For years, my passion in life has been making disciples of Jesus Christ, which I believe includes both evangelism and the training of believers. I desire to see people from all races and backgrounds come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior and to grow in Christ-likeness through the Word and the Spirit. In addition, because Jesus is Lord of all, I passionately believe Christians should be concerned about integrating a biblical worldview into every area of life.
One area that should be of interest to all believers is politics. Frankly, politics is not my passion. I’m often turned off by the ranting and raving of political discourse in America, whether it’s from the left or the right. However, politics is important because it’s one of the key processes by which people make collective decisions that affect all of life. Therefore, if we want to see change for the good in our community, state, country, and world, we have an obligation to be informed and involved, or at the very least, to vote in accordance with our worldview.
Our worldview should, of course, be informed by the Word of God. We shouldn’t simply let our conscience be our guide as people often say for “if your conscience isn’t informed by objective truth it will be unreliable and simply a permission slip” (Chuck Colson).
In looking for a sane, informed, and biblical approach to American politics, I came across Politics According to the Bible, a 600-page work by Wayne Grudem. Grudem is identified on the book cover as “Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, AZ. Grudem holds degrees from Harvard (BA), Westminster Seminary (MDiv), and Cambridge (PhD). He is the author of over fifteen books including the best selling Systematic Theology.”
The author is obviously first and foremost an evangelical Bible teacher. He knows the Bible, biblical languages, and biblical theology extremely well. He’s also quite well read in other areas. In addition, as a teacher, he has the gift of making complicated things simple. Grudem is clearly a conservative, but in my opinion he always seeks to be fair and rational in the way he presents his positions, which is unfortunately quite different from many conservatives whom we hear on TV and radio today.
In the first chapters, which I believe are quite helpful, Grudem carefully lays out a biblical worldview. In the remaining chapters, he deals with sixty specific current issues. Grudem takes a clear position on each issue. However, in the Introduction he admits that he doesn’t hold all of his views with equal confidence. He holds with the most confidence the positions that come directly from the clear teaching of Scripture. Those that come from broader biblical principles he holds with a bit less confidence. Lastly, positions on issues to which the Bible does not speak are held with the least confidence. In this category, Grudem “makes an appeal to facts,” as much as he can determine them. In addition, he seeks to evaluate certain policies based on the actual results of the policies. Since the title of the book is Politics according to the Bible, I believe this is the weakest section of the book. Just the same, Grudem’s opinions are often thought provoking and helpful.
The best chapter, in my opinion, is the last, entitled “Faith and Works, and Trusting God While Working in Politics and Government.”
In our day when the news media relies so much on public opinion polls and an analysis of events by so called “experts” with a strong bias one way or the other, I believe many of you will appreciate the more reasoned approach of Grudem. Although you won’t agree with everything he writes, you will be impressed with his desire to be biblical as he deals with the issues. In addition, if you’re like me, you’ll learn a lot. Grudem is a clear thinker who holds the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. Therefore, I recommend this book to all of you who seek to think biblically about the issues of our day.
I said at the beginning of this review that my passion is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the gospel which changes the hearts of men and women. One of my heroes is William Wilberforce (1759-1833) of whom Chuck Colson wrote, “Look at William Wilberforce, who two centuries ago had two great objectives: the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners – by that he meant a spiritual awakening. He understood that you could change the law, but it would be of little effect, if you didn’t change the hearts of people.”
A footnote on helping the needy:
Many evangelicals, though by no means all, downplay biblical passages on helping the needy, often because they see this activity as the responsibility of the individual Christian and the church, not within the domain of the government. Part of this de-emphasis may also come from a justifiable desire to stress the Biblical doctrine of work/being industrious and from a fear of creating an unhealthy dependence. However, Scriptural examples of helping the needy abound – on an individual level, on a national level in the case of the Jews, as well as in the early church. Let me cite just a few examples:
- The prophet Isaiah declared, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
- Emphasizing both independence and interdependence, the apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:34-35)
- Jesus spoke the following powerful words, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)
- In the Old Testament, there were two means of aiding the poor. The first was through the gleaning laws listed in Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19-22. As farmers reaped their crops, they would not harvest the edges of their fields – anything that fell to the ground was left for the poor. This provided for the needy in a way that required their initiative and did not rob them of their dignity. The second method of helping the poor was the tithe (Leviticus 27:30). The funds were distributed to those who were truly needy by the priests.