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Voting for President of the United States begins today in Iowa. For the next ten months it will be hard to avoid hearing about politics. This is welcome news to political junkies and tiresome for everybody else. But whether you are into politics or not, you should care about the political process. And as Christians we should try to think Christianly about the issues and candidates before us.

This can be tricky. On the one hand, I’m concerned that some of us think there is a Christian position on every issue—as if the Bible determines the one and only God-honoring decision regarding rates of taxation or how to respond if Iran closes the Straits of Hormuz. But on the other hand, I fear other Christians are so loathe to seem partisan, or they consider politics so unclean, that they don’t dare bring Christian principles to bear on their political thinking. This too is a mistake. You don’t have to be a transformationalist or reconstructionist to believe that biblical principles ought to shape the way we look at the world (including politics) and how we understand the way things work.

The Bible is a big book, so there are a lot of things we could say in an effort to piece together a political worldview out of biblical principles. But this is a blog and not a book. So let me take just one doctrinal area and tease out some possible implications.

I believe our most important political considerations grow out a proper understanding of the human person. The more our politicians and political institutions operate according to the way things actually are and the way we actually are the more we will flourish as a nation.

Consider this anthropological principles as you develop political praxis:

1. Man is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). No matter how small or frail or old or impaired every human being has value and dignity. Government should protect human life and punish those who harm it (Rom. 13:4; Gen. 9:6).

2. Man is made to work (Gen. 2:15). We ought to maximize incentives for hard work and remove incentives that encourage laziness (2 Thess. 3:6-12).

3. Part of being human, as opposed to God, is that we are subject to appropriate authorities. This includes subjection to government and the requirement to pay taxes (Rom. 13:1-7).

4. Humans are motivated by self-interest. Jesus understands this when he tells us to love our neighbors as we already love ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Self-interest is not automatically the same as greed or covetousness, which is why Jesus doesn’t hesitate to motivate the disciples with the promise of being first or the guarantee of reward (Matt. 6:19-20; Mark 10:29-31). Granted, our self-interest is not always virtuous. The work of the gospel is to teach people how their self-interest (joy) can square with God’s interest (glory). But the best policies are those that can harness the power of self-interest for the greater good.

5. Humans are not just consumers on the planet; we are creators too. The physical world is a gift and a tool. We have the ability to spoil, but also the responsibility to subdue (Gen. 1:28).

6. Because of Adam’s sin, the world is fallen (Rom. 5:12; 8:18-23). Things are not the way they are supposed to be. Utopia is not possible. Therefore, political decisions must deal with trade-offs, weighing pros and cons of various policies. We cannot eliminate the realities of living in a fallen world (John 12:8), but good policies can help mitigate some of the worst of them.

7. Human nature is bent toward evil (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9). This means we cannot count on the goodwill of others or of other nations, no matter how well-intentioned we may be or how much we may mind our own business. The question is not where war comes from. That is to be expected given our nature. The question is what institutions and policies are most effective at establishing peace.

There is, of course, more we could say about the nature of freedom, the importance of justice, and the right of private property. All three are also crucial biblical themes. But the seven principles above can help us start to make sense of the world, make decisions in the world, and elect politicians who understand the way the world works


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50 thoughts on “Christian Principles for Realistic Politics”

  1. Jim says:

    Thanks, Kev. You’re the best.

  2. Really insightful piece, Kevin. It’s fascinating to read this as an English person, for whom American right-wingery is always both mystifying and intriguing; I’m totally with you on 1, 3 and 6, but I suspect I find the trajectories of 2, 4, 5 and 7 more troubling than many of your readers (notwithstanding the fact that, biblically, what you’re saying is true!)

    Presumably you mean either “these anthropological principles” or “this anthropological principle” …

  3. Dean P says:

    Yeah I’m with Andrew. I agree with 1,3, & 6. And with 2, &5 I agree with your premise, but your application is a bit over-simplified and not really as laid out in scripture so generalized as you are making it. Where as the premise and application of both 4 and 7 I disagree with because it is way oversimplified considering that the Bible still maintains that though we are sinful and fallen we are also created in the image of God and we live under God’s common grace.

