Reviews

Three Books on Politics

by Wayne Grudem, Carl R. Trueman, Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner

November 15, 2010

Three Books On Politics [PDF]

Wayne Grudem. Politics—According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 619 pp. $39.99.

Carl R. Trueman. Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2010. xxvii + 110 pp. $9.99.

Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner. City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era. Edited by Timothy Keller and Collin Hansen. Cultural Renewal. Chicago: Moody, 2010. 140 pp. $19.99.

Evangelical publishers released three new books on politics this fall, and they are sure to stir up controversy. People will invariably react differently to them because people have diverse worldviews and life-experiences. If a man works all day in a cubicle next to obnoxious, non-intellectual, right-wing conspiracy-theorists whose primary source of political information comes from opinionators like Glenn Beck, he might be sick of politics and be tempted to vote Democrat in protest! On the other hand, if he rarely interacts with people like that and instead regularly reads the best of conservative politics (e.g., National Review), he might feel insulted when someone from the Left broadly attacks the entire Right without engaging the best conservative arguments (this partially explains our evaluation of Carl Trueman’s book!). Some people despise how they were politically indoctrinated while growing up and predictably rebel by voting the other way. Others remain immovably committed to a particular political party because of a vivid event or experience that happened decades ago. Some Christians are discouraged by how their churches elevate politics while others are discouraged by how their churches never say a word about any issue that is remotely political. Some have given up on politics altogether. But nearly everyone has an opinion about politics, so writing about both religion and politics is a recipe for wrangling.

1. Wayne Grudem, Politics

This is a 600-page textbook on politics by a theologian who has taught the Bible on the MDiv and PhD levels for nearly thirty years, first focusing on the New Testament and then branching out to systematic theology. Grudem’s book focuses on politics in the United States, but much of the book applies internationally. His positions are “conservative” (not “liberal”) and line up for the most part with the Republican Party, but his “primary purpose” is “to explain a biblical worldview and a biblical perspective on issues of politics, law, and government” (p. 13).[1]

1.1. Tracing the Argument

The book has three parts: basic principles (chs. 1–5), specific issues (chs. 6–15), and concluding observations (chs. 16–18). This section surveys each chapter’s argument:

1. Five views about Christians and government are wrong: (a) government should compel religion; (b) government should exclude religion; (c) all government is evil and demonic; (d) do evangelism, not politics; and (e) do politics, not evangelism.

2. Christians should significantly influence government. Pastors in particular are responsible to teach wisely on political issues.

3. There are many biblical principles concerning government. For example, government should punish evil and encourage good, and citizens should obey government except in certain circumstances.

4. A biblical worldview is foundational to a proper view of politics.

5. The single most pressing political issue in the United States is whether the courts should have ultimate power. The role of judges is to judge laws according to the Constitution, not to make laws. But Supreme Court justices, who are not accountable to anyone, are now creating laws based on their own ideas of what is good for the nation (e.g., Roe v. Wade) instead of interpreting and applying the Constitution’s original intent. “Voting for Republican candidates for state and national positions is the best way—in fact, the only way known to me—to bring about a change and break the rule of unaccountable judges over our society” (p. 154).

6. Government should protect life by prohibiting abortion and euthanasia, enforcing capital punishment, and allowing citizens to own guns. “Every vote for every Democratic candidate for President or Congress undeniably has the effect of continuing to protect 1,000,000 abortions per year in the United States” (p. 177).

7. Government should define marriage as between only one man and woman.

8. Parents, not government, are primarily responsible for their children. Government should support parents with school vouchers and the freedom to discipline their children.

9. Capitalism is the best economic system. The United States would benefit from fewer and lower taxes, gradually privatized Social Security, and privatized health care.

10. Radical environmentalism is wrong. “There is no good reason to think we will ever run out of any essential natural resource” (p. 329, emphasis in original). We should use a variety of energy resources (including oil and nuclear power), and government should not regulate carbon fuel because man-made global warming is unproven and unlikely and because the proposed solutions that accompany it are destructive for our economy and liberty.

11. Nations must defend themselves with military power in “just wars” (e.g., the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting international terrorism). The United States should have a strong military (including nuclear weapons and a missile-defense system), support the CIA, and allow coercive interrogations of prisoners with certain limits.

12. A nation’s foreign policy should primarily protect and defend that nation and secondarily do good for other nations by, for example, promoting freedom and human rights. The Obama administration has unwisely encouraged enemies (e.g., Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela) and undermined friends (e.g., Colombia, Honduras, and Israel). The United States should minimize the influence of the United Nations because it is corrupt and dominated by anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-democratic countries. “We should treat Israel as a very special and close ally” (p. 467). The United States should close the borders and reform the immigration system.

13. Campaign-finance reform, “hate speech” codes, and the “fairness doctrine” wrongly restrict the freedom of speech.

14. Government should allow people to freely express their religion in the public square to a greater degree, continue “faith-based” programs, and not restrict tax-exempt entities like churches from advocating specific political candidates.

15. Government should stop favoring special groups through earmarks, affirmative action, gender-based quotas, farm subsidies, tariffs, tort law, the National Education Association, reservations for Native Americans, and gambling.

16. The mainstream media is strongly biased against conservatives and in favor of liberals, which is “like having a country protected by watchdogs that cannot bark” (p. 571).

17. “The teachings of the Bible, as I understand them, mostly support the current policies of the Republicans” (pp. 573–74). (This nineteen-page chapter summarizes the conclusions in chapters 5–16 and compares current Democratic and Republican policies for each issue.)

18. Christians should trust God’s sovereignty over politics. In the United States there are both negative signs of God’s impending judgment and positive signs of God’s blessing.

1.2. Strengths

1. Politics is shrewdly Bible-based. Grudem presents biblical arguments well and usefully distinguishes them from extra-biblical ones. Christian readers will want to know both sorts of arguments so that they know what the Bible teaches and ways they should advance that in the public square.

2. Grudem qualifies that the Bible does not explicitly address some of the issues he addresses. For example, he begins chapter 15 (which addresses specific political issues like farm subsidies) with an important caveat:

These issues all involve the general question, “What is the best way to do good for the nation in this area of its life?” Therefore the answers I give do not come directly from moral principles of the Bible or from biblical teachings that speak directly to the issue, but instead from an evaluation of whether a certain policy truly fulfills the government purpose of doing good for the nation as a whole. This chapter discusses issues where a proper decision depends on evaluating the results of certain policies and actions. . . .

Therefore this chapter covers topics in which even Christians who fully believe the Bible will probably find that they have more sincerely held differences of opinion. When I argue for or against a policy based on the results of that policy, people will differ about exactly what the results are, how helpful or harmful they are, and what the results would be from changing the policy. In the nature of that kind of argument, there are going to be different evaluations and different proposed solutions.

To put it briefly, these topics are less directly based on specific teachings of Scripture, and therefore I think that in churches, people should be willing to hear and evaluate arguments from different sides, all within the broad parameters of encouraging government to seek the good of the nation as a whole. (pp. 513–14, emphasis in original)

3. Politics, a reference-work, is organized very clearly with an outline-style similar to Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

4. Politics is accessible. It makes complicated issues easy to understand. It could be a textbook for a freshman college course, and many high-school students could handle it.

5. Grudem argues clearly and succinctly. His arguments are easy to follow.

6. In most cases Grudem argues persuasively (at least to us!). For a young person (or an older person taking a fresh interest in politics), this book is a healthy corrective to the inculcated biases of the education and media establishment.

7. The book’s breadth and depth are impressive.

8. Grudem’s tone is civil and his argumentation respectable.

1.3. Weaknesses

1. Grudem does not always clarify the relative importance of the sixty issues he discusses. He acknowledges, “I do not hold with equal confidence every position I support in this book,” and he distinguishes three tiers of importance: (1) issues on which “the overall teaching of the Bible is clear, direct, and decisive,” such as abortion; (2) issues that “depend on arguments from broader principles,” such as democracy; and (3) arguments that “appeal to facts in the world,” such as economics and environmentalism. But he admits that in the book, “I have not distinguished these three types of argument” (pp. 18–19, emphasis in original). The book would be better if he did. In this sense the book’s title is misleading because it over-promises; it implies that there is one “biblical” position on each political issue, but the Bible does not clearly address some of the issues this book discusses. To Grudem’s credit, he acknowledges this in some places (see strength #2 above), but the general tone of the book is that the positions it advocates are what the Bible teaches either directly or by implication. But there is a big difference between what the Bible explicitly teaches and what the Bible might imply in a specific circumstance; there is no room for disagreement on the former, but there is on the latter.

2. Some arguments are not supported convincingly. For example, he cites correlations that do not prove causality: (1) the United States should return prayer to public schools because the seven leading school problems in 1940 are mundane compared to 1990 (pp. 505–7); (2) “our children are growing fatter and lazier and less adventuresome every year as a result” of our society fearing lawsuits and making everything “excessively safe” (p. 542, emphasis added).

3. Some sections of the book depend heavily if not solely on just one or two sources (e.g., pp. 401–9; cf. 332–61).

1.4. Verdict

The book’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Politics is wide-ranging, so nearly everyone will disagree with something in it. But as Grudem has done with other massive projects and complicated subjects,[2] he has once again served the church well by producing a relatively comprehensive tome that is clear, accessible, and persuasive.

2. Carl Trueman, Republocrat

This is a 137-page paperback on politics by a British historical theologian who immigrated to the United States in 2001, so it is not surprising that Trueman’s book frequently contrasts politics in the United States with the United Kingdom. He disagrees with both the Left and Right on various issues—he is pro-life and anti-gay marriage (like most Republicans) and favors gun control and nationalized health care (like most Democrats)—and he considers himself an unusually consistent political liberal. He started out as a political conservative in the 1980s in Britain, but he switched his allegiance to the Liberal Democrats by 1997 initially because of political corruption but more substantially for philosophical reasons (pp. xxi–xxiv). He writes this book against what he calls the background of “my own disillusion with the Right and subsequent move” to the Left (p. xxv). Trueman’s target audience in this book is people who are both religiously and politically conservative. And in this case “target” isn’t a bad metaphor.

