American Christians’ Political Lethargy

PMT 2014-023b by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Sadly today, too many Christians deem Christian engagement in politics as unbiblical, unproductive, and even unsafe. In the early 1950’s prominent radio evangelist J. Vernon McGee famously asked: “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?” Best-selling author and televangelist Hal Lindsey has stated: “I don’t like cliches but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.” A current website updates these observations: “Who would go into a condemned building and start painting the walls and replacing broken windows? Who would stay on a sinking ship washing dirty dishes in the galley? That’s what it is like to become entangled in this world and its politics.”

Even many influential scholars have discouraged Christian political action on similar grounds. After secular humanism came to a head in our culture, theologian and best-selling author John F. Walvoord provided Christians a comfort in their lethargy: “Perhaps Christians are not as concerned about social, political, and moral conditions in the world as they should be; but, on the other hand, it is not God’s purpose in our present age to have social justice or to have all the ills and problems of life removed now.” He further noted that “Christians have no immediate solution to the problems of our day.”

More recently theologian Wayne House has warned Christians that any “attempt to establish long-term change in institutions will only result in the leaven of humanism permeating Christianity.” Influential best-selling author John F. MacArthur, agrees: “‘Reclaiming’ the culture is a pointless, futile exercise. I am convinced we are living in a post-Christian society—a civilization that exists under God’s judgment.”

This is tragic in and of itself, in that it refuses to heed Christ’s world-impacting call to “disciple the nations” (Matt 28:19) under his claim of “all [not some!] authority heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). As we saw earlier this includes even political authority (Eph 1:21; Phil 2:9; Rev 19:16) because it encompasses all authority — even “on earth.”

These sentiments are also unaware of important realities of religious history. Theologian R. J. Rushdoony reminds us of the words of church historian Kenneth S. Latourette, noting that “the church has, he declares, advanced precisely in the areas and periods of cultural collapse and hence from the beginning established itself in the culturally dying Roman Empire.” What if the first Christians had refused to promote Christ’s holistic call? Christianity would have quickly faded into oblivion, hiding its light under a basket (Matt 5:15) while refusing to “expose the works of darkness” (Eph 5:11). It would have been “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matt 5:13).

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