  4. michael henry says:

    Excellent piece, I agree wholeheartedly. However I, as am American, take offense at Andrews “.. for whom American right-wingery is always both mystifying and intriguing..” It’s slanted and begs the question: “So Left wingery (or footedness or whatever) is clearly and automatically assumed and known?”

  5. Tomas Pistora says:

    I am intrigued that the article mentions only one reference to the Sermon on the Mount and there is nothing from the Beatitudes…

  6. I often enjoy your blog and this doesn’t disappoint. Great insight and I think you would enjoy Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law.” You seem to be very much in line with his “classical liberal” approach to governance.

  7. Robb says:

    In general this is a good post, but like the other commentators I do have some reservations.

    In our political sphere we see these same verses and principles used by religious people in politics to defend the issues in this way:

    1. pro-life
    2. cutting back on safety nets such as welfare and unemployment benefits
    3. poor people asked to pay more taxes
    4. christianity and capitalism go hand in hand
    5. anti-environmentalism
    6. the assumption that the status quo is as good as it gets and we may as well not try to solve problems (particularly seen regarding poverty)
    7. using war over diplomacy

    I’m not saying that Kevin DeYoung is steering people in thinking a certain way based on these principles but merely pointing out how they are commonly used by top political candidates who claim to be religious.

    Obviously some of these things are clear issues. For others they are debatable issues with good informed discussion possible, yet for some reason we rarely hear in the US an opposing view from evangelical Christians. In other countries, such as the UK, you are more likely to hear alternative viewpoints, which is why I think the others also had misgivings about where the principles seemed to lead.

  8. John Thomson says:

    I agree with the post. However, I would add, that we should be generally very skeptical of what politics achieve. Normally it achieves little. If we doubt this I suggest reflection on the following

    a) the example of law in the OT. No nation had greater privilege legally (and culturally) than Israel. If ever good and wise legal, social and cultural constraints were applied to a nation it was to Israel. Yet the nation becomes in time as corrupt and decayed as the surrounding nations provoking the judgement of exile. Law is inadequate to prevent corruption of the heart and society. It is a necessary but very inadequate instrument.

    b) James Davidson’s book ‘To Change the World’ apparently makes the point forcefully that forces much deeper than pressure groups and politics control the flow of history. Law has little influence over the these meta-forces.

    c) Look at how little the most powerful in society (especially our democratic societies) can actually achieve. They are frustrated at every turn.

    The only real instrument of change is the gospel – and it begins by changing individuals.

    c)

  9. Calvin Thomas says:

    Robb,

    I am not sure I agree with 6 of your 7 issues that are supposedly inappropriately defended by christians in their political discourse.

    See notes for details

    1. pro-life- so are you a fan of infanticide and is that the christian approach?
    2. cutting back on safety nets such as welfare and unemployment benefits- How are these safety nets? Because we currently have a $15 trillion debt, so when the budget bursts, the poor are going to be hit harder than the upper classes
    3. poor people asked to pay more taxes- Hrrm… See note above
    4. christianity and capitalism go hand in hand- OMG This is ludicrous, but fair to point out no other economic system has produced what people can enjoy now (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QTfNEDgusQ)
    5. anti-environmentalism-> What does this mean? what is the pro-environmental approach to getting rid of electric car batteries? or how was cash for clunkers economically (http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/08/12/ron-paul-trashes-cash-for-clunkers-with-logic/) or environmentally responsible?
    6. the assumption that the status quo is as good as it gets and we may as well not try to solve problems (particularly seen regarding poverty)- FA Hayek’s approach to political parties and the status quo may be enlightening for you (http://www.cato.org/pubs/articles/hayek-why-i-am-not-conservative.pdf)
    7. using war over diplomacy- Totally agree with you on this, it inappropriate to see a majority of our nation’s christian leaders so pro war, I really appreciate this thought that you bring to the table.

