My post on politics the other day has sparked some discussion. For instance, George asks: “Wasn’t our country founded on Christian principles and values? Do we as Christians now have a problem with a government that would encourage policy based on Christian values?”
George isn’t alone. I grew up thinking this. These were in the days of Christendom, when it seemed reasonable to expect Christianity to hold a favored standing in society.
Now I am on record stating that Christians should work to promote justice, but they shouldn’t be passing laws to impose Christian values on the rest of society. This hits all kinds of issues, such as same sex marriage. Why should we expect society at large to hold a Christian view of marriage at all? Why not also pass laws to enforce other Christian beliefs?
Michael Horton explains some of the reasons why it’s dangerous to try to legislate Christianity. This article is dated and it’s American but it’s relevant to this discussion:
What defines us politically is one thing, what defines us as Christians is a totally different set of questions. It is not to say that public policy issues shouldn¹t be important to a Christian. Quite the contrary, every Christian ought to be interested in public policy issues, but as citizens, not as the church making stands on what the gospel is. Yet to often in the past twenty years we have equated the gospel with a particular cultural agenda…
We’re offensive for all the wrong reasons while we leave the gospel itself devoid of its power. The minorities, the feminists, the gays, and others who practice immoral lifestyles–people with whom we may not agree–will not give us a hearing at the end of the twentieth century. Not because we have preached the gospel and called them to repentance and they don’t like that, but because we have framed our communication with them in terms of a war for social, political, and cultural control…The Holy Spirit will not convert a single soul through moral crusades. He will not convert a prostitute through Senate bill 242, or change the direction of the homosexual by prime-time denunciation from moralistic preachers. Yes, we are called to preach the good news and to call men and women to repentance, but that is not a political issue, that is not ultimate a moral issue, that is a gospel issue. Repentance can no more be coerced by the state than faith; both are the gracious gifts of God…
We cannot impose our will on the American electorate anymore and we will have to stop it. We¹ll have to stop shaking our fists at our neighbors. We must call the church to a cease-fire with the world over gays in the military and engage in spiritual warfare for their hearts and minds for the first time perhaps in forty years. Second, we’ll not only have to recover gospel proclamation, but we’ll have to learn how to interact positively again with our culture. When the church was facing a really hostile culture in the first century–a lot more hostile than ours–Paul instructed the early Christians to “Make it your ambition to lead a quite life to work well with your hands so that you may win the respect of outsiders and have enough to give those in need.”
Couldn’t have said it better. (Thanks to Ken Davis for telling me about Horton’s treatment of this subject.)