Developing a Christian Worldview Part 2 by GKC
Whoever said that politics and religion don’t mix must not know anything about either of them.
Politics and religion are inextricably linked because one is foundational, and the other resultant. As the oft-repeated Andrew Breitbart line goes, “Politics is downstream from culture,” and “culture” starts with the “cult” or “worship.” Politics is an expression of your worldview, and your religion is your worldview.
Whoever said you can’t legislate morality must have been good friends with the politics and religion guy.
Like it or not, we do legislate morality (stealing is wrong, here’s the penalty; tax fraud is wrong, here’s the penalty, etc.), and morality comes from what we worship. This is where it gets tricky, because many people are walking misnomers of their faith. To pick one convenient example, Joe Biden says he is a Catholic through and through – except for the inconvenient fact that he disagrees with just about every stance the church takes, particularly on abortion. In a similar way, many of your friends say they’re Muslim, but aren’t totally. Many of your friends say they’re Christian, but their choices and lifestyles say “pagan.” Maybe you yourself say you are a Christian – but does your worldview line up with the tenets of your faith? Does your culture line up with your “cult”?
In short, in a completely honest, objective fashion, does the Bible teach us anything about politics, and does it apply to any hot-button issues of the day?
The answer is: Of course it does.
A Quick Qualifier
All that glitters isn’t gold, and all that is mentioned is not endorsed. The Bible is sixty-six books (over seventy, if you are Catholic or Orthodox) of various genres, written by numerous different authors at different periods of time. Context matters. In the old days of the Antebellum South, some errant ministers used to hack out convenient parts of the Bible to say that the Word of God endorses slavery. Some people still think this today, in fact, but the truth of the matter is that “man-stealing” was a crime punishable by death according to God’s law. The fact that some historical books of the Bible mention chattel slavery is not endorsement, it is record, and the fact that the apostle Paul encourages slaves in the Roman Empire to love so radically that even their masters are recipients, is not an endorsement of chattel slavery either. This topic could be an article by itself, but the point remains:
Context is key.
We cannot divorce a saying from its surroundings or its intended purpose. Just like we discussed in Part 1 of this series, people have been co-opting Christ’s authority for their own political positions since Christ came, and people do the same thing with the Bible all of the time. We need to examine carefully when the Bible is used as justification for a policy position, as we would with anything, only more so.
Finally, this matters. In the US, we are part of a representative democracy, and that means our decisions and opinions play a role in what actually happens. As followers of Christ, shouldn’t we help, in whatever small way that we are able, to bring about His “kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”?
Let’s talk about the issues.
There are some matters of policy that are more open to debate for the Christian than others, and it is easy to get on the wrong track. Let’s start with one that’s been batted around for decades:
The Death Penalty
Should we use it at all? Is it moral? Is it effective? This debate has raged within faith circles for a long time, but if we take the Bible seriously, then it is an issue quickly resolved.
In the Old Testament, 36 crimes are listed as capital offences. That’s right, in the law given to God’s chosen people, God lists 36 heinous crimes that are worthy of death as punishment.
And that really should be the end of the argument surrounding the question, “Is the death penalty moral?” Well, if you’re a Christian and you argue to the contrary, then you are in an awkward situation where you seem to think yourself more moral and compassionate than God Himself. This is not merely endorsement to ancient Israel, it is instruction.
This only makes sense, when you stop to think about it. “Death” was the punishment for the original sin. “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Perhaps we can say that mortality itself was God’s punishment for man’s disobedience.
A Christian woman I once had this conversation with made this counter-argument:
“Fine, God instructed death as punishment for some crimes in the Old Testament, but I feel like everything changed with Jesus’ crucifixion. He laid down His life for us, so that we wouldn’t have to die. Shouldn’t that mean that we imitate Him like that, and don’t vote to let the government kill people anymore?”
Remember, friends, truth has a right hand and a left hand, and you will never understand deep mysteries at all until you grasp that concept. This is what I told her:
“Yes, Jesus, in a world-altering fashion laid down His life for us, demonstrating perfect mercy. But who required His sacrifice? Who required His blood?”
It was God.
