A Few Thoughts On The 2020 Election

Oct 31st, 2020 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

O. Alan Noble of Oklahoma Baptist University perceptively and solemnly observes, “Whether you describe it as a decadent society or a decaying culture or a democracy dying in darkness, 2020 has given us a taste for what Cormac McCarthy once described as ‘the frailty of everything revealed at last.’ We have been frail for a very long time, but what we could deny before has been made glaringly manifest through a pandemic, racial injustice, social unrest, mass unemployment, and a highly contentious presidential election that earnest folks on both sides have described in existential terms. The foundations of our society are not quite destroyed, but they are cracking, and those cracks raise the psalmist’s question, ‘What can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).’  The default evangelical response to cultural decay has been to redouble our culture war efforts: elect people who will better pursue our agenda, boycott and denounce attacks on our values, and so on. And while I would be the last to dismiss the importance of Christian political participation and cultural criticism, I do worry that these focuses can distract us from the more basic work that needs to be done. When many evangelicals lack a robust idea of sex, marriage, and the human body as God designed them, it does little good for us to criticize the normalization of alternative lifestyles. When evangelical consumers and evangelical entrepreneurs are driven by the same basic belief in autonomous individualism as their secular counterparts, we can’t be surprised when sacrificing for our neighbors feels like an infringement upon our rights. When white evangelicals have little grasp of history or the trauma of generations of institutionalized racism, we should not expect racial reconciliation to occur. When evangelicals have abandoned the possibility of truth and the common good for identity politics, it is not surprising that the world does not take our moral authority seriously.”

 

As we approach the 2020 election, I will not advocate for specific candidates at the national, state or local levels.  Rather, I believe it important that we keep a biblical perspective about the role of government and political power.

 

Perspective #1:  Jonathan Leeman, editorial director of 9Marks, cautions: “Don’t put too much hope in government.  But don’t give up on it either.  Churches need good governments.  In fact, God gave the world governments so that churches can do their work in peace.  The government’s work is a prerequisite to the mission of the church and salvation, just as learning to read is a prerequisite to reading the Bible.”

  • The institution of government is in Genesis 9:5-6—to promote justice and thwart evil (“to keep the Cains from killing the Abels”). But the ultimate purpose of government is to provide a platform for God’s plan of redemption (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  • In Acts 17:26-27 the Apostle Paul declares that “God determines the borders of nations and the dates of their duration so that people might seek him.”
  • Leeman correctly concludes that basically two types of governments show up in the Bible:  “Those who shelter God’s people and those that destroy them.  Abimelech sheltered; Pharaoh destroyed.  The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians ultimately, sheltered.  Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered . . . Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them impostors.  Most governments contain both.”

 

Perspective #2:  The late British theologian, J.I. Packer, reminds us of a profound truth:  “Christians are not to think of themselves as ever at home in this world but rather as sojourning aliens, travelers passing through a foreign land to the place where their treasures are stored awaiting their arrival” (see 1 Peter 2:11; Matthew 6:19-20).  We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom.   Indeed, Paul declares that, at salvation, God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).  We are now ambassadors of our King, representing Him, His kingdom and the values, virtues and standards of our King. He defeated Satan at the cross and His return to earth will forever put down the rebellion and bring God’s rule to earth during His Messianic kingdom of 1,000 years (see Revelation 20).  Then the “kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15).  Members of the church are citizens of this kingdom (Philippians 3:20), acknowledging Jesus as Lord and King (1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:9-10) and serving as His ambassadors until He returns (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Yet, Jesus did command a civic obligation to His kingdom citizens—an obligation of obedience to civil government, to pay taxes to that government, to pray for that government and to respect it as well (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Titus 3:1; Mark 12:13-17; Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26; 1 Timothy 2:1-4).

 

Perspective #3:  Packer also warns us of “politicized intentions,” to “reduce the Christian faith from a pilgrim path to heaven into a sociopolitical scheme for this present world . . . Those who revere Bible teaching as divine truth, who see Jesus in New Testament terms as first and foremost our Savior from sin, delivering us from wrath to come, renewing us in righteousness, and opening heaven to us, and who view evangelism as the basic dimension of neighbor-love, ought to oppose social evils just as vigorously as anybody else.  To do that is part of the practical Samaritanship to which all Christians are called—that is, the relieving of need and misery every way one can.”

 

Perspective #4:  Packer also cautions against the “political imperialism of some Christian Biblicists.”  He sees a genuine danger here as “they announce objectives and plunge into the hurly-burly of the political world in order to gain them.  Problems arise, however, through the temptation to view the democratic power game as the modern equivalent of holy war in the Old Testament, in which God called upon his people to overthrow the heathen and take their kingdom by force . . . But holy war is no part of God’s program for the Christian church.”    Wisely, Packer observes, “In a democracy, you cannot govern except as public opinion backs you and retains you in office.  Therefore, the quest for consensus, and the practice of persuasion with a view to achieving consensus, is all-important.  Riding roughshod over others as if they did not count will always have a self-defeating boomerang effect.”  The heart of democracy and of the democratic process is compromise:  “The intensity and integrity of the public struggle whereby a balance is struck between the contending parties then becomes an index of community health and morale.  The name given to the resolution of political conflict through debate is compromise . . . Compromise in politics means not the abandonment of principle, but realistic readiness to settle for what one thinks to be less than ideal when it is all that one can get at the moment.  The principle that compromise expresses is that half a loaf is better than no bread.  Give-and-take is the heart of political compromise, as compromise is the heart of politics in a democracy.  To see this is a sign of political maturity.  By contrast, a doctrinaire rigidity that takes up an adversary position toward all who do not wholly endorse one’s views and goals implies political immaturity . . . the Christian citizen must accept that in politics, no black-and-white answers are available, but God wills that all be led by the highest ideals and ripest wisdom that they an discover.  The case of Solomon (1 Kings 3) shows that God’s gift to rulers takes the form of wisdom to cope creatively with what comes rather than ready-made solutions to all problems.”

 

The New Testament does not speak of nor does it command political participation.  Early Christians lived in the Roman Empire, which was not a democracy and in which most Christians were not actually citizens.  But in America Christians live in a democratic-republic where there is a wide range of political possibilities that requires responsible commitments before God.  In his book, The Christian Citizen, Sir Frederick Catherwood offers wise counsel to the Christian in 2020:  “We must be humble and not opinionated.  We must be prepared to find that we are sometimes quite wrong and be able to admit it.  We serve our fellow men because of our love for a Lord who gave his life for us, and debt which, however well we serve, we can never repay.  So whatever we do, we do it from a sense of duty and because it is right . . . The Christian knows the meaning of patience and endurance.  But he also knows the meaning of action.  This is the right formula for Christian politics, just because it is the right formula for every single part of the Christian life.”

See O. Alan Noble, “Christian Colleges Are in Crisis. Here’s What That Means for the Church.” www.christianitytoday.com (10 September 2020); Jonathan Leeman, “How the State Serves Salvation,” in Tabletalk (June 2015), pp. 74-75; and J.I. Packer, “How to Recognize a Christian Citizen” in Christianity Today (September 2020), pp. 65-69;

3 Comments to “A Few Thoughts On The 2020 Election”

  1. Peter Wiebe says:

    The quote “to pray for that government and to respect it as well” is something Jesus advocates as indicated in the Perspective #2. I have seen very little if any evidence of any advocating prayer for the Trump administration in this perspective. I have, however, seen Trump attacked at every opportunity. I much prefer the “vote the Bible” that Cornerstone Church advocates where Christians are encouraged to consider the candidate from a Christian perspective, then prayerfully vote for that candidate that most lines up with what the Bible teaches. I think God would honor that. Another theologian requested Christians to “pray and fast” last Sunday for this election to be within God’s will. I think God would honor that. Trump has said that “every life is a gift from god, made in God’s image.” Biden wants to extend abortion as a woman’s right to choose. Which perspective is more in keeping with what we understand would be God’s will? We should discuss that within Christian publications!! God said that He would bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. Seriously, of the two, Trump or Biden, is more interested in looking after Israel’s interest? I wish the Perspective would line up issues that are in play and look at which ones are more in keeping with God’s instructions and which candidates are more in line with what we understand the Bible to advocate. Yes, the answers do not lie in politics, but truthfully, we must do our part and vote for those candidates who are more likely to get God’s blessings. It seems counterproductive to level all possible criticism on one candidate and totally ignore the shortcomings of the other and then feel comfortable in saying that politics cannot give us the solutions because we can only get them from God. That part is true, but goodness gracious, we have an obligation to prayerfully do our part, ask God to give us wisdom and guidance. “Vote the Bible” is a much better approach than make decisions based upon your hatred of Trump, who by the way, has done more to maintain the Judeo/Christian principles and any of the present day Democrats would possibly consider. Just like the mainstream media, this Perspective has stayed away from any serious look at what Biden brings to the table. We need to get away from the hatred Satan has implanted in so many people and start to look at both candidates and see who is more in line with God’s teachings.

    • Jim Eckman says:

      The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues. It does not exist to compare and contrast political parties, their platforms or their candidates. It does not advocate for political candidates. In the word of Tony Evans and his son, Jonathan, Issues in Perspective is “kingdom Independent.” Respect, dignity and the value of thoughtful dialogue are welcome. Accusatory and bullying tactics to make it into something it is not will not change the mission of Issues. Those who produce Issues in Perspective are thankful for liberty of conscience, liberty of faith and liberty of expression–so central to our democratic-republic. We weep for those who do not!

  2. Peter Wiebe says:

    Abortion and those who promote abortion is an ethical issue.

Leave a Comment