2.1. Tracing the Argument

Trueman explicitly states his thesis three times: “religious conservatism does not demand unconditional political conservatism (p. xvii); “conservative Christianity does not require conservative politics or conservative cultural agendas” (p. xix); and “Politics in democracy is a whole lot more complicated than either political parties or your pastor tell you it is; treat it as such—learn about the issues and think for yourself ” (p. xxvi).

The six chapters of Republocrat “do not form a particularly sustained and sequential argument, but can be read in isolation, as snapshot reflections upon the connections between the Christian religion and politics as I see it in my own life in the USA context” (p. xxvi). Here is what each chapter argues:

1. The Old Left’s emphasis on ameliorating economic oppression was superseded by the New Left’s fusion of Marx and Freud that focuses on “psychological oppression.” As a result, “the Left has lost its way and is barely worthy of support these days” (p. 1). Trueman has “no political place to call home” because he is a pre-1950s liberal. Special-interest groups have hijacked the Left and eclipsed “the things I hold dear as important political issues—poverty, sanitation, housing, unemployment, hunger” (pp. 1–2). The Left is “supposed to provide a voice to the voiceless,” but abortion is one of their nonnegotiable pillars even though unborn children are “the most voiceless of all” (pp. 12–15; cf. 93).

2. Even though much of American politics is “explicitly religious” (p. 21), at heart it is just as secular as in Britain. The difference is that American politics expresses secularity with “religious idioms” (p. 23) in at least four ways: (1) many Christians assume that health, wealth, and happiness demonstrate that God is pleased with them; (2) their mindset about their “rights” carries over into the church, where church discipline is passé and people distrust authority and avoid commitment (pp. 28–32); (3) The Patriot’s Bible and LaHaye and Jenkins’s Left Behind series are examples of a heretical tendency to identify “America with God’s special people” (pp. 32–34); and (4) many Christians are obsessed with Christian celebrities.

3. Fox News is as evil and biased as the liberal media, and many Christians are foolishly oblivious to this. Arguments by Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are logically fallacious drivel. Rupert Murdoch, the wicked, greedy owner of Fox News, has conspired to undermine the family by airing The Simpsons during the typical family dinner time at 6 p.m. “Christians should be eclectic in their approach” to news-listening and avoid “those whose stock-in-trade are clichés, slander, and lunatic conspiracy theories” (pp. 56, 59).

4. Capitalism is at this point in history the least evil option for wealth-creation, but others may replace and improve it in the future. Christians should be wary of capitalism for at least ten reasons (pp. 71–78).

5. “Democracy as it currently exists addresses very complicated questions, but does so through a system (the party framework) and a culture (televisual and aesthetic) that militate against addressing the issues with the seriousness and subtlety they require” (p. 98). All Christians should “feel pain when they mark the relevant box, knowing the trade-offs they are having to make as they do so, and how their action belies the complexity of reality” (p. 83).

6. Democratic governments do not change much from election to election, despite what candidates and parties promise. There is not “an obviously ‘Christian’ position” on issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, trade unions, rates of taxation, gun control, defense spending, financial regulation, and education (pp. 107–8; cf. 18).

The danger in taking strong political positions on these issues, and, even worse, partisan politics, is that the church will ultimately exclude those who do indeed believe the gospel and who should therefore be included. . . .

It is my belief that the identification of Christianity, in its practical essence, with very conservative politics will, if left unchallenged and unchecked, drive away a generation of people who are concerned for the poor, for the environment, for foreign-policy issues. (pp. 108–9)

2.2. Strengths

1. Republocrat shares the same strength of Trueman’s other writings: entertaining wit. He is never boring. Some sections of Republocrat arouse chortles:

I was rapidly disabused of my self-image as a moderate. On one of my very first Sundays in the USA, I was engaged in a conversation with a friend over coffee after church, and mentioned in passing what great work I thought the Clintons had done in Ulster. I might as well have said that Jack the Ripper had really helped to make the streets of London safe for women and children. I was given the full forty-minute “truth about Billary” lecture, and left the building in no doubt that the Clintons were, after Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, probably the most dangerous and wicked leaders in the history of world politics. (p. xxiv)

Most of us have come across those evangelicals who, in reaction to the Religious Right, like to parade the fact they vote Democratic in a kind of schoolboyish “Aren’t I naughty?” kind of way. It’s often an empty gesture, a kind of theological vegetarianism; vegetarians do something that costs them nothing, but my, oh my, does it not make them feel morally superior to the rest of us. (p. 15)

I also have no problem with outrageous overstatement to make a point, no doubt being guilty of it myself on various occasions. (p. 43)

2. Trueman’s primary motivation for writing Republocrat is honorable: he believes “that the evangelical church in America is in danger of alienating a significant section of its people, particularly younger people, through too tight a connection between conservative party politics and Christian fidelity” (p. xx). Readers will have vastly different senses for the degree to which conservatives need Trueman’s challenges (based largely on their worldviews and life-experiences), but few would disagree that some religious conservatives tie conservative politics to their theology in unwise, embarrassing, and idolatrous ways.

3. Trueman’s outsider’s perspective adds some provocative insights about connections between religion and politics in America (e.g., chaps. 2 and 4).

We like Carl. He is on the side of the angels. We profit immensely from reading his essays at Reformation 21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals, and his editorials in Themelios. Nevertheless (you knew an adversative was coming), Republocrat has some weaknesses.

2.3. Weaknesses

Trueman admits, “I am simply delighted that I will disappoint so many different groups of people in such a comprehensive manner” (pp. xix–xx). We are two of those delight-producing, duly disappointed people.

1. Trueman does not practice what he preaches in this book: “As Christians . . . we need above all things to think carefully about politics, to engage the process and the issues in a way that respects their complexity, and to avoid clichés, oversimplifications, and Manichaeism that bedevil electoral campaigns” (pp. xx–xxi). Instead, he topples simplistic, self-constructed straw men. For example:

Now, if one happens to believe that the untrammeled free market, deregulation, massive defense budgets, and paltry domestic infrastructure spending are not the best ways to address this biblical imperative [to love our neighbors], where does one turn? Not to the Republican Party, for whom these matters have become virtual mantras. (p. 19)

He fails to engage serious political conservatives in any real sense. Instead of interacting with intellectually robust and respectable arguments that he might find in a periodical like National Review, his few conversation partners do not rise above the level of selectively dissecting quotes from media opinionators like Glenn Beck. To some degree this is due to Republocrat being a popular-level book.[3] But Trueman’s approach rings hollow since his book is filled with snide, cynical, reductionistic arguments mocking political conservatism for that very quality of political discourse. Trueman repeatedly takes drive-by shots at political conservatism, superficially skimming issues in precisely the inadequate and slanted way he criticizes people like Rush Limbaugh of doing.[4] For example, he never thoughtfully weighs the pros and cons of issues such as abortion, capitalism, gun control, taxation, health care, global warming, or energy resources and uses. Instead, he deftly dismisses conservative views, sometimes with only slightly more argumentation than a stand-up comedian. He argues, for instance, that conservatives inconsistently advocate both a limited government and strong military (pp. 89–90), but this is hardly inconsistent when one explores the reasons conservatives give for each.

2. Trueman gives more ink to capitalism and abortion than other issues, but these discussions lack sufficient nuance and fail to wrestle with the best conservative arguments. Trueman warns that capitalism, which he conflates with consumerism, greedily focuses on economic prosperity and reshapes ethics and values (pp. 71–78).[5] He argues that the abortion-issue is unhelpfully divisive and that Christians who make it “a wedge issue” essentially kill “intelligent discussion on a host of other political topics” (p. xx). Further, he argues that electing Republicans instead of Democrats does not significantly affect abortion in America (pp. xx, 104–7, 109):

If the democratic legislative path to addressing the issue is proving unfruitful [a protasis that Trueman argues for on pp. 105–6 but that we reject], is there any point in allowing the matter to be the make-or-break issue on which individuals make their voting decisions at election time? Or is it simply a rhetorical game, played by cynical politicians on both sides of the debate to rally their supporters and demonize the opposition? Is the one who votes for the pro-choice Democratic candidate really any more or less culpable on the abortion issue than the one who votes pro-life Republican, knowing that the candidate’s rhetoric will in no way be matched by any legislative action? . . . Bottom line: abortion will be overturned in the USA only when a majority of people voting for both parties wish to see it happen. Using it as a wedge issue at election time to polarize opinion will not achieve that for which Christians all long: the reduction and ultimate elimination of legal abortions. (pp. 106–7)

This is simply misguided.[6] So is Trueman’s broader, cynical argument that the differences between Democrats and Republicans are minimal (pp. 101–3).[7]

3. The chapter on Fox News is over the top.[8] Granted, Rupert Murdoch is a shrewd, opportunistic businessman, and Fox Entertainment is not always wholesome—just like all the other secular, mainstream entertainment. But for all the liberal outrage over Fox News, its news programming is no more biased than its competitors—only biased in the other direction. As for Beck and O’Reilly, they are not news anchors; they are provocative opinionators on opinion shows.

4. Trueman repeats the liberal talking points that conservative politics are not concerned for the poor, the environment, and foreign policy (e.g., p. 109). This is moral superiority on the cheap—policy prescriptions that differ from the Left do not equate to unconcern.

Conversely, in spite of the spectacular and brutalizing failures of twentieth-century collectivism, Trueman evinces a yearning for some new version of socialism that just might work in some hypothetical future. We are reminded of the old saw, “If only we had some jam, we could have jam and bread . . . if only we had some bread.”

