How Can a Christian Influence Government
About the Guest
What is the purpose of government? Wayne Grudem explains that the government is God's authority for our good, protecting us from evil and promoting order. However, there is danger with too much government.
Wayne GrudemWayne Grudem (PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is distinguished research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, having previously taught for 20 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, the general editor of the ESV Study Bible, and has published over 20 books.
What is the purpose of government?
How Can a Christian Influence Government
Bob: Elections are always a pivotal time in the history of our nation and next Tuesday is no exception. Here is how Dr. Wayne Grudem thinks we ought to be preparing.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I think first of all we have to as Christians settle in our hearts that we have trust in God that our future is in his hands, that should stir us up to pray. And Paul tells us how to pray, we have to pray for good government not bad government. And then I think we have to work for good government because there are examples in the Bible of God’s people influencing not just Jewish Kings or Kings of Israel but God’s people influencing secular rulers.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey. And I'm Bob Lepine. There are right ways and wrong ways for Christians to think about politics and civil government and upcoming elections. We are going to talk about those with Dr. Wayne Grudem, today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today and thanks for joining us. I don’t know if you have been paying attention to what’s all over the news and what people are talking about.
Dennis: Paying attention, some of these ads that have been aired, these political ads.
Bob: Oh, I was thinking about Southeast Conference Football. You were thinking about something else?
Dennis: Well, that’s pretty hot, too. We got drubbed at Auburn here a couple of weeks ago. I am telling you that was especially since I got a good friend who is an Auburn grad, who is kind of rubbing --.
Bob: (laughing) Salt in the wound, right.
Dennis: Yes, thank you. Yes, but the political ads have you seen the one with the guy in the sheep’s clothing who has kind of demonic eyes.
Bob: It’s gotten ugly up there.
Dennis: It has gotten ugly and there is a lot at stake and normally this was a topic that we don’t necessarily tackle as frontally as we are about to today. But we have a friend with us who has just written a great doorstop, it’s called Politics-According to the Bible.
Bob: That’s terrible.
Dennis: And I could only say that to my friend Wayne Grudem who is joining us on FamilyLife Today. Wayne this is a classic, this thing weighs about five pounds.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well not quite that much.
Bob: You have to carry it in your briefcase, haven’t you?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I put it in the suitcase.
Dennis: Wayne is a good friend. He and his wife, Margaret, used to speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage to getaways. He is currently the Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary. He holds degrees from Harvard, Westminster Seminary, and Cambridge and is the author of more than 15 books including the best-selling Systematic Theology.
Wayne has thrown a stone at a hornet’s nest when you have tackled this subject of politics and the Bible. Here is how I want you to start the broadcast Wayne. I told you I was going to give you a real easy question to answer, you ready?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I am ready.
Dennis: Barbara said she took a class from you in ethics and that you did a great job in that class tracing government from the beginning of civilization to the current time and that you made a profound statement of how democracy was the shining jewel of how government had evolved. Did you say that?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I think I might have said something like that. At least it’s better than all of the other systems. I mean would you rather live under a dictatorship or a military leadership that took power by guns? Would you rather live under a monarchy where a king passes on the rule to his son and then his son? Or would you rather live under an anarchy where there is no government and no law that can restrain evil.
All those other systems of government really are inferior to the system of democracy that we have, so Dennis as I drive down the street now where we are in Arizona probably you are here in Little Rock. You see campaign signs all over the street and I know it's easy to think these are messy, but I just have in my heart a thankfulness that I live in a country where we are able to campaign for office and people have the freedom to vote. I am so thankful to God for that.
Dennis: It’s a broken system at its best because it’s populated by human beings.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: It’s imperfect.
Dennis: It is imperfect.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: It just better than all of the other systems.
Dennis: It is but I thought I was really grateful for Barbara to kind of put it all in perspective back to a class that you taught. You have written this book though to really encourage followers of Christ to have a biblical viewpoint of politics. Now I want to go to the very essence of what government is all about, why did God give us government in the first place?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well, Romans 13 says that the civil authority is God’s servant for your good. And so the first thing we have to remember about government is that it’s a gift from God and that is to do us good and as Paul says in that passage in Romans 13 it’s to be a terror to those who do evil. But it is to reward or praise according to 1 Peter 2:13 and 14 reward or praise or encourage those who do good.
So government is to punish evil and protect us from evil. It is to reward good and it is also I think to promote order in society with speed limits and stop lights. We all drive on the same side of the road and there are weights and measures standards and things like that. There are lot of good things that government does for us that we should be thankful for it.
Bob: We are a people who need to be governed.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Correct.
Bob: I think that is part of what I understand.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: You think you and I…
Dennis: Well, you know the listeners know that really Bob does need to be governed with.
Bob: Well I remember reading and this was years ago I think it was in Chuck Colson’s Book Kingdoms in Conflict which was a helpful book. It came out about 20 years ago.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes, it was excellent.
Bob: And I think he said in that book that there is one political school that says if you just give people all the freedom they can have then everything will be fine.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Libertarianism.
Bob: And then there is another school it says if you just give people all of the resources they need then they will do the right thing. And he said what both of those fail to take into account is the depravity of man. As a result we need governing authorities in our lives or else we will head down the wrong road as a culture.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: We do but Bob there is always the danger then and Samuel warned about that danger and 1 Samuel 8 when he told to people that if they got a king the king would want to take more and more power for himself. So we are thankful for government but we must be on our guard against government gaining excessive power and treading where it shouldn’t.
Samuel said in 1 Samuel 8:11 these will be the ways of the King who will rule over you. He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and then verse 13, he will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards.
He will take the 10th of your grain and of your vineyards. He will take your male servants and female servants and your donkeys. He will take the 10th of your flocks and you should be his slaves. Take. Take. Take. Take. Take. That’s the tendency of government to try to take more and more of our resources and basically that’s taking away our freedom.
Dennis: And you know Wayne in our lifetimes we have seen the Christian community swing from one end of the pendulum all the way to the other. And this is really one of the reasons why Bob and I wanted to talk with you today and bring these broadcast to our listeners because it seems like Christians really are struggling with a good biblical well balanced approach to government.
Bob: Are you talking about hyper involvement versus zero involvement that kind of thing?
Dennis: Yes, in fact I would like you to just share from your book a couple of those with our listeners. You have five wrong views about Christians and government that you talk about there.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes, Dennis right at the beginning I say there are five wrong views. First there is the view that government should compel religion. That’s the idea that government should force everybody to be Presbyterian or Roman Catholic or Baptist or Jewish or Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim.
That view is contrary to the teachings of the Bible because genuine faith cannot be forced by the government. Anybody who has brought up children knows that. You can bring your children to church and teach him the bible but you can’t force them to have personal faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. So that first wrong view is that government should compel religion.
There were Christians in previous centuries who fell into that mistake and there were wars of religion in Europe for instance in the 16th and 17th centuries. No Christian that I know of holds that view today and I am glad. There are Muslim nations who hold that try to force everybody to follow Islam and go to the mosque and things like that. But we have to say no in Christianity has influence in the government we will insist on freedom of religion for every religion.
The opposite mistake however is when the pendulum swings too far the other way, that’s the second mistake that government should exclude religion. That’s the view of the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s the view of these people who want to take the 10 commandments out of public buildings. They try to forbid or do forbid prayers at city council meetings and school graduation ceremonies.
And there was an incident that I mentioned in this book on politics in the Bible where there was a high school valedictorian, she was giving her speech at graduation as is traditional and she started to quote a Bible verse, and the principal switched off the PA system so she couldn’t be heard.
You know that’s contrary to the constitution. The first amendment of the constitution says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. And that principal was just prohibiting that girl’s free exercise of religion. So that’s the second wrong view to exclude religion from government.
There are many examples in the Bible where God’s people in the Old Testament and the New Testament had influence on government rulers. I will talk about that in a couple of minutes.
Dennis: You know as you were talking about those Wayne and as I read about them in your book I thought that second extreme of prohibiting God from being involved in government we can see that all over the place today. There is another one that frankly until you talked about it in your book, I hadn’t really hadn’t heard about and that is that all government is evil and demonic.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes this is an unusual view it’s promoted especially by a Minnesota pastor named Greg Boyd in the book called Myth of a Christian Nation. He says that Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments. And so Christians shouldn’t really get involved in the government because that’s Satan’s work. That’s not God’s work.
Bob: So what’s he do with Romans 13?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well, he admits that government has a role in restraining evil because he can’t avoid it in Romans 13 but he said that’s not God’s ideal way. The ideal way is preach the gospel and change people’s hearts and that sounds tempting for people to accept that but there are couple of mistakes.
First, it’s wrongly understanding the role of government. The Bible doesn’t say that Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments. I mean he gets that from the temptation where Jesus is being tempted by the devil and the devil says you know all of the authority of these kingdoms has been given to me and I will give it to you.
But Jesus tells us how to understand what Satan says. He says Satan is a liar in John 8, liar and the father of lies. But what Romans 13 days is not that Satan is the CEO of earthly governments but that the earthly government is God’s servant for your good and there is no authority accept from God. And so I just reject that view as incorrect and unscriptural.
