“Shut yourself up in an intellectual monastery, do not disturb yourself with the thoughts of unregenerate men, and of course you will find it easier to be a Christian, just as it is easier to be a good soldier in comfortable winter quarters than it is on the field of battle. You save your own soul—but the Lord’s enemies remain in possession of the field.” — J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” The Princeton Theological Review (1912).
“You can avoid the debate [over the contested issues of the faith] if you choose. You need only drift with the current. Preach every Sunday like you studied in college and these questions will probably never trouble you. The great questions may be easily avoided. Many preachers are avoiding them and they are preaching to the air. The Church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her battles and solve her problems” — J. Gresham Machen in Ned B. Stonehouse’s J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir (1954).
I saw the following on Facebook.
Churches need to stay out of politics. If more churches actually did the will of the Lord instead of focusing on politics this country would not be in the shape it is in. The US is in the shape … because more and more people are turning away from God. This is indeed an indictment on Churches in general. Instead of focusing on politics we need to be more like Christ and focus on the person and the heart. Only then will meaningful change occur.
One kind soul wrote the following in response: “I highly recommend you read some of Gary DeMar’s work(s). Christians need to be engaged in politics because God is the one who gives authority to the government. The only ones who can rightly exercise that authority would be those who follow and trust in the God who created them.”
I wrote a book on the subject with the title God and Government: A Biblical, Historical, and Constitutional Study. Unfortunately, it was not enough for some Christians who commented:
The church should not prioritize politics. We both know you cannot legislate the hearts of people. Abortion, gay marriage, things of that nature are unfortunately part of this world because of the sinful nature of man. If we try to address a spiritual issue by solving it by physical solutions, we will lose before we begin. Churches should not be using the pulpit to preach politics but rather the gospel and good news of Jesus. If more people took the time with the individual rather than political issues this country would be a better place. It is politics that is killing church membership and is one of the reasons I swore never to go back to a church again even though I remain with Christ.
I don’t know anyone who “prioritizes” politics from the pulpit, but when the political realm is encroaching on God’s other governments—self, family, church, county, and states—addressing the topic from the pulpit is necessary as it is for other sins. That’s right, politics is not neutral. Politicians sin just like the rest of us. Christians who ignore these sins are acting contrary to God’s Word. The Bible is full of examples. The books of Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, as well as the biblical prophets, are good places to start. Numerous case laws in the Bible apply to civil government.
The thing of it is, identifying as a Christian does not automatically make that person knowledgeable about moral issues, a point made by Paul, John, and James. All three writers called fellow-Christians to account on numerous occasions. There was the man “that had his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1), a clear violation of biblical law (Lev. 18:8; Deut. 22:30; 27:20). If this is true of Christians in Paul’s day, what makes anyone think that it’s any less true today in the realm of politics where Christians need to vote in terms of “the word of righteousness” (Heb. 5:13)? Paul tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” and it’s the allness of Scripture (including the Old Testament) that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). There is no way to preach from the Old Testament and not deal with politics.
Here was his response to some of the points I was making regarding how often the Bible addresses politics:
Yes, preachers and pastors could touch base on those books you mention without talking about politics. You could talk about Daniel, Isaiah, Esther, Judges, Psalms, and all those books and not talk politics. Politics have no effect besides dividing, and honestly do you think Christ would want division and strife?
Can you imagine such thinking? He just contradicted what Paul wrote to Timothy, cut out a huge section of the Bible, and made the audacious claim that politics does not affect anything but cause divisions.
Politics impacts our lives every day and in every way. Our government can draft your sons and daughters and send them to fight in immoral wars. Congress can pass laws to take money from you and give it to people who have no right to it. The Bible discusses this in 1 Samuel 8. Government officials can and do indoctrinate your children, making it easy for your children to change their sex, send your hard-earned money dollars overseas to fund abortions, inhibit your travel, force your business to close, sequester your children at home to be educated by the State, and so much more, including passing laws stop pastors from preaching the gospel!
Jesus was the biggest religious divider in history, so much so that the religious leaders of the day wanted to kill Him. Consider the following:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to TURN A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A PERSON’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD [Micah 7:16]” (Matt. 10:34–36).
