Politics and the Pulpit

“I the Preacher was King over Israel in Jerusalem.”  Ecclesiastes 1:12

Of all the doctrinal dangers that I have ever seen within a body of believers, one of the most dangerous is the false doctrine that “civil politics” has no place in a “Biblical pulpit.”   Without doubt or debate, the idea that preachers should preach the Bible, but never address political issues is tantamount to saying a man should take a bath, but never get wet.  I firmly believe that this great “high civil conviction” has no real connection to deep spiritual conviction, because the Bible is saturated with the marriage of God and Government.  With the fallacy in mind that politics has no place in the pulpit, there are a few observations that need to be made.

#1.  Christians take their cues from the scripture and not the culture.   It is categorically a cultural idea, and a political idea that preachers should not speak on politics, and not a scriptural one.  Such a silence is prescribed by civil protocol, and not presented in the scripture.  Of course the culture, and the politicians want the pulpits to be silent when it comes to politics; the same way that a criminal prays that the prosecuting attorney catches a life threatening dose of laryngitis.  

Furthermore, it is generally the liberal voice that claims such.  While I know that there are conservatives that believe this, it is primarily the liberals that propagate it, with great fervor I might add.  The primary point here is that while the the passion for separation of pulpit and politics runs white hot in the heart of some people, it is contrary to all things presented in scripture. 

#2.  Political issues are Biblical issues.  There will be nothing on the ballot, that the Bible does not “directly” or “indirectly” deal with.  From domestic issues, to foreign policy to the occupier of the oval office, the Bible tells us what our values are to be.  The long and the short of it, is that the world cannot understand, nor do they have any desire, for Christians to use the Bible to discern or decide anything when it comes to public policy or public leaders.  They have a firm belief in the separation of religion and politics, and can not fathom why anyone would see it different.

What they do not see is that Politics is nothing more than a civilly sanitized religion.  Every law comes from what someone believes.  Every policy is the fruit of someone’s faith.  Every battle in Congress, every executive order from the White House, is born out of someone’s personal faith.  From the tax code to the realm of government reach, the end result always finds its source in the heart of a human being’s sense of right or wrong.

For example.  Many people have said this in one way shape for or fashion, “I think the government should stay out of the definition of marriage.” – That is a statement of faith.  That is their belief.  Another man may say, “I think government needs to regulate big corporations.” – That is a statement of personal belief.  Now let’s flip the coin over.  Let another man say, “Abortion is wrong, and there should be a law against it.”  Or “Homosexuality is wrong, and the government should not legitimize it.  Society would reject the last two because they find the source of conviction as a “religious argument.”  However the fact is that each of those statements is a matter of a person’s faith.

Someone may take issue with that, and say, “There is a difference between faith and philosophy.”  That may be; but that doesn’t change anything; the Christian is still to get his philosophy from the scripture.  The non-Christian gets his philosophy from somewhere else.  Whether it is the Bible, or comic books, every man’s philosophy comes from somewhere, and the Christians is to come from the scripture.

#3. The Scriptures are saturated with the marriage of faith and politics.  From God’s ordination of government in the beginning, to Christ’s establishment of his Kingdom throne in the end, faith and politics are interwoven.   From Jethro telling Moses what kind of men to set up as rulers, to Jesus calling Herod a fox, to Paul’s dissertation in Romans 13,  not to mention John the Baptist preacher pointing his finger and lifting his voice against Herod for his personal behavior, nearly everywhere we look in scripture, public affairs and spiritual issues are primary colors of practical Christianity.

If I were to cite them all, I would have to cut and paste most of the Old Testament.  Time and time and time again, kings were judged as either “doing that which is right in the sight of God;” or “doing that which is evil in the sight of God.”  Entire nations were judged by God because of their disregard and disobedience for the Lord.  We have an Old Testament literally filled with political sermons. Of course we now affectionately categorize those sermons as “The Prophets!”  Man cannot honestly read the prophets and not read the preacher calling out the rulers for their wickedness. Jonah’s message was to Nineveh, all the way to the king and into the city ordinances.  Daniel’s experiences with Nebuchadnezzar, Samuel to Saul and David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, etc, spoke primarily to the spiritual condtion underlying all of their social, and political issues, of their days. Furthermore we have entire books of the Bible that deal with just the history of a nations government and it’s relationship to God. They are titled,”1st and 2nd Kings.”   

God’s prophets weren’t sent merely to preach to the pews, but were often sent to proclaim to the leaders of the nations His Word, His Will, and His Way.  One of the things that is often missed, is that while some Christians will disagree with politics in the pulpit, they will sing them from the pew.  While they want nothing said about the government from the preacher, they will sit and sing, “All Hail, King Jesus,” “O Worship the King,” or “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”  To praise Jesus as King is to acknowledge that our Savior is our Governor.  The One who is worthy of Praise, is the One who will set Human Policy!  Jesus on the throne is the ultimate marriage between faith and politics.