Bob: I want to ask you about that because I will hear of lot of people who will say our hope should not be in government. Our hope should be in the gospel and then the changing of people’s hearts and lives.
Then you will hear other people who will say, well yes that’s our hope but we must be actively involved in civil politics and then bringing our faith to bear. And so there is a little bit of polarization between those who says just go preach the gospel and those who say no we got to be in here and stem the tide of corruption in our culture.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well, I think we have to ask these people a hope for what? Our hope for heaven and eternal life is only in trusting in Jesus as our personal Savior to forgive our sins and make us right before God.
But my hope for protecting me from drunk drivers when I drive around Phoenix is in the police and the laws. I want them to keep drunk drivers out off the street and someone can say well if we just preach the gospel enough we will get rid of all of the drunk drivers but it is not a very realistic view.
Dennis: Yes, right.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: When you have a view that is contradicted by all history, in fact you see that view would even say that the work of fighting to defeat Hitler in World War II was demonic forces on both sides and it would lead us to a passivist’s position.
In fact Greg Boyd said "If an attacker comes into his house he wouldn't even use physical force to defend his wife or children," which I think is just contrary to God’s commands that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and we are given responsibility to lead and I think protect our families.
Bob: At the same time you do see Christians in these election cycles like we are in right now, and there is almost a sense of, if we don’t get our people into office, if we don’t get this party or this group elected then the culture is going to go down the drain. It seems like they are putting more stock in what human government can do then the Bible puts in it.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: God rules over the nations, Job 12:23. He makes nations great, and he destroys them. He enlarges nations and he leads them away. In Daniel 4, Daniel says Nebuchadnezzar the Most High rules the kingdom of men and sits over it whom he will. Romans 13, there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God.
So I think first of all we have to as Christians settle in our hearts that we have trust in God that our future is in his hands that should stir us up to pray. And Paul tells us how to pray, we have to pray for good government not bad government.
1 Timothy 2 Paul says I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people for kings and all who are in authority that we may lead a godly and peaceable life quiet and respectful in every way. We have to pray for good government and then I think we have to work for good government because there are examples in the Bible of God’s people influencing not just Jewish kings or kings of Israel but God’s people influencing secular rulers.
Dennis: Yes and that’s where I wanted to go here Wayne was here it is Thursday I mean the election is next Tuesday. Christians are looking at their watches they are going to be glad when the commercials go off the television having to watch this stuff the wars on TV. How is a Christian going to influence, besides the obvious of voting, how is he to influence government over the long hall Wayne?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well certainly to pray I mentioned that. But then also God gives different people opportunities to influence government. I go back to Genesis 41:40 where Pharaoh put Joseph second in command over the whole kingdom of Egypt. Now that’s a secular nation that’s not the Israelite people but Joseph had influence over the whole government.
You go forward to the book of Esther. Esther and then her uncle Mordecai had influence over the kingdom of Persia. Esther intervened risking her life before Ahasuerus and saved the Jewish people from destruction. Now that’s influencing government for good, and that’s what I am saying Christians should do. Mordecai was put second in command over the kingdom.
Nehemiah 1:11 says Nehemiah was cup bearer to the king. He was the high official with influence. And in Daniel 4, Daniel rebukes Nebuchadnezzar the most powerful governmental ruler in the world at that time, King of Babylon says “O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed.” So those are examples of influencing the King of Egypt, the King of Persia, the King of Babylon for good, those are God’s people.
Dennis: And I think FamilyLife Today quite honestly has been used by God over the past almost two decades now because we are heard at 7:30 in the morning in Washington, D.C. There are undoubtedly congressmen. There are members of the judiciary and their staff, and the White House that have a listened.
Bob: You have talked to some of them.
Dennis: I have.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Wow.
Dennis: And think hopefully God has used what we have done here. We have taught the moral precepts of the Bible. God’s standards for righteousness, for judgment, for truth and without taking sides republican or democrat, independent or tea party whatever—the point is we have tried to represent the truth of scripture and let people make up their mind about who to vote for.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I am really glad you have been doing that Dennis and I know that’s your heart. In fact a similar concern was what led me to write this book Politics According to the Bible. I have been teaching Ethics now at the seminary level for 29 years and I realize that there were many issues that I have covered in Ethics that had political implications.
I have talked about abortion, certainly. I have talked about euthanasia, talked about Capital Punishment and just Work, talked about definition of marriage, and what marriage should be and what the law should be.
Dennis: Yeah they are listed here on pages 68 and 69 pornography, care for the environment, education, moral standards.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Ethical issues.
Dennis: You say Christians need to be influencing government with the biblical standard around these issues.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Right. I ended up taking that 29 years of teaching ethics and applying those principles and those ethical standards to now 60 modern political issues. I may not be right in my conclusions on everyone but I thought it would be good to give Christians a resource or a reference that they could go to. What does the Bible say about the future of Israel and how we should relate to it? What about taxation? What about the immigration problem?
I have just covered as many topics as I could and said here is in my best judgment. Here is what I think the biblical principles are. Here are the facts of the situation, now what do you think?
Bob: And when somebody comes to you and says what you are trying to do is force your biblical view on everybody else even if they don’t believe it.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Not force, persuade.
Bob: And that is key, isn't it?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: It is key.
Bob: I mean because people will say, you are trying to enact it as legislation but if we do that we got a majority of people and that’s how we are designed to function, right?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Right. And I have pointed out in this book Bob that in the 1830s two thirds of the abolitionists who were campaigning for the abolition of slavery in the United States, two thirds of them were Christian clergymen who were attempting to persuade people by preaching politics from the pulpit saying that slavery was morally wrong and the laws needed to be changed.
Or more recently in our history we have the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. a Baptist pastor who preached from the Bible that the practices of discrimination and segregation in our society were wrong and the laws needed to be changed. That’s consistent with the pattern of Old Testament people influencing government for good or if I had more time I can talk about John the Baptist in Luke 3, rebuking King Herod for all the evil things that he had done, again a secular king. Or the Apostle Paul and the Book of Acts talking to the Governor Felix, the Roman governor about righteousness and self control of the coming judgment. That’s the whole theme of this book that Christians have a biblical responsibility to seek to influence government for good.
Dennis: And I caught that in reading it, and frankly it gave me the courage to do a better job of continuing to teach the scriptures here that government needs the moral compass and the reason from God’s perspective the rational from the scriptures that we as followers of Christ can uniquely offer, and if we are silent --
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Oh, man.
Dennis: If we are silent then I promise you there is another world view that is from the dark side. I mean there is evil. It is present. It wants to destroy America. Because it has been used mightily by God for decades and generations to preach the gospel and to send wave after wave of evangelism preaching the truth about Jesus Christ to the world because of our wealth, our freedom and yet we as Christians need to be engaged and involved.
Bob: And I doubt that any of our listeners are going to have a chance to read through your whole book before they go out and vote next week. I think if they started now.
Dennis: Speed reader.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: It's got 600 pages. But you know what Bob it’s set up so you could go to any issue. You can go to read the section on economics and taxation and how an economy grows and what hinders it.
What do I think is the cure for the current recession for instance? Or go and read the section on raising children and whether parents should have the primary responsibility for raising children. I think we are going to talk about that and how that affects the question of current school systems and educational problems in the United States. Well people can go and read any particular section as a reference book without reading the whole book.
Bob: And even if you don’t have a time to get a copy of the book before the election you would still urge them to out and vote next Tuesday.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well it depends on how are they going to vote.
Dennis: That’s well said.
Bob: Well some of them we would like to have them stay home may be.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: If they are voting to contrary Christian principles. They could decide not to set the alarm that morning.
Dennis: Well I hope the listeners to this broadcast are thinking biblically about who they are voting for.
Bob: Well and this book is going to help them do that, that’s what you have written it for. In fact, I have already gotten a copy of this to give to my college-age son who has a keen interest in issues political and economic. I want him to read it and you know what there may be things in here where he goes I am not sure I agree with that, but this is going to help him interact with what the scriptures have to say to think biblically about his world view.
I hope our listeners will go to our website familylifetoday.com. Order a copy of Dr. Wayne Grudem’s new book Politics According to the Bible. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center and you can order it from us online at familylifetoday.com. Again the website familylifetoday.com.
Or call toll free 1800-358-6329. It's 1800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY and as Dr. Grudem has said there are 60 subjects in this book, that are examined with the scriptures at the center asking the question what does the Bible have to say about economics? What does the Bible have to say about global warming? What does the Bible have to say about school choice and all of these kinds of issues?
If you want to look carefully at how the scriptures speak to and inform your thinking on these kinds of subjects. This is a great tool to have and a great reference book to have on your shelf. Again the title of the book is Politics According to the Bible by Dr. Wayne Grudem. Go to familylifetoday.com to request a copy or call us toll free at 1800-358-6329, 1-800 “F” as in Family “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY.
Now tomorrow we are going to continue our conversation with Dr. Wayne Grudem so that we can be thinking wisely and biblically as we plan to handle the polls next week. I hope you can join us for that discussion tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine we will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife, of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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