Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: God, Government, and Gospel

This is Pt. 4 of our posts working through this work by Pastor Wayne Grudem.  The purpose of the series is to explore the relationship between God, the Government and the Gospel.

Pt. 1 is here.  Pt. 2 is here.  Pt. 3 is here.  Pt. 4. is here.

E. Wrong view #5: Do Politics, Not Evangelism

The fifth view says that the church should just try to change the laws and the culture and should not emphasize evangelism. I do not know of any responsible evangelical leaders or prominent Christian groups today who hold this view or say that Christians should just “do politics, not evangelism.”

But this was a primary emphasis of the Social Gospel movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with its campaigns to get the church to work aggressively to overcome poverty, slums, crime, racial discrimination, and other social evils. These were good causes in themselves, but this movement placed little if any emphasis on the need for individuals to place personal trust in Christ as Savior or the need to proclaim the entire Bible as the Word of God and worthy of our belief. The Social Gospel movement gained followers primarily among liberal Protestants rather than among more conservative, evangelical Protestant groups.

Christians who encourage greater Christian involvement in politics today need to hear an important word of caution: If we (and I include myself here) ever begin to think that good laws alone will solve a nation’s problems or bring about a righteous and just society, we will have made a huge mistake. Unless there is simultaneously an inner change in people’s hearts and minds, good laws alone will only bring about grudging, external compliance with the minimum level of obedience necessary to avoid punishment. Good government and good laws can prevent much evil behavior, and they can teach people and show what society approves, but they cannot by themselves produce good people.

Genuine, long-term change in a nation will only happen (1) if people’s hearts change so that they seek to do good, not evil; (2) if people’s minds change so that their moral convictions align more closely with God’s moral standards in the Bible; and (3) if a nation’s laws change so that they more fully encourage good conduct and punish wrong conduct. Item 1 comes about through personal evangelism and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Item 2 takes place both through personal conversation and teaching and through public discussion and debate. Item 3 comes about through Christian political involvement. All three are necessary. This “do politics, not evangelism” view is certainly wrong. The church must above all proclaim that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). People definitely experience a change in their hearts when they believe in Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

What then? Is there a correct view that is different from these five wrong views? The view I propose next is “significant Christian influence on government.” “Significant Christian influence on government” is not compulsion (view 1), it is not silence (view 2), and it is not dropping out of the process (views 3 and 4), nor is it thinking the government can save people (view 5). It is different from each of these wrong views, and I think it is much closer to the actual teaching of the Bible.

For those interested in seeing Grudem defend his "significant Christian influence on governement"view, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

2 comments:

dgfisch said...

Enjoyed the whole series. Insightful. Enlightening. Definitive in how a Christian is to view his/her own government. Not the bad guy. While the day-to-day work of politics may drive out the original idealism of the politician, such a creature still has the ideals that give vision as to what a government is to do, and from what it must refrain.

It is important to remember that Jesus avoided suggesting the conception of the Messiah as earthly monarch. Jesus is not to be portrayed as king, when King of kings and Lord of lords is adequate enough.

Jesus doesn't belong in Washington D.C. He belongs in human hearts. And if those hearts find themselves in D.C. doing the government's work, so much the better.

Chad said...

Hello dgfisch,

Thank you for commenting and I'm so grateful you enjoyed the series. I was really challenged by it and corrected in some cases!

Jesus is not to be portrayed as king, when King of kings and Lord of lords is adequate enough.

To which I say, "Amen!"

Jesus doesn't belong in Washington D.C. He belongs in human hearts. And if those hearts find themselves in D.C. doing the government's work, so much the better.

Very well said!

Godspeed