God, Politics and Elections

We are getting near an election (but still waiting on Kevin to spill the beans as to when it actually will be), so once again I need to point out some basic truths concerning Christianity, politics, political parties and elections. Sadly there tends to be far too much fuzzy thinking here by many believers, so there is a regular need for an article like this.

Various myths and misconceptions abound, so we need to look at them carefully and critically. Let me list just a few of the more common ones:

Christians should not be involved in politics. Regrettably too many believers think that politics is a waste of time, and that we should not be interested in it. Where they got this idea is baffling, since it clearly is not biblical. God ordained the institution of the state, and by extension politics, and he expects believers to extend the Lordship of Christ into every part of His world.

Salt and light business extends to every sphere: the political, the social, the economic, the cultural, the legal, and so on. And just imagine if believers like Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr did stay out of the political process. We would all be worse off today.

But I have made this case often elsewhere, so let me direct you to a few articles for more detail on this:

We should seek to change hearts, not laws. This may sound nice and spiritual but it is really quite foolish. Of course Christianity is about changing hearts through the transforming power of the gospel. But it is also about having an impact on societies and cultures.

The Bible speaks a lot about godly governments, godly laws and godly rulers. These things should matter to us because they matter to God. A law will not save a person, but it will help to act in the restraint of evil. It is a good thing that we have enforceable laws against murder, theft and the like.

As but one example of this which I just read about today, in the US seventeen states have made it harder to get an abortion this year so far. That did not involve changing hearts – it involved changing legislation. But the fact that thousands of unborn babies might be saved as a result is something every single Christian should applaud and give thanks to God for.

Moreover, the flaw in the above reasoning is obvious: if laws do not matter at all, but only changed hearts, then if a town had only Christians it would throw out traffic lights, speed limits, and all other regulations. But even born-again believers are still fallen and still capable of doing evil. Laws are needed for all people – even God’s people. Simply look at God’s people in the Old Testament; they had plenty of laws.

So there is no conflict between having a heart devotion to God, and having external laws to help that internal relationship find concrete expression and parameters. Remember, “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), and that includes not just transformed lives but godly legislation. We need both.

Governments and politics are evil. This charge can come from various sorts of believers: those from the Anabaptist tradition who look down on politics and Christian involvement in the state; over-spiritualised believers who have no understanding of the need to be salt and light in this world; and libertarians.

The Anabaptists are a small minority in church history, and are welcome to their emphases, although I think they happen to be wrong on these matters. Those hyper-spiritual believers who pay no attention to things in this world are simply being irresponsible and unbiblical.

As to the radical libertarians on the right, they can often be indistinguishable from the radical anarchists on the left. Both despise government and statism. But they cannot be biblical Christians, since it is God who has willed the state, and established the institution of government to bring order and punish evil in a fallen world.

Sure, like other conservatives, I am certainly wary of big government and out of control statism, but I will not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. God has set up the state to administer justice and punish wrongdoers in this world, and we are to submit to the ruling powers.

Of course there may be times when the state orders a believer to do something he cannot in good conscience do, or forbids him from doing something he should do. In those cases there certainly is a biblical case for civil disobedience, as I discuss here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/02/christians-and-civil-disobedience/

And it is possible that a case can be made for a just revolution, but that case will be spelled out in a future article.

We have no real choice in this election. Far too many Christians will simply throw their hands up in the air and make silly claims like, “All parties are just as bad”. Well, they all have weaknesses and none will bring in the Kingdom, but there are nonetheless many differences which need to be noted.

Indeed, while it is of course true that no political party is perfect, or ever can be, it is also true that some parties are closer to – or further from – biblical ideals than others. For example it is the official Labor Party and Greens’ policy to have abortion on demand, and homosexual marriage. Neither one of these is part of the official party platform of the Liberals and Nationals.

Those are not the only issues of importance of course, but they are vital nonetheless, so the differences here really do matter. To help believers think more carefully here, a number of us put together a Christian Values Checklist before each election. Stay tuned, as that will be forthcoming.

And of course we must not discount the role of the smaller parties, such as Family First, the Christian Democratic Party (Australian Christians), the Democratic Labor Party, and Rise Up Australia. We already had FF for example hold the balance of power in the Senate for some time. While the great majority of the candidates in these smaller parties will not get in, their presence is important, and how their preferences are allocated also will be crucial.

In sum, much more could be said about all this. But Christians have a biblical obligation to be involved in the social and political issues of the day, and have an urgent role to play in the electoral process. We dare not waste our opportunities here. For example, I had one believer recently tell me he will just vote informally.

I told him that was a clear abdication of his Christian responsibility. I too may not like all the choices available to us here. I too know the many weaknesses of the Liberals and Nationals. I too know that the Kingdom will not be ushered in at the next election.

But I know that we are all called to be salt and light, and I know that God will not hold us guiltless if we fail in our Christian responsibilities here. So vote carefully, vote wisely, vote biblically, and vote prayerfully. That is the very least any Christian can do.


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21 Replies to “God, Politics and Elections”

  1. Australian Christians have even less excuse than American ones for not voting. Thanks to Australia’s superior preferential voting system, Christians have the option of voting for a Christian minor party without it being a wasted vote, since the second or third preference can go to the far less evil of the major parties (the Coalition).

    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  2. Hi Bill, with all the smog of personal vitriol obscuring Party policies, I look forward to reading a Christian Values Checklist. It should be interesting and informative reading. I appreciate the effort to compose such a list.

