing the chapter 2020 and opening 2021

Charles Spurgeon once said to his students, “There are many passages of Scripture which you will never understand until some trying or singular experience shall interpret them for you.”

If God’s grace was sufficient in 2020, do you believe His grace will be sufficient in 2021 and beyond? In 2020 perhaps you know and believe the first four words, “My grace is sufficient…?” Behold, the dawn of a new year is breaking before us! Just maybe in 2021, the last two words, “for thee” will with great power suddenly break upon you as they did for Bunyan and others.

What will 2021 be like?

I can say with confidence, it will not be anything like 2020. Why? Because God’s grace is sufficient for the world and you and me. Fear and despair cannot exist in the presence and fullness of God’s grace as darkness and cold cannot exist near the light and warmth of a fire.

If you go outside right now and take a several deep breaths would you fear that you would exhaust all of the oxygen in the entire atmosphere? Of course not! Then why would you believe the God who created the atmosphere and your lungs would not provide in Christ sufficient grace for you? There is to be taken a giant step from believing in the head to believing in the heart. Won’t you take it?

My Grace is Sufficient for thee… That means you and me!
I will close with some final words from dear Pastor Boreham, “For it is the glory of the grace that it takes what sadnesses there are and transmutes them into songs sublime.”

Take a few moments to ask God for His sufficient grace to walk into next year. Pray for a clear Kingdom vision, boldness and living faith that sheds the light of true hope in the world. God’s grace is sufficient for thee … for such a time as this.

By grace through faith in Christ alone.

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Understanding CRT: Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory – Intersectionality

Over the last several months, I have had hundreds of conversations and answered questions about CRT (CRTI), Cultural Marxism and how Christians should respond.

Note: I use CRT and CRTI interchangeably. Let me say from the outset that many well-meaning Christians find these concepts very attractive because of the empathetic language employed by CRTI. Make no mistake, CRTI is not a ‘theory’ in the classic understanding, it is a total vision of reality. It is a worldview. It is rooted in atheistic materialism – time plus matter plus chance is total reality. The well-meaning Christian who adopts concepts or ideas is undermining Biblical faith, the Christian worldview and their public theology.

Therefore, I admonish my brothers and sisters to hold fast to the Bible daily by “renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). I challenge you to bring any and all foreign worldviews or concepts into the full light of biblical truth in order to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The content below comes from a previous paper I wrote on the book, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. I abbreviated and adapted it for this post. There is a resource list at the end for you to dive deeper if you wish.

History of CRT / CRTI – Marx

Karl Marx viewed the world through economics (only matter and energy exist). The struggle was between the Bourgeoisie (elites / owners / oppressors) vs Proletariat (poor / workers / oppressed). His theory was devoted to creating conditions for a revolution where the Proletariat would rise up and take power from the Bourgeoisie establishing equality in outcomes (a utopian state).

History of CRT / CRTI – Gramsci

When Marxist revolutions failed to materialize in the west, Antonio Gramsci (Italian Marxist) theorized that the Cultural Hegemony (dominant cultural power) hindered it. Gramsci came to the conclusion that the ‘revolution’ from Marx’s theoretical framework would not materialize in wealthy, stable and capitalist societies. According to historian Dr. Glenn Sunshine, Gramsci surmised that, “The problem was ideology not economics – the problem was worldview.” The hegemony elites controlled and oppressed the lower classes ideologically through the institutions (academia, education systems and universities, the church, politics, judiciary, civil service, media, entertainment, the family and marriage). Gramsci’s vision was to create a counter-hegemony to overthrow the dominant oppressive power structure. Then, the conditions would be set up for a Marxist revolution. Gramci’s vision of a “war of position” for socialists and communists, is to subvert western culture from the inside.

Modern Critical Theory as a worldview

What began with Marx was modified by Gramsci then adapted as Critical Theory. Today, Critical Theory is a bonafide worldview that competes with Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Secularism, New Ageism, etc. The application (praxis) of Critical Theory is to identify the systematic power structures in society (power dynamics) between oppressed groups and their oppressors with the goal of dismantling oppressive structures.

