Leading up to Tuesday’s elections here in the United States, I often used this blog and Facebook to urge Christians to vote. (See Does Jesus Want You to Vote?)
When I did, I always got heated push back – mainly from other Christians who oppose Biblical civic engagement.
Generally, they think God is only interested our personal relationships with Him, or that He is solely focused on the Church.
In effect, they believe that He has ceded His authority to Satan by withdrawing from everything else – thus adopting a gnostic worldview which says we should only focus on “spiritual” things (which are good) and avoid corrupting ourselves by seeking to redeem any aspect of the “world” (which to them is always evil).
Troubled At First
At first, this bothered me. Scripture clearly tells us that Jesus – as our risen Lord – in fact has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18); has ordained civil government for the benefit of society, defines its proper responsibilities, and says that its officials are to be His “ministers” in fulfilling those responsibilities (Rom. 13:1-7); and that we are to go and redeem not just individuals but “nations” (actually, “cultures” in the original Greek) (Matt. 28:19-20).
But then it dawned on me: Many of those Christians who oppose redemptive civic engagement also tout an existentialist theology which rejects the plenary authority of scripture as the written Word of God. The strong correlation between the one position, and the other, was stunning.
The more I thought about it, their dismissive attitude towards voting made sense. If everything for them is defined by and limited to their personal perception of Jesus – rooted in their own sensibilities rather submitting to His authoritative Word of scripture – then logically their faith has no practical relevance outside themselves and their typically insular, anemic fellowships.
From their viewpoint, why vote if you have no answers, apart from your existentialism, for the issues confronting a world that Christ yet loves and died to redeem – including the institutions He ordained in scripture, like civil government?
Sometimes I can be dense, but finally it dawned on me: It makes no sense to urge them to vote.
Beyond their limited existential perception of Christ, rooted in their postmodern sensibilities, they don’t see scripture as containing authoritative propositional truths that are relevant for all spheres of human endeavor, culture and society.
Thus, if they were to vote, they would be voting their postmodern sensibilities instead of being engaged in the hard job of seeking to understand and apply His precepts, as revealed in scripture, to all of life.
Yup, sometimes I’m dense – but I eventually realized that it’s a GOOD thing they don’t vote or otherwise seek to influence civil government. For the good of the nation, let them stay safely ensconced in their insular, existential cocoons!
Peace and Gratitude
Finally, I want to express my gratitude for those who care enough to vote or otherwise redemptively engage your culture and your nation in whatever ways are available to you.
In Tuesday’s election here in the United States, none of the candidates I voted for won, but that’s OK and I am totally a peace with the outcome.
I know that God remains sovereign over the nations and will honor – in His own ways according to His own purposes and in His own timing – the faithful obedience of His people as they seek to extend the blessings of His Kingdom and His precepts even to the kingdoms of this world.
He only calls me to obey, as best I know how, and then trust the rest to Him.
- The Cultural Implications of the Great Commission (crossroadjunction.com)
- Postmodern Idolatry (crossroadjunction.com)
I really think you are stuck in your mindset Jim. You too easily dismiss those who disagree with you and it seems you have a hard time admitting you may be wrong in your interpretation of scripture and in judging the hearts of those who may disagree with you. I don’t think they’re gnostics – – but realists who see this present world system as in the hands of the enemy. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19. Preaching the gospel and living it out in front of those around you is what is important, and I’m afraid the church in America is for the most part not doing this. No one has said the church should not engage the culture – – but that political action will not bring the solution to this nation’s problem. The problem is spiritual – – not political. No one told you not to vote according to your conscience. It is your decision to be a politcal activist, but dismissing those who don’t agree with you and labelling them gnostics who don’t take the scriptures seriously is just WRONG. Please do not make false accusations against those who made a decision not to vote, according to their conscience.
A main element of gnosticism is the dualism that separates the “spiritual” from the rest of God’s creation. It says He is interested and engaged in the former, but not the latter, and we should also focus on the “spiritual” but not the “secular”. This is the root argument typically under girding the theology of those who refuse to see the authoritative relevance of scripture to all spheres of life – even though the application of Biblical precepts is always consensual.
Gnosticism is a legitimate definitional descriptor for actual theological positions, and it certainly applies here. As I say in the blog, there is a high correlation between those who hold such views and those who oppose voting – but it is not a 100% correlation, for sure.
Politics and voting will not solve all problems, but they are legitimate aspects of how God has graciously permitted Christians to influence our nation here in the United States for the blessings of all.
If your conscience is not Biblically informed enough to allow for the legitimacy of others redemptively laboring on His behalf in all spheres of life, and does not allow you to go and make a difference in the civic arena through the simple act of voting, then by all means – DON’T VOTE!
Like I say in the blog, I’m glad you don’t. 😉
In the meantime, I accept you as a brother, and I accept your liberty of conscience, but I nonetheless will remain an advocate for engaging our culture based on Christ’s command to “go” and based on the concurrent propositional truths He reveals in His written Word of scripture.
I also believe in engaging the culture – – and I have voted in the past. I was a solid supporter of Ronald Reagan and voted for him twice. In my opinion, he was a great President. But I now believe the nation is on a path of destruction and politcal action will not reverse that. Like I said, the church’s main task is to preach the gospel and live it out in front of the nation and culture they find themselves in. We should focus on this and exhort the church to be real witnesses to the reality of God’s kingdom. At this stage, trying to bring about change through politcal activism is futile and wrongly focused.
Thanks Gerhard. For me, fortunately, it doesn’t have to be either/or.
Once again, I think you are using a particularly small sample of people who have a certain doctrine and extrapolating something from that. I and many of my friends are passionate about the outcome of these elections, and don’t believe the same things as you do about the Bible. I voted, my friends voted.
