Politics Will Never Save the World

Recently I read two books, which though the subject matter was quite different, they both drove home the same danger I believe the church faces today: too much reliance on conservative politics.

The first book was a recent biography of Deietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas.  It is a large volume that gives great detail to the life of the German pastor .  Bonhoeffer was executed towards the end of World War II for his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler. The part of the book that fascinated me was the conflict that Bonhoeffer had with the German Lutheran church leading up to and during the war.  The German Lutheran church sided with Hitler and the Third Reich early on and taught that a nationalistic view was an important part of the German Lutheran faith.  Anyone who was not supportive of Hitler was viewed as a less than faithful Lutheran.  For this reason Bonhoeffer and some others were forced to leave the national church and he began to train future pastors in an independent seminary.  Metaxas makes the point throughout the book that the German Lutherans, so eager to overcome the shame of Germany’s defeat in the First World War, were willing to give up what orthodoxy they had left to side with Hitler, who was seen as the one who would bring redemption to Germany.  Their faith and their politics became so entangled that there was no longer any distinction.

The second book I recently read is entitled, “Republocrat.”  It was written by Carl R. Trueman, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  Trueman, who is from the United Kingdom, identifies himself as a liberal conservative.  The main thesis of his book is that conservative Christianity does not require conservative politics or a conservative social agenda. Trueman believes that the church is on the verge of losing its young people with a too tight connection between conservative politics and fidelity in the faith.  You might not agree with Trueman’s political views but his thesis is one that the church needs desperately to hear.  Being a republican or a conservative is not synonymous with being a Christian – nor does being a Christian mean you must be politically conservative.

How do these books relate to each other?  Both, I believe, point out the temptation the church faces to align with a political movement or party.  Whenever the church aligns itself this way it is in danger of forgetting its real power and its real Lord.  Jesus told us, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  The kingdom of God will never be brought into its fullness by a political system or party. The hope for our country for the future is not found in the election of a certain candidate for president but that Jesus Christ is Lord over all things and is reigning over all for his glory.  The transformation of society will never come about because laws are enacted by conservatives or liberals but because the Holy Spirit has used the gospel to change hearts.

Most of you know that I love politics.  But we must never look at political action as being the means to do what only God can do.  Likewise we must never look at one political party as being the “Christian” party.  Each of the main political parties has areas in which they are good and reflect biblical concerns.  And every political party has values which are clearly contrary to the values of Scripture.  That’s why our true allegiance is to the Lord alone and our values come from the Word alone.  We do not put our faith in Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow.  Our confidence is in the King of kings and Lord of lords.

By the way…I do recommend books.  Happy reading.

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6 thoughts on “Politics Will Never Save the World

  1. It is a challenging subject. I believe as individuals we should be involved in the political process, because that is the process society uses as a whole to dictate social standards.

  2. I was stunned a few years ago when a respected Christian teacher at a conservative Bible college talked about Jesus’ politics, i.e. that Jesus had a political purpose. I posted this yesterday on facebook:

    In the style of “Coffee With Jesus” offered by Radio Free Babylon (see their web site), what follows is a conversation between a stubbled man wearing a ball cap with a fishing license & a couple lures clipped to it, holding a rod, speaking to a man in a suit with long dark hair & beard as they sip their coffee:

    Man: “What do people call you? Some say you were a good teacher, others say a myth, some theologians think you were a political reformer.
    Jesus: “Political!? What a dim reductionist ploy. At least back then they called me a prophet. What do they call Ghandi or the Dalai Lama?”
    Man: “Great spiritual leaders”
    Jesus: “Some things never change. And who do you say I am?”
    Man: “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    Jesus: “Blessed are you, for flesh and blood can only imagine prophet, teacher, leader or myth. You say well.”
    Man: “Um… we don’t say much about this usually. It’s kind of a personal thing.”
    Jesus: “Yes. It was very personal on the cross.”

  3. You write, “The transformation of society will never come about because laws are enacted by conservatives or liberals but because the Holy Spirit has used the gospel to change hearts.” I have two questions (1) do you believe hearts changed by the gospel will or should transform society? (2) If so, should these changed Christians promote/encourage good laws in society? My impression from your statement is that the power of the gospel and “transformation of society” are mutually exclusive &/or Christians should not promote good laws in society, is this your point? Christians were accused of turning the world upside down in Acts 17. I often hear a radical 2Kingdom viewpoint coming from Reformed churches in California right now and I couldn’t help but ask your view. I hope you don’t mind my query.

    • I am not a radical 2 kingdom guy. My concern in this post is that for the last three decades many Christians thought transformation would occur through political action. That plan has not resulted in many successes. The answer will not be found in more republicans elected to office but in Christians living out the claims of Christ in their homes, schools, and work.