For far too long, Christians have accepted the false doctrine that pulpits should be silent concerning politics.  They have been listening to a society of lost sinners tell them that the proper thing for them to do, is to be quiet.  They have heard politicians tell them that Biblical faith has no place in making public policy.  The problem is that is not what the Bible says.  The Bible does speak to kings, governments, and rulers.  “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”  – Psalm 2:10-12.  Any preacher, that rightly preaches that passage, cannot preach it any other way that what it is; the Word of God to the government of men.

I am working on, and preparing a sermon series for this fall, entitled the Doctrine of Elections.  From the beginning of the Bible to the very end, the Lord teaches us how to choose men who will rule over us.  The Bible tells us how to think, what to value, priorities to set, and how to embrace our citizenship under our laws.  For Christians to listen to the Word of God for every facet of our life, and stop thinking outside The Book, would be a powerful change worth making.

Don’t think because we’re quiet, the devil will play by the same rules.

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4 comments on “Politics and the Pulpit

  1. David Rogers says:

    Would you not agree that there is an intrinsic difference between the relationship of the People of God to government in OT theocratic Israel and in the NT dispensation, in which our citizenship is in heaven? Romans 13 teaches that, as Christians, we are to be subject to governing authorities, and we are to pay taxes, but as I see it, little else with regard to how we as Christians are to relate to government and the legal process.

    Of course, at this time, there was no democratic opportunity for influence with regard to public policy. I do find more of a hermeneutically sound biblical model for Christian engagement in government in those OT saints who God placed in positions of influence in pagan societies, such as Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah (and in a more dubious manner, Esther and Mordecai). With regard to all political issues being treated in the Bible, I suppose that depends on how broadly you define “indirect treatment.” For instance, Joseph, when he recommended to Pharaoh that he “proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years, and let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it,” he is using good “sanctified” common sense.

    An indirect biblical principle here is that when dealing with issues of macroeconomics, we ought to use good “sanctified” common sense. But as we have discussed before on another comment stream of another post, I don’t believe the Bible spells out specifically what type of economic system (within the gamut of options on the table today) is more godly and what type is less godly. And we must be careful to not divide the Body of Christ over issues on which the Bible does not speak clearly.

    • David,
      Thanks for the dialogue.

      Forgive me, but I had typed a much more involved answer, and hit the wrong button and lost it all. (Divine intervention?)

      Yes, I agree that there is a “dispensational difference” between OT Israel, and NT Christianity. However, like you, I also believe that those things “were written for our learning.”
      I also believe that enough of those things written in OT Israel were more “Timeless Truths” than dispensational peculiarities. For example: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” The statement, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” is a categorical statement. In other words, “he that rules over men of any age, in any place, in any government” should exhibit these qualities.

      I also believe that Paul’s dissertation in Romans 13 is an open door for NT preachers addressing NT governments. In that passage, Paul’s primary message is a message of support, prayerfully and financially. To rightly preach that passage, a preacher would have to stand flat footed and say, “Pay your Taxes” and “Pray for your Rulers.” – Both sermons are political sermons.

      Furthermore, I think it would be dishonest to say a NT preacher should preach, “Pay your taxes” but not be able to preach, “Choose men who rule in the fear of God.” Whatever our political opportunity as NT Christians, we look to the scriptures for the guidance needed in responding to that privilege. If we should preach, “Pay your taxes”, which is addressing Christian citizenship, then we should also preach, “don’t elect the bramble.” (Judges 9)

      While we have gone around the Economic Merri-go-round before, I think you are on to something when you speak of “sanctified common sense.”

      Without making a long response longer, I believe “political parties” is a “whole nuther critter.” The preaching I speak of, has nothing to do with choosing parties, as much as it does, proclaiming Bible truths.

      I had much more in my other response but the Lord spared you.

      My primary point in this article is that the idea that preachers should not preach on the political issues, and politicians, of our day has no Biblical source. It is a cultural, and political idea, not a Biblical one. It is a “false doctrine” that has been used to silence the pulpits. It is a doctrine that has relegated the Christian and his convictions to, as our all time favorite preacher said, “our stained glass prisons.”

      As Christians, we take our cues from the Bible, and not from the tenets of social or civic protocol. It is an idea of society for preachers not to preach on politics, not a principle of the scriptures.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

  2. David Rogers says:

    Jeff, FYI, I’ve just written a post with some implications for the issues we are discussing here:

    http://sbcvoices.com/changing-hearts-and-changing-votes/

    The conversation on the comment stream over there is interesting as well.

    I’m curious if you are familiar with “two kingdoms” approach to the relationship of Christ and culture. Here is a good introductory article:

    http://www.credomag.com/2012/03/20/interview-with-david-vandrunen-on-two-kingdoms-theology/

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