Should Christians be involved in politics? By Jack Kettler
Should Christians be involved in politics? Sometimes one hears the question what would Jesus do? In seeking to answer the first question, the second question is a non-starter. In what way? It is hard to see Jesus running for the U.S. Senate. Just because Jesus would not does not necessarily mean He might not call one of His disciples to this duty.
What is a simple definition of politics?
“Politics (from Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká, 'affairs of the cities') is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. Politics – Wikipedia”
Even the Church is not free from politics. In the Church, one finds ecclesiastical politics. The present study is not examining the question of the Church engaging in politics, but rather, can or should individual Christians participate. Many Christians vote. Voting is a minimal form of political action. Do Christians sign legal contracts? Legal contracts are the result of politics. To escape politics, one would have to be a lone hermit on an island.
A Biblical basis for political involvement:
The greatest commandment is to “love thy neighbor,” (Luke 10:27) and is a command to be involved in culture via political action.
“When the righteous thrive, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” (Proverbs 11:10)
All laws legislate morality, and in the case noted above in Proverbs, it is better to have righteous rule rather than criminals. Laws are in harmony with Scripture or opposition. Western societies have implemented the law code of the Old Testament, which was and is Biblically applied to political action.
Consider, for example:
Alfred, known as Alfred the Great (born 849—died 899), was King of Wessex (871–99) in southwestern England. King Alfred drew up an important code of laws that incorporated many of the Old Testament's first and most basic expressions of Mosaic law, namely the decalogue.
Next, consider the following:
“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
In the above passage, Mordecai appeals to Esther and risks her life in Esther 4:16 when she says: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”
It is indisputable that a tax collector is a government or a political job. Zacchaeus was a tax collector whom Jesus commended in Luke 19:9-10 and said nothing to him about quitting his political job. In addition, showing respect for governing authorities that protect good and punish evil doers in Romans 13:1-7 is a political act.
An example of the positive benefits of political involvement:
Roe V Wade (1973) is a case in point. It took 50 years of Biblically motivated political involvement to overturn the wicked law, which was done by electing the right candidates who appointed the right judges.
Theologian Abraham Kuyper had this to say about God’s plan for government or the state:
“In order that the influence of Calvinism on our political development may be felt, it must be shown for what fundamental political conceptions Calvinism has opened the door, and how these political conceptions sprang from its root principle. This dominating principle was not, soteriologically, justification by faith, but, in the widest sense cosmologically, the Sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. A primordial Sovereignty which eradicates in mankind in a threefold deduced supremacy, viz., The Sovereignty in the State; The Sovereignty in Society; The Sovereignty in the Church.” (1)
American theologian Francis A. Schaeffer introduces another concept, namely dominion and its relevance:
“Fallen man has dominion over nature, but he uses it wrongly. The Christian is called upon to exhibit this dominion, but exhibit it rightly: treating the thing as having value itself, exercising dominion without being destructive.” (2)
As noted in the above quotes, this would be Biblical Godly dominion or faithful stewardship under God’s directions.
How is dominion defined? Does dominion include the concept of governance?
KJV Dictionary definition of dominion:
DOMINION, n. L. See Dominant.
1. “Sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling.
The dominion of the Highest is an everlasting dominion. Daniel 4.
2. Power to direct, control, use and dispose of at pleasure; right of possession and use without being accountable; as the private dominion of individuals.
3. Territory under a government; region; country; district governed, or within the limits of the authority of a prince or state; as the British dominions.
4. Government; right of governing. Jamaica is under the dominion of Great Britain.
5. Predominance; ascendant.
6. An order of angels.
7. Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.
8. Persons governed.
9. Judah was his sanctuary; Israel his dominion.” (Psalm 114”
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
“do-min'-yun: In Ephesians 1:21 Colossians 1:16 the word so translated (kuriotes) appears to denote a rank or order of angels. The same word is probably to be so interpreted in Jude 1:8 (the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) “dominion”), and in 2 Peter 2:10 (the King James Version “government,” the Revised Version (British and American) “dominion”). See ANGEL.” (3)
As seen above, dominion includes the idea of government or governance, which means men and things are to be governed. Therefore, Christians must opt for Biblical government.
The dominion mandate is set forth right at the beginning of Scripture:
“And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Dominion is stewardship and is Godly stewardship, not a license to rape and pillage the planet.
Godly dominion happens when:
“When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.” (Proverbs 11:10)
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2)
It can be asserted at this point that man is inherently religious and political. Therefore, the rest of this study will look at believers who participated in politics.
