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In Christianity,Jojo Ruba,Politics

The Politics of Faith, Part 2

by Jojo Ruba

Last week, I examined the issue of Christian participation in politics, particularly in light of criticism from Christians like Pastor John MacArthur who are also doing their best to be biblically faithful.

I pointed out that many critics of Christians in politics often do so using straw man arguments: for example, creating a false dichotomy between evangelism and political behaviour. They don’t seem to understand that no one is saying political engagement “saves” souls. We are saying that government can make it easier to share truth.

Worse, they don’t even comprehend the meaning of “politics.” MacArthur’s book, Why Government Can’t Save You,[i] seems based exclusively on a reaction to American politics and has little to do with the political persecution of Christians in China, Cuba and North Korea, among dozens of other places around the world. This myopia ignores the fact that democratic countries, especially in North America, were often built by Christians who wanted to protect their religious liberties. A country where there are free speech rights and religious liberties wouldn’t censor evangelism or ban Bibles! Moreover, the argument ignores the fact that in democracies, citizens are responsible for laws, a privilege most Christians throughout history have not shared. If we want to respect our government, then we need to recognize that the Constitution tells us we are the government. In other words, Christians, just like all Canadians, are already involved in politics just by living here.

When Should Christians Participate?

Another problem with those who argue that faith and politics don’t mix is that they don’t have a proper understanding of the Christian worldview. If we believe that God is sovereign over every aspect of our lives, then we believe God is also sovereign over our governments.

[Parliament Hill from the Ottawa River]Unfortunately, most Canadians today would think that statement is theocratic. They view Christian political activism as a way to “impose” our religion on others. Ironically, John MacArthur makes the same mistake in his book. That fear is silly.

The vast majority of Christians throughout history have never forced their faith on others through the law. Why? Because we don’t believe anyone who converts through the sword is likely a Christian! It’s the reason why we are called “evangelical” Christians: we focus on evangelizing rather than converting non-believers by force.

MacArthur suggests that when we create laws that govern moral behaviour, we are expecting non-Christians to act like Christians. But again, this view ignores basic truths. Government already forces moral behaviour on its citizens! If a government is good, it will force its citizens to behave in a good way. I use the word “force” because government uses sticks as well as carrots to alter its citizens’ behaviour. That’s why rapists go to jail or why speed limits are enforced. Good laws would protect the innocent, prevent theft, and allow for basic rights, such as the right to work for one’s wages. But all these basic principles are biblical ones! In other words, government can’t force people to become believers or force their ideology on its citizens, but when it is good, it will often make people comply with biblically compatible behaviour.

How Should Christians Approach Politics?

That’s why we can insist that our governments be good governments. These governments should protect fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association; not because they save people, but because they are God-given. A good government would respect God-given rights and not take them away.

Even the Apostle Paul demanded his political rights when he was thrown in jail without a trial. As a Roman citizen, the government guaranteed his right to see a judge, something the Macedonian magistrates feared when they unjustly punished him.[ii] So even in a non-democratic country like Rome, Paul insisted that his political rights be protected. That doesn’t sound like someone saying we shouldn’t care or shouldn’t concern ourselves with the political process. Rather, if we understand Scripture, it’s clear we can’t abandon political activism. Some believers are actually called to serve the public and serve God as politicians—see Daniel or Nehemiah, Esther or King David. That’s even more true in a democratic state. All of us in a democratic state are responsible for our government and so we need to learn how to govern properly.

So how do we approach politics without becoming theocrats? Our organization isn’t a political one, but we do want to be able to provide some clear thinking on how Christians should approach issues, including our role in the political arena. I suggest three questions we should ask that provide guidelines for what we can do politically:

  1. Is it good? In other words, is the political goal we are pursuing or activity we want to do morally good? Does it help people? Is it compatible with Scripture? As Christians, our political activity should be restricted to advocating for, and acting in accordance with, what the Bible teaches. Of course some subjects are more morally neutral—should we spend money on a bridge or a school, for example. But even those decisions should be made with godly wisdom about how we should spend our money.
  2. Is it proper? As Christians, we recognize that societal problems should be solved using different tools. Even the Old Testament laws had a division of roles between the different tribes and between Moses and the elders. In the same way, federal, provincial, and municipal governments have different roles to play. We also need to accept that some problems simply can’t be solved by government. Families, private businesses, and churches are also responsible for finding solutions to our problems. A proper Christian understanding of our political responsibility will always ask who can best solve the problem, if the problem can be solved by us at all.
  3. Is it just? In a theocratic state, such as that of the Old Testament Jews, where everyone is supposed to believe in the same God, laws could be made that reinforced both social order and religious beliefs. But since we don’t live in a theocratic state, we can’t expect everyone to live according to Christian rules. C. S. Lewis explores this when he writes about why Christians shouldn’t use the law to ban divorce, even if it is a practice we find biblically unacceptable.[iii]

But that doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for laws that benefit every member of our society. Laws against spousal abuse, rape, and murder are also found in the Old Testament theocratic laws, yet no one questions that we should have these laws in our own democracies. When we advocate for laws, then, we need to do so not to simply alter someone’s behaviour or as a way to “impose” our morality on others. Rather, we need to advocate for pro-life laws or laws against same-sex marriage because we care for our neighbours. We aren’t trying to impose Christian laws on others, but laws that will benefit the entire society.

Rendering to God

When broaching the topic of politics and faith, many often bring up the story of the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus by asking if the Jews should pay taxes to the Romans. Jesus responds by saying render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar to and to God the things that are of God.[iv] Advocates of no political action claim Jesus is dividing the roles of the church and the secular state. Therefore, Christians should not be involved in politics. I disagree. The passage makes clear that even as we should follow human laws, we do so because we recognize God’s sovereignty first. We follow human laws because we first follow God. After all, doesn’t God own everything, and so when we render to God what is God’s, wouldn’t that include our government?

[i] John MacArthur, Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2000).

[ii] Acts 16.

[iii] Qtd. in Jake Meador, “Why C. S. Lewis Is Wrong on Marriage,” Mere Orthodoxy, October 9, 2012, accessed October 30, 2014, http://mereorthodoxy.com/why-c-s-lewis-is-wrong-on-marriage/.

[iv] Matt. 22:18-22.

  • Anonymous

    Love this; Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem’s also a great read (although has a largely American bent on stats).


    When it comes to man’s relationship with God it is all about the heart condition. The question is, how is your heart?

    Luke 8:15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

    An honest and good heart is essential in order to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.

    Ephesians 4:17-18 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.

    Ignorance about God is due to a hard heart; it has nothing to do with a lack of intellectual ability.

    Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

    An unrepentant heart cannot produce a desirable result.

    Luke 21:34 “Be on your guard, so that your heart will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;

    Heart health is important in order to be ready for the return of Christ.

    Acts 1:24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen

    You can fool men into believing your heart is functioning properly, however, the Lord knows your heart. Jesus can help with heart surgery, it is up to you.

    Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    Dishonoring God results in a foolish and darkened heart. This is not a heart condition anyone should seek.


    Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

    Peter preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to the three thousand on the Day of Pentecost. That was the heart biopsy. (Acts 2:22-36)


    Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


    Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

    A Christian’s heart must remain faithful till the end.


    (All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

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