    I would second the commenter above who pointed out the masterpiece by Bastiat, “The Law” as a good starting point for this dialogue.

  10. miss says:

    I beleive there’s going to be alot of changes in the governmental system come 2012.

    For better or for worse, change is coming.

  11. Robb says:

    Calvin,

    Forgive me if my comment was not clear. To reword what I said above—some of the issues (like abortion) are clearly demarcated as to what side Christians should be on.

    Other issues are commonly portrayed as having a “Christian” position, when there should be healthy discussion and diversity of opinion. In fact, many evangelicals (in the US and abroad) would take a different tack than you in some of your responses to the points.

  12. David McKay says:

    For this ignorant Australian, the points seem biased toward the Republican Party point of view.

    I note there was no duty of government (or anyone else) to care for the poor and vulnerable in the list and can’t understand why this was omitted. Surely that is a major biblical point.

  13. Calvin Thomas says:

    I see where you are coming from, thanks for the clarification.

    I must say that I think the reason the conservative ideological approach to these issues is so prevalent in the United States is because this country has a libertarian/free market tradition that is perceived to date back to the cowboys, pioneers, or even the American Civil War and Revolution.

    Whether it is in the capitol rotunda, history books, or on our soap boxes we each stand on, we in the US (especially the conservative right) have the uncanny ability to mix history (reality) and myth in a way that is very similar to the approach of interacting with the so called secular society that Jerry Falwell, Dr. James, Dobson, Pat Robertson, and others that pioneered the current unholy christian-right alliance.

    Again, I put forward that John Stuart Mill, the Federalist Papers, Frederic Bastiat, John Locke, or others may be a better approach to this idea of christian interaction with the political sphere than the current crop of christian right evangelicals that have clouded up the current perception of christians in politics.

  14. Calvin Thomas says:

    I wanted to add this if possible Mr. Moderator-
    Consider this collection of sentences as an amendment to my previous statement

    There is a particular narrative that many Americans (christian or not) love to cling to. This strict adherence to a particular narrative that Jerry Falwell, Dr. James, Dobson, Pat Robertson, and others that pioneered. Their effort to spread the message, dumbed down the dialogue and established the current unholy christian-right alliance we have in American political discourse.

    There are elements of the rights’ message that I wholeheartedly endorse, but those are based upon the liberty of the individual and an approach to the law that is fair and just. This is very different that than collectivism espoused by the christian evangelical movement.

    Again, I put forward that John Stuart Mill, the Federalist Papers, Frederic Bastiat, John Locke, or others may be a better approach to this idea of christian interaction with the political sphere than the current crop of christian right evangelicals that have clouded up the current perception of christians in politics.

  15. Marlon Hollis says:

    Interesting blog post. As an American theologically conservative evangelical (a pretty long label, but we Americans I guess like labels), I do think some political/social positions have clear Christian position (like abortion), but most others are open to debate among Christians in good-faith. I know Christians who are in the Tea Party and Christians who are not Tea Party supporters, yet they worship together in my church. I think it becomes a problem when one side begins to try to shutdown discussion by claiming their preferred political ideology is the “Christian” position, especially on matters not clear or discussed in Scripture.

    The Bible has a lot to say about poverty and of the community helping the poor and not oppressing them, as well as working for what you eat and not being lazy. I’d hesitate to say that the our current debates over government welfare and social programs, tax rates, regulation of the economy, and so on has clear cut Biblical positions that all Christians must adhere.

    For one thing not every country or society has the same sensibilities and history as the United States. What do such far-right “Christian” positions on government welfare, taxes and so on say to Christians who do not live (or grew up) in the context of the United States? I would imagine a Brit like Carl Trueman, a theologically conservative, might have a different perspective on the government ensuring healthcare for its citizens. Or, a Christian in places where they have no government security or services of any kind (or at least not very good ones), say like Somalia would find an American Tea Party Christian’s severe dislike of government perplexing to say the least.