Historical examples of Christians who engage in politics:
War is the last resort when political negotiations have failed. War itself is a political action. Resistance to illegitimate government is a political action. The Old Testament book of Judges is a history of tyrants and their despotic reign, who are deposed by righteous Judges raised up by God to deliver His people.
Individual Christians who have been active in politics:
John Knox was a Scottish minister, a Reformed theologian, and a writer who was a leader of the country's Reformation. He was the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland – Wikipedia.
The following title was against Mary Tudor, the Queen of England, whom Knox called “Bloody MARY” in The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Women.
By John Knox in 1558 can be read online at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/9660/9660-h/9660-h.htm.
During this time of conflict, which spanned the reign of Mary Tudor, the French Mary of Guise, and Mary Queen of Scots, Knox wrote:
“The faithful, if afflicted by a female sovereign, ‘ought to remove from honor and authority that monster in nature.’ Furthermore, if any support her, Christians ought to “execute against them the sentence of death.” Further still, not to revolt against an idolatrous ruler was ‘plain rebellion against God.’” (4)
In the “Third Confrontation with Mary Queen of Scots” (April 11, 1563), Knox said this:
“The Sword of Justice, Madam, is God’s and is given to princes and ruler for one end, which, if they transgress, sparing the wicked and oppressing innocents, their subjects, who in the fear of God execute judgment, where God hath commanded, offend not God, neither do they sin that bridle Kings from striking innocent men in their rage…” (5)
It can be argued that Knox’s five confrontations with Mary Queen of Scots should be a model for Christian ministers in their confrontations with civil magistrates. Historically following Knox, perhaps this is why the Calvinists were known as the fighting Protestants.
The History of Calvinism - By Loraine Boettner explains:
“In Scotland and in England, and wherever Protestantism has had to establish itself at the point of the sword, it was Calvinism that gained the day. However, the fact is to be explained it is true that the Calvinists were the only fighting Protestants.” (6)
Knox’s theology laid the groundwork for the War of Independence from the tyrannical British Parliament that had no authority in the Colonies and the King who did not restrain them.
John Witherspoon was a Scottish-American Presbyterian minister, educator, farmer, and Founding Father of the United States, president of Princeton Seminary, now the University. He was the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. The British considered his college to be a “seminary of sedition” (quoted in Morrison 2005: 13).
Born: February 5, 1723, Beith, United Kingdom
Died: November 15, 1794, Princeton, NJ
Resting place: Princeton Cemetery
Education: The University of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews
Organization founded: Princeton University – Wikipedia.
William Wilberforce was a British politician, philanthropist, and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming an independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire. Wikipedia
He was also a member of the Clapham Sect, a group of evangelical Anglican Christians.
Abraham Kuyper (born Oct. 29, 1837, Maassluis, Neth.—died Nov. 8, 1920, The Hague) was a Dutch theologian, statesman, and journalist who led the Anti-Revolutionary Party, an orthodox Calvinist group, to a position of political power and served as prime minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905 – Britannica.
Theological Books by Kuyper
The Work of the Holy Spirit; Rooted & Grounded: The Church as Organism and Institution;
Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto (Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology); Common Grace (Volume 1): God's Gifts for a Fallen World; Calvinism: Six Stone Lectures, and On the Church, to name a few titles. While arguably the most powerful conservative theologian in the Netherlands, Kuyper became prime minister.
Contemporary examples of Christians engaging in Biblical politics:
Dr. James Dobson
Evangelist, author, and psychologist Dr. James Dobson earned much fame when he founded Family Talk, the Christian conservation organization. Using the radio to spread his evangelical ideology, Dobson gained international fame, and his radio show, “Focus on Family,” was broadcast to more than 164 countries. Dobson remains a major presence in the conservative movement and is often seen as a successor to evangelical powerhouses Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Though he has proven to be incredibly controversial amongst even those who describe themselves as Conservative Christians, there is no denying Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a leading figure of the religious right. In 2007, Falwell took over the role of president of Liberty University from his father, the equally controversial Jerry Falwell, Sr. Since then, Falwell has dabbled in national politics. He endorsed Donald J. Trump for president. While he turned down the position of U.S. Secretary of Education, he was appointed to chair a task force on reforms for the Department of Education.
Former pastor Mike Huckabee got his political start as governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007. Huckabee became well-known during the 2008 presidential election, during which he campaigned heavily for the Republican nomination. Huckabee landed a role of a different kind, a television host. His popular Fox News talk show ran from 2008 to 2015. Huckabee remains a frequent contributor to a variety of media outlets and has written a number of best-selling books dealing with the topic of politics and religion.