Also, I wonder if you are confusing people who “don’t believe in the plenary inspiration of the Bible” and those who don’t believe that “the Bible is the Word of God.” I believe it is inspired, I don’t believe it is “the Word.” Most people I know who believe one of these things or the other have such nuanced views….but you are treating with a very broad brush, which is not fair to your opponents. I completely share your concerns that some people in the organic church movement tend to be existentialists, as you put it. I know what you mean about that. Please stop mischaracterizing the positions of all those who do not view the Bible exactly the way you do.
Those who reject scripture as the written Word of God always tout their view that it is “inspired”, and affirm that they hold it in “high regard”. But I have yet to find any of them who affirm that scripture has plenary authority – i.e., that we must fully submit our doctrines, opinions, beliefs, actions and even our perceptions of Christ to scripture. Rather, they promote their existential views of Christ, or some other pet issue like grace, over scripture – especially where scripture does not fully conform to their views.
Maybe there are some who reject scripture as the written Word of God yet affirm its plenary authority, but I’ve yet to find them or read a single blog or book explaining how that is even possible.
I’m sorry that articulating this clear contrast is offensive, but it is a real issue that needs to faced by the Body of Christ – organic or otherwise.
Finally, I am NOT saying in the blog that every Christian who disagrees with voting rejects the plenary authority of scripture or is trapped in existential theology. For sure, that’s NOT the case.
Rather, among those who do reject the plenary authority of scripture and promote an existential theology, there is a high correlation with also rejecting civic engagement – including voting.
Might I also add…
The view that Christians should not vote, not become engaged in “worldly government” is not a view that is in any way shape or form the domain of the relatively new “organic church movement” or those who do not have a traditional view of Scripture. Thousands and thousands of Anabaptists – Mennonites, Amish, etc….have long held that Christians should abstain from governmental affairs. These churches have an incredibly strong view of the inspiration and importance of Scripture, and they see it as the Word of God completely.
I agree with your historical observation, and my blog was not directed at the organic church movement – even though may active proponents of cultural disengagement are found there. Fortunately, they are decreasing in their influence.
I’m not sure why you think they are losing their influence – if anything, “peace churches” seem to be on the rise. Maybe it’s a geographical thing.
Thanks Jim. Good insights.
As you know, I didn’t agree with you on the issue of voting. I do not fit in at all with any of the categories you say I do as listed above. I have discovered over the months I have been reading you, that I agree with pretty well everything that you say…except this one issue. Five years ago I would have agreed with you, or at least not disagreed. But the day is shortening and I believe we must become focussed. Rom 13 tells us exactly what is true about governments, of course. But it does not tell us two important things. It does not tell us to become political, and it does not tell us to vote. My neighbour is a British MP (your equivalent to a congressman, I think…?) his agenda is very different to mine. And yours! He ‘does not do God’..he sees the state as secular. He is an atheist, as are most of his mates. I pray for him. Ifollow what he is doing and saying I email him my views from the scriptures. So far he ignores me. That’s OK….but I won’t stop….God bless you Jim..still love you to bits, and keep provoking me to good works…!
Thanks, Alan. Your push back on my views on Facebook regarding this issue have always been civil – and I value that. These are topics worthy of debate as we sharpen each other.
Although I agree that political action is not the solution, and spiritual awakening is, I still believe it is my civic duty, at the very least, to vote. I spoke to a young woman the other day who came to the United States as a student from Africa, and she said that American politics intrigued her. I asked her why, and her answer stunned me…”because leadership change occurs without violence.” Wow. And to think people choose not to vote?
Donna – – I encourage you to watch the last episode of Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live” entitled “Final Choices.” I believe he had prophetic insight to what is happening. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_MMYnGrXQ4 I also encourage you to watch constitutional law Professor Jonathon Turley’s interview on C-Span to gain some insights on some of the things that are happening in this nation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slOmhjiRNFE&feature=related
Hmmm… Having worked indirectly with Schaeffer back in the day, I think I can say with total confidence that although he was very prophetic, he NEVER would have advocated cultural disengagement. In fact, his whole life was to the contrary.
I never said he advocated cultural disengagement and once again – – I am not advocating total cultural disengagement.
OK. Thanks for clarifying. I stand corrected.
Donna – – in addition to the previous recommendations – – I should have also recommended a very good book to you by Derek Prince. “Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting.” Shalom!
Anyone know of an “ESSENE COMMUNITY” I can join??
I do not write as well as many of your other posters so I will just say Interesting post. All my guys/girls lost too. I do believe the church needs to be more active in forming government and should start today.
I’m not sure the “church” should be doing that, but the church nonetheless is commanded to equip God’s people to service – each according to their gifts and callings (Eph. 4). Thus, those called to political office, civic engagement, and the like should be encouraged to do so, and equipped with solid Biblical foundations.
The church also should equip God’s people to understand the proper role of civil government as defined in scripture, so we all can make informed votes.
Jim – – could you please explain what “the proper role of civil government as defined in scripture” is, as you understand it?
“Finally, I want to express my gratitude for those who care enough to vote or otherwise redemptively engage your culture and your nation in whatever ways are available to you.”
Yes there are many ways to engage and influence a nation. Voting is an act of conscience especially when no candidates represent values and policies we support.
I have a lot of respect for christians that get their hands dirty in politics and public service… but then I also respect those that engage and influence through a form of disengagement or separation and protest. We can all learn from each other as no path is perfect.
As you’ve said before it comes down to whether we try to make our path normative for all.
As to the ‘proper role of civil government’… the reality is that this side of the age to come christians will always disagree on what that looks like, that much is certain.