    I am not a Tea Party supporter, but I know and like those who are, and its great that Christians of different political viewpoints can discuss politics. I think the problem lies when we try to make our ideological positions binding upon the consciences of other Christians where the Bible doesn’t do so.

    DeYoung’s blog post hopefully will further the discussion of the intersection between politics and religion.

  16. Nicholas says:

    In other words “one must vote red if they are to be an ethical Christian.” This post could use some perspective.

    Point 1: Abortion is a non-issue now. America started legal infanticide in 1972 and has made almost no progress to overturn in it 40 years even under the most conservative of presidents. Don’t get me wrong, value of life is a Christian standard, but it is no longer part of the American political arena.

    Point 2: The problem is not the incentives that encourage laziness, it is the people who use them as such. Ripping 2 Thess 3:6-12 out of context is laughable horrible exegesis, this is talking about the rights of an apostle among a Christian community.

    Point 3: I agree, but a better passage is Matt. 22:15-22.

    Point 4: Capitalism does not necessarily follow from Christianity. Twisting those scriptures together like that was obviously an awkward process. The American Christian should also be aware that it is nice to be at the top of the food chain with regards to capitalism, but those below us suffer immensely. NAFTA lowered the standard of living for millions of people in central and south America so that families in the United States could save a couple bucks.

    Point 5: It is an exegetical and hermeneutical stretch to posit that man has the responsibility to subdue in the contemporary context. Man is to be sustained by the Earth, the steward the Earth and not to worship the Earth. This is a proper understanding of man’s relationship to the Earth. This point is severely skewed.

    Point 6: I agree.

    Point 7: Human nature is fallen and twisted but it does not mean that “we cannot count on the goodwill of others or of other nations.” Goodnight, my wife and parents have been tainted by the fall as well but I would trust them with my life.

    I would encourage the author of this post to rethink the theological role of the government from a mindset that is not upper-middle class. Or perhaps from the standpoint of a Nicaraguan, or South African. In this way he could truly start to separate the theology from his socio-political preferences.

  17. Brian says:

    Minor quibble: I think the commission to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 is often taken out of context and used to defend all kinds of things. I won’t do justice to this right now, but this commission is essentially the Great Commission in seed form. Adam and Eve are in a garden. There is an area outside of the garden that is wild. Adam and Eve are to be fruitful and multiply (for them, this would mean having children, since they are the only humans at this time) and increase the boundaries of the garden.

    That might make no sense, but many theologians see Eden as a temple. The idea is that they were commissioned to expand the temple. Since they were made in the image of God, they are little mirrors of God’s glory. They were to image God in his world. They were made to glorify God and as they produced children who glorified God and “subdued” the earth, the temple would expand, and God’s world would be full of his glory.

    Of course, Adam and Eve sin. It is Christ who subdues the earth (Matt. 28:18). He tells those who are being made into his image, the true image of God (2 Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15) to go into the world to be witnesses (Acts 1:8) and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). The church is now the temple and as it expands, God’s glory increases.

    When Jesus returns, he will totally subdue the earth, making it into one massive Most Holy Place AND a garden (Rev. 21-22).

    That’s a short sketch of what Greg Beale describes at length in The Temple and the Church’s Mission. Genesis 1:28 is not chiefly concerned with environmentalism. I have heard people twist this so they think it’s great if we paved paradise and put up a parking lot(oh, isn’t that a Joni Mitchell song?). I think you can make the case that we should be good stewards of God’s creation from many texts in the Bible, and we should consider how our consumption or pollution affects other people on this planet. But we also shouldn’t be afraid to use the earth’s resources in order to live and glorify God.

  18. Sally says:

    Thank you, an excellent article…I’m from the UK (Wales)and I appreciate the clear thinking of this piece..

  19. As a Canadian, the above comments by Andrew (an Englishman) and David (an Australian) resonate with me. It seems to me that there is an implicit trajectory to these points which would lead one to conclude that a ‘Christian’ vote would be one right of centre.

