I’m about to review a book that’s about politics in the Bible, but before I continue, let me clarify something. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I’m a Christian. I don’t belong to either party. I belong to Christ. I am very skeptical of the “Christians” who run for office because too many people wear the name tag on their shirts, but they don’t wear it on their hearts. I don’t believe that Christians are limited to either party. I don’t believe that people will go to Hell just because they’re Republican. And I don’t believe they go to Hell just because they’re Democrat. People go to Hell because they deny Christ.
More than any other time in recent history, the political atmosphere is tense and divisive. Even among Christians, there isn’t unity. Should Christians own guns or not? Should illegal immigration be legalized or not? Is it okay to be gay or not?
Every area of debate brings up dissension between Christians. But should it? We trust in the same Jesus for our salvation. We read and study the same Bible. So why do we come to such radically different conclusions on political policies?
When it comes to politics, how should we think? Obviously we shouldn’t put our trust in the words of politicians. Politicians are fallible human beings. Instead, we have an infallible guide to help us: the Bible. The Bible is the foundation of everything we think and do, and it’s no different when it comes to politics. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16ff, emphasis mine). With the Holy Spirit’s help, we are able to learn what God wants us to believe politically, and ultimately, show us how to vote.
However, to study the entire Bible on our own to draw our own political conclusions is quite the task. It’d probably take a lifetime. But that’s why Wayne Grudem wrote this book.
If you’ve heard of Wayne Grudem before, it’s no surprise. He’s was the general editor of the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible and author of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine*. But he doesn’t only write about the Bible and theology. He also writes about the practical application of biblical teachings. The Bible doesn’t only pertain to our personal and church life. It’s practical in every aspect of our lives – including we vote.
Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture* is exactly what it says it is. It surely is a comprehensive resource. Even though I read through it, I wouldn’t recommend it as a “read through” type of book. It is much more effective as a resource to continue to return to. When a political topic arises that you have questions about, then be sure to have this readily available.
In this book, Dr. Grudem covers all current political topics that you can imagine. But before he starts to argue his political viewpoints, he makes the argument that Christian political involvement is important. However, Christianity should never be forced on someone. He says,
“But while Christians [use their beliefs and values to] exercise this [government] influence, they must simultaneously insist on protecting freedom of religion for all citizens. In addition, ‘significant influence’ does not mean angry, belligerent, intolerant judgmental, red-faced, and hate-filled influence, but rather winsome, kind, thoughtful, loving, persuasive influence that is suitable to each circumstance and that always protects the other person’s right to disagree, but that is also uncompromising about the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word.”Politics According to the Bible* (p. 55)
So a Christian influenced government doesn’t compel people to become Christians. It actually does the opposite. A Christian influenced government gives individuals freedom and protects their freedom to accept or reject Christianity. It also welcomes and protects the freedom to practice other religions. The one thing it doesn’t compromise on is whatever the Bible teaches. This means that you have the freedom to be a Muslim, or Buddhist, or Atheist, but murder is wrong because the Bible teaches that it’s wrong.
He also addresses some of the current problems of our current government. For instance (I didn’t realize this until I read this book), but it appears that Supreme Court Justices have ultimate power in our government. Because they have unlimited power, they have ultimate authority. They shouldn’t have it, but they do. Even though they don’t have the power to write laws (that’s Congress’ job), they write laws. Even though they don’t have the power to put the laws into effect (that’s the President’s job), they do. Furthermore, they’re not appointed by the people, but by the sitting President. And when they’re appointed as a Justice, they’re appointed for life. Congress can’t get rid of them. The next President can’t get rid of them. And the people can’t vote them out of office. For a government that’s supposed to be chosen by the people, this is a problem.
Grudem continues by addressing 40+ specific political issues of today, including:
- Gun rights
- Foreign Policy
- School Voucher Programs
- Economic Policy
- Freedom of Speech
The list is really too long for me to write out in its entirety. But if you can think of an issue, he’s probably written about it.
On each issue, he argues what Christians should believe. He uses a mixture of Scripture, judicial cases, expert quotes, and reason to make his argument. At the end of the book, he makes his case on how these viewpoints can be practically applied.
Now, the big question is: In order to be a Christian, do you have to agree with everything in this book?
We are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone, according to Scripture alone. We aren’t saved by our politics. Instead, our politics are shaped by our faith in Christ. There are some issues that, when viewed through a biblical lens, are non-negotiable because the issue is such an integral part of Christianity that the two cannot be separated. Issues like that are moral issues that have been dressed up as political issues. However, most of these issues are not integral to Christianity. But, we are at the point now when these integral parts of Christianity are being undermined and disguised as a “personal right.”
Personally, I think some of his arguments are a little flimsy. One that stuck out was when he is arguing about gun rights and their use for self-defense, he cites Luke 22:36-38:
“He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.’ And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough”
Grudem argues that what Jesus’ response meant “Two swords are enough swords.” But in the rest of the New Testament and early church history, there isn’t any indication that anyone used weapons in self-defense. When the disciples and early Christians were persecuted, I’ve never heard of them ever resisting. Even though I agree with Grudem about gun rights and self-defense, I’m not convinced that this particular Scripture passage encourages it.
The point is, whether you want more restrictions or more freedom concerning gun ownership, your salvation is not at stake. If you don’t agree with him on every single detail, that doesn’t mean you’re not a genuine Christian.
Despite not agreeing with Grudem on every single detail, I do think this is an excellent book for all Christians. It encourages Christians to be involved in the democratic political process (whether it’s being an informed voter or running for public office), and it helps Christians refine their worldview.
So whether you just have questions about a policy, or if you’re developing your worldview to line up with the Bible, this is a good, practical book.
Other books by Wayne Grudem:
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