Whipping up a little theological-political omelet, theology guru Wayne Grudem has tossed into the 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
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.