5. There is a reason this book lacks a Scripture index: it doesn’t need one. It would include only a few references to books and/or chapters (pp. 33, 71–72, 74). This undermines Trueman’s thesis that conservative politics should not be tied to conservative theology because Trueman never engages arguments like the ones we read in Grudem’s Politics that see conservative theology entailing conservative politics.

2.4. Verdict

Republocrat is a polemic, and we expect Trueman had as much fun writing it as we did reading it. He brings to the work a gift for big-theme narrative, an entertaining wit, and a colorful British perspective. The book highlights legitimate weaknesses among political and theological conservatives, but it fails to acknowledge or deal seriously with the intellectual Christian Right.

3. Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, City of Man

The authors are evangelical political insiders. Both were part of President George W. Bush’s administration and now write political commentary. Michael Gerson was a senior editor covering politics at U.S. News & World Report before serving as Bush’s policy advisor and chief speechwriter, and his nationally syndicated column appears in the Washington Post. Peter Wehner served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations prior to serving in the George W. Bush Administration as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives; he writes for Commentary, Weekly Standard, National Review, Washington Post, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal.

Gerson and Wehner’s positions are conservative, but their strategy and tone differ from the religious right of the past three decades. Tim Keller observes in the foreword, “Evangelicals who are Democrats will probably wish the authors struck some additional notes or made some points differently, but overall this is a wonderfully balanced and warm invitation to believers of every persuasion to re-engage in political life, more thoughtfully than before, but as passionately as ever” (p. 11).

3.1. Tracing the Argument

“Political theology—a shorthand description for how people of faith view politics—has profound public consequences” (p. 13). City of Man presents what political theology should look like for American evangelicals today at a transitional time when the religious right’s political theology is fading. The argument unfolds in six chapters and an epilogue:

1. Religion and politics are not necessarily enemies. “Some things are far more important than politics,” but that does not mean that politics are unimportant (p. 25). “Laws express moral beliefs and judgments” that shape society (p. 31). Five guiding precepts should shape how we think and act: (1) individual citizens and the state have different moral duties; (2) individual Christians and the church have different roles; (3) there is room for disagreement because the Bible “says almost nothing at all about what we would consider public policy” (p. 36); (4) the nature of a society partially determines how Christians flesh out their political theology; and (5) America is not the new Israel.

2. The religious right, which began to rise in the late 1970s, quickly transitioned evangelicals from political disengagement to defensive activism. Billy Graham was the priest, James Dobson the prophet, and Pat Robertson the Republican kingmaker. The religious right partly succeeded, but they largely failed for four reasons: (1) their language and tone was often angry, reactive, melodramatic, hysterical, “apocalyptic, off-putting, and counterproductive”; (2) their strategy was “inconsistent and politically arbitrary”; (3) theologically, they identified America as the new Israel; and (4) they lacked simple human sympathy in tragedies (pp. 58–61).

3. Religious and political conservatives are transitioning away from the religious right, whose leadership is passing and fading (e.g., D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson). Most evangelicals are still pro-life and against same-sex marriage, but they now have different views on the environment, human rights, and social justice. Those with the most influence are people like Rick Warren and Tim Keller because “their manner and style” is “non-abrasive, culturally sophisticated, theologically conservative, in search of common ground where possible” (p. 69). Republicans must “develop a more sophisticated approach to religion and public life” because evangelicals “are looking for something deeper and something better” (p. 72).

4. Regarding foreign policy, evangelicals should promote human rights because humans have equal, inalienable, culture-transcending, Creator-endowed rights.

5. Regarding domestic policy, four categories guide evangelical thinking: order (e.g., crime-enforcement), justice (e.g., defending defenseless unborn children from abortion), virtue (e.g., promoting the family, which does not happen through the AFDC welfare program, no-fault divorce, legalized same-sex marriage, or poor-quality schools), and prosperity (e.g., capitalism). “The main point” is that our public discourse is radically inadequate because it is oriented “towards individual rights” (p. 105).

6. The way we argue is as important as what we argue. The most persuasive arguments in the public square appeal not to divine revelation but to natural law—something that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. did when arguing against slavery and segregation. Evangelicals in the public square must be “reasonable, judicious, and sober” so that others view the cause as “amiable and peaceable” (p. 122). This entails regularly interacting with people you respect but who disagree with you.

7. Epilogue: Some evangelicals abandon politics in order to focus on forming the culture, arguing that “culture is upstream from politics.” But sometimes “politics is upstream from culture” (p. 131). Case in point: segregation. Politics is necessary, can improve lives, and can be noble.

3.2. Strengths

1. Gerson and Wehner understand the political landscape well and promote a biblically faithful, intellectually respectable, and pragmatically feasible political theology.

2. Gerson and Wehner’s arguments are evenhanded and not rash. They are the result of decades of sharpening throughout their political careers. Chapter 1, for example, is impeccably argued.

3. The religious and political experiences of Gerson and Wehner unusually equip them for a book like this. They are evangelical intellectuals who served in the White House during a tumultuous period, and they include some sober anecdotes about what crises looked like from the inside of the White House (e.g., pp. 33–35, 91, 123, 126).

3.3. Weaknesses

1. Gerson and Wehner define the “religious right” very narrowly, enabling them to criticize easy targets like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. They ignore the influence of respected intellectuals such as Michael Novak (The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism) and William F. Buckley Jr. (founder of National Review). This is especially surprising since Wehner, as noted above, regularly contributes to National Review and several other respected organs of the Right.

2. They conclude, “The religious right, it turns out, was not good for religion.” Given their own acknowledgement of the movement’s accomplishments, this seems over-broad; but it rings most true in questions of tone (e.g., Falwell and Robertson’s outlandish and insensitive pontification about God’s purpose in specific calamities).  Importantly, as part of the emerging “Reagan coalition” of social, economic, and foreign policy conservatives, the religious right led Christians to reengage with politics and led many non-Christians in the coalition to give a careful hearing to the gospel. This is anecdotal, but the Lord drew both me (Charles) and my brother Larry to faith through the influence of political leaders (e.g., Buckley and Reagan) who spoke of their faith and preachers who were active in the politics of the day.[9]

3. City of Man is well-argued as far as it goes, but it does not break much new ground. And the familiar ground it covers is not covered very deeply—even though that is exactly what they appeal for in political discourse.

4. Some arguments could be more careful. For example, after quoting Rom 13:1a, Gerson and Wehner parenthetically add, “The governing authority then was Nero, who persecuted Christians and then burned them at the stake.” But, Doug Moo explains, “Paul was writing Romans during the early years of Nero’s reign, a period of Roman stability and good government (quite in contrast to Nero’s later bizarre and anti-Christian behavior).”[10]

3.4. Verdict

Gerson and Wehner thoughtfully apply their seasoned political perspective to the current American evangelical scene. This is a book that political and religious conservatives need not be embarrassed about if people with different political and religious viewpoints read it; to the contrary, that would be constructive and healthy for all sides.

4. Conclusion

These books all encourage Christians to interact with politics in a way that brings glory to God as salt and light in the world. Each acknowledges that theology should drive political beliefs, not vice versa, and that the working out of those political beliefs will vary according to circumstances.

The books also differ in several ways:

1. Authors. The authors differ significantly in nationality, training, academic expertise, and life-experiences. Trueman is British, the others American. Trueman is an outsider, Gerson and Wehner insiders. Grudem is a systematic theology professor with a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and Trueman is a historical theology professor with a PhD from the University of Aberdeen; but Gerson and Wehner are public commentators and former public officials, not professional theologians.

2. Size. Grudem’s book is massive compared to the others. It is about 280,000 words compared to Trueman’s 30,000 words and Gerson and Wehner’s 37,000 words.

3. Scope. Grudem’s book is—as the subtitle says—“comprehensive.” Trueman focuses on discounting the religious right. Gerson and Wehner constructively point the way forward for religious and political conservatives in broad strokes.

4. Style. Grudem’s book is a textbook with a clear layout and argument. Trueman’s book is a loose collection of popular essays intended to provoke, critique, and entertain. Gerson and Wehner are workmanlike, admitting that they wrote “this book in a very short period of time” (p. 140).

5. Audience. We would recommend Grudem’s book to just about anyone, especially those who would like a theologically informed, up-to-date, and easy-to-understand yet robust survey of politics. We would recommend Trueman’s book to religious and political conservatives whose political media diet consists primarily of popular pundits like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. We would recommend Gerson and Wehner’s book for especially for political conservatives who are considering moving left and for political liberals and moderates who may be skeptical that religious and political conservatives can be reasonable and intellectual.

“The next phase of Christian social engagement,” Gerson and Wehner assert, “will need to move beyond reaction, instead applying first principles to a broad range of public concerns” (pp. 61–62). We agree. And Grudem’s book is a good place to start.[11]


[1] Throughout this article pagination in the body refers to the corresponding book under review.

[2] E.g., John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991); Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994); Wayne Grudem, ed., The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008).

[3] Trueman can write academic works with the best of them, but this is not one of those books. At no point does Trueman engage seriously with primary or secondary literature on politics.

[4] Trueman responds to two recurring criticisms of Republocrat in early online reviews: “One is the claim that I seem unaware of serious conservative thought and operate solely between polarities determined by Fox News and MSNBC. The second is that, in hammering the Fox fans, I deal only with straw men.” Republocrat, he argues, “is a series of journalistic criticisms of the populist culture of the Religious Right” (“The Last Straw(man),” Reformation21 Blog, October 21, 2010, http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2010/10/the-last-strawman.php), but his book never distinguishes between populist and intellectual conservatism. It superficially presents three modern options: (1) liberalism, (2) conservatism, and (3) Trueman’s via media. This is a common reductionistic way to present an argument: (1) there are twits on the right and (2) dingbats on the left, but (3) unlike those extremes, there’s my reasonable middle way.

