ne of our commenters raised some excellent questions, just about the time I thought last Thursday's combox had played out. Having spent some time thinking about his questions and writing answers, I thought it would be better to post my answers here on our front page, rather than leave them at the end of a long comment-thread no one is reading any more.
So here you are:
Are you saying that Christians should never seek these political remedies, or that they are currently spending more time than they should seeking these remedies?
I keep saying that my main point is about how the church corporately should be spending her time and resources, not about what an individual who is vocationally (or avocationally) involved in politics should do.
To be clear:
- I object to pastors who use their pulpits to organize voters rather than teach the Bible and proclaim the gospel.
- I object to evangelical organizations (including certain Christian broadcasters, evangelical radio stations, the National Association of Evangelicals, various 501c3's, and even some churches) who raise money for "ministry" and then all they ever talk about are political issues and headline news, while rarely (if ever) mentioning the gospel.
- I object to the fact that when the average unbeliever today hears the word evangelical, he thinks of a voting bloc rather than anything spiritual.
- I object to the fact that most evangelicals are overwhelmingly on the same page politically, but their movement is doctrinally so diverse that they can't even agree what the gospel is.
- I object to the fact that the average evangelical could not give a coherent, biblically sound summary of the gospel or a theologically accurate explanation of justification by faithbut they are more worried about an Obama presidency than they are about the disintegration of their own testimony.
If we take George Barna's data at face value (and I don't recommend that, but even a nuanced interpretation of his statistics would probably bear this out), the typical "evangelical" hasn't got a clue what the biblical idea of redemption is about. He isn't really sure he needs to be "saved" from anything other than the wave of immorality and economic crises liberal policies have foisted upon us. He believes the work of God in this world is all about a handful of highly-publicized moral issues involving sins other people commit. And he is convinced the first and most important remedy for our culture's moral meltdown is government-imposed legislation.
If Christians ought not seek these remedies, who should?
"Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60).
Even individual Christians need to consider their priorities from a biblical perspective and make wise choices about the best use of time and resources. Which is ultimately the better long-term answer to sinlaw, or gospel? Law certainly has a place, but it can never actually solve any of the social problems evangelicals are so agitated about nowadays. Even the individual Christian whose vocation is in politics or law enforcement needs to keep the gospelnot merely a message about morality or cultural reformat the center of his testimony to unbelievers.
Our spiritual great-grandparents were even more exercised about the sin of drunkenness than Christians in this generation are about the slaughter of unborn children. They decided that a legal remedya constitutional amendment outlawing liquorwas the best solution. History has shown that they wasted their time and lots of resources, got sidetracked from their real message, and in the end accomplished exactly nothing.
As a Christian, I have a more important message to proclaim than "God hates fags," and I know a better, more long-term remedy for drunkenness and all its associated evils than Prohibition ever managed to be. The gospel is what Christian ministers ought to be known for, not for getting themselves arrested barricading clinic doors or screaming hateful slogans at their political opponents. Yes, I do realize most politically-oriented pastors and evangelical organizations do not go that far, but the evangelicals in the political arena who are most savvy about public relations tend to be the very ones who have perfected the art of compromise. It's really pretty hard to think of evangelical organizations or church leaders who are deeply involved in political causes and who are also known for being clear and uncompromising heralds of gospel truth. The two things simply don't work well together.
If seeking these remedies involved attempting to persuade people concerning the fundamental ideas at stake, rather than pushing people (voters, judges, legislators) to vote a certain way, would you approve of it more?
I'm always in favor of persuading people about what the Bible says. Abortion is murder. Homosexuality is gross sin. Drunkenness and extramarital sex are likewise wicked. We don't need to shy away from proclaiming the truth about the moral issues.
But if we're talking about doing ministry (as opposed to sheer political lobbying) then once we've established that homosexuality is an abomination, the rest of the message we are obliged to proclaim as ambassadors of Christ is the good news of how sinners can be redeemed from the guilt and bondage of those sins and be reconciled to God. If we focus our energies instead on secular legislative "remedies," we are simply not doing what Christ called us to do.
I don't think it's a complex issue at all.
And my guess is that if you look back in history and contemplate the question of prohibition vs. the sin of drunkenness (instead of gay partnerships and constitutional amendments defining what marriage is)even if you only consider the pragmatic side of the issueyou'll probably see the point.
In short, there's a reason Spurgeon's preaching is still relevant and powerful today, but Billy Sunday looks like a bad parody.