Oppressors and Oppressed – Social Justice Movement

The critical theorist is in a constant state of critique, dividing people into oppressed identity groups determined by gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, etc. and dismantling oppressive institutions and structures – thus, liberating the oppressed group. In other words, it is in a constant process of revolution against the cultural and economic hegemony. Critical Theory has been hybridized into Critical Race Theory Intersectionality. There are other variants (like Critical Pedagogy and Queer Theory) that I will not go into here but suffice to say, they all lead back to Marx (oppressors and oppressed). They are the fuel of the ubiquitous ‘Social Justice’ movement (see also Social Justice commentary).

Critical Theory as a Religion

It’s important to note that Max Horkheimer coined the term “Critical Theory” and wanted to distinguish it as a radical, emancipatory form of Marxian theory . If after reading this the notion of ‘religion’ comes to mind, you’re beginning to see the power of Critical Theory as a competing worldview.

Critical Theory as a Revolution

Within Critical Theory, there exists only two types of people, oppressors and the oppressed. All social interactions and institutions revolve around power dynamics in a zero-sum game (a winner and a loser). In other words, there is a fixed amount of material resources in the world. The dominant group obtains resources at the expense of the weaker groups. In order to keep power and control resources, the dominant group oppresses the weaker groups. That is the basic idea of power dynamics. In addition, the dominant group also exercises oppression through hegemonic power (recall Gramsci). Culture (language, law, business, customs, art, education, science, etc) is dictated by the hegemony. To Max Horkheimer, the objective of Critical Theory is “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.” The existing power structures must be confronted and overthrown in order to ‘liberate’ oppressed people groups.

Critical Theory is a parasite – stealing words and distorting ideas

This brings us back to Gramci’s subversion of western institutions. We’re not just dealing with a book, we’re dealing with a worldview. CRTI has committed linguistic larceny of Christian words and concepts like justice, equality, human identity, liberation, oppression, etc. Therefore, the worldview deals in a slight of hand with words.

Critical Theory, Race and Power

“Critical Race scholar Zeus Leonardo states, “For white racial hegemony to saturate everyday life, it has to be secured by a process of domination, or those acts, decisions, and policies that white subjects perpetrate on people of color.”” (DiAngelo, 2018, p. 118)

Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

CRT creates a type of caste system. By design, it divides all people into opposing groups that are constantly competing for greater levels of victim status (intersectionality). Moral authority is determined by the number of oppressed groups one identifies with, while moral responsibility is not expected among oppressed groups. In this worldview, certain ethnicities and identity groups have no moral responsibility at all. Essentially, they can behave however they wish without any moral or judicial consequence.

Ethnic minority identity groups have hidden knowledge of truth regarding racism that is only accessible to that group. Dr. Voddie Bauchman calls this “ethnic gnosticism.

CRT View of Truth

Adherents to CRTI also claim that actual knowledge is impossible – truth and knowledge are rooted in one’s individual experience and identity group experience. Truth, epistemology and metaphysics (the nature of reality) are culturally generated and socially constructed. In other words, there is no objective truth to be found in the domain of human existence.

CRT collapses by subverting its own logical framework

Now the logical inconsistency of the worldview comes into focus. The claim that truth and knowledge are subjective (rooted in experience) is either objectively true for everyone everywhere or it is not. The truth claim that all truth is subjective collapses and self-refutes. Logic wins! Game over! Right? Wrong.

The CRTI worldview maintains that logic, reason, science as well as the Christian worldview and the nuclear family are tools that white people use to retain hegemonic power in order to continuously oppress black people and other intersectional groups. This borrows a tactic from Queer Theory that states that is politically actionable to make reality as confusing as possible if it furthers the cause of defeating systemic oppression.