We play games with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, but Calvinist, Catholic, Non-denominational, or Pentecostal, you can’t get around the fact that God is in control of all things. He was the One who required payment for man’s sin. In His kindness, He sent His Son to pay for us, but the propitiation was needed, nonetheless.
Now, you can argue that the death penalty is not the best punishment in modern society, that other means of punishment or rehabilitation are more effective or superior in some way. But, Christian, you cannot be intellectually consistent as someone who reads the Bible as God’s Word and maintain that the death penalty itself is immoral.
Romans 13 deals with this, in fact, and it brings us to a larger point:
The Government Exists Legitimately
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. – Romans 13:1-4 (emphasis added)
The government is part of God’s administration here on earth, part of His ingenious system of delegated authority. To this minister of His will, He has granted the sword, or coercion – the lawful use of force and violence in certain circumstances. The government has God’s stamp of authority on decisions to carry out punishment for evil, even using death as punishment in extreme circumstances.
This pushes back against another hot-button issue of the day for Libertarians, in particular, and in many conservative circles:
Is taxation really theft? Is it wage-slavery? Can the government legitimately take from my hard-earned money or not?
Remembering what Jesus says when questioned about paying taxes (and which Paul references later in Romans 13), the government can lawfully levy taxes. Sorry, guys. Now, in a representative democracy such as ours, we can argue about the efficiency, expediency, and usefulness of various taxes. We can protest rates that we feel are too high, we can vote for people who promise to cut taxes, and we can use the tax code to our advantage when we figure out what we owe at the end of the year. But make no mistake, we still have to pay taxes. The Bible makes this quite clear.
What is interesting about Jesus’ answer, however, is that He says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” This is a crucial distinction, and a very important doctrine to shape our politics.
The government does exist legitimately, but not every area of life is under its authority. It bears the sword, but the sword is not appropriate in all circumstances.
Defund the Police?
Is policing an outdated, racist institution that needs to get replaced by community efforts? Can we get pressure the government into abandoning traditional policing?
If the government bears the “sword,” that means that it can furnish armies and police forces and execute judgment and punishment for crime. That means, for the Christian, “Get rid of the cops” is as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s an argument so foundational that it is almost difficult to talk about. “Let the community police itself,” thereby removing the government from its God-given responsibility and authority is anti-biblical on its face. The government bears the sword, and it is God’s minister to reward good and punish evil.
(And for those of you who say, “No, you don’t get it! Defund the police doesn’t mean get rid of the police! It just means social workers and LGBTQ advocacy, and a skeleton police force that is a hollow, ineffective shell of its old self” – Pardon me while I roll my eyes and sigh.)
What the government does not bear is the “keys,” or spiritual authority. The government cannot legitimately hand down laws that say, “This is scripture and this is not.” It can’t tell you how you ought to pray and worship (within reason. People who say, “Killing cats is just how I worship, man” still need to go to jail or something).
Arguably, the Bible lays down multiple spheres of authority in God’s administration of delegated authority, each with distinct powers and responsibilities: The government, the Church, the employer, the family, and the individual. Parsing out each of these is outside the scope of this article, but if you are interested in studying up on the concept, Pastor Mark Hoffman has a great book on the subject called Unlocking the Kingdom.
A lot of Christian missionaries, martyrs, and underground church leaders have written at length what abuse of governmental power looks like, and in particular, much has been written about why Communism and Socialism are anti-Christian ways of living (Richard Wurmbrand, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc.). This is a large topic, and we are only going to touch on it in a glancing fashion today, but there is one keystone of communism that has entered our popular politics of late, and so we will address it here:
Universal Basic Income, or UBI
Should everyone in a country (even non-citizens) be given an income from the government, regardless of how much they work, whether or not they are able to work, and whether or not they are even willing to work?
Here is the short answer: No.
If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10
This one basically sums it up, in a direct fashion. This is not the only time the Bible gives principles about working and living in a community, but it is perhaps the most direct on this question.
People often misquote this verse, incidentally, as “If anyone does not work, neither shall he eat,” and then straw men leap up in favor of UBI: “What if someone is horribly disabled and can’t work?”
Well, we should provide for that person then. Whether that is the function of the family, the Church, private enterprise/charities, or the government is a bit more open to debate. However, the no-qualifications-given UBI is disallowed to the Christian by this verse, and other, less direct, supporting texts.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “…Throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse,” my son, do not walk in the way with them. – Proverbs 1:10-11a, 14-15a
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. – Ephesians 4:28
The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work. – Proverbs 21:25
I could go on. The Bible is very clear that work is good, and every one of us that is able needs to do it. Subsidizing laziness is a very good way to get more of it, to the ruin of our society. If you are a Christian, an unqualified UBI is out.
Other Hot Topics
Should white people pay special penalties to dark-skinned individuals who are the descendants of slaves to atone for past sins in America? Should the government redistribute wealth away from whites to black people?
Believe it or not, we find principles to answer this question in the Bible. If you are a Christian, you probably don’t get to support mandatory slavery reparations in this country:
The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. – Ezekiel 18:20
Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. – Deuteronomy 24:16
Now, you can argue about what sort of healing, reconciliation, etc. is proper and good, but to punish individuals four generations (or more) removed from the crime – even if you can properly identify descendants of slaves and masters – is unjust. Each man will bear the punishment for his own sin.
This one should be plain as day, and it is unfortunate that we have reached a point where we even need to debate this.
The Bible is clearly, unabashedly, strongly against abortion, and if you call yourself a Christian, you must be as well.
To gain the biblical understanding for the previous, strong statement, we have to start with understanding who or what “Molech” is:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also say to the sons of Israel: “Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech. – Leviticus 20:1-5
In Leviticus 18:21, God commands the same thing, that Israel not pass their children through the fire to Molech. In 2 Kings 17, Israel provokes God to anger (a terrifying thing) because they had passed their children through the fire to Moloch. Same situation in Jeremiah 19:4-5. In fact, this is all over the place in the Bible. God is very clear: Do not pass your children through the fire to Molech.
What does this mean?
In ancient Canaanite worship, a fire was built inside of the idol Molech, and babies would be placed inside to burn to death, a sacrifice to a ravenous, evil god. Some people say, “No! That’s not what it means. It was just a ritual like fire-walking, probably.” Unfortunately, Ezekiel 23:36-39 gives us a grim description of just what it means to pass a child through the fire – namely, it “devour(s) them” and because of it they have “slain their children to the idols.” In 2 Kings 3:27 we have record of Moabites committing ritual child sacrifice, and also in 2 Kings 16:3. In 2 Chronicles 33:6 we have record of the king of Judah killing his children in this way, provoking God to anger.
And if you’d like an extra-biblical source, I would refer you to the mass graveyards of infant skeletons that have been found in the ruins of Carthage.
But this is all children outside of the womb, right? Babies in the womb aren’t actually babies, right? Can’t a well-meaning Christian dismiss those as lifeless clumps of cells?
Not if you regard the Bible, you can’t.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. – Psalm 139: 13, 15-16
See also Jeremiah 1:5, Job 31:15, Psalm 22:10, and Luke 1:41. And lest we forget, here are two others:
So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:27
You shall not murder. – Exodus 20:13
To underscore the seriousness of this practice in God’s eyes, recall the first passage I quoted above, Leviticus 20. Not only does God have a harsh punishment (death) for people who kill their own infants, He also says that if you even disregard the fact that someone else is doing this, you will be opposed by God and cut off.
Abortion, in my estimation, is likely the primary reason we find ourselves in what may very well be God’s judgment on America in 2020. If you are a Christian, not only can you not support abortion, you can’t even wink at it, ignore it, or say “Well, pro-life means a lot of things, really, and this candidate who promises to expand abortion radically also supports school lunches, so they’re sort of pro-life too. Christians can vote either way with a clean conscience.”
We cannot vote either way on this issue with a clean conscience. The Bible is uncommonly clear on this point.
To Be Continued
We’ve covered several hot-button issues in this post, and there are many more to cover in individual posts in the future. For the purposes of this series, however, we will next be looking at what we can learn about our politics from looking at the Old Testament Law specifically. Make sure you stick around to read Part 3 in Developing a Christian Worldview.
And, if you missed it, check out Part 1 of the series, “Jesus and Politics,” HERE.