Mixed (up)

Whipping up a little theological-political omelet, theology guru Wayne Grudem has tossed into omeletthe frying pan a new book titled Politics according to the Bible:  A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture.  The Harvard-educated author is well known for his work on systematic theology, and this new book will doubtless get a lot of reads, especially during the next year in the U.S.  

But it’s an unsavory mix—these two flavors in the same omelet, that is.

I can appreciate a good-hearted attempt to shed God’s light over pretty much anything.  But the idea of using Bible texts to inform modern politics raises the hair on the back of my neck.  (I visited a “Bible study” a few months ago and was told going in that Hosea’s forth-telling prophecies were being intentionally tied to 21st-century geopolitics.  Umm . . . as far as I can tell, no spokesman for God prophesied anything about today’s Middle East or about modern political parties.   Are folks able to recognize it when they try to shore up their personal ideologies and guesses with the Bible?)

The description of the new book reads this way:

This comprehensive and readable book presents a political philosophy from the perspective that the gospel pertains to all of life so Christians should be involved in political issues.  Wayne Grudem argues that most people’s political views depend on deep-seated assumptions about several basic moral and even theological questions.  After addressing these foundational questions, Grudem provides a thoughtful, carefully-reasoned analysis of over 50 specific issues.

Noting the 2nd sentence first:  Grudem is right that people’s views are often based on things they may not be consciously aware of.  This happens to me and to you, too.  Inasmuch as the 1st sentence accurately reflects the author’s own views, though, I’m left open-jawed.  There is a missing link, and the result is a classic non sequitur.

First off, we ought to define “gospel.”

⊕ Is it the modern evangelical “gospel”?
Peter’s gospel on Pentecost?
Paul’s in 1Corinthians?  
Is it the whole of the Christian message?  (According to whom?)

Once that question is answered, the reader would know what it is that “pertains to all of life,” and then, in turn, it would be clearer why Grudem jumps to conclude that Christians “should be involved in political issues.”  I consider that I’m slightly more politically aware than the average citizen myself, but being informed isn’t even a requirement of the would-be disciple, as far as I know.

Theology and politics do get mixed (up).  Personally, I’ve observed in both of them

excursions-in-the-wild and pitfalls
more than
maps or journey-enhancing insights . . .

. . . so, I’m not nearly as interested in either of them as I am in textual study and discipleship, so I won’t be buying Grudem’s book.  In the near future, I have plenty to digest with Psalms (and supplementary material by Justin Rogers and The Bible Project), Philippians, Larry Hunt, Dave Black, Ralph P. Martin, and John Grisham.  

Oh, and I’m not planning to mix my chosen authors/books together with the eggs and the cheese.  I do like omelets and casseroles, but when it comes to reading and study, I’ll choose distinct flavors.

B. Casey, 12/5-10/2015


P.S.  If any readers do decide to read the new Grudem book, I’d be interested in your take on it.  Send a private note or comment here, as you wish.

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3 thoughts on “Mixed (up)

  1. Steve 12/15/2015 / 11:03 am

    B–hope your holidays are shaping up nicely. I’ve got 7 grandkids (and their parents) showing up at our house next week, so Mimi and Papaw have some prep to do before the arrival of these bundles of joy.

    My apologies for this–but I’m pasting in the entirety of the Amazon summary for Gruden’s book:

    “A variety of perspectives exist within the Christian community when it comes to political issues and political involvement. This comprehensive and readable book presents a political philosophy from the perspective that the Gospel pertains to all of life so Christians should be involved in political issues. In brief, this is an analysis of conservative and liberal plans to do good for the nation, evaluated in light of the Bible and common sense. In this ground-breaking book, recognized evangelical Bible professor Wayne Grudem rejects five mistaken views about Christian influence on politics: (1) “compel religion,” (2) “exclude religion,” (3) “all government is demonic,” (4) “do evangel-ism, not politics,” and (5) “do politics, not evangelism.” He proposes a better alternative: (6) “significant Christian influence on government.” Then he explains the Bible’s teachings about the purpose of civil government and the characteristics of good or bad government. Does the Bible support some form of democracy? Should judges and the courts hold the ultimate power in a nation? With respect to specific political issues, Grudem argues that most people’s political views depend on deep-seated assumptions about several basic moral and even theological questions, such as whether God exists, whether absolute moral standards can be known, whether there is good and evil in each person’s heart, whether people should be accountable for their good and bad choices, whether property should belong to individuals or to society, and whether the purpose of the earth’s resources is to bring benefit to mankind. After addressing these foundational questions, Grudem provides a thoughtful, carefully-reasoned analysis of over fifty specific issues dealing with the protection of life, marriage, the family and children, economic issues and taxation, the environment, national defense, relationships to other nations, freedom of speech and religion, quotas, and special interests. He makes frequent application to the current policies of the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, but the principles discussed here are relevant for any nation.”

    Typically Gruden presents well thought out presentations (see his systematic theology and gender studies publications) and I would expect nothing less in his newest book. If I recall, I believe you and I shared differing (an oxymoronic phrase…) opinions of the role of a believer in government and/or politics. Noting Gruden’s reflections on “five mistaken views” –which includes a discussion on “excluding religion”–a phase probably too broad for your comfort level but a descriptive that seems to reflect your current stance–I would hope perhaps you might amend your decision to not purchase/read his book–as it very well may present some of my convictions (see #6: “significant Christian influence on government”) in a more studied way than did I when we exchanged views in the past. Just a thought…

    I will be crafting a two-month adult class series called Bible 101 as both an introduction to the Bible itself but more importantly, as an overview to the redemption thread found throughout the story of the Bible. I covet your prayers as I prepare this material.

    Merry Christmas!

    S

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    • Brian Casey 12/15/2015 / 8:21 pm

      Thanks for sharing this more complete summary info. It may strike you as odd — or maybe not, since you know I’m not as avid a reader as you — that I had to read the enumerated​ “mistaken views” four or five times before figuring a couple of them out. In a fit of illumination, I’ve decided that my initial confusion probably occurred because I’m more motivated by (what I take as illicit) *political influence on Christians *on the one hand than *in well-intentioned Christian influence on politics *on the other. In other words, I come at the whole thing from the back side, relative to Grudem.

      Example: one view is that “politics must exclude religion.” I acknowledge that view but would prefer to express it in the converse, sans the word “religion”: that *discipleship in Jesus’ kingdom is better off, or at least less likely to suffer, if it stays away from politics. *I think you (and perhaps Grudem) and I come from two polar-opposite vantage points in the area of the intersection of Christianity and politics! This may well be the only Christian-related area about which that could be said about you and me. 🙂 You are certainly in the majority.

      I do appreciate your trying to share your particular interest and passion with me. It’s an honor, actually. The new Grudem book would be informative, inasmuch as it is “an analysis of conservative and liberal plans to do good for the nation, evaluated in light of the Bible and common sense,” but this whole area of thought just isn’t one that compels me. It’s a worldview thing, and it’s hard to imagine my orientation turned upside down enough for me to be otherwise swayed, but I’ll try to remain open to at least scanning a library copy of the book at some point.

      I’m sure that your devotion to Him and to text will result in the Bible 101 course’s serving as a rich, redemptive source.

      P.S. Right now I’m feeling I should probably scrap a blog I’ve been preparing on Oprah and Donald Trump. Ha. But I rarely completely scrap things. It may show up in a day or three.

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