    For many non-Americans, conservative theology does not always automatically translate to right-wing politics. Issues which, in America, lead Christians to vote a certain way are different in other nations. For example, no matter which way I vote in my country, the abortion issue sadly will not change.

    I also agree with Nicholas above (although I hope to have a more irenic tone) about the exegesis of 2 Thess 3:6-12. It seems clear that that should applied in-house pertaining to within the Church.

  20. Paul says:

    The sad thing about how politics has become such a domineering force in the church is that it has ejected loved and charity from the arena and introduced polarity instead. I am often worried that people in my own church will find that I have voted democratic in an election and reject me because of it. This isn’t an indictment against my church as much as it shows how much the republicans have hijacked Christianity in America.

  21. Wiseagle says:

    The simple instruction of Paul to Timothy in I Tim.2:1-4 seems to also be the most Gospel centered approach: Pray for the rulers so we can lead a peaceful and quiet life (v. 2). Such a prayer dictates that I likewise vote for people who will best let me live this way. Such prayers (and voting) flow toward God’s desire to be known in this world in a saving way as noted in v.3-4.

  22. Willio Destin says:

    Enjoyed reading the post, however, your principles seem to be selective. The Bible has a wealth of material on caring for the poor and seeking justice for the defenseless. Yet your principles did not include the poor or justice for the defenseless (excluding protecting the unborn).

  23. James Moon says:

    I think it be wise if gospel coalition does not get too involved in politics.

    Even by reading these suggestions, we already know who Kevin DeYoung is not voting for which is Ron Paul. However, to me he’s the only one who is honest.

    Character, often is more important than policies.

  24. Nigel says:

    My thoughts were stimulated by two points: Hard work, and caring for our neighbor. I realise that these are not Global points being made in the blog, but are specific to the USA. Nevertheless, the Bible has global application, which means what is and ought to stand up to being tested in a different political environment.

    I agree that hard work is important, but it doesn’t necessarily make a person better-off. A person can work hard and remain destitute. In relation to this, what happens to people who cannot work, due to physical or mental dissability? There needs to be a welfare system. Biblically (in the OT and NT), welfare is actually the responsibility of the extended family to care (the local Church in the NT). These are our “neighbors” (extended family and fellow believers).

    I am a missionary in Africa and I see families burdened by the needs of people outside their immediate responsibility, but people who are known to them. In Africa, people are responsible for anybody known personally, who genuinely comes to us with an economic challenge of health, food, or education. In Western countries, the responsibility has been transferred to the State, hence a greater tax burden on the populous. So, caring for our neighbor has to either work in a localised welfare “begging” or solicitation system, or a greater tax burden through the state. The same goes for people who cannot work for genuine reasons.

    This all smacks of socialism according some Americans I have met who have visted Africa. Nevertheless, free enterprise is indeed full of “self-interest” and does little to genuinely care for our neighbors, either through personal action, or through the state.

  25. Paul says:

    Nigel, I totally agree…it’s terms like “socialism, communism” that cut out any chance of dialogue between believers.

  26. Ethan Sayler says:

    Kevin, well said. I think, somewhere in the midst of points 6 and 7 I would have added something about the tendency toward tyranny and oppression through on the part of those in power, and the proclivity toward passivity on the part of the masses. In other words, those in power say “Give up some of your liberty and the government will provide your every need,” while the people are inclined to say, “do this for me and I’ll give you more power.”
    I was asked to give the opening prayer at our Caucus last night. I prayed that God would deliver us from the sense that our security depends on whether our political party is in power at the moment, and from putting all our hope and faith in a candidate rather than the Christ.
    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful article.
    Grace and Peace

  27. James says:

    Nigel, I would respectfully disagree and suggest that what our African friends need most is freedom and the rule of law. If the history of the west has taught us anything about living in relative peace with opportunity for material production it is that those two things are indespensable. With respect to many of the responses, I am left scratching my head as to how the points made in this post represent some kind of right wing folly. Truly, those of us who have such leanings could maybe gain a bit of traction in these discussions without the ever-present hammer of right wing conspiracy smacking us on the noggin.

