Politics is a Messy Business by Gary DeMar
From the publisher: Veritas is not a political organization. However, we are a biblical one--one that believes Scripture applies to all areas, including current events. We hope you find Gary's article helpful as you consider your opportunities and responsibilities as members of two kingdoms.
There are two people running for a political office. You have inside knowledge of what these candidates will do in the future. The first candidate will expand the military, implement confiscatory taxes, enrich some of his trusted political allies with property stolen from the people. The second candidate will commit adultery, be an accomplice to murder, be identified as a man of bloodshed, sleep with a young woman, and his son will be his successor and increase the military beyond its constitutional limits and align himself with foreign powers by adopting their pagan religious practices. These are your only two viable choices. If you are at all familiar with the Bible, you know that the two candidates are King Saul and King David, and David’s successor, Solomon. If you had this future knowledge, who would you choose? Would you say that you could not choose the “lesser of two evils” and thereby not vote for either one of them? But one of them (David) is God’s choice to be king. What a dilemma. Politics was as messy in biblical times as it is today. Biblical heroes like Gideon, Jephthah, Samuel, Barak, and Samson had their moral failings, and yet they are in the biblical “Hall of Faith”:
“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel1 and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:32-34).
These were some very flawed people, and yet they are described as having “performed acts of righteousness.” But there was a lot of unrighteousness mixed in. Samson was a very carnal man, and yet God used him. None of this is to say that we should dismiss the sins of people running for public office. Far from it. Christians should strive to elect people who exemplify a righteous life. The fact is, however, we’re not always given the opportunity to vote for such candidates. The New Testament is equally messy. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21)? Wasn’t Caesar a pagan? Isn’t everything God’s? How do we know what things are Caesar’s? It’s obvious by Jesus’ statement that not everything is Caesar’s. By the way, we don’t live under Caesar. Our system of civil government is decentralized with multiple jurisdictions and open to change. Rulers are bound by the limits of written constitutions at the state and national levels. This was not true of Rome, and yet God’s people were to render to Caesar what was his. The Jews living under Roman law had no political say. The Apostle Paul had dual citizenship which gave him rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:27-40). Not all Roman citizens could vote. It was a top-down government ruled by men who considered themselves to be gods. “By the time of Domitian (AD 81-96), it had become common to address him as Dominus et Deus, ‘my Lord and God.’”2 The First Amendment to our Constitution gives us the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” There was no such right in the Roman Empire. Even so, the Apostle Paul appeals to the Roman government when he learns of a conspiracy by his fellow countrymen to kill him:
“When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who formed this plot. They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, ‘We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul’” (Acts 23:12-14).
To avoid being murdered, Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11, 21, 25). There were no acknowledged Christian law courts. Paul sought political protection from a pagan power rather than entrust himself to his countrymen who were obligated to follow God’s law as their guide. What should we make of Paul’s appeal to Caesar when he had written that the secular courts were governed by “the unrighteous” (1 Cor. 6:1)? Even though the Jews were under the heel of Rome, there was never a call for armed revolt. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:10-11) and admonished Pilate that while He had at His “disposal more than twelve legions of angels,” His kingdom does not advance by such methods (Matt. 26:53). This is an early indication that the Roman Empire would be conquered, not by armies, but by the proclamation of the gospel and the application of God’s Word to every area of life. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), the great Baptist preacher and evangelist of the nineteenth century, shows how pessimism in the face of this-world-obstacles robs the church of its vitality and stunts its growth:
“David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensations will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, God, ‘and shall glorify thy name.’ The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven.”3
Christians cannot let external circumstances determine what we do as individuals, families, churches, businesses, and citizens. Neither does it mean that we can shrink from the scene even when political decisions are hard to make. We need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16) while recognizing that “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). We live in a sinful world. There’s no getting around this truth this side of heaven. No politician is perfect, as the Bible makes clear. We’re always going to elect the lesser of two evils. I asked one Christian, “Of the 535 members of Congress, who could you vote for?” He said, “none of them.” Is this what we’re left with? Until either a Joseph or a Daniel runs for office, Christians can’t vote for anyone? Is this the lesson the Bible is teaching? I don’t believe it is. The first place to start to change the political landscape that conforms to biblical principles of leadership is to understand that civil government is only one government among many, and a very limited government at that. Our Constitution itself says as much in the Tenth Amendment. Self-government under God is the starting point in the transformation of the political sphere. A person who can’t govern himself well (not perfectly) can’t govern well when other imperfect people are part of the mix. Governing principles must be taught by word and example. The training in good government begins with family government. The Preface to Elements of Civil Government (1903), states, “This text-book begins ‘at home.’ The starting point is the family, the first form of government with which the child comes in contact.” Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Languageincludes the following definition under the entry “government”: “The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. ‘Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents. Let family government be like that of our heavenly Father, mild, gentle and affectionate.’” The church is a government. There are specific qualifications for church governors (elders) outlined by the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 3:2-7). Keep in mind that these are qualifications for Christians in an ecclesiastical setting that are transferrable to the civil sphere. But not all candidates are going to exemplify these character traits. In most cases, however, the majority of people do want their civil servants to embody the qualities that Paul lists. Christians should strive to nurture such candidates. We need to remember, however, that not every person’s past is squeaky clean. Paul was an accomplice to murder (Acts 7:58), and he reminds the church of Corinth that “such were some of you” in the sins he lists (1 Cor. 6:11; also 12:2; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3-7). Today, government has become the sole domain of the State. When the State enlarges its jurisdictional boundaries without any regard to limits, it gradually assumes what God alone possesses: unlimited power and authority. The State (civil governments at all jurisdictional levels) was designed by God to be a provider of justice, not a dispenser of sustenance. To make the State our provider is to deny God.
