Put bluntly, America is becoming more secular. Albert Mohler identifies the problem: “Recent studies have indicated that the single greatest predictor of voting patterns is the frequency of church attendance. Far fewer Americans now attend church, and a recent study indicated that fully 20% of all Americans identify with no religious preference at all. The secularizing of the electorate will have monumental consequences.”
How are Believers to Respond?
1. Do Evangelism, not Politics (Wayne Grudem gives the first two points)
John MacArthur advocates a version of this view: “The believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel because the morality and righteousness that God seeks is the result of salvation and sanctification” (Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism, page 8).
MacArthur is not saying no involvement, but the believer’s participation in government is not as important as spreading the gospel.
MacArthur, however, makes an even stronger statement: “God does not call the church to influence the culture by promoting legislation and court rulings that advance a scriptural point of view” (Why Government Can’t Save You, page 130). My question is, if the Congress had a chance to reverse Roe v Wade, should Christians try to influence their Congressmen to pass a constitutional amendment to end the murder of unborn babies?
2. Do Politics, Not Evangelism
This is the liberal view of the Social Gospel and Liberation theology. This view is a works for salvation view that advocates saving the planet but not saving individual sinners. This view advocates delivering all the marginalized minorities through redistribution of wealth by taxing more and more the top income makers. Some of these believe it is the responsibility of the church to bring in the kingdom and once society has been totally reformed, Christ will return. Some of these are called Christian Reconstructionists.
This is contrary to Scripture. “In the last days perilous times shall come.” “The love of many will wax worse.” Only Jesus can establish His kingdom.
3. Do Evangelism and Politics
Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:18). Jesus replied, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (22:21). This was a revolutionary statement.
Jesus indicated there are two separate spheres of influences in people’s lives. One of government and one of religion. This was a huge change from the OT which was a theocracy where the entire nation was considered the people of God and God’s law regulated every area of life. There was no separation of religion and state in the OT. The political leader of the nation was also the spiritual leader of the nation. There was no freedom of religion. There was only one acceptable religion. This is not the case today as Jesus’ statement showed.
We believers are citizens of America and we have certain responsibilities to our government. We pay taxes over which the government has control and authority. We are also citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we have certain responsibilities to God over which the government has no control. Government can expect us to keep zoning laws for the public safety of our people. But if government starts telling believers what to believe and how to worship then as Peter said, “We ought to obey God and not man.” The first amendment reflects this truth: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What are the responsibilities of Believers in regard to Government?
1. Christians can Influence those in Government
Wayne Grudem lists many examples of Christians positively and significantly influencing government: “Christians influence on government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire in AD 374; outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died in AD 404….In England, William Wilberforce, a devout Christian, led the successful effort to abolish the slave trade and the slavery itself throughout the British Empire in 1840” (Politics: According to the Bible, pages 49-50).
Daniel rebuked King Nebuchadnezzar in 4:27. Jeremiah counseled believers in Babylon to “seek the welfare of the city” in 29:7. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and influenced the decision making. Moses boldly commanded Pharaoh in Egypt “Let my people go” in Ex. 8:1. John the Baptist rebuked Herod in Luke 3:18-20. Paul preached to Roman governor Felix in Acts 24:24-25.
2. Christians can pray for those in Government (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Paul teaches churches the responsibility to pray for political leaders from the president (“king”) on down. Paul did not mean we are pray just for presidents we like or voted into office. Who were the political leaders in Paul’s life? Felix and Festus the Roman governors. The Roman Emperor was Nero who martyred believers. Then Paul gives us the reason for praying for our political leaders. We should pray for our political leaders so “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” But hasn’t the church flourished under severe persecution? Did not the church decline spiritually when Constantine ended persecution against the church? Is not the church exploding in Communist China? The answer to all of these questions is “yes” and yet Paul exhorted believers to pray for their political leaders so that we wont have to be persecuted.
The reason why Paul wanted believers to pray for their political leaders was they could more easily give out the Gospel. Listen to this important point made by Paul in verses 3-6: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
E. V. Hill, the pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles who once served as a ward leader for the Democratic party. Hill’s assignment was to get out the vote for the Democratic candidates, and his chief strategy for doing this was to have a block captain for each block of his ward. On election day, the block captains were to contact each resident of their blocks to make sure they voted. When Hill came to Los Angeles and began pastoring the church, he was convicted by the thought, that if he did this for the Democrats, why shouldn’t he do it for God; why not have a Christian block captain for every block of Los Angeles? It was not as absurd as it sounded.
In E. V. Hill’s area of the city, south central Los Angeles, the number of city blocks was 3,100. That became the mission of this church. Church members moved into a block for this very purpose. The church adopted an attitude that they existed for the sake of the gospel.
Hill tells of a funny thing that happened on one occasion. One man had been very put off by the block captain where he lived. She was always inviting him to church and other meetings of the church – always friendly, but persistent. He decided to move. In fact, he decided to move to the other side of Los Angeles. The truck came. He loaded up his possessions. His block captain came out to say goodbye. The truck started off. But as soon as he was gone, the block captain went back into her house, got out the directory of the Mount Zion block captains, found the person in charge of the block to which her offended neighbor was moving, and when he got to his new area, there was the new block community captain standing on the street in front of his new home to welcome him and invite him to church. His comment was classic; he said, “My God, they’re everywhere” (Stephen Davey sermon on Romans 13).