  28. Marlon Hollis says:

    @ James. I hope didn’t suggest there is a coordinated right-wing conspiracy. I apologize if anything I said came off as that way. I do agree with your sentiment about some of the needs of Africa. Of course, I admit it’s hard for a middle-class American like myself to know what the average African thinks his own needs are. But since, I’ve gone this far, I have a question about the last part of your suggestion: the rule of law. What do you mean by rule of law? Is it merely security or does it involve something more expansive, like regulating pollution, promoting fair markets (antitrust law, economic regulation, etc.), promoting the general welfare of the populace, a functioning and fair legal system, and so on? The rule of law can cover a broad area of activity. I would argue that rule of law in a free, democratic, capitalist society can include things like these.

    In response to your last sentence, I agree we also all should dispense with the stereotypes we have of the other side, which tend to shutdown discussion: like anyone who suggests government has a legitimate role in the economy is a “socialist” and anti-American, or that anyone who is alarmed at the size of government is heartless towards the poor.

    I am not a leftist by any means, more of a centrist, really. I think government should be sized according to goals the people want to achieve. Not small government for the sake of it, or big government for the sake of it. I think our current turmoil in America is we are in a period of transition and uncertainty as to where we want to go as a society (plus, we’ve just suffered through some serious traumas in the past decade, and are still suffering). How big or small government will be will depend on how we answer this question. I am not so sure many Americans are really for small government in actuality, even if they say they are in principle. I do think one, or two, or three elections probably won’t settle it for a while no matter who wins 2012. But as an amateur historian, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the Republicans or Democrats are in office, the long term trend has been a growth in the size and scope of government activity over the past century (though vastly less than in some other countries).

    Anyway, Happy New Year everyone!

  29. Rusty Webb says:

    I disagree with points 6 and 7. Government in the Bible is clearly there to punish evil not to write policies that promote one person’s interest over another’s. If there is clear moral wrong… bringing personal injury… the government has the Biblical authority to deliver justice. It goes wrong when personal agendas are established by one person using undue political advantage to subdue another person’s interest or livelihood. Policies do not change people or effectively control people. Only the Gospel changes people and provides order. Oh and the law of the land is not congress or the president or their policies. We are to be governed by the Constitution in this country.

    Point 7 is dead wrong because it assumes America is the good guy and that what “America” deems as good in the world is what should happen. No where in the Bible does it condone nation building or going after supposed despots that “Americans” put in place to begin with. This is what is wrong with American Evangelical Christianity. It assumes that “we” are right and that “we” have the right to impose our form of government and our agenda on others through political and military force. Nations are sovereign and the only reason in the Bible one nation attacked another was out of greed. Israel was the only exception because it was a Theocracy. Last time I checked the President or any head of state in the US is not God. War is justified to protect oneself not to go in and take over other nations. We do not have to go in and occupy anything to take out enemies of the state. I think the special forces do a good job of that with out us spending billions we do not have.
    Please stop insulting our intelligence by claiming that war solves problems… it just creates more problems… WWI was a prime example of that. It basically caused WWII by bringing so much debt on Germany and making the balance of powers in Europe so out of balance that a people were ready to follow a wacko to seek relief. Do you think anything is better in Iraq because we took over? People are still oppressed and killed.

  30. James says:

    Marlin, I use the term “rule of law” in a generic sense, that would imply that certain concrete principles exist and that these must be adhered to by all, including those who possess political power; this, by the way, is a central tenet of the republicanism that characterizes the American experiment. As I see it, one of the great tragedies played out over and again in Africa has been that so many live under the heel of political oppression. There are certainly no easy answers, but until that changes, it is hard to imagine that these folks will be able to improve their plight.

