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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Gospel or Politics?

It is not always very clear for Christians in politics where to draw the line. Many end up compromising their previously, deeply, held Biblical beliefs for some small political gain.

Is it worth compromising the essentials of the gospel, in order to join up with others who do not hold one's beliefs, in many cases even those that the church should be treating as heretics, in order to have some sort of political gain? Phil Johnson, in his very insightful article, How Evangelicals Traded Their Spiritual Authority for a Mess of Political Pottage, shows how after a quarter of a century of political activism among evangelicals, they still have not accomplished what they have set out to do..., have Roe vs Wade (abortion on demand) overturned. This is after they have voted in several Republican presidents, such as Reagan and Bush I and Bush II.

As Phil wrote,

"But let's be clear, here: The church as a body has no calling to organize and protest in the political realm. Moreover, government service and political campaigning are different vocations from the calling of a pastor. It's well-nigh impossible to be a good pastor full time if you also fancy yourself a political lobbyist.

"Practically the worst kind of spiritual treason any pastor or church body could ever commit would be to supplant the gospel message with a different message, or to allow a merely moral agenda to crowd out our spiritual duties. That is exactly the risk we take when we pour money and resources into political and legislative remedies for our society's spiritual problems."

It is simply impossible to slap a political "band-aid" on a nation's spiritual problems! Christians in politics forget that many times, even when the parties they work for claim to be Christian parties, that the solution to a country's problems is not predominantly political, but spiritual.

Phil continues,
"Worst of all, during that same period of time, the evangelical movement has completely lost its spiritual influence, because the evangelical segment of the church has grown increasingly worldly. Evangelicals have become accustomed to compromise. They have abandoned (or else are in the process of abandoning) virtually all the doctrinal distinctives that set their movement part from Roman Catholicism, liberal mainline Protestants, and the hordes of nominal Christians in America whose faith amounts to a kind of civil religion. Evangelicals have pretty much forfeited whatever real moral and spiritual authority their movement ever had."

While the evangelical church continues to fail itself by jettisoning important doctrinal distinctives, it further continues to fail society since the church no longer has a message of hope for the lost. Important doctrines such as hell and the wrath of God have been lost since the church wanted to play "nice" with those outside the church, while becoming more and more irrelevant to a society wallowing in its own evil, with no hope of any deliverance from that evil.

Here in South Africa we have a situation where the church has no interest in being involved in politics. Whereas in America, the evangelical church is a political force (not always with a clear direction) to be reckoned with, here in South Africa churches hide behind the claim of "neutrality." Churches in South Africa tend not to handle any political issues that have a moral dimension to it. I cannot remember when last I heard a sermon that spoke against our laws of abortion on demand, gay marriage or pornography.

The church has gone from, "We cannot endorse one particular political party," to not speaking on any of the issues at all, even though on these moral issues the Bible has a whole lot to say!

When the church loses its gospel message and its cultural mandate to be the salt of the earth, then no doubt will it have nothing to offer anyone! On the one hand, if the church denies its cultural mandate, then it certainly denies its role to fight for justice in the midst of injustice. The church is not a holy huddle with nothing to say or nothing to do in our culture. On the other hand, if the church takes up its cultural mandate but loses the gospel in the process, then the mandate itself is baseless. The gospel is the foundation of the mandate. Without the gospel, there is no Biblical ground to stand on in the cultural mandate.

So, on the one hand we have Jesus telling us to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, and on the other hand He is telling us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

The church's primary purpose is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and working from that solid foundation, it can exercise its cultural mandate in caring for the poor and those who have experienced injustice at the hands of unjust authorities.

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