Political issues are Biblical issues, i.e., abortion, sex education and education in general, taxation, going to war, et cetera. It is impossible to escape politics without escaping the teachings of Scripture.
The following citation is from Francis A. Schaeffer, in which he identifies the heresy that undergirds withdrawal from society or politics.
An excerpt from chapter one, The Abolition of Truth and Morality by Francis A. Schaeffer, on false piety and its defective view of Christianity:
“There are various reasons but the central one is a defective view of Christianity. This has its roots in the Pietist movement under the leadership of P. J. Spener in the seventeenth century. Pietism began as a healthy protest against formalism and a too abstract Christianity. But it had a deficient, “platonic” spirituality. It was platonic in the sense that Pietism made a sharp division between the “spiritual” and the “material” world — giving little, or no, importance to the “material” world. The totality of human existence was not afforded a proper place. In particular, it neglected the intellectual dimension of Christianity.”
“Christianity and spirituality were shut up to a small, isolated part of life. The totality of reality was ignored by the pietistic thinking. Let me quickly say that in one sense Christians should be pietists in that Christianity is not just a set of doctrines, even the right doctrines. Every doctrine is in some way to have an effect upon our lives. But the poor side of Pietism and its resulting platonic outlook has really been a tragedy not only in many people’s individual lives, but in our total culture.”
“True spirituality covers all of reality. There are things the Bible tells us as absolutes which are sinful — which do not conform to the character of God. But aside from these the Lordship of Christ covers all of life and all of life equally. It is not only that true spirituality covers all of life, but it covers all parts of the spectrum of life equally. In this sense there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual.” (7)
Man is inescapably religious in the totality of his being, which includes politics. The question to ask is a person’s religion and politics righteous in line with God’s Word or evil in opposition to God’s Word. Politics is an inescapable concept. The Christian must determine what ethical system or whose morality undergirds the discussions of political ideas.
Even the ancient Greeks had enough sense to see:
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!” - Pericles
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” - Plato
Christians are stewards of God over the earth. The Christian is to be a good steward. An application of this is voting, which helps control the direction of the nation. Non-involvement is turning the culture over politically to wickedness. Pietistic quietism has nothing in common with the Reformation that culturally and Biblically changed many nations.
Ultimately, all political issues are spoken of directly in Scripture or by implication. According to an irrefutable principle of Scripture, there is no neutrality. The issue of neutrality covers every area of life. Therefore, every issue must be decided Biblically; therefore, involvement in politics is spiritually inescapable.
The Geneva Bible Notes, 1557-1644, Here is a summary by Lewis Lupton of the notes against tyranny, including Gen. 6:4; Gen. 10:9; Deut. 17:20; Esth. 10:3; 1 Sam. 11:2; Jud. 9:54; 1 Sam. 26:9; 2 Kings 9:33.
“When Kings reign perfidiously, and against the rule of Christ, they may according to the word of God be deposed.” - Tom. I. article. 42. - Ulrich Zwingli
On Daniel 6:22:
“Earthly Princes depose themselves while they rise against God, yea they are unworthy to be numbered among men: rather it behooves us to spit upon their heads than to obey them.” - John Calvin
Commentary on Rom. 13:1:
“Understand further that powers are from God, not as pestilence and famine, and wars, and other visitations for sin are said to be from Him, but because He has appointed them for the legitimate and just government of the world. For though tyrannies and unjust exercise of power, as they are full of disorder (ἀταξίας) are not an ordained government, yet the right of government is ordained by God for the well-being of mankind.” - John Calvin
Rutherford, Samuel – Lex Rex: The Law and the Prince, Buy 1644 318 pp. see especially Questions 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 22, 23, 25, 29, 30, 40. See Questions 20 & 36 for the Doctrine of Interposition. See Questions 28, 31, 32, & 33 regarding the Doctrine of the Lawfulness of Armed Resistance Against Tyrants.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures On Calvinism, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1981), 79.
2. Francis A. Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man, Complete Works of Francis A. Schaffer, A Christian Worldview Vol. 5, (Westchester, Illinois, Crossway Book), p. 42.
3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for 'DOMINION,'” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 869.
4. John Knox as quoted in Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #46 in 1995 by Richard G. Kyle and is professor of history and religion at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas. He is author of The Mind of John Knox (Coronado, 1984).
5. John Knox, The History of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland, p. 317.
6. Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, (The Presbyterian And Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey), p. 381.
7. Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, (Westchester, Illinois, Crossway Books (1991) p. 213.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com