  31. William says:

    Here, here, agreeing with Rusty Webbs comments above. If Christians in particular have lost site of anything it is that America can be as evil, and moreso, due to power and influence, than another other nation when it comes to War in particular. And just how scripturally Liberal is America’s pretended “conservatism”? It is time to put away and divorce a false American Theology (American State is Righteous) and return to Biblical Theology (America too is depraved and proving it).

    Where is the “Just War Theory” of Christianity anymore that only declares war in Self Defense? A pretended evangelical Christian candidate in Iowa announced that he is ready to attack Iran for no just cause (and for the Israeli Lobby and neocons), and won the “evangelical vote”! Why does it take a libertarian like Ron Paul to justly indict conservatives (including Christians) on their support for arbitrary Preventative Wars? Pray tell, where is the conservative Christian opposition to “pre-emptive wars” and a “new middle east”, that could only be called an Offensive War, a Democratic Jihad, for Israel and its AIPAC Lobby? It is not wrong to point out the power-mongers pushing us into Offensive Wars along with their ‘Christian-Zionism’ propaganda (since Scofield’s Dispensationalism and his Bible) that has *infiltrated American Christianity* for the blind support of Secular Israel, which even orthodox Jews opppose? The Defense Dept should be renamed The Offense Dept. But this of course is too politically-incorrect and must be tip-toed around for Mr. DeYoung to even hint at.

    Point 7: Well, the depravity of man does not just apply to “other nations”. What of America? Is America a beacon of virtue and peace or immorality, unjust freedoms (social anarchy) and war?
    The founders wisely–because of the depravity of man, and the power principle–divided the power in Washington between Three ‘equal’ Branches, a check and balance system to prevent tyranny, absolute democracy (majority rule), and totalitarianism or imperialism. So why did Mr. DeYoung only applied this toward “other nations”? As if America is absolutely trustworthy? Is it not more like Babylon (Habbakuk) a “hammer of the nations” toward Global Democracy, which is based upon principles of Humanism? (This is behind all the world wars and subsequent ones).

    What is needed is more forthright condemning of what America does contrary to the justice of God revealed in his holy commandments and laws–e.g. applying Calvinistic catechisms in the 10 commandments toward National Conduct too.

  32. Jeff says:

    Rusty and William are spot on. Look for an honest leader who has integrity and a record to prove it. I would vote for Obama if he had been consistent throughout his years so at least I would know how to fight him. We cannot change anything if when a leader is elected, he does the opposite, or at least ignores the wishes of those who put him in office simply to further his political adgenda. Stop voting for those who ride the winds of change. We want faithful preachers in our pulpits, why not in political office as well. We bash the church growth models and demand a pulpit that faithfully proclaims the Word of God verse by Verse. This is why MacArthur, Piper, Sproul, etc are adored. They remain consistent and the church honors them, though the world hates them (as well as much of the professing church).
    How about we look for a leader who exudes those qualities of faithfulness to their office and integrity in their dealings and support them.

    I guess you know who I support. RP2012

  33. Andrew says:

    Interesting series of articles. While I can see how this could be interpreted as encouraging right-of-center voting (DeYoung leans rightward based on his prior posts), I don’t see his points as endoring any particular political bent.

    #1: Pretty straightforward, don’t see how any conservative- or liberal-leaning Christians would disagree with it. “We can’t do anything about abortion” is a pretty weak objection.

    #2: This point is closest to advocating a free-market ethos. Perhaps Kevin needed to write a few extra sentences to explain the Biblical context of work, as there is plenty of rich theology on the matter. However, I don’t know many liberals who would endorse long-term dependence on government for basic needs as desirable end-state.

    #3: He never says how much or little people should pay in taxes, only that they are obligated to pay them.

    #4: Could be seen as advocating conservatism. However, I’m not sure how government can ban greed or enforce/mandate altruism (it can merely punish/limit the destructive consequences of one and seek to dis-inhibit the other). History should teach us that government is a very poor tool for changing the human heart…

    #5: Don’t see how this is anti-environment. DeYoung affirms the need to both conserve it and utilize it. Not even the most extreme agrarian lifestyles can avoid using natural resources; we need them to survive. As with many things, environmental regulation is a question of degree.