    On another note, you stated: “A law will not save a person, but it will help to act in the restraint of evil.”

    I recently heard an argument defending SSM which used the premise in the quote above; in effect that: if homosexuals are allowed to marry then they can have a monogamous relationship which is not currently afforded them. Their “evil” is therefore “curtailed”, so to speak.

    The argument did cause me pause, but upon reflection made me realise that “pulling marriage down to their level doesn’t lift them up to our level”. I suppose it’s also a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” type argument, too.

    I would be interested in reading your take on that argument.

    Matthew Patchon

  3. Thanks Matthew. But my point and their point has absolutely nothing in common – just apples and oranges here. I of course deal with this in my two books on this topic so you might turn there.

    But I offer here are some brief truths:
    -most homosexuals do not want marriage
    -those who do admit it will be very different to what we mean by marriage
    -monogamy is very rare in the homosexual community
    -marriage has absolutely nothing to do with sodomy

    But as I say I document all this carefully in my books.

    Thus there is no curtailing of evil here whatsoever. All that SSM does is further legitimise and encourage a dangerous and high-risk lifestyle, and further undermine and destroy marriage.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Hi Bill,

    I have added this blog to my list here: http://tinyurl.com/scpmix

    I hope that Australian Christians will heed your call.

    Jonathan Sarfarti’s point on voting is available in some elections in Scotland, but Christians are very slow on the uptake.

    Every blessing in promoting Christ’s Lordship,

    Dr Donald Boyd,
    Leader of the Scottish Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”

  5. Dear Bill, With our voting system, voting informal is a vote for the present Government. Christians must become aware of which political candidates support traditional family values, and which candidates will make a mockery of them, and use their vote wisely.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  6. Hi Bill, thanks for the reply. It was a while ago that I read a borrowed copy of Strained Relations and couldn’t remember the detail of your key points. I need to buy a reference copy for myself 🙂

    As yet I haven’t seen it become available as an Ebook. Is that likely to happen?

    Also, you have mentioned previously that you are writing a new book. When will that hit the shelves?

    Matthew Patchon

  7. Bill,

    From a Catholic perspective – recent comments from Pope Francis:

    The one adult — a Spanish and religion teacher — who asked the pope a question, wondered what kind of role, if any, Catholics should play in politics.

    The pope said Catholics have “an obligation to get involved in politics.”

    “We can’t play the role of Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of it,” he said. “Politics is one of the highest forms of charity because it seeks the common good.”

    He said those who complain that politics is “too dirty” should ask themselves why. Perhaps it’s “because Christians haven’t gotten involved with an evangelical spirit.”

    It’s easy to blame others, he said, but people need to ask themselves: “Me? What am I doing” about it?”

    Source: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1302499.htm

    Cheers, Gerard Calilhanna

  8. The “just change the heart” theory fails the test of Biblical orthodoxy, too.

    God saves us to do good work (or “good works”) which He has prepared for us. The good work doesn’t save us, but then neither does sitting on our hands singing praises to God until He comes again to rescue us from the mess we’re in.

    It’s not a contrast of either
    “be saved” or “work”
    “be saved so you can work”

    John Angelico

  9. Francis Schaeffer discusses civil disobedience in his book “A Christian Manifesto”.

    Geoff English

  10. I know that I will not be voting Labour or Greens and actually have told Senator Hanson-Young that whilst I admire her passion on asylum seekers and support it, I will not vote for an anti-Christian anti-life party such as hers.

    Wayne Pelling

  11. I’m not quite sure that getting Rudd back as PM was not simply swapping the librarian for the head master. I mean how big a stick is he going to beat us over the back side with. His grande proposals sound as hollow as my last root canal. People who are not taken in by his glib rhetoric are frightened that this sybarite pretender intends to build pyramid power for himself. I guess we may not turn out to be such a lucky country down the trail.

    Michael Mercier

  12. Wayne, given that you have identified Senator Hanson-Young’s Greens Party as anti-Christian, and anti-life, you might venture to hazard a guess as to the real reasons for her concern for asylum-seekers.

    Dunstan Hartley

  13. Thank you, Bill, for your timely and forthright stand. I am about to forward this on to as many friends as I can. I am deeply concerned about our country of Australia. How much we need a united Christian voice!
    Is there anywhere where we can find out how to pray more effectively / intelligently for Australia?

    Ruth Ferguson

  14. Thanks Ruth. Various groups like Salt Shakers, FamilyVoice, and others would have prayer points about the political and social issues of the day.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Deception is even with leaders and moral crusaders. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Be careful of leaders living in the act of sin, adultery. Its called ‘deception’.
    Judith Bond

  16. Matthew, if I may comment on your first post. It is not the lack of monogamous relationships among the the homosexual community that makes homosexuality wrong, but the act itself. To legitimise these relationships by marriage would be like connecting 2 male or 2 female power plugs with sticky tape and bid them conduct electricity.
    It is astonishing how deeply ingrained certain teachings can stay in people even after they long have left the denomination that teaches such things. I have a friend who came out of the closed brethren movement and though she has rejected so many of their practices as false and unbiblical and no longer belongs to them, she still believes that it is wrong to be involve in politics. Makes you want to pull your hair out sometimes seeing all that potential to making a fundamental difference in this nation for good simply through the democratic process go down the gurgler just because thinking people just don’t think enough or not the right way or something.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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