Is it possible to be a pious Christian and be involved in politics? By Jack Kettler
An exercise in “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 NKJV)
From Barnes' Notes on the Bible on Proverbs 27:17:
“The proverb expresses the gain of mutual counsel as found in clear, well-defined thoughts. Two minds, thus acting on each other, become more acute.” (1)
What is a definition of piety?
Piety is reverence for God in order to fulfill religious responsibilities.
What is false piety?
False piety manifests itself as pharisaism, hypocrisy, religiosity, sanctimoniousness. An expression of false piety can be living in the desert, gazing at the navel, in other words, separation from the sinful world, and seeking a deeper spiritual life free from this world, since the external physical world is allegedly sinful.
The case of two Christian leaders:
A brief Abraham Kuyper bio:
In 1886, Abraham Kuyper led the break from the State Church, establishing the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Kuyper's close association with Herman Bavinck, professor of systematic theology at the seminary, came about during this period.
In 1901 Kuyper became prime minister of his homeland, a position he held for four years.
Kuyper's copious writings include some 16,800 Standard editorials, nineteen major convention addresses, sermons, the Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology (1898), Lectures on Calvinism at Princeton University (1898), and The Work of the Holy Spirit (1900).
A brief John Knox Witherspoon bio:
John Knox Witherspoon was a Scottish-American Presbyterian minister and a Founding Father of the United States. He became president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and participated in the Continental Congress.
He was such a stanch Calvinist that he won the nicknames “Scotch Granite” and “John Knox redivivus,” Witherspoon was a serious and graceful preacher so gifted with a superior memory that he did not take notes into the pulpit.
Were Kuyper and Witherspoon pious?
Both men who were publically recognized theologians went through numerous theological examinations for ministerial and teaching positions. Can it be shown that either man was accused of being impious for their political activity? If so, there should be plenty of recorded minutes from church assemblies to document this.
If Kuyper and Witherspoon were not pious, those who believe this should provide an assessment of where they went wrong.
Questions a deeper life pietist may ask:
First, it can be alleged that politics is dirty, unspiritual, and second, given the number of people are going to hell, how can anyone waste time with politics.
To the first objection, so what!
In addition, fighting theological heresies, occultism, and paganism can be dirty also. Pastoral counseling can get muddy.
To the second objection, this is a false dilemma fallacy. Responding to this with a question, given the number of people going to hell, how can anyone go to work, help children with homework, engage in recreational or competitive sports, mow the lawn, etc., etc.
The false pietist limits the choices to just two, saving people from hell or politics. In reality, the Bible requires believers to be involved in numerous choices or activities such as going to work, education of your children, treating your employees or employer biblically, etc.
Ultimately, all political issues are spoken of directly in Scripture or by implication. According to an irrefutable principle of Scripture, there is no neutrality. This issue of neutrality covers every area of life. Every issue must be decided biblically; therefore, involvement in politics is spiritual.
The next abbreviated entry, answers both of the above pietistic objections. The entry is from Francis A. Schaeffer on the errors of Pietism and the roots of pietism, Platonism.
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.” (2)
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!” – Pericles
The way politics may take an interest in you is if a wicked politician comes to power and decides to steal what you own through taxation, or land appropriation, and take your sons to fight in his army.
We should pray that God would raise up pious political leaders who are well schooled in theology like Kuyper and Witherspoon.
“If we as Christians do not speak out as authoritarian governments grow from within or come from outside, eventually we or our children will be the enemy of society and the state. No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes and who speak out and act upon that absolute.” - Francis August Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
“If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.” - Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto
True piety is Godly. False piety is truncated spirituality and often hypocritical, i.e., pharisaical.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Proverbs, Vol. 6 p.103.
2. 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 the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com