Faith and Politics: A Beginning Salvo
I have been challenged by a friend to be a bit clearer in the linkage between my faith and what may be called, for lack of a better term, my political convictions. Whether or not my friend’s criticisms are all valid, it remains a productive line of thinking for me to sketch out the basics of my fundamental beliefs, and then to delineate how I arrive at the particular outworkings of faith that I do.
I believe that the Bible is without error in the original writings, meaning that God spoke truth in all that He said. I’m not here going to get into arguments for that; it is what I, with good warrant, I am convinced, believe, and I will only add that the professing Christian who believes the Bible to contain errors is forced into some conundrums to which there is, indeed can be, no good answer. If the Bible is, as I believe, “God-breathed” and thus without error as God breathed it, we must believe that it is authoritative for our belief and practice.
There are several things that the Bible teaches that I take as a basis for my political understanding. First, I believe that life is a gift from God, that man is created in God’s image, but by nature and by choice has fallen into sin, in such a way and to such a degree that sin has warped every single facet of man’s character; “if sin were blue, I’d be some shade of blue all over”. Sin infects men as individuals, and individuals make up society and its structures, including human government.
This leads to a second belief, that God instituted human government as an agent to do good. Convinced as I am (and I’ll get to this momentarily) that most governments, including the U.S. government, are far too large, I nonetheless maintain the legitimacy of government as an institution, and further affirm that “the powers that be are ordained of God”. Sometimes—I will resist pontificating here—God raises up those in authority as a part of His judgment of a people. But to whatever end, government is God’s plan, and the rulers that rise up are themselves raised up by God.
A third fundamental building block of my political thinking is that in principle, individual freedom is a good. God does not coerce, nor does he urge his people to coerce others into belief, for instance. Bondage is regularly presented in Scripture as evidence of God’s judgment; freedom as a universal good—bounded politically by the appropriate role of government, etc., of course—is the witness of both testaments. From the exodus of God’s people from Egypt to the freedom that the believer has in Christ, freedom is seen as a good. I maintain that a universal constant can be derived from this.
Fourthly, and probably flowing more from the second point than the third, the rule of law is to be respected. This “cuts both ways”: the citizen is to abide by the laws of the land, breaking human law at his own peril. The government—and this is critical—is also bound by the law, and does not have the prerogative to change laws without due process nor to simply ignore them; indeed, to do either of these is to act immorally, to deal dishonestly with the governed.
If I thought a little longer and a little harder, I might be able to offer another plank or two that rises to the level of these four; in fact, I’d offer to any of my readers the opportunity to suggest other planks that rise to this level, though my guess is that most others would be in some way subsets of these four. I begin with these thoughts as a starting point—but I don’t plan to stop here (not that you thought I would, right?). I plan to end–one day–with what I hope to be a reasonably-robust apologetic for what I’d call a “libertarian conservative” approach to politics. Wish me luck…