[5] Contrast Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York: HarperOne, 2009); Arthur C. Brooks and Peter Wehner, Wealth and Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism (Washington, D.C.: AEI, 2010); Wayne Grudem, Politics—According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 261–319.

[6] See Grudem, Politics, 124–78, 574–76. Cf. Randy Alcorn, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments (2nd ed.; Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000); Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009); Justin Taylor, “‘Abortion Is about God’: Piper’s Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor; Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 328–50; ibid., “Abortion: Why Silence and Inaction Are Not Options for Evangelicals,” in Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Faith for a New Day (ed. Kevin DeYoung; Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 179–90.

[7] Cf. Grudem, Politics, 572–90.

[8] See evaluations 1–2 in Kevin DeYoung, “Republocrat: A Review,” DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed, October 19, 2010, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/10/19/republocrat-a-review/.

[9] See Larry Naselli’s thoughts after the deaths of Ronald Reagan in 2004 (http://www.larrynaselli.com/blog/index.blog/334357/stronggod-used-him-to-change-my-lifestrong/) and William F. Buckley Jr. in 2008 (http://www.larrynaselli.com/blog/index.blog/1792423/wfb-rip/).

[10] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 807.

[11] Special thanks to several friends for examining this essay and sharing helpful feedback, especially Brian Collins, David Crabb, Andrew Franseen, Jim Hamilton, Collin Hansen, Shayne McAllister, Larry Naselli, Justin Taylor, Mark Ward, and Taylor West.

Andy Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Research Manager for D. A. Carson, Administrator of Themelios, and adjunct faculty at several seminaries. Charles Naselli, Andy‘s father, is founder and President of Global Recruiters of Greenville in South Carolina. He has been an engineer, corporate executive, and entrepreneur, and has had an abiding interest in politics since the early 1970s.
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  1. [...] appreciate and resonate with the Naselli father and son’s review of these books by Grudem, Trueman, and Gerson and [...]

  2. Kevin Swanson has certainly had something to say about two of them already: http://www.generationswithvision.com/Broadcasts/broadcasts/17811. Would love to hear Dr. Trueman’s reaction. I’m sure he’d have some good comments to offer back.

  3. Just going by the reviews, what seems to be missing in all three is any serious discussion of the purpose of government. The debate and scholarship from the Reformation on the role of government is rich and enlightening. I find it hard to believe that modern Christians don’t even know it exists.

    And what about the only government God ever created, the ancient nation of Israel? Surely that could contribute to the discussion to a small degree! The Us would be like the nation of Israel under the judges if we got rid of the Presidency and all federal agencies and the Congress, and left just the Supreme Court to fill the role of the judges. How would that sit with modern left and right?

  4. Roger,

    The Grudem book does go into the purpose and role of government. It’s a massive book.

    Regarding applying God’s design of government in Israel, I think it’s important to remember that God had a specific convenental purpose for Israel. Without the covenant that existed between Israel and God, I’m afraid the whole system collapses.

    Secondly, God’s part of God’s purpose for Israel was to point out that there is no perfect prophet, priest or king. Almost every king failed, and each prophet failed in the sense that they didn’t restrain evil, but instead, the days of the Judges were marked by everyone doing what was right in his own eyes. A vision of this time period as some sort of utopian dream is the opposite of the point.

    The failures of our own government should have the same effect on us today. There is no perfect one, except the Perfect One. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

    • Shayne, While it’s true that God had a “convenental purpose for Israel” that doesn’t mean that the purpose of the covenant was the only purpose for the government. Clearly, the government designed by God was intended to allow the people to flourish. Notice how different the government of God was from the absolute monarchy of Egypt in which the people were nothing more than slaves to pharaoh. And notice God’s warning to Israel about choosing a king and how oppressive kings would be, how brutal and selfish and destructive.

      I don’t agree that God’s purpose was to point out that there is no perfect judge or king. I think God designed his government in order to give people the perfect environment in which to flourish. Of course they failed; they’re human. God did not intend government to prevent people from failing because it cannot do that.

      Based on the Bible, Protestant and Catholic scholars determined during the Reformation that the role of government is to protect life, liberty and property, nothing more. I think that is a good distillation of God’s purpose in creating the government of ancient Israel before the kings. And as God says repeatedly, the purpose of government is to provide justice based on God’s laws, such as thou shalt not steal.

      Governments implement justice when they enforce God’s laws. All that is necessary to enforce God’s laws are honest courts and people who submit to God’s laws and his courts. Human legislatures and executives are not necessary. And if the people refuse to submit to God’s laws and courts, then the result is lawlessness, which is a judgment against mankind in itself, followed by oppression by kings who come to end the lawlessness.

      So you have two judgments against rebellious people 1) lawlessness of the kind we see in Afghanistan and Somalia today or 2) oppression by “kings” of the kind we see in Washington, D.C.

      • Roger,

        You’re correct that there were and are other purposes for government in general. My point is that the convenental purposes muddy the waters in how we directly apply Israel’s systems to today. God actually set up many kinds of government depending on which period of history we’re talking about. The Kings were not an afterthought of God’s plan, even though Israel sinned by demanding a king. Their sin was related to their motive for having a king (to be like other nations). It wasn’t that kings were bad in principle.

        A second muddying difference between today and the age of the judges is the fact that there were actual prophets of God who gave direct revelation. If Justice Kennedy could speak the very words of God on each case, then I’d be all for for your plan.

        • Except that God told Israel that the kings would oppress them with taxes (God considered such taxation oppressive even if the Israelis didn’t) and the kings would kill their young men in unnecessary wars. God clearly intended Israel to punish Israel by letting it have its way and have a king. The desire for the king was evil and letting the people have the king was God’s judgment. The implication is that any government beyond what God established is God’s judgment against a rebellious people.

          Notice, too, that when God spoke to judges in the OT, he didn’t give them any new law. He merely picked a judge to deliver Israel. No judge created new law. The judges had the OT Law to tell them God’s will. In the same way, the Supreme Court should be discovering God’s law and not making new law or giving in to the whims of the majority.

          • Regarding your first point, God was prophesying his own judgment for their sin. If you say that to have a king is somehow sin in principle, then God even taking part in choosing a king would be sin too.

            I see God moving in this way in redemptive history whispering repeatedly “there is no king who will protect you, and there is no prophet who will give you all wisdom, there is no priest who can atone for sins.” He’s always pointing to Christ, and so we must point back to Christ and not to some new governmental system that will finally be the magic bullet.

            Another question for you Roger is why a Supreme Court? Why not just pick one single judge?

  5. If I could echo Roger, Grudem’s book was the one place where I expected to find a detailed theological argument for the purpose of government. While he spends 4 chapters on it, I think he fails to address a number of the pressing issues people actually have questions about today. For instance:

    1. Where is the NT imperative directed towards Christians to change the government/culture? He cites 2 narrative examples of John the Baptist and Paul confronting politicians, neither of which make any reference to the policies enacted by those politicians. In fact, the bulk of NT imperative towards Christians respecting government is that they submit to it, not try to change it.
    2. Why is it the case that because the gospel includes a cosmic redemption that Christians in the here and now are necessarily supposed to be working to bring that about?
    3. Hardly any evangelical Christian denies that some Christians are called to work in politics. Obviously they should do so using Biblical morals (e.g. they should be honest). But why does that mean the church as a whole should be engaged in politics? Some Christians are called to be mechanics, and obviously the Bible also has authority over how they do their jobs. Does that mean the church as a whole should be engaged in car repairs? Should we expect pastors to train their people in the best way to fix a flat? Why does discipling politicians specifically in their policies take a unique status for the church then?
    4. His main 2 passages supporting almost anything in the book are Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:14-15. Both of these passages seem to be merely descriptive of what government is. How can he go from there to “this is God’s moral will for government, and we are responsible to make sure it’s happening”?
    5. If he believes government is to punish evil and reward good, and the Bible is our ultimate standard for good and evil, then why shouldn’t the government punish idolatry? He argues for some distinction between government and church from Jesus’ “render unto Ceaser” sentiment, and he says he’s not a theonomist, but he never addresses how his view doesn’t logically lead to “government compels religion” (one of the wrong views in ch. 1). Is idolatry not against God’s moral will as well?

    These aren’t new questions. Anyone who’s thought just a little about the 2 kingdoms/Kuyperian debate arrives at them. I’m not saying there aren’t answers to them (I have a few thoughts of my own). I was simply disappointed that he doesn’t even really seem to address them. The fact is I don’t care about the nitty gritty of environmentalism until I’ve answered the bigger question: “how does God want me to approach government?” By not delving into some of the relevant questions I listed above and leaving unexplained assertions dangling throughout his arguments I felt Grudem failed to address that bigger question adequately.

    What do the rest of you think? Have I missed his discussion of these things? Are they just not as relevant as I’m making them out to be?

    • Mike, I agree. If the role of government was to reward good and punish evil, it would have the right to murder heretics, jail those who refuse to give to the poor, etc. That is much too broad a role for government. It give it unlimited power. Catholics have a much clearer idea of spheres of responsibility. Families have a role that churches shouldn’t infringe upon, and the church has a role that the state should stay out of, and the state has a particular and limited role. It should not do the work of the church or the family. And Christians are wrong to try to use the power of the state to accomplish the work of the church or the family.

      The primary role of the state is to protect life, liberty and property; this is the Biblical role of promoting justice. Anything else the state does infringes upon the sphere of the church and family and should be forbidden. And as the School of Salamanca, Spain determined, taxation to do anything other than protect life, liberty and property is theft.