“The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. ‘Our whole lives are their business.”4
Sad to say, there are millions of people, Christians included, that welcome and embrace a government that will take care of them. As Christians, we have difficult decisions to make this election year. I can’t tell you how to vote, but let me explain my decision making process. First, we do not believe that politics can save us, no matter how righteous a candidate might be, and no political candidate is even near perfect. The Bible says so, and so do the annals of history, the newspapers, Internet news sources, and radio and television. This is true even in the church. Take a close look at the Bible and how God used the most imperfect of people to serve as judges, kings, and missionaries (Heb. 11; Gal. 2:11-14). Second, weigh all the factors. It’s easy to compare how the two major candidates stand on the issues. There are marked differences. Hillary Clinton’s are radically destructive on early every important issue. Here’s just one example – abortion. Hillary’s pro-abortion views and her support of Planned Parenthood are well known:
Hillary Clinton: “Under our laws . . . [t]he unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”5
Donald Trump: “If you go with what Hillary is saying [about partial birth abortions], in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. . . . Now, you can say that that's OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it's not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that's not acceptable.”
Third, consider what each candidate brings to the office in terms of connections, political associations, special interest group support, corporations, and past actions that have political implications. It’s easy to do since only one candidate has been in politics for 40 years. Fourth, how well will the Republicans oppose policies advocated by Hillary and supported by the Democrat Party and some Republicans? If the past eight years are any indication, the GOP will most likely capitulate to Hillary Clinton as President like they’ve done with President Obama. The GOP wants a share of the goodies of fame, fortune, prestige, and power that come with their offices while ignoring deficits, debts, and decadence. Hillary will throw them a few crumbs and rub their bellies, and they’ll go away wagging their tails happy with the scraps that fall from her table. There is a great deal of collusion among the two major parties. Donalnd Trump wants to “drain the swamp.” Fifth, Donald Trump will get resistance from the Democrats and the Republicans on policies that could be considered extreme. This is a good thing. Sixth, Trump won’t be able to bring any of the political connections and media worship to the white House that Hillary has because he doesn’t have any. As a result, we may actually get a divided government — real checks and balances — at the federal level for the first time in a very long time if Trump is elected. Seventh, what about third-party candidates? None of them has a chance of winning. We saw what happened when Ross Perot ran against George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992. Perot received nearly 20 million votes but did not receive a single electoral vote. Eighth, in the end, we’re going to get either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. There is no third viable option. There’s no crying over spilled milk, what we believe should have happened in the primaries. That’s water under the bridge. Before long, there will be another election. The time is now to start teaching, training, and planning for the long-term. If you and I don’t like today’s choices, you and I need to get to work now to make sure it does not happen again.
Gary DeMar was raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and Reformed Theological Seminary (1979). He has served at the Christian Worldview ministry American Vision as researcher and writer since 1980, and President since 1984. Gary is the author of 30 books on a variety of topics – from America’s Christian History and God and Government to apologetics and Christian worldview. Gary is also a columnist for Constitution.com. He lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife Carol. They have two married sons and seven grandchildren with two on the way.
1Samuel “appointed his sons judges over Israel. . . . His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam. 8:1-3; cf. Deut. 16:18-19; 1 Tim. 3:4-5). Samuel’s choice of his sons to be judges resulted in the people choosing Saul as their king.
2Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 185.
3Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 7 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Guardian Press, [1870–1885] 1976), 4:102.
4Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 183-184.
5See Gary DeMar, “Whoa. Hillary Clinton says Unborn Babies are People…,” Eagle Rising: http://eaglerising.com/32134/w...