The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Christianity and Democracy: An Introduction

leave a comment »

Jesse Wisnewski – one of the current contributors to Familyvoice – has begun a new blog (Pre-em-i-nence) and will be conducting a series on Christianity and Democracy.  This series will run until the month of January, 2010 and individual posts will be made every Tuesday.  The series in-and-of-itself will address the tension that exists between Christianity and the government, particularly democracy in the United States of America.

The following is the first installment in the series

Christianity and Democracy: An Introduction

What will follow over the course of the next several weeks is not an endorsement or slander of any president – past or present – political party, or public policy.  This will not be an extensive treatment of political theory or a historical treatise on the relationship between the church and state. What will follow will be much simpler than this.

What follows will be a call, a call to Christians.  A call to stand-up and fulfill our societal obligations by engaging the Democratic process of the United States of America distinctly as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.

This is a call to those are who are currently disengaged or disenfranchised with the political process.   This is a call for you to prayerfully consider – or even reconsider engaging.

This is a call to those who are currently engaged in the political realm.  Regardless if you are a conscientious voter, lobbyist, Pastor, or legislator, this is a call for you to prayerfully consider if your involvement is truly God-honoring, Christ- exalting, and Spirit empowered.

With our time together I will be primarily working from Romans 13.1-7 and unfolding what it means to be submissive to the government within our distinct American context.  My goal is that we will come away with a clearer understanding of what it means to be submissive to the government of the United States of America as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  In addition, it is my desire to address rebuttals from both Christians and non-Christians alike who contend for the exclusion of Christians in particular and faith in general from the political process.

Putting Things in Perspective

This is not the first time in the history of Christianity that the fog needed to be cleared in order for us to see what exactly our relationship with the government should be.  John Stott rightly observed that “relations between church and state have been notoriously controversial throughout the Christian centuries” (Message of Romans, pg. 339).  It is this issue that needed to be addressed in ancient Rome, and the Apostle Paul did so in his letter to the Christians there. To help us understand the significance of Paul’s words in Romans 13.1-7, it is imperative for us to observe its greater context, namely Romans 12 and 13.11-14.Heavenly Citizens

In Romans 12.2 Paul asserted that Christians are not to be conformed to “this world.”  In other words, we are to “resist the pressure of being squeezed into the mold of this world and the pattern of behavior that typifies it” (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, pg. 755).  This is why it is of extreme importance that we are made aware of what is and is not influencing and determining our worldview (the overall way that we see and interpret things), especially in relationship to our political opinions.

Instead of being conformed in this way, Paul declares that we are to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We must understand that as Christians we are not only citizens of America, but we are primarily citizens of heaven (Philippians 3.20).  It is for this reason that God calls us to more than filling out an “I accepted Jesus as my Savior” card, or raising our hand in affirmation that we desire to pray the “sinner’s prayer.”  God’s call of us is more than easy believism.  God calls us to personally believe in Him and do all that He has commanded us to do (Matthew 28.18-20).  For us to do this we must be transformed in our way of thinking, so that we may know howGod desires for us to live, right here, right now.

As Christians our primary allegiance is not to any governor, state, president, policy, or political party, but to the Lord of Lord’s and King of Kings, Jesus Christ!  We must bear this reality in mind as we read Romans 13.1-7.

The Return of Jesus Christ

In Romans 13.11-14 Paul is pointing his audience to the unquestionable return of the Lord Jesus Christ, which indicates the consummation – the ultimate end, fulfillment, and perfection – of all things (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, pg. 470-471).

Now, if we keep in mind the first thought from Romans 12.1-2 (our main citizenry is in heaven) and the second one from Romans 13.11-14 (Jesus will return), we can see why Paul may have included his call for Christians to actively submit to the governing authorities in Romans 13.1-7 (Moo, pg. 791)

Tying it All Together

In order for Paul to safeguard against people drawing the wrong conclusions about his teachings, he may have included these thoughts as a precursor to combating extremism (i.e. The casting off of societal responsibilities.  Stephen Mott, Biblical Ethics and Social Change, pg. 148).  In his commentary on the Book of Romans, Douglas Moo said,

Paul’s teaching about the transitory nature of this world might be precisely why he includes 13.1-7. His purpose may be to stifle the kind of extremism that would pervert his emphasis on the coming of a new era and on the ‘new creation’ into a rejection of every human and society convention – including the government (pg. 791).

Douglas Moo went on to say elsewhere, “’Not being conformed to this world’ does not require Christians to renounce every institution now in place in society.  For some of them – such as government and marriage – reflect God’s providential ordering of the world for our good and his glory” (pg. 803).  For those of us today, this means that simply because we are Christians doesn’t mean that we have an obligation to renounce the government, or any other societal instutition for that matter (Important: That aligns itself with God’s revealed will).

In combating this rebellious tendency amongst the people, we can reason that Paul emphasized for Christians to subject themselves to the governing authorities as a means of fulfilling God’s revealed will for their life (hence Romans 12.2).

As we look to be faithful to the call of God upon our lives by submitting to the government of the United States of America, it is essential for us to know what this looks like and how we should do so within our distinct American context.


Written by Jesse Wisnewski

August 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: