Vote the Bible

The Christian Coalition is telling people to “vote the Bible” (HT Notes From Off Center). Unfortunately, they appear not to have read it. All the Bible has to say specifically and unambiguously on that subject is to mandate abortion in cases of infidelity (Numbers 5:11-31).

This is not to say that abortion should not be an issue for Christians, but if one is concerned to emphasize things that are emphasized in the Bible, then social justice and the mistreatment of the poor by the rich should be closer to the top of the list, whereas the Christian Coalition doesn’t mention such concerns at all.

Do an online search. The word “poor” appears 178 times in the NIV. Try searching for “abortion“, “homosexuality”, or any other topic that is supposedly important to those who “vote the Bible” and see if the number of places these subjects are addressed even comes close, or speaks with the same directness and clarity.

So by all means vote the Bible, but only if you’ve read it and have some idea what it is about. Otherwise you’re deferring to someone else’s authority telling you what the Bible says, and you may later come to regret having allowed yourself and your vote to be manipulated in this way.

  • http://www.coldfire.wordpress.com Danny

    Amen! So often I wonder what people mean when they say “biblical worldview.” When I hear such a term it means selling all I have giving it to the poor, carrying two outfits and giving one away and loving our enemies radically with the ethic of non-violence. A biblical worldview must be big enough for a loving God and a God that sends his agents to pour out wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah. A biblical worldview must make room for a God who loves both the hard working and those who don’t “deserve” the money they beg for. The Bible must be big enough for prophetic truth and so many other things. Many people would be surprised how far “biblical thinking” might take them in an American election.

  • http://notes-from-offcenter.com Drew Tatusko

    Right. So voting the bible could very well mean stoning to death people caught in same gender sex and people caught in adultery. But I don’t see those propositions on the ballots in any state :-(

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06850130802615924865 Laura

    Another amen, brother! I hesitate to just say, “what Danny said” above . . . but in general I’ve been of the opinion for some time that the radical nature of true spirituality is probably a bit too much for most people, especially those who say they “vote the bible” (whatever in the world that really means).Already you’ve hooked me – and that’s a good thing. In the words of my governator, “I’ll be bock”Warmly,~Laura

  • Anonymous

    No offense and I do agree that there is misguidedness in how people use the Bible, but the interpretation of Numbers 5:11-33 is quite more complex than what is said above. The texts could have an interpretation toward a curse bring a miscarriage and does not advocate forced abortion as is applied above. Once again, I agree with the comment, but it would be better is you did justice the text.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    What is the difference between intentionally causing a miscarriage and performing an abortion in this context? Is the difference as you understand it more than one of terminology?

  • Anonymous

    The question is: does the text say that it is to intentionally “cause” an abortion or is a “curse” upon the women. The text implies a curse and not a forced miscarriage. In what way would the drink have caused a miscarriage? The text conveys the desires of the husband for the woman to have an miscarry, but does not advocate that an action is taken to ensure this happens. The liquid is associated with the curse and not the cause of the miscarriage. To gloss over this text is to do the same as those who say “to vote with the bible.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03734930079710820207 Luke

    that’s just like the whole “Biblical Marriage” deal these people try to pull to try to eliminate same-sex marriage… drives me nuts!name one candidate who says you can have as many wives as you can support and can divorse them by going to the square and dropping your sandle? OH! And the whole selling your unwanted daughters into slavery… and having sex with your sister-in-law if your brother dies… ummm…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07547907438379868209 Sam

    Obviously things are cultural in the Bible Luke. Of course, this is also something that most Bible believers don’t know about so they make naive statements like “vote the Bible” as McGrath pointed out.I mean, really what does that mean? Vote the Mosaic law? Vote Jesus’ message which is a fulfillment of the law? Vote on the topics that are emphasized most like helping the poor? Or vote on valid inferences from Scripture which are more important than the primary purpose of the authors of Scripture?I have no idea what it means, but most of the time it pretty much means “vote Republican on ‘ethical’ issues”. Of course, it’s always forgotten that virtually every issue is profoundly ethical like foreign policy, economic policy, health care, environmentalism, etc. They just don’t apply the gospel broadly enough.

  • Pete

    Okay, I’m so lost here. Abortion / miscarriage? I read Numbers 5:11-33 and don’t understand, could someone take the time to explain it to me. My ignorant reading seemed to gather that the woman drinks the “bitterness” stuff and if she is lying then she will be cursed (die?). Not that this makes any more sense but I am missing the miscarriage part.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    The NIV perhaps makes the text “clearer” than it really is in Hebrew. There is an interesting post on this blog about the meaning of the passage.If that passage doesn’t refer to causing a miscarriage (as one proof of and punishment for the woman’s infidelity), then there is perhaps no passage that explicitly addresses the subject. And so the point still stands that “conservative Christians” in the United States have made “the issue” something that isn’t mentioned in the Bible, and have ignored a whole lot of stuff that is. That, rather than the specific meaning of Numbers 5, was my main point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    There’s another interesting discussion of the passage’s meaning here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01770607122746467750 Fr. Chris Larimer

    Professor,While I appreciate your highlighting the needed balance in evangelical approaches to participatory democracy, isn’t it disingenuous to ask people to search for abortion or homosexuality in the Bible? You know that it’s not there.You know what? Neither is “redistribution of wealth,” “socialism,” “communism,” or “capitalism”! (Either as THOU SHALTs or THOU SHALT NOTs.) Reducing the hermeneutical and applicational horizons to a concordance is neither helpful – nor is it illustrative of those who vote on a socially and fiscally conservative path based on their understanding of biblical ethical mandates.I would hope that a professor of religious studies – especially one who is sponsored by the venerable Christian Century – would contribute more to the debate through his blog.CLL+Pro-gun because God said only he should be kingPro-capitalism because it is the least coercive of economic systems availablePro-life because murder is wrongPro-marriage (thus against sloppy divorce laws, SSM, and extra-marital conjugation)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    OK, so how does God alone being king have relevance to gun possession? If you’re wanting to make a Biblical case, you’d perhaps be stronger appealing to the Philistines’ reserving of iron weapon-making technology for themselves.As for the redistribution of wealth, I’m not sure what else you’d call it when once every generation the land was given back to its former owner.But my point was simply that abortion has become the issue for Christians, and equated with “being Biblical”, and I merely wished to highlight that those who are concerned for the poor can argue that their position is “Biblical” in a much more straightforward fashion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01770607122746467750 Fr. Chris Larimer

    Dr. McGrath,I would refer you to the libertarian writers at the founding of our country for what weapon ownership has to do with monarchs. I do like your point about the Philistines. Maybe Christians should thus argue that the government isn’t the only entity capable of bearing ICBMs? If you write the monograph, I’ll introduce it at AAR.If you want to argue Jubilee as it was practiced then, you’ll have to argue that we should revert to an agrarian society and centralize precious metal concentrations in the hands of a theocratic hierarchy. I’m sure you want neither since it is only “biblical” when both are present. (And God won’t be fooled if we’re only half-obedient while claiming to be wholly generous.)The focus on abortion is a biblical priority. Stopping active murder is a viable task, and since it is a restraint of wickedness it is well within the sphere of the civil magistrate as presented in NT ethical reflection. Jesus himself said that we’d always have the poor with us. But the Israelites were commanded to put the sword to those who slew their children to Molech. Beyond that, natural law and common ethical imperative is sufficient to show that the murder of humans (especially in extremis cases like unborn infants) is wrong.

  • Pete

    James,Thank you for the links.Chris,I don’t want you to have to write out a book, but do you have a quick discussion or a link about why you feel homosexuality, at least how it is relevant in our current cultural situation, is not present.Thanks,Pete

  • Pete

    Sorry, I meant to say “not present in the Bible”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I’ve previously made the same point that you have about the Jubilee year approach not working except in an agrarian society (if there).I do find it puzzling, however, that the principle behind it seems to garner no sympathy from you, whereas the equation of “abortion” in all forms with “sacrificing children to Molech” seems to you self-evident. Is it not possible that you too are being selective in your appropriation of “Biblical” principles?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01770607122746467750 Fr. Chris Larimer

    Pete,I’m not sure what you’re asking. I think in our democratic republic, people should be left alone with regards to bedroom behavior between consenting adults of whatever number and gender. However, if someone is asking for privileged recognition of their domestic affairs, they’d better be able to show societal benefit.Dr. McGrath,I agree with your reflection on Jubilee transferability. My push for free markets (and this isn’t unique to me) is that it has the best proven track record of increasing wealth, decreasing poverty, raising the standard of living, and – most importantly, perhaps – optimizing human potential in production (whether of ideas, artistry, materiels, etc.). I can’t think of anything more just or fair – and thus, more biblical. History has yet to see an economic system that equals capitalism’s ability to lift people out of poverty and subsistence living. No matter how beautiful Das Kapital or The Communist Manifesto look on paper – no matter how in accord they may appear to be with Christian principles – their implementation has resulted in an increase of suffering, poverty, and oppression. The reason is simple: it ignores the one provable principle of Christianity (i.e., humanity’s radical depravity). Capitalism alone has been able to harness both the self-interest of the reprobate and the agape focus of the redeemed into a just and implementable system.For a more learned exposition of this topic, I would urge others to read the materials at Acton Institute. Especially on its diversity, ethics, and origins.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    And I do want to be clear that, having lived in a formerly Communist country for a few years, I don’t at all advocate that approach to economics as a solution to society’s problems! I would, however, like to see larger number of Christians not simply accepting capitalism as the lesser evil, but doing creative thinking about how, if at all, we can find ways to provide the benefits that a free market economy offers, while perhaps also avoiding some of its pitfalls.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01770607122746467750 Fr. Chris Larimer

    Dr. McGrath,I wholeheartedly concur, and would point you to the resource linked by “diversity” in my prior post for just such thinking.More than that, I’d like individual Christians to start implementing the ethics of the kingdom of God. Have a spare sleeping bag in your trunk so you can give a homeless guy more than a cup of coffee. Be ready to offer just compensation for a person needing work that day. And be merciful AND gracious to women without husbands and children without fathers.May God lend aid to our efforts to wait on him, rather than on the government.


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