      • To be clear Roger, I’m not saying I don’t think the role of government is to punish evil and reward good. It does seem Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 tell us something about government’s purpose, I’m just not sure they tell us as much as Grudem says they do. My question is how Grudem can simultaneously say government should punish evil and reward good but not compel religion when worship of false gods is evil and yet to punish it would compel religion. I don’t point that out to discredit the idea that government should punish evil and reward good. Frankly I’m not sure exactly how all of that works together, which is why I’m trying to read books on it. It’s just disappointing to me that Grudem’s book didn’t address it.

        • Mike, yeah I didn’t think you meant that. Of course the government should reward good and punish evil. But which good and which evil? It is limited to punishing good and rewarding evil within the sphere of protecting life, liberty and property. It doesn’t have a blank check to promote any kind of good and punish all kinds of evil.

          • Thanks Roger, that helps me understand where you’re seeing the line drawn as to what evil the government should punish and what good it should promote. As I said I don’t have much of this settled in my mind, so I’m wondering what passages of scripture lead you to conclude that government should only punish evil and reward good when it relates to protecting life, liberty, and property?

          • Mike, there aren’t any specific passages. It’s doctrine derived from scripture much as the doctrine of the trinity is. It begins with “Thou shalt not steal” and includes the state in this prohibition because of the Reformation idea that the king is not above the law of God. At what point does the state become a thief? That depends on what you think God’s intent was in creating government. Looking at the OT law, you find two sets of laws: 1) religious laws about how to worship God and 2) civil laws. God enforced the religious laws, even the poor laws, personally. He left enforcement of the civil laws to the government, the judges. That’s why you have specific penalties for breaking the civil law but no penalties for breaking the religious and poor laws. God did not want the government enforcing the religious and poor laws. And you don’t see people in the OT going to a judge to enforce the religious and poor laws, only the civil laws. That’s because the religious laws, including the laws about the poor, concerned the relationship of man to God, but the civil laws concern the relationship of man to man.

            So you look at the civil laws and what do they concern? They are concerned with life (Thou shalt not murder), liberty (limits on slavery), and property (Thou shalt not covet or steal). When God speaks of justice, he is usually referring to these areas.

            The concept of limiting the state to protecting life, liberty and property came to us from the School of Salamanca, Spain in the 16th century. The teachers were godly men trying to apply the scriptures to government. Wikipedia has a good intro to these scholars with some good references. Also, go to mises.org an acton.org and search for “Salamanca”. They have a wealth of information.

            John Locke did not invention the formula of “life, liberty and property” as the natural rights of man and the limits of government. Church scholars did. And admittedly, much of it comes from natural law philosophers. Natural law began with Thomas Aquinas who believed that beginning with fundamental truths, such as “Thou shalt not steal” we could arrive at God’s will for areas of life that the Bible did not specifically cover. So natural law theorists looked at the role of the state, the role of the church, and the role of the family, assumed that God created those institutions because he had different roles in mind for each, and apportioned the responsibility for enforcing the basic principles of the Bible to the appropriate sphere.

  6. Mike. I find the book most helpful in assembling the biblical data on government, I do think the application falls flat at times. Your five points above illustrate that well.

    One difference between how Paul and Peter approached government and how we might do so relates to our differing political systems. The average Christian in Paul’s day couldn’t do anything to change the government, while we can vote and have our political speech protected. Different systems change everything, much like a Christian’s relationship to government in China are very different than it would be in the US or Europe.

    • With a government like that under the judges, there would be nothing for Christians to do but preach the gospel, give to the poor and arrest criminals for trial. The extreme intrusiveness of government today into every aspect of life entices Christians to try to use that power to accomplish things that God intended only for the church and family. And Christians can’t seem to resist the lure of such power over other people. We think we can make non-Christians act like Christians without them repenting.

      • BTW who would pick these judges of America? Would they have to be anointed? Would God call them from their vocation, make a fleece wet or dry and show His will to America? You’re living in a Utopian world Roger, a nowhere place.

        • Shayne, I’m not saying that the act of having a king was sinful. The sin was rebellion against God. The king is God’s judgement against a rebellious people.

          Government was intended by God to be a source of good for the people, to provide order and an environment in which society could flourish. But God can use the same institution as judgment against rebellious people.

          The Supreme Court was just an analogy with our current system. The government of God under the judges had multiple levels of judges based on extended families and tribes. The top judge, to judge the most difficult cases on appeal from lower judges, was chosen by comment consent of the elders, that is, voted into office. We could have a single supreme judge, or a committee of judges.

          I don’t think we should try to follow the Israeli government under the judges in every detail. After all, we no longer have the priesthood. But we could follow the principles of a very limited government, one limited to just a court system without a legislature or executive branch.

          • Regarding kings, I think it’s a big leap to say that the idea of a king itself was the bad idea. In other words God wasn’t saying all kings are always bad all the time. He was saying for you Israel, I’m going to punish you with bad kings.

            I think we’re getting somewhere though. Maybe the American federal system is more like what you envision than you think.

            If you say “I don’t think we should try to follow the Israeli government under the judges in every detail” then my next question is “who says?” In which ways we should?” You? By whose authority? Would some sort of elected body would do. Kinda like Congress?

          • Shayne, I think God was saying exactly what he said: kings will always oppress you with heavy taxes and unnecessary wars. Even the good kings, such as David, did those things. God designed the only government without a king. He intended people to be free from the government that all kings, even good ones, establish. But people would rather be oppressed than free.

            Just as we don’t follow OT law explicitly because we live under grace, so we shouldn’t try to recreate the government of the judges in every detail. But in theology we don’t toss the OT in the trash, even if we aren’t under the law. We discover the unchanging character of God in the principles of the OT law. In the same we, we should discover the unchanging principles of government in the government of the judges. The general principles are clear: we don’t need anyone making new laws, as in a Congress. We merely need judges to apply the law when disputes arise. There would be no standing army, just volunteers when threats appear. And no police force, just posses as we had until very recently.

    • Thanks Shayne, those are helpful points. As I’ve thought about it more since reading Grudem’s book, I’ve similarly concluded that inasmuch as we have a governing influence in America through the democracy, we should seek to do good to all through it. In some sense in America we are all “rules” in that we all have a part to play in the government.

      My problem is that Grudem purports to present God’s will for all governments. He continually emphasizes that since God is sovereign over all nations, He will judge all nations according to His righteous standard. His logic seems to go: (1) God created government with the purpose of punishing evil and rewarding good –> (2) God has a moral will for government to punish evil and reward good –> (3) Christians in all societies should see to it that governments punish evil and reward good –> (4) The church should see to it that governments punish evil and reward good. I don’t see how anyone can deny (1) given Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. But as far as I can tell, he never justifies the arrows needed to get to (2), (3), and (4), and it seems the NT writers (given the lack of imperative) never get to (2), (3), and (4).

      • Agreed Mike. Well said. It’s number 4 in your list that follows most illogically. I see more of a separation between the duties of a Christian individually and the church institutionally.

        To the extent that, in America, we are the government is the extent to which we will be judged for our voting decisions.

        BTW, are you the Mike Anderson? As in @mikeyanderson?

        • Haha, I doubt that I’m “the” mike anderson you refer to. I assume @mikeyanderson is some twitter thing, which I’m not even on. I know there is a Mike Anderson who blogs for the resurgence. I’m not he, although I did meet him at DG ’08. He was in front of me getting our nametags. It was pretty surreal hearing the guy in front of me register as “Mike Anderson.” I have a rarely updated blog that maybe 5 close friends read regularly. So yeah, don’t think that qualifies me as “the” Mike Anderson.

      • “In some sense in America we are all “rules” in that we all have a part to play in the government.”

        The danger with a democracy is that people have come to believe that because we are the government, then the government can do anything we want it to do. But all that does is replace the tyranny of the king with the tyranny of the majority. The majority government still faces the limits on government that natural law tradition placed on it. The will of the majority is limited. In government it should be limited to protecting life, liberty and property.

  7. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
    (Judges 17:6 ESV)

    (emphasis on JUDGES)

    [5] and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” [6] But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. [7] And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. [8] According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. [9] Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
    (1 Samuel 8:5-9 ESV)

    • 8:11 He said, “Here are the policies of the king who will rule over you: He will conscript your sons and put them in his chariot forces and in his cavalry; they will run in front of his chariot. 8:12 He will appoint for himself leaders of thousands and leaders of fifties, 10 as well as those who plow his ground, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war and his chariot equipment. 8:13 He will take your daughters to be ointment makers, cooks, and bakers. 8:14 He will take your best fields and vineyards and give them to his own servants. 8:15 He will demand a tenth of your seed and of the produce of your vineyards and give it to his administrators 11 and his servants. 8:16 He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best cattle and your donkeys, and assign them for his own use. 8:17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will be his servants. 8:18 In that day you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord won’t answer you in that day.”

      • This is a specific prophecy of how Israel’s kings would be in judgment for their rejection of God’s rule. It shouldn’t be taken as statement that all nations who rule through judges somehow have it better.

        • You’re right. I can’t take the passage as a condemnation of all kings. God was telling Israel what it would experience under kings, even good ones. But I doubt that it is an ex nihilo prophecy. Anyone could look around at the other kings in the world and see how they operated. In other words, I don’t think God was saying that he would make the king punish Israel, but that he was saying look at the kings around you and the oppression and destruction they bring on their own people; your lot will be the same. And the history of governments of all kinds have demonstrated that all states that have an executive as their head do the same things that God said Israel’s kings would do. In other words, it’s not so much a prophecy as a description of how kings, emperors, caesars, dictators, presidents and all other heads of state act, even in democracies.

  8. There seems to be a fourth view that is curiously absent. The view that faith and politics do not mix. Although Grudem touches on this, he only does so in defense of his view that politics and faith do in fact mix. And that is precisely what is wrong with Biblical Christianity, where civic religion is the faith of today rather than the “power under” servant-like faith that Jesus taught.

