Blogging Through Grudem’s New Book–Five Wrong Views About Christians and Government Part 1

Posted: September 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

I will be blogging through Dr. Wayne Grudem’s new book “Politics According to the Bible” over the next several months. 

Dr. Grudem, a Harvard and Cambridge educated theologian/Biblical scholar who serves as a research professor at Phoenix Seminary and as an elder at Scottsdale Bible Church, begins his 600-page plus tome by setting forth “five wrong views about Christians and government,” which he sees as: (1) government should compel religion; (2) Government should exclude religion; (3) all government is evil and demonic; (4) do evangelism, not politics; and (5) do politics, not evangelism.

I am incapable of encapsulating and analyzing all five of his arguments in one post, so I will begin with numbers and 1 and 2 and take on the remaining 3 at a later date.

First, the idea that government should compel religion.  This is obviously the idea that lurks behind the arguments of the secular left when they charge the religious right with attempting o establish a “theocracy.”  Of course, the left ignores the fact that even at the height of the Great Awakenings, such an organized movement did not exist in this country and such a move has not existed with any force anywhere in Christendom since the days of the 18th century.

pragmatically, Grudem argues that no one can come to the faith by force but he also argues that Scripture does not support the “compel religion” view.  Grudem points to texts such as Matthew 22:18-21 where Jesus states, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” as evidence that Jesus distinguished the realms of God and Caesar.  Thus, Grudem argues that while Christians should attempt to influence policy, they should not seek to control it.

Grudem also points out that Jesus refused to compel people to believe in him (Grudem points to Jesus’ refusal to call down fire on those who rejected him (See Luke 9:52-55)) and that Jesus is not set on establishing a worldly kingdom before his return (John 18:36).  Thus, Grudem argues that freedom of religion should be advocated by all followers of Christ as a first principle.

Grudem then raises the question that, in light of these principles, should a church accept tax benefits? He believes they should because all religions are treated equally and it is within the power of Congress to do so to “promote the general welfare.”

I agree with Grudem in principle but disagree with a few points of exegesis.  I do not believe that Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22 should necessarily be taken to “distinguish the realms” of God and Caesar.  I think Jesus could have been arguing that whatever has the creator’s image on it belongs to that creator, so let Caesar have his coins but the image and likeness of God is stamped on every human and they should recognize the ownership of God.  

Furthermore, I agree with N.T. Wright in regards to Jesus’ statements in John 18.  Jesus was probably stating that his Kingdom is not “from” this world rather than “of” this world.  In other words, Jesus was arguing that His Kingdom would not rise from the ground via political and military means but through His sacrifice and His disciples’ sacrificial love impelled by the Holy Spirit.  

Exegetical disagreements aside, however, I believe Grudem is generally correct that Scripture teaches that it is wrong to compel “faith.” 

Grudem then analyzes the second view regarding Christians and government that he believes is mistaken, namely that government should exclude religion.  Grudem writes, “According to this view, religious beliefs should never be mentioned in governmental functions or on government property and should never play a role in the decision-making process in politics or government.”  Such is the view propounded by the secular left. 

Grudem argues that such a view fails to distinguish the reasons for a law from the content of the law.  Grudem writes, “There were religious reasons behind many of our laws, but these laws do not “establish a religion.”  For example, Christians led the fight against slavery and racism but neither of these movements “established a religion.” Moreover, Grudem argues that to follow this argument to logical conclusion, the government would have to invalidate the votes of anyone who is a person of faith because how can one exclude their religious ethics from the rest of their life?

Furthermore, such a move leads to unjustified acts overriding the will of the people such as in the current fight to invalidate Proposition 8 in California.  It also transforms the 1st Amendment from freedom for religion to freedom from religion and unduly restricts freedom of speech.  It creates a barrier to political leaders seeking God’s counsel as even pagan emperors did according to the Old Testament (Dan. 4:27). 

In the end, Grudem believes the exclude religion view is ultimately spiritual in nature and he may very well be right.  For example, I have no doubt that Satan relishes the murdering of preborn children.

Grudem will meet with skepticism, if not outright hostility, by critics who could care less if leaders seek the will of God but his strongest argument is the one in support of the freedom that the Constitution clearly protects.

I have taught western civilization and literature classes using George Orwell’s “1984,” which is a stunning indictment of the left and how when large, powerful governments begin choosing what freedoms the populace may have regardless of history, tradition, constitutions, etc. that it eventually leads to oppressive totalitarianism for all people. 

I hope Grudem expands the argument that Constitutional freedom of religion and speech actually protects all people and creates a much more tolerant society than the politically correct, “walk-on-eggshell” world that the secular left seeks to establish.

More later.  Stay tuned.

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