    #6: This one flows directly out of a Christian worldview IMHO. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope we have for conquering sin. Attempts by human institutions to create a perfect society have failed 100% of the time.

    #7: This only pushes a certain view by disavowing pacifism, not by endorsing any particular approach to foreign policy. The majority of left-leaning folks I know are not pacifist either. Decisions to use force are often questions of degree and situation.

    We in Christ’s church need to examine ourselves honestly regarding our political discourse. It pains me to say this, but the political discussions we have are often even more shallow and immature than what goes on in the world at large. We tend to go all-or-nothing when characterizing those who disagree. Right-leaning Christians automatically assume that left-leaning Christians are absolute defenders of pacifism, radical environmentalism, socialism, racial quotas, global government, feminism, sexual liberation, and every government program under the sun. Left-leaning Christians automatically assume that right-leaning Christians favor selfishness, greed, nativism, zero environmental stewardship, zero regulations, zero social safety net, and every war under the sun; don’t care about race relations or the poor; and worship at the alter of the United States rather than God.The two sides engage each other starting with the assumptions and debate the moral pluses or minuses of each, without ever considering the question of degree or whether/how much the state in particular has a role to play.

    For example, a typical Christian political argument on the Internet arises over poverty. Left-leaning Christians argue that it’s our duty to care for the poor, therefore we should have a large social welfare state and stricter government regulations. Right-leaning Christians throw out ideas such as individual responsibility, the immorality of laziness, or the value of work to argue against such policies. Both sides selectively quote Scripture to go after each other. Both sides also avoid any nuance on the issue. Conservatives may fail to note that theologically-sound Christians with left-leaning views affirm man’s individual responsbility, while liberals ignore the fact that man well-versed Christians who lean right affirm our mandate to do justice and care for the poor yet doubt the effectiveness or appropriateness of the government taking primary responsibility here. There is no deeper exploration of the other side’s position, only a shallow yes-or-no argument.

    Lastly, we get so wrapped up in the ethical questions (“Is the approach Biblical?” “Is it right?”) that we fail to ask if a policy actually works. There is lot of wisdom in the old saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. For example’s sake, we can argue all we want about whether Federal welfare is right or wrong; does it actually WORK in getting people out of poverty? I’m not endorsing pragmatism, but it’s hard to argue that something is right if it creates disastrous results.

  34. Megan says:

    The best essay I’ve seen on this topic is C.S. Lewis’ “Meditations on the Third Commandment.” Lewis uses Luke 12:14 to argue that it’s blasphemous to put forth any political view as representative of Christ.

  35. Pete Gross Jr says:

    Thanks Kevin for a principle based presentation that leaves us free to make the political applications (or to chop it up and make hash of your principles). It takes courage to regularly present your thoughts/insights to a generally anonymous world for feedback.

  36. Sam M says:

    Disagree whole heartedly with #6, as it is the reason I am a non-voter. This whole lesser of two evils mentality is appalling. Where is that a biblical principal? Why should I vote for someone implementing less of God’s best?

    I also strongly agree with your conclusion of #1. I agree human life is valuable. This is why its confusing to me when Christians make that statement, meant to oppose abortion, but then are in favor of the death penalty and war. Pray, love and serve our enemies or execute, bomb and punish our enemies, which sounds closer to the command of Jesus?

    I wish Christians would quit voting and actually be the church as commanded by Jesus and then would wouldn’t need to vote for a government and make these bogus “Trade Offs”.

  37. James Yu says:

    I have nothing new to add except to say that this is probably the tamest debate online that I’ve ever read concerning political issues. In a secular forum, people would be name-calling and at each others’ digital throats by now. I would like to thank every single person who has commented on this so far for doing so in a way that is both loving and intellectually honest. Thank you all for not conforming to the ways of the world. I sincerely hope we manage to reach a Godly consensus on this confounding issue before Election Day. ;)

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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