    I highly recommend this fourth view that is presented very well by theologian, Gregory Boyd in his book, “The Myth of a Christian Nation”. Although his theology is somewhat questionable (i.e. Open Theism) this book is NOT a book about theology, but about how faith and politics has ruined Christianity not only in America, but negatively affected missions and evangelism on a global scale.

    • That’s a very good point. For the most part, Christian activism in politics is not much more than an effort to force non-Christians to act like Christians. What’s the point?

  9. [...] Reviews has recently published a very good review of three books on politics by Andy Naselli and Charles [...]

  10. [...] Nonetheless, for those of you who want to think more deeply about politics, check out this post on The Gospel Coalition Book Review Blog about several new releases by [...]

  11. [...] For more reading of related interest, see the review survey at The Gospel Coalition of three recent books on politics from evangelical publishers. [...]

  12. In Mr. Grudem’s book I would have liked to have seen him explain — which he does not —, from Scripture, why it was OK for him to support in 2008, for President, Mitt Romney, an unbeliever, a non-Christian, a Mormon. As I understand Scripture, when God speaks specifically re: the qualifications of a ruler, He speaks of the necessity of rulers being God-fearing men, those who fear Him. An unbeliever, a non-Christian, obviously, will not/cannot fear God, the God of the BIble, the only true God there is. So, to vote for such a person (an unbeliever) would be to vote for Godless government — which no Christian should ever do because this is forbidden by God. Godless government, in addition to being in rebellion against what God says is the role/purpose of government (Romans 13), also means (like now) un-Constitutional government because the oath means nothing to an unbeliever.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  13. John,

    Could a Christian honor Caesar, even though Caesar set himself up to be a god to be worshiped? Yes. 1 Peter 2:13-17 describes the believer’s relationship to an even heathen government. There is a sense in which unbeleivers can do the work of God. All people are image bearers of God. Rulers are image bearers of God’s authority. God has delegated authority to rulers.

    God speaks often of what rulers should be, but if they don’t live up to God’s absolute standard of righteousness, that doesn’t mean they are not doing anything right.

    Regarding oaths, you say that an oath means nothing to an unbeliever. Again you seem to assert that a non-Christian can’t do anything good whatsoever. Oaths most certainly do mean things to unbelievers. That’s why we have marriage in society. We have contracts, and court systems that depend on oaths.

    In general, I don’t think your logic is in accordance with scripture, and perhaps a reading of Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology book would be in order. He doesn’t have to explain every decision he makes, if you first haven’t considered the logic of how to apply the scripture. I don’t want to be rude, but if you really do seek a reasonable answer. That’s a good place to start.

    A few questions to consider:

    1. If you were in a country with a much lower percentage of Christians, who would you vote for if no one was a Christian?
    2. Outside of truly knowing someone, how can you be certain an alternative ruler to Gov. Romney really is a Christian? In each case we just have their word. I mean, George W. Bush didn’t go to church for 8 years. Is he a Christian? I don’t know for sure.

  14. SHAYNE: Could a Christian honor Caesar, even though Caesar set himself up to be a god to be worshiped? Yes. 1 Peter 2:13-17 describes the believer’s relationship to an even heathen government.

    COMMENT: The question I raised is not about “honoring Caesar” but what kind of person are Christians allowed to/commanded to vote for to occupy God-ordained civil government offices. And we, as Christians, are to obey heathens in civil government offices only if what they tell us to do does not violate God’s Law and cause us to sin. We must obey God rather than men.

    SHAYNE: There is a sense in which unbelievers can do the work of God. All people are image bearers of God. Rulers are image bearers of God’s authority.

    COMMENT: I believe, from Scripture, that unbelievers NEVER “do the work of God” because they NEVER do the right (Godly) thing for the right (Godly) reason. The most an unbeliever can do is to do something because HE thinks it is “right” or “good”, the unbeliever’s definition of these words never being defined the way God defines them. But, all people are made in God’s image. This, however, does not mean, that all people in civil government offices will govern according to God’s Word re: role/purpose of civil government.

    SHAYNE: God has delegated authority to rulers.

    COMMENT: Not true. Romans 13 tells us that those in civil government office are ministers who are to administer/apply God’s Law. They have no authority to simply do as they please. God not only empowers civil government, He sets the limits of what civil government must do and what it must not do. The role of civil government is ministerial and not legislative.

    SHAYNE: God speaks often of what rulers should be, but if they don’t live up to God’s absolute standard of righteousness, that doesn’t mean they are not doing anything right.

    COMMENT: If rulers are not ruling according to God’s Law, within God’s limits — doing what He says to do; not doing what He forbids — they are NOT doing what is right (righteous.)

    SHAYNE: Regarding oaths, you say that an oath means nothing to an unbeliever.

    COMMENT: My point was/is tautological: If an oath to have meaning must be swearing to God — the God of the Bible, the only true God there is — then, by definition, an unbeliever is, in effect, simply saying words. Such an oath means nothing.

    SHAYNE: Again you seem to assert that a non-Christian can’t do anything good whatsoever.

    COMMENT: Already addressed this point.

    SHAYNE: Oaths most certainly do mean things to unbelievers.

    COMMENT: But “meaning” — ANY “meaning” — for unbelievers is just something unbelievers make up, invent for themselves.

    SHAYNE: That’s why we have marriage in society. We have contracts, and court systems that depend on oaths.

    COMMENT: “Oaths” to who? Whom? To God, the God of the Bible?

    SHAYNE: In general, I don’t think your logic is in accordance with scripture, —

    COMMENT: Nothing I said depends on “logic” — which, incidentally, but importantly, does not, necessarily, establish what is true. Something can be “logical” and FALSE.

    SHAYNE: and perhaps a reading of Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology book would be in order.

    COMMENT: Why do you assume I have not read the Grudem book? I have.

    SHAYNE: He doesn’t have to explain every decision he makes, if you first haven’t considered the logic of how to apply the scripture. I don’t want to be rude, but if you really do seek a reasonable answer. That’s a good place to start.

    COMMENT: Never said Mr. Grudem HAD to do anything! I said I would have liked it had explained why it’s OK for Christians to vote for unbelievers (the wicked, children of the devil, Jesus, John 8:44ff) to rule us. And speaking of Scripture, I see none cited by you to challenge anything I’ve said.

    SHAYNE: A few questions to consider: 1. If you were in a country with a much lower percentage of Christians, who would you vote for if no one was a Christian?

    COMMENT: Numbers, countries have nothing to do with the points I’m making. As Christians, we are commanded to do EVERYTHING to God’s glory. We are told that whatever is not of faith, is SIN. Does it glorify God to vote for those who reject the Christ, who refuse to kiss the Son? No. Is a vote for an unbeliever “of faith.” No.

    SHAYNE: 2. Outside of truly knowing someone, how can you be certain an alternative ruler to Gov. Romney really is a Christian? In each case we just have their word. I mean, George W. Bush didn’t go to church for 8 years. Is he a Christian? I don’t know for sure.

    COMMENT: Jesus tells us we know people by their fruits, their actions, what they do.
    Thus, we do not have only a person’s word re: what they are. We are to judge righteous judgment, Jesus says (John 7:24) — judgments based on actions. Electing men to God’s civil government offices is a VERY important act because, among other things, they have the power of the sword (capital punishment, the authority to wage war). We have Godless government now because, alas, for the most part, those who call themselves “Christians” either do not care what God says on the topic of who is qualified to hold such offices; or, because Biblically illiterate, they do not know what God says on this topic.
    As for Bush, no Christian could order/approve/defend torture, as Bush has done, much less launch unGodly, unConstitutional wars.
    Psalm 9:17 assures us that the wicked shall be turned into Hell as will all nations that forget Him. That’s where we are in America today: Sliding into Hell because we have forgotten God, the God of the Bible, he only true God there is.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • I hate to take sides, but after reading each of these remarks I have to fully agree with John Lofton here. Shane, I don’t believe that ALL people are image-bearers of God. That’s a universalist approach although I agree that God can indeed work through non-believers as attested to throughout Scripture. But, I most certainly would not hold myself accountable to a secular entity comprised primarily of non-believers, because I do not believe they live within the will of God each day. What may seem right to them may not be in fact, right.

      One of my favorite verses expounds upon this:

      There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

      Unless a person or entity professes a belief in Jesus Christ, I take everything with a grain of salt, including those that are in our government authority.

      Peace.

      • Watchman, Prov 14:12 applies to everyone, including you.

        “I most certainly would not hold myself accountable to a secular entity comprised primarily of non-believers, because I do not believe they live within the will of God each day.”

        Umm… that’s the way it is now. God holds you to account to governing authorities that exist. He ordained them, godly or not.

        If your view is that not all of mankind are image bearers is not only inconsistent with Scripture (James 3:9 for example), it’s also going to have a lot of implications with politics. If someone disagrees with so foundational a doctrine, then it’s no wonder you disagree with Grudem in politics.

    • John,

      “They have no authority to simply do as they please.”

      That’s not what delegated authority is. Delegated authority is within limits. Yes we should obey God rather than men, but only when they do something that God has told us explicitly not to do. It doesn’t invalidate an entire government’s God-Given authority if they do tell us to do one thing that Christians can’t obey. Otherwise there would be absolutely no legitimate government in the world.

      It’s one thing to cite scripture in an argument, and it’s totally another to twist it’s meaning beyond its intention.

  15. What Scripture have I twisted, and how did I twist it?, Shayne. Be specific. And I write all of what I wrote in DIRECT response to what you wrote, and that’s all you have to say? Why don’t you respond DIRECTLY to what I wrote?

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • Because you’re not worth the time.

      But since you asked. Here’s an example how an illogical application of scripture means a twisting of it. Logical things may still not be true, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be logical.

