Monday, 25 July 2011

Politics, God and the Church.

Adolf Hiter after a meeting with local
church leadership.
 “Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. It consists of "social relations involving authority or power" and refers to the regulation of a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy” - source wikipedia

             In writing a blog about the influence of the God and the Church in politics, it must be stated that politics is a system that has been created by mankind. Systems of politics have differed throughout the history of humanity. Consider that within the last one hundred years of human history alone humanity has been the witness to everything from Nazi Fascism, to Bolshevik led Communism, and the Democratic Capitalism of the “free world”. A study of Scripture reveals a diversity in political systems (i.e. Pharaoh the dictator, the Judges of Israel reflecting a theocracy and the Acts 2:42 early church reflecting aspects of socialism) With the diversity of political systems in Scripture how can anyone claim that any particular form of government is necessarily the divinely ordained system? Such claims of a heavenly established political systems are evident in quotes by even the most twisted and corrupt political systems and world views: “Adolf Hitler is the tool of God, called upon to overcome Judaism...” (Father Senn, May 15, 1934) Others claims throughout history have even made the case that because God sets himself up as a monarch that any monarchal based political system is thus a reflection of a heavenly kingdom. So which is it? Should Christians vote for the left or the right, the socialist or the capitalist? Let me submit and suggest to you that mankind is imperfect and God is perfect; and any political system that is set up by mankind is destined for complete failure if the goal is establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. 

           What then is the role of God and the church in relation to politics? Jesus tells us in Luke's Gospel to "give to God's what is God's and Ceasers what is Ceasers". I believe this foundational to Christians living within the nations of the world. We are co-operate, give taxes, submit to them, but with the ultimate realization that we must give to God's what is God's. We live in tension with the kingdom of this world. The apostle Paul declares “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) Does this establishment by God mean that they are directly representative of God? If your answer is yes: then Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon and others are all representative of God.(That's a hard pill to swallow) If your answer is no, then perhaps you view governments more like an agent that God's uses rather than representative of the Kingdom. (example: Babylon as an agent of God in the destruction of Israel- Jer. 34:2)( I would also encourage the reading of Romans 13:the function of the state; within it's proper context by first reading Romans 12:the function of the church).

          Peter echoes Paul's words “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”(1 Peter 2:13-14) In this passage Peter is very vocal about submitting to authority for 'the Lord's sake'. The motive for submission is not only civic duty but that The Way will not be slandered and that the Triune God would not be in disrepute. It is also of note to mention that Peter attributes that authority is “sent by him to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right”. 

          Could it be possible that the political powers and authorities are the extension of the Triune God's hand on this earth? Maybe.. There is a claim that God is using government to help keep order in this world. Peter definitely affirms that governments are servants/agents of God but never is the claim that governments are to establish the Kingdom of God; that's the church's job. How did we get to the place of viewing politics and governments as sacred? (could this be it?)  Do followers of Jesus blindly give their full submission to the State? It is important that one uses scripture to reveal scripture. Just because there are mentions of submitting to governing political authorities does not mean we ignore Kingdom living in order to submit to governing powers. Take the example of German theologians struggling with the concept of complete submission to authority after the wake of WWII and a Nazi government that slaughtered the innocent and practiced occultic beliefs that directly opposed the morality of the Gospel.  It was Peter himself who defied the Jewish authorities when he said “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29) in response to being told not to preach the Gospel. It IS acceptable to deny an authority that causes one to subvert the Kingdom living. This is evident by the many martyrs of early church who refused to deny Christ, but rather chose to be condemned to death. It also evident in the attitudes of the early church in their position to never taking up the sword to become a solider of the State or swearing oaths to Ceaser. 

               Christians are called to no other Kingdom primary allegiance except the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus makes this claim when he declares "My kindgom is not of this world, if it were my servants would fight."(Jn 18:36) Paul asserts this in his teaching of a Christian’s citizenship being in heaven (Phil 3:20) as well as his bold declaration that we are Ambassadors in this world. (2 Cor 5:20) The ultimate modus operandi of a follower of Christ is not found in functioning as citizens of the kingdoms of this word but as living as strangers in a strange land. The kingdom of the world is in essence a “power over” kingdom. There have been democratic, socialist, communist, fascist, and totalitarian versions of the kingdom of the world, but they all share this distinctive characteristic: they exercise power over people.  Where did followers of Jesus ever get the idea that we need to take our nations back for God? Where did we ever get the idea that any version of the kingdoms of this world could be representative of the Kingdom of God? Where did we get the idea that the way to establish the Kingdom of heaven was to pass laws and force everyone to think and act the way we do? It's worth noting that Jesus and the early church's approach to establishing the Kingdom of Heaven was never "let's pass a bunch of laws in Rome".  It may seem attractive to impose Christian morality on national level, but ultimately it is an act of using the State as a "power over" people. Jesus never came to establish a Christian nation, but the Kingdom within all the nations of the world.  Followers of Jesus must realize that the hope of the world lies not in any particular version of the kingdom of the world. We do not put our hope in Democrats or the Republicans. The hope of the world lies in a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that operates with a completely different understanding of power. It is the kingdom of God. This is a Kingdom that grows slowly, organically, and even serves enemies (Luke 13:18-19; John 12:24-26) a Kingdom is that is peace making and peace-living. (John 18:36; 1 Peter 2:9), a Kingdom is non-institutional and non-territorial the Kingdom is within us. (Luke 17:20-21), a kingdom in which serving others is foundational (Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:12-17).

Although immersed in this world, the church by her way of being represents the promise of another world, which is not somewhere else but which is to come here. - John H Yoder ( The Politics of Jesus) 



  1. I appreciate your quotes of Church Fathers on Jesus Creed.

    I agree with your description of the Kindom above.
    But just to note re: Luke 17, I.Howard Marshall in Luke, NIGTC, notes that no where else is the Kingdom described as something that enters men. Rather it is something we enter. He states that another translation is needed and not hard to find. Entos in the plural can have the sense of 'in the midst.'

  2. To further expand on your excellent point about Rom. 12 and 13, I will post this article for your perusal:

    Historcial context is the key.
    "Romans 13" in Context

    First, Paul wrote a letter. It had no chapter divisions. These numbers were added in the second millennium.

    Remember that after Antiochus IV intervened in a Jewish civil war [168 B.C.] and desecrated the Temple, that the autonomy won by the Maccabees only lasted a few decades. Following Pompey's capture of Jerusalem [60 B.C.] they were subject to the Romans. The Senate conferred the title “King of the Jews” on Herod in 40 B.C.. And for four decades he bore the sword under which many Jews chafed.

    Following Herod's death in 4 B.C., revolts again broke out. When the rule of his son, Archelaus, ended in A.D. 6, Judas the Galilean [mentioned in Acts 5] led a revolt. Varus with three legions who bore the sword, crushed it and 2,000 Jews were crucified around Jerusalem [Josephus, Ant. 17:295].

    From this period until the outbreak of the Jewish War in AD 66, Zealots and assassins would continue to foment rebellion and violent outbreaks against the Roman rule and taxes. During the insurrections from A.D. 46 to 48, two sons of Judas the Galilean were executed by Rome. After that, probably in A.D. 49, Claudius issued an edict expelling the Jews from Rome because of disturbances [Acts 18:2]. When he died in A.D. 54, Jews began returning to Rome.

    In A.D. 57, Paul wrote to the church in Rome::

    ...I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but 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…
    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn....
    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. On the contrary:
    "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.