What Bible is this person reading? Has he read the book of Acts?
The critic who claims that pastors should not preach on politics from the pulpit argues that only the gospel should be preached from the pulpit. Does this mean that nothing else in the Bible should be preached? The “gospel-only” critic stated that churches should be “making disciples of people,” and part of the discipleship process means, as Christians, “you do not need politics to do the will of the Lord.” But those in politics should be doing the work of the Lord by rendering to Him those things that are His (Matt. 22;21). How will anyone know what those things are if they are not taught?
The critic follows his comment with a glaring contradiction: “Rather if churches and Christians truly followed the commandments” instead of “preaching and teaching on politics, the world and country would be better.” Wait a minute! I thought he said pastors should only preach the gospel. Now he’s saying pastors should be involved in “discipleship” and teach about the commandments. These are not pure gospel topics. What does it mean to disciple someone? Jesus told us:
And Jesus came up and spoke to [the eleven disciples], saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18–20).
Did you notice something? Jesus does not say anything about “just preach the gospel.” You see, discipleship assumes and includes the gospel, but is wider and deeper than the gospel since the new birth is the beginning of discipleship, not its end. This is why the writer to the Hebrews scolded his Christian readers. They needed someone to teach them “the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” They needed to go back on a diet of milk because they could not handle “solid food.” They had reverted to nursing babies. But milk was needed so the new Christian “may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2), not remain in the immature condition. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:11–14). Good and evil in everything, and everything includes politics.
The political critic says that in church pastors should only preach a message that leads people to Christ. What if everyone in a church is a professing Christian? Of course, there may be some who aren’t. Does this mean that every Sunday, the only message a pastor should preach is one that leads people to Christ? Why a Bible with 66 books running hundreds of pages if the only message each Sunday is one leading people to Christ? Not a single New Testament book only includes content about leading people to Christ. The New Testament writers touch on numerous subjects that are not “gospel-only.”
I told you in a previous article titled “It’s Never Been About ‘Just the Facts’” that many anti-politics Christians are fixated on eschatology. For example:
Again, you are referring to a future timeline. You are referring to the age that is yet to come. The tribulation. Oh, but wait I forgot you don’t think the tribulation is real or that it has already happened. Jesus, the first time He came, sought unity because He came to save the world from sin. If He did not WHY WOULD HE DIE ON THE CROSS? IF he had not come in peace HE WOULD NOT HAVE DIED ON THE CROSS AND THEN WE WOULD ALL BE CONDEMNED TO HELL WHICH CONTRADICTS HIS WILL. You are obviously getting his 1st and 2nd coming mixed up.
We’ve already covered the “unity” claim. The gospels are not about unity, and neither is the book of Acts. Where’s the unity here?
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift at sea. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers (2 Cor. 11:24–26).
Actually, I do believe in tribulation. There was a great tribulation in the lead up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matt. 24:9, 21). See my books Last Days Madness and Wars and Rumors of Wars, and John Bray’s Matthew 24 Fulfilled. This nullifies the “gospel-only” critic that Jesus was all about peace and unity at His first coming when He prophesied the judgment on those who refused to acknowledge who He was (John 1:11–12), a perfect example of division and not unity. But saying the tribulation mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse is all the tribulation there is has become a false charge. John said that he was a “fellow-partaker” in the tribulation (Rev. 1:9). There’s mention of tribulation in 2:9–10. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Look at these passages about tribulation in the book of Romans (2:9; 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; 1 Thess. 1:6).
I’ve run across some bad biblical thinking in my life, but this is some of the worst I have encountered.
God and Government
With a fresh new look, more images, an extensive subject and scripture index, and an updated bibliography, God and Government is ready to prepare a whole new generation to take on the political and religious battles confronting Christians today. May it be used in a new awakening of Christians in America—not just to inform minds, but to stimulate action and secure a better tomorrow for our posterity.
Biblical Blueprints for Victory
Government isn’t the same as politics. Before Christians can change our present corrupt political system, we must lay hold of a truly biblical view of government that (1) acknowledges the sovereign, overruling government of God and (2) the limitations of delegated governments created by God. The further we get from God’s sovereign will, the closer we get to the tyranny of men.