      “As I understand Scripture, when God speaks specifically re: the qualifications of a ruler, He speaks of the necessity of rulers being God-fearing men, those who fear Him. An unbeliever, a non-Christian, obviously, will not/cannot fear God, the God of the BIble, the only true God there is. So, to vote for such a person (an unbeliever) would be to vote for Godless government — which no Christian should ever do because this is forbidden by God. Godless government, in addition to being in rebellion against what God says is the role/purpose of government (Romans 13)”

      Your argument goes like this:

      God tells us rulers should be godly.
      If a ruler is not godly he should not be a ruler.
      To vote for a ruler who is not godly is wrong.

      These each are non-sequiters. For example if I said:

      God tells fathers to be godly,
      If a father is not godly he shouldn’t be a father.
      I should not support a father who isn’t godly.

      This is a twisting of the logic of scripture. For a couple of reasons. First, you assume that the godly = Christians. Christians are actually ungodly many times. We are positionally righteous, but not practically every day. Second, you assume that voting for someone who is not a Christian = supporting ungodliness. When Peter said to “honor the emperor” did he mean “honor ungodliness?” No. It’s a false assumption. It doesn’t follow logically. God wants us to use our noggins when reading the Bible.

  16. Brothers,
    Thanks for the comments, but please resume a gracious and respectful tone with one another. Thanks.

    John Starke
    editor, TGC

  17. Once again, Shayne, Christians prove something is wrong FROM SCRIPTURE. Logic does not establishment truth. What I say could be illogical and still be TRUE. Finally, for what it’s worth, from my experience,our going back and forth is typical. You/someone like you says what you’ve said. You are directly answered with Scripture, pressed for a Scriptural reply. Then, suddenly, the whole thing is not worth your time. As Chesterton said: Even a bad shot looks good when he accepts a duel. Ahhhhhhh, but when the other guy fires…well….it’s a game-changer. And I assure you that whether our rulers meet God’s qualifications is a VERY IMPORTANT topic worth the time of all of us.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • John,

      We are logical beings. Please I could reply simply with scripture, and not use logic related to that scripture if you wish. In my above post, I’m asking you to show your logic from the words of scripture to your application. Please do so.

      You make a lot of logical leaps way up there in your comments. Please explain the connections as outlined above.

      The reason I say it’s not worth my time is that you seem to be pretty set in your ways.

  18. Why do argue FIRST from logic and not God’s Word, Shayne? And you have yet to respond even once to the fact that logic does NOT establish what is true. Neither Jesus, the Apostles, nor any Christians in the Bible have logic as their standard to prove or disprove anything.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • Logic isn’t the standard. You are correct. God’s Word is the standard. But using scripture without logic is very dangerous. I’m asking you to explain your thought process about Romans 13. How does your application flow from the text? You’re using logic without admitting you are. Application demands logic.

      I say this with total respect, as I understand brother John Starke is concerned about that tone.

  19. Show me, please, Shayne, from Scripture, where anything here I’ve posted is wrong.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • See above comment regarding logical assumptions. how does each really follow? Why is it that to vote for a non-Christian means necessarily that one is voting for unrighteousness? Show me that. If you can’t then the question is answered. You’re making a profound assumption. Declare it.

  20. So, it’s your position that an unbeliever — a person Scripture calls wicked, a child of the devil — can be “righteous?”, that voting for an unbeliever CAN be of faith, CAN glorify God?

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • No I’m saying that a wicked person, which we all are, (Christian or non-Christian) are able to be voted for. Absolutely. Given the fact that we live in a post-Israel environment, and the fact that I can honor even a corrupt, idolatrous emperor of Rome, I’m pretty sure I could vote for a non-Christian for President or Congress. Yes. In fact, I can’t remember the last time there was a President of the US that I was absolutely confident of their soul. Nor could any person be confident of any President’s conversion status without knowing him/her in their own church.

      Better to be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian. – Martin Luther

  21. No, we are not all wicked. Scripture nowhere refers to God’s children as “wicked.” And you’re “pretty sure” it’s OK to vote for unbelievers, huh? “Pretty sure,” based on what? Not Scripture. And why do you ignore completely my request that you show, FROM SCRIPTURE, where anything I’ve posted is wrong? And your “Luther quote” is bogus. He never said it. I did an entire radio show on the phony Luther quote. Here it is:

    INTERVIEW: Dr. Gene Edward Veith Debunks The Completely Bogus “Wise-Turk-Foolish-Christian” Quote Often Attributed, Falsely, To Martin Luther

    http://www.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=1567

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • John,

      You’re asking me to prove something is right, when you haven’t proved it’s wrong. You may think you have, but you haven’t. Your conscience may indicate to you that it’s wrong, and that’s OK. But I don’t think it’s a trained conscience. For example, in the eating of meat offered to idols in 1 Cor 8. Some weaker Christians weren’t working through the Biblical data with clarity and logic. Paul let’s them know that since the idols really aren’t real, he doesn’t have a problem with eating meat once offered to an idol (but for the sake of his brother he would abstain).

      Simply put, I don’t agree with your assumptions about Romans 13 far up above in the thread. Roman magistrates applied Roman law in the time of the writing. They weren’t using the “law of God,” in a strict sense, yet Paul still says to obey them as ministers of God. It would have been an astounding statement to Jews in the 1st Century. This may seem incongruous with God’s previous commands to previous kings of Judah and Israel to keep his law, but I think it shows how clear the differences for how the people of God live before and after the cross.

      So you and I see one passage and see different application. This doesn’t mean I’m not using scripture. It just means that I’m using reason and scripture together to get at the meaning. Your conscience is dead set against voting for a non-Christian. That’s OK. But I don’t see how you get that from scripture. On detailed issues such as this that the Bible doesn’t specifically address, and since our culture and political system is far removed from the 1st Century, in order for you to say something is wrong, you have to clearly connect the dots.

      So Paul could reason from implications of Scripture and tell people that the eating of this meat was theoretically all right, but to love their brothers more than a good steak. But he also asked the weaker brothers to train their consciences.

  22. SHAYNE: You’re asking me to prove something is right, when you haven’t proved it’s
    wrong. You may think you have, but you haven’t. Your conscience may indicate to
    you that it’s wrong, and that’s OK. But I don’t think it’s a trained conscience.

    COMMENT: Not up to me to prove a negative. Burden of proof on affirming party.

    SHAYNE: Simply put, I don’t agree with your assumptions about Romans 13 far up above in the thread. Roman magistrates applied Roman law in the time of the writing. They
    weren’t using the “law of God,” in a strict sense, yet Paul still says to obey
    them as ministers of God. It would have been an astounding statement to Jews in
    the 1st Century. This may seem incongruous with God’s previous commands to
    previous kings of Judah and Israel to keep his law, but I think it shows how
    clear the differences for how the people of God live before and after the cross.

    COMMENT: God’s Law before/after Cross DOES NOT CHANGE. Purpose of civil government in Romans 13 is clear — to administer God’s Law. Only in accord with God’s Law is true justice. You can produce no Christian/Biblical commentator who says Romans 13 means govt is to simply do whatever persons in power want govt to do — Romans, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc. Paul in Romans 13 is saying WHAT OUGHT TO BE THE ROLE OF GOVT — that is to OBEY GOD, the God of the Bible.

    SHAYNE: So you and I see one passage and see different application. This doesn’t mean
    I’m not using scripture. It just means that I’m using reason and scripture
    together to get at the meaning. Your conscience is dead set against voting for a
    non-Christian. That’s OK. But I don’t see how you get that from scripture.

    COMMENT: My conscience is utterly irrelevant to issue of what GOD SAYS are kinds of people we must pick for civil govt offices (choose “God-fearing men,” He says). For your edification, you should read this article re: God’s qualifications for those who hold His civil government offices:http://www.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=693

    SHAYNE: On detailed issues such as this that the Bible doesn’t specifically address, and
    since our culture and political system is far removed from the 1st Century, in
    order for you to say something is wrong, you have to clearly connect the dots.

    COMMENTS: God’s Law applies to all people for all time not just the 1st century. And I notice you continue to cite no Scripture to support any of your positions.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • “Not up to me to prove a negative. Burden of proof on affirming party.”

      Actually since you view is outside the mainstream of Christian thought worldwide, the burden is on you to prove it’s wrong. Furthermore, you’re the one who introduced the idea that it’s wrong when most Christians in America don’t have a problem with it, as evidenced by John McCain and Barack Obama getting the vast majority of votes by Christians in the last election. So yes, you have the burden of proof. If you asked me where in scripture I have the right to eat shrimp, and pork, I would tell you I’m no longer under the law, but under grace. I don’t need a specific scripture passage to enable every aspect of this new era of grace. (Romans 6:14)

      This is what enabled Peter and Paul to eat non-Kosher food. There is a difference between the way the law of God is applied in the old and the new covenants. Acts 10 especially vs 15 point to this difference. What God has called clean, do not call common. Some provisions in God’s law were there to set apart Israel as a nation. So there clearly is at least some difference with how the law is applied.

      “You can produce no Christian/Biblical commentator who says Romans 13 means govt is to simply do whatever persons in power want govt to do.”

      Nor do I want to. If you think this is what I’m saying, then you’re deliberately misrepresenting my words in previous posts. You can’t cry “antinomian” every time you disagree in application with someone.

      Romans 13 describes authorities that existed, and further describes them as ministers of God in general. This neither means they could do whatever they wanted, nor does it mean that they were applying God’s law directly to Rome. Again, even non-Christians can do good things, even if without the best motives. If a Roman governor put someone in prison for stealing and followed the law of Rome in doing so, he is in parallel following the law of God, even if it’s under a different formal legal system. So he doesn’t understand himself to be a Christian, or to even know the true God, yet he is His minister. This reading of Romans 13 is not only the natural reading of the text in the context of history, it’s also the view of almost every well-taught Christian I’ve ever met or read about. Again sir, the burden of proof is on you.