Dangers for the well-meaning Christian

The Christian who intentionally or unintentionally adopts or borrows language or even the smallest idea from Critical Theory must understand that he or she is importing a foreign artifact that undermines the Bible and Christian worldview. In today’s postmodern culture in America, words like justice, equality, human identity, liberation, oppression have dual meanings. CRTI has hijacked language in order to push an ideology. Well-meaning Christians should use discernment and ask questions. We’re using the same words but different dictionaries. Always ask, “what do you mean by that?” to get clarification.

Theologian Darrell Harrison puts it another way, “We (Christians) are not to take the world’s ungodly philosophies and worldviews and couch them within the biblical Christian worldview. We are not to adopt them or any part of them because one part taints the whole.”

CRT in the Church

In my interactions with brothers and sister who have knowingly or unknowingly adopted CRT concepts, they express confusion and frustration with what they see as the problem with the world around them and how to solve it. They are essentially struggling to make sense of reality because they have unknowing believed concepts that are foreign to the biblical Christian worldview. So, they are frustrated. They fall into a trap between two visions of reality and humanity. Sometimes, they feel like they are being attacked by both sides or they just can’t win either way. The Church has failed in teaching a comprehensive public theology in light of the fullness and clarity of the Gospel of the Kingdom. We are the most biblically illiterate generation in history. The solution is to reclaim and revitalize the riches and fullness of Biblical faith.

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:2)

Consider the Bible

God created the world and everything in it. God is the moral law giver and he implanted it on the hearts of humans by common grace. He infused and embedded rich meaning throughout the created order. He brought about the universe through his Word. He gave us the gift of language. God created all humans in His own likeness and image. God declares that there is but one race – the human race.

Is ‘race’ a biblical concept?

Regarding the category of ‘race’, it’s worth noting that the Bible does not divide people into ‘races’, instead the Bible speaks of nations (ethnos), tribes, tongues and peoples. He created unity in diversity. ‘Nations’ is translated from ‘ethnos’ – where we derive the word ‘ethnicities’. THAT is the language of the Bible. The concept of ’Race’ is rooted in Darwin’s Theory of Human Evolution and is ethnically prejudice full title: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life“). It’s also worth noting that scientists have proven that the concept of ‘race’ is not grounded in genetics.

What’s the root problem with the world?

The Bible says sin is the problem with the world and reality proves this to be true.

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
– Malcolm Muggeridge

The Bible properly diagnoses the human problem and offers a comprehensive solution. The Problem is Sin and the Solution is the Gospel (salvation in Christ and vision for how we live based on that).

What’s the solution to the problem with the world?

As image-bearers, we implicitly know good from evil, right from wrong – we know God exists. The Bible states that ’Sin’ is the problem with the world. And our thoughts, words and actions evidence this as true (corresponds to reality of evil we see in the world and in ourselves). God also provides the only solution to our problem. That solution is His only son, Jesus Christ (Gospel). He is the one who saves by grace through faith. He died for all nations and all sin. We just need to repent and trust Him… He opens the gates to the Father’s Kingdom. And until these bodies wear out, we live in the joy of our Salvation. We express our love for Him by sharing the hope we have in our hearts and serving Him – redeeming and restoring our culture in our time. Then, our Father will whisper, “time to come home my child; well done…. I am making all things new.”

Final Thoughts for Christians

CRTI is an anti-Christian worldview and ideology. As followers of Christ with a Christian worldview and vision for life, we must think deeply in this cultural moment and understand the times. Second, we must pray for wisdom and discernment. We must pray for those brothers and sisters being led astray by false doctrines. Third, we must spend more time in our Bibles. One hour per week on Sundays is not enough to engage with competing worldviews.

Read your Bibles and understand the times.  I discuss worldview in greater depth here…

“The more one understands people’s ideas the better one can communicate the truth of scripture and the gospel to them. That is why one learns about cults and religions. And why missionaries try to understand the cultures in which they live. But not enough Christians put much effort into understanding the culture in which they live. New believers who come to the church bring their worldviews with them. Furthermore, those Christians already in the church who do not understand worldview issues will not realize when they are embracing non-Christian concepts.” – John MacArthur

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