Politics and the Gospel

Satan [in the garden of Eden] had hoped to use man as a pawn in a kind of cosmic chess game. God then took that pawn and devised a strategy to turn the tables on Satan, using that same pawn to defeat him. The open sign of the turning point in the game was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

The game obviously isn’t over, but man, Satan’s hoped-for pawn, is now a divided race. Like the angels, who are also divided, God’s human forces are guaranteed the victory. Steadily, God’s forces-in the heavens and on earth– are pushing back the kingdom of Satan.[1]

Politics and government are aspects of life. Because God is the author of life, politics and government are aspects human activity which He wishes us to take responsibility for, like praising Him, raising children and working.

Historically, Christians have made one of two mistakes in relation to politics. The first mistake at one extreme, is to assume that because it has commonly been a messy, difficult business, Christians should have no part of politics. But the same can be said of child-birth, though that doesn’t seem to deter Christians from having babies.

At the other extreme, the second mistake is to believe that politics and Christian involvement is the solution to the world’s problems. If enough Christians would get into the political area, they will be able to make all the difference. Get rid of the bad guys, and things will be just fine in the nation. This has been a pervasive error in American conservative politics for generations.

What is the truth?

All of life needs to be completely exposed to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and that clearly includes politics and government. The Bible says that “the government will rest on His [Jesus’] shoulders” (Isa.9:6), so government is one of our legitimate social institutions, like the family and the Church.

It is clearly a mistake for Christians to ignore government, and to think that Christian participation in it is wrong; it is just as much a mistake to overstress its importance, and its ability to change society.

The most important aspect of government is not its institutions, but the self-government or self-discipline of individuals. The institutions of government (as important as they are), are secondary factors. Nations are made up of individuals.

One of the lessons of the Book of Judges is that when a society is in spiritual decline, it is foolish to think that any lasting change can be imposed from the top, down.

Why?

Because in genetic terms, like begets like, and in moral and political terms people are attracted to those who are like them. The character of a people will always be reflected in the people they choose in leadership, and so evil people will choose leaders of like character to themselves.

An evil people will reject godly leadership, and prefer degenerate and evil leaders like themselves. This explains the chronic tension between Moses, Joshua and Caleb on one hand, and the first generation of the children of Israel on the other, after they emerged from Egypt (Ex.32; Num.14:1-10). This is what Jotham correctly prophesied about the relationship between Israel and Abimelech in the parable of the trees (Judges 9:7-21).

This is what Jesus predicted in the parable of the nobleman (Luke 19:11-27). Speaking of Himself and the response of Israel to Him, He said “his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’ ” (v.14).

What does this teach us?

The greater the good, the greater the hatred on the part of the ungodly. [2]

Oliver Cromwell was a great Christian man who died in office in 1659 in England, at the end of a glorious period in English history. An observant minister commented, “Cromwell dead. The people not minding much.”

It was consistent for Australia to choose Julia Gillard at the last election; a great proportion of the Australian community live in an immoral relationship as she does, and her lifestyle as the Prime Minister is a comforting example to them.  They say to themselves: She does it; I can do it too.

The scripture warns us: “…he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked” (Prov.29:27), and “do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (I Jn.3:13).

The real, lasting answer for an evil society is not in political change; it is in the repentance and change of individuals in that society that comes from the redemptive power of God, found only in the Gospel.

We cannot bring about a rebirth in any sphere of life and thought apart from the triune God. All efforts to do so are sin. The signs and wonders in the Gospel of John are a condemnation of all attempts to effect a reformation in this world apart from the regenerating power of God and the sanctifying power of His law.[3]

This is why the Wesleyan revival in England was so important. Large numbers of individuals around the nation heard the gospel, and were converted. This led to significant changes in British society in the early seventeen hundreds. Whereas public drunkenness had been a widespread community problem, the widespread changes of attitude and behaviour of individuals meant that the child mortality rate consistently dropped over consecutive decades.

Why?  More parents were prepared to spend their evenings at home caring for their families, rather than being drunk overnight and sleeping in pubs, leaving their families unattended.

So, are there political implications to the Gospel?

Yes, but these always begin with the grace of God at work in individuals. Converted individuals will minister to their families, their churches, and their nation. “Top-down solutions,” as well meaning as they may be, have never worked in bringing godliness to a community. Only a Christian people will want to embrace truly Christian political leadership.

Can that be frustrating to us believers? Of course.

But that serves to remind us of the centrality of the gospel, our command from Jesus to preach it, and to wait on Him for the results. The task of the believer at all times is to “bloom where you’re planted,” as Daniel and Joseph did. That doesn’t preclude political representation, but it certainly requires that we adopt a modest and realistic attitude of what we think political representation will achieve, especially when the community is not receptive to the Gospel.

Conclusion: All of life including politics needs the salt and light of the gospel, and the example of Christians.

The Bible does not teach salvation through politics. It is only the Gospel which is “the power of God for salvation” (Ro.1:16). As we walk faithfully in the gospel, we will be able to lead others in its requirements, whatever our position in life. Whenever the gospel is well received in the community, it will be more willing to embrace godly political leadership.


[1] North, G., “Unconditional Surrender,” p.42, 1994.

[2] Rushdoony, R., “The Gospel of John,” 2000, p.47.

[3] Rushdoony, R., p.44.

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