  23. You are, alas, Shayne, Biblically illiterate, not teachable. You are wise in your own eyes and lean toward only your own understanding, ways you think are right. In addition, you do not converse honestly or directly, ignoring many direct points I have made re: things you have said (with, of course, no Scriptural support.) Mush does not sharpen iron, so no more from me will be said to you.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    • That’s quite a pronouncement for someone you’ve never met, John. We both probably have a lot of hermanuetical differences that make it difficult to speak with one another without getting those foundational principles worked out. I’d rather believe that to be true, than to make spiritual judgements about your own heart, or call you “mush.”

      If I ignore a point, it’s because I believed it to be obfuscation of the main point. It wasn’t at all personal to you.

      In the main, my goal isn’t to persuade you. Otherwise I would email directly, and we would write that way. My goal is to provide a public counterpoint to an odd conclusion that Christians can’t vote for non-Christians. It’s odd in the sense that it’s well outside the mainstream. In this case it’s the mainstream of Christianity that has it right, even if maybe the mainstream doesn’t think as well as it should about who it should vote for. To say something is wrong, that the Bible doesn’t say is wrong is a serious issue indeed.

  24. Your assertion that it is “an odd conclusion that Christians can’t vote for non-Christians” reveals your Biblical illiteracy as to what God says on this subject, what God says are the qualifications for those holding His civil government offices. And it is God’s Word that is the standard for real Christians, NOT what is or is not in the “mainstream.”

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  25. Again you miss the point and twist it. It’s not that being outside the mainstream is what makes you wrong. Yes scripture is paramount. My point about how mainstream your views are is that the strength of your case needs to be that much more clear via the scripture. I don’t think you can deny that whatever version of Theonomy you subscribe to is not mainstream. Therefore you will have a greater number of people who will not track with your logical assumptions about the text. Theonomy in the course of Protestant Church history is a minority view, and Rushdooney was merely aberrant.

    By the way, I have a political science degree from a very conservative Christian university. I am trained theologically. I’m not biblically illiterate. I read it in a different way than you do, clearly. The fact that you have to resort to name-calling to make your case, actually weakens it.

  26. If Scripture is “paramount,” why do you quote none in support of any of your positions? And that you are a product of “a very conservative Christian university” does not surprise me at all. They, today, produce much savorless salt that is unfit the for the crap-heap.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  27. See above. I did reference scripture and interpreted it.

  28. Post here, now, the Scripture you have cited to support your positions, to refute my positions.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  29. That Romans 13 is descriptive of all governments, not merely those who institute God’s laws directly. That Acts 10 indicates a new kind of application of God’s law, and that 1 Cor 8 allows for matters of conscience where the Bible doesn’t speak directly and clearly.

  30. Why do you not know what God says in His Word says are the qualifications for those who rule? Why are you ignorant of thos Scriptures if you are not Biblically illiterate?

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  31. John,

    Here’s some scripture for you. You make repeated statements about what Romans 13 means. Let’s see if those bear out. See the verse, and my understanding of what that verse means.

    [Submission to the Authorities]
    “[13:1] Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

    If there is authority, it is there because God established it. If there is a Roman authority, it’s because God established that authority.

    [2] Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

    Don’t resist government because God appointed it.

    [3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,

    This is a general statement about how all governments act, at least in part if not in every case all the time.

    [4] for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

    The authorities referenced above (those that exist) execute judgment up to and including capital punishment. This authority is the servant of God. Note that it doesn’t say “if he institutes God’s law.” It just says that he is this servant.

    “[5] Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. [6] For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. [7] Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    Again Paul is saying who the ministers are. “You also pay taxes.” Who did his audience pay taxes to? They paid them to Rome. If they paid taxes to authorities, they paid them to the ministers of God. Ergo, even Roman authorities can be ministers of God. This is not in the same way that servants of the church such as deacons and elders are ministers of God, but they are ministers nonetheless. As ministers they administer God’s laws de facto. The don’t minister to perfection, but they are legitimate ministers. Therefore, I can legitimately support, defend, honor, and vote for such ministers.

    (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

  32. John,

    God does give qualifications of rulers of Israel. However, even if those rulers failed to live up to those qualifications, they would still be rulers. A primary example is Saul. David would not touch the Lord’s anointed. He had a great deal of respect for the office of one who opposed God. He still saw him as a legitimate king, even though they were both anointed for the position of king.

    So even with the many qualifications of a king, the primary qualification was that God had ordained their authority. So even these qualifications were what should be those of a king or ruler even though consistently in scripture the king never lived up to those qualifications, much like in our own spiritual lives. These qualifications point to Jesus more than they demand exactly whom we may vote for in the 21st Century.

  33. You are wrong. Rulers who ignore God’s Law, do not rule according to what God says, are ILLEGITIMATE rulers,and thus NOT rulers. For Christians, legitimacy is determined by adherence to God’s Law. Not all are rulers who claim to be rulers.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  34. Think of it this way. Each of us must be perfect to enter heaven, but none of us are perfect. The Law of God points us to our need of a Savior.

    [3] Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
    [4] He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
    [5] He will receive blessing from the LORD
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
    (Psalm 24:3-5 ESV)

    I have clean hands and a pure heart only in Christ. Without Him to stand in my place I am dead in my sins. The point of this passage is not simply that I be pure, though that is a point, it is that I must have someone outside myself to stand in my place and be pure for me.

    None of us will be perfect in this life, but our perfections or qualifications don’t hinder us from service to God. Praise His Name.

  35. “For Christians, legitimacy is determined by adherence to God’s Law.”

    Care to back that up with Scripture? My legitimacy is Christ’s adherence to God’s Law. I think it’s appropriate that on the Gospel Coalition’s website that at least we get the Gospel into this discussion. Did Moses adhere to God’s law in every case? Did David? Did Soloman? Did Rome? No. King Jesus sets rulers up, and he takes them down. I’m not saying people shouldn’t consider the ruler when they vote, but adherence to God’s law isn’t a qualification for legitimacy.

  36. Now that you’ve rejected God’s Law as a standard for legitimacy in a ruler, what is your standard? How are we to know if a ruler is legitimate or illegitimate?

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  37. Romans 13 asks: Does the authority exist? Great then it’s established by God. You can get into more complicated discussions of when it is right to rebel against authority, and where the authority actually exists, but this is the most fundamental question of legitimacy.

    For example John, do you pay your taxes to the federal and state governments? Why or why not?

  38. Didn’t answer the question: What is your standard for determining whether a specific government is legitimate or not, whether a specific ruler is legitimate or not? Please reply directly to this question.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  39. So John, sometimes I have to answer with my own opinion, and sometimes with Romans 13? Which is it? When I answer with scripture, you tell me I’m not answering your question, and when I answer with reason you tell me I’m not using scripture?

    If the authority exists, then it is ordained by God according to Romans 13.

    If it would help, I think North Korea is a legitimate government under Romans 13. It’s an evil one, but legitimate. It’s evil, but even in it’s great evil it still restrains evil and promotes good, however diminished that promotion is. Rome was about as bad. It advocated emperor worship instead of the worship of God, but yet Romans paid taxes to the “ministers” of God.

    However, if a separate authority than the government of North Korea came to exist and challenged the existing authority, then I see that insurgent authority as possibly legitimate and supportable by Christians, similar to our own revolution. After the question is settled of what is legitimate authority before God (that it exists), the next question that Romans 13 doesn’t answer (and Christians have fought over for centuries) is “how does authority come to exist?”

  40. By what standard do you judge the North Korean government to be “evil?”

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  41. The Bible. Nice. So if it’s evil, why not the US government you may ask? It’s evil too, but thankfully it’s an evil to a lesser degree, but still legitimate. I can still vote for someone who is the lesser of evils in good conscience, and be good with Romans 13 and other scriptures.

  42. So, the Bible is the standard for determining that the North Korean government is evil but not the standard for determining the legitimacy of a government? That’s pure gibberish. And REAL Christians NEVER, EVER play the “lesser-of-2-evils” game — NEVER. No “lesser-of-2-evils” “situation ethics” in Scripture. Like I said: You are Biblically illiterate. Your thoughts here are in NO WAY in captivity to Christ.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  43. So you’re equating voting for someone with participating directly in the lesser of two evils. It isn’t the same because all are evil to some degree. Back to the whole “Better to be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian” quote. Admittedly it’s not Luther that said it, which is why I posted the link to the video right below it that indicated that. The principle hold true though that there are hierarchy of moral values. If both Rome, the United States, and North Korea can potentially do good things, and yet be evil, then if presented with such choices, I’ll probably choose one based on which one is less evil.

  44. Like I said: You have not a Christian/Biblical thought in your head.You are Biblically illiterate, not teachable, wise in your own eyes and lean toward only your own understanding, ways you think are right. You are typical of the savorless salt that passes for Christianity today, the savorless salt that is trodden under the feet of men, the savorless salt so bad it is unfit for the dunghill.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  45. Wow John. You move from a discussion of lesser of two evils to no biblical thought in my head. I’m glad you know me so well that you can say that. If you ever want to get coffee sometime let me know. I live near DC.

  46. You are known by your fruits, in this case your words, your rejection of God’s Word as the standard for ALL things.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  47. I actually don’t. But it’s an amazing unfounded assertion.

  48. Not unfounded at all. Anyone who reads our exchanges can see you repeatedly reject God’s Word as the one and only standard by which to judge things.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  49. [...] Republocrat by Carl Trueman: While Republocrat is certainly not a detailed work on politics, and while it really doesn’t even offer help for figuring out how one thinks about politics per se, it is certainly a thought-provoking book that American evangelicals need to read.  Trueman’s outsider’s perspective and considerable writing skill combine to make an immensely enjoyable read.  See my review and Andy Naselli’s much more comprehensive (also thought-provoking) review here. [...]

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