[This is the fourth in a series of posts on Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture].
Before moving forward in his investigation of “politics according the Bible,” Grudem spends a short chapter reviewing the basics tenets of the Christian Worldview. To most thoughtful Christians, his six points will be familiar. Nevertheless, it is helpful to see the worldview that the Bible gives us, so that in all ethical, legal, and political decisions we are working with a biblical framework and not one of our personal development. Our politics must be informed by the Bible, not vice versa.
A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW
(1) God Created Everything
Grudem refers to the explicit teaching of Genesis 1-2, Revelation 4:11, Psalm 19:1, and Romans 1:20, among others to assert the Biblical view that the God who made the world and everything in it, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. While this view has been contested and even excluded from public education in America for decades, it is the clear biblical position. Amalgamations of this view where Christian try to reconcile the Bible with evolution continue to be concocted (e.g. theistic evolution); however, such a marriage of faith and reason produces sterile offspring. Scripture is clear: God made all things, and thus has creator rights over everything. Biblically, man is not at liberty to govern apart from recognizing the creator. Many attempts have been made to erect governments that deny deity, but God’s wisdom proves true, such disconnection from God will not sustain ethical living, and society suffers.
(2) The One True God Reveals Himself and His Moral Standards Clearly in the Bible
The God of creation is the God who reveals his character to his people. In the Bible, God’s standard is seen in Genesis 2:17, when he warns Adam and Eve that disobedience results in death. Likewise, as Grudem points out, God the creator is God the judge of all people. He writes, “The moral standards that God reveals in the Bible are not simply moral standards for one particular church or one particular religion, but are the moral standards for which the one true God… will hold every single person accountable at the last judgment” (118). To support his point, Grudem cites 1 Peter 4:4-5 and Acts 17:24, 30-31 which teach that the risen Christ has been given the scepter of God to rule and judge over all the earth (cf Psalm 2).
This truth impacts the way we think about politics in that the standard for any official in government is not the cultural norm or the majority view, it is the character of God and the truth of God’s Word.
(3) The Original Creation was ‘Very Good’
Not only is God’s character revealed in creation (cf. Rom 1:20) and in his word (Exodus 20:1-17), but in creation itself, the goodness of God is perceived. In Genesis 1:31 God judges his world and declares the verdict: “It is very good.” Moreover, God tells the man to cultivate and keep the garden and to extend its borders to fill the earth with its cultivated beauty. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, the people of God would have proliferated, spreading the glory of God over the whole earth (cf. Hab 2:14), exercising dominion and subduing all things as they were created to do. Thus, in a perfect world government would have existed to promote the general welfare of God’s people (82). As we think about politics in our day, it is helpful to remember the enterprise is not intrinsically evil and anarchy and malevolent governors are a result of sin.
(4) Because Adam and Eve Sinned, There is Moral Evil (‘Sin’) in the Heart of Every Human Being
We live in a moral universe, where good and evil exist and compete. This is true within the church, and it is true in government; and how one interprets the nature of humanity will determine how one does politics. It is not too much to say that this singular point is the continental divide between liberals and conservatives; the former believes in the intrinsic goodness of man, while the latter recognizes the limitations and inherent evil in the heart of every human being. Grudem writes, “This one idea, that human beings are viewed as sinful before the absolute moral standards of the one true God, has immense implications for numerous policy differences between Republicans and Democrats (as will be seen in the chapters that follow)” (119).
Thus, the Bible’s worldview concerning humanity, sin, and the evil of society, as well as the possibility for good, will significantly shape our view of politics. As Grudem points out
This biblical principle means that evil does not come merely from the influence of society on a person, and those who do evil are not merely victims of external influences that they have experienced. Certainly there are evil influences on people, and society should try to remove those influences where possible. Nevertheless, doing evil things is still a result of a person’s evil choices, and people therefore should be held accountable for the evil they do.
By contrast to this viewpoint, a secular perspective would tend to believe that human beings are basically good and therefore when they do wrong the primary reason be because something in society has harmed them and has caused them to act in wrong ways. Thus, some part of society will be mostly blamed for the wrong, and wrongdoer himself will more likely be viewed primarily as a “victim,” not a wrongdoer. This difference accounts for many political differences regarding responses to crime and to the threat of international terrorism (121).
How one understands the depravity of man effects the nature of the gospel message and also the nature of government.
(5) Because Adam and Eve Sinned, God Place a Curse on the Entire Natural World
Just as our view of humanity impacts the way we approach politics, so does our view of the entire world. Understanding that the entire created realm–people, animals, and creation–are under God’s curse (cf. Gen 3:14-19) delimits the kind of improvements men are capable of making in this world (e.g. it urges caution when any leader promises utopian change). Simultaneously, it recognizes that we living in a world filled with “thorns and thistles” will require that much of the governments work to promote the good, is to help citizens overcome the dangers and difficulties faced in our environment. All the while, this kind of legislation cannot subject men to the creation, for man was created to rule the earth, not be ruled by it. This leads to Grudem’s sixth point.
(6) God Wants Human Beings to Develop the Earth’s Resources and to Use Them Wisely and Joyfully
Mankind was put on earth to cultivate it and to keep it. Genesis 1:28 commands Adam and Eve to subdue, rule, and have dominion. This is often misunderstood and easily mishandled. Grudem explains, “these commands to subdue the earth and have dominion over it do not mean that we should use the earth in a wasteful or destructive way or intentionally treat animals with cruelty (Prov 12:10; cf. Deut 20:19-20; Matt 22:39)… We should use the resources of the earth wisely, as good stewards, not wastefully or abusively” (123). Thus humanity is encouraged by Scripture to “beautiful homes, automobiles, airplanes, computers, and millions of other consumer goods” (123), and governments should aid in the process.
This kind of biblical mandate leads to discussions of the environment and economics, something Grudem will tackle in the ensuing chapters.
Though this chapter is brief, it is a helpful antiseptic to the views that subjugate humanity to the environment or that offer more good than can be effected through humanitarian efforts. Though Grudem doesn’t spell it out here, the biblical worldview ultimately points us to a new age, with a new governor, and a new created order. Only the Kingdom of Christ can satisfy all of our political longings. Until his second advent, any political improvement is at best incomplete and temporary. This should not deter us from working for the common good, but it should temper our utopian enthusiasm and/or our apocalyptic despair.
Despite all outward appearances, God is ruling over all the nations. Whatever the state of the union, the state of the universe is in good hands (Psalm 115:3; 135:6). God is using good and bad people, events, and governments to accomplish his intended purposes (Gen 50:20; Isa 46:9-11). While we see brokeness in the world, God sees how all those pieces will be brought together in Christ (Eph 1:10); his blood will ultimately reconcile all things (Col 1:20).
We must remind ourselves of that if we are going to maintain a biblical worldview. Otherwise, we will be tempted to put all our hopes in the next political election and candidate for change. Political interest for the Christian is a “both-and’ kind of engagement. We seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt 6:33) and we pray, vote, and speak in order to promote peaceful and quiet lives (1 Tim 2:1-4).
Still it must be asked: Why do we promote such an environment? Is it for us and for our children? In part it is, but even more we pray and plead for justice from our governing officials so that the gospel may have freedom to deliver men and women from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of the beloved Son (Col. 1:13). To that we must endeavor relentlessly.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss