Monday, July 04, 2005

Local Church Involvement in Politics, Part One

Several recent experiences have brought to mind the classic debate: how is the church as an entity to be involved in politics? Much has been said, much more has been thought over, and little consensus has been formed. I'm not guessing this particular blog is the answer to all that, but let's go through two of the main positions on the issue and mull them over.

Position One: Limited Involvement
Right off the bat, let me say that we're into heavy generalizing territory here. For the sake of brevity, we must be. That said, there are some in this camp who articulate a cogent case for this position. Namely, they argue that the church's life centers in the preaching and teaching of the Word. Construing the pastor as the shepherd of theological growth, the LI camp deflects most any opportunity for the pastor to politicize, emphasizing his duty to preach not policy initiatives but expositional sermons. The LI folks claim that the formation of a Christian worldview that naturally occurs in preaching the Bible will do much to shape the conscience of citizens, who are not only able but expected to participate in the political process as conscionable agents. This group advocates for individuals to involve themselves in national politics while urging the local church itself to steer clear of pulpit politicking that can divide churches over non-essential issues. Christians ought to separate over the Scripture's inerrancy, goes the thinking, not over tax cuts.

Position Two: Careful but Engaged Activism
The second position, also head by thoughtful believers, takes a long look at a culture systematically dashing itself to pieces and calls churches to respond. Wanting to be more organizationally salty in a decaying world, this position emphasizes that the local church as headed by the pastor must educate itself to stand against moral decline and political injustice. The more biblically sensitive in this group will not necessarily encourage unceasing or even regular political statements from the pulpit, but neither will they disregard them. The individual Christian, says the proponents, surely needs biblical instruction. But he also needs help in thinking through certain matters, many of which can be difficult, and many of which by their important nature thus necessitate such assistance. To fail to do so would be to abrogate responsible "salt-and-light" activity. Individuals must also involve themselves in politics by their voices and votes, but the church must of necessity educate its people and witness to culture by speaking truth.


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