Russell Moore on Christians and Politics

From Out of Ur:

Christians seem to swing the pendulum between pietistic disengagement and hard-boiled partisan politics. Should pastors and church leaders advocate a third way?

The church of Jesus Christ isn’t a political action committee, affixing Bible verses to already-existing political programs. The church is a colony of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. That has social and political implications, but these implications are as much about the next trillion years as they are about the next four.

You are right that the evangelical community seems to swing between partisan occupation and pietistic disengagement. Neither fits the biblical pattern. The errors of the last generation, in politicizing everything, can result in a dangerous over-correction by the Millennial generation into a hyper-libertarianism that reduces the gospel to the question “Who is my neighbor?” and avoids moral discourse as a defense against legalism.

Ironically, this form of disengagement itself becomes a kind of Pharisaism, building hedges around the point of temptation in order to avoid falling into it.

We must tie everything we do explicitly to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the mission of Christ. This means we speak to the whole of human existence, including what it means to live together in civil society and as citizens. We do so recognizing there are some areas where the church speaks with clear authority, because of a clearly revealed truth in Scripture, and other points at which we speak with a more nuanced voice. There is not a Christian position on a balanced budget amendment or gun control legislation, for instance, although there are certainly Christian principles that inform our motivations and goals on such things. On the means to those ends, we can agree to disagree.

The primary aspect of this third way though is the priority of focus. The state is important. The culture is important. But the church is the focal point of Christ’s reign in the present era. We must be in all the areas of cultural and political influence. Decisions made there flow backward into our communities and congregations with all sorts of implications. But I think the first step of Christian engagement with the outside world is a gospel-driven, counter-cultural, Bible-disciplined congregational life.

The change I seek isn’t moral majoritarianism or isolationist libertarianism, but an engaged communitarianism that not only advocates for justice but demonstrates it in lived congregational reality.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • SethR

    I wonder what he means by “moral discourse”? Moral discourse with whom? Who’s avoiding it? What would it mean to have moral discourse? In what context?

  • Chris Crane

    Love the statement connecting hyper-libertarianism with the millennial generation as a reaction to the previous generation’s political overreach. I interpret moral discourse avoidance to be related to a general sense of moral apathy that pervades throughout our culture. In contemporary Christian culture I see this manifested in a resistance to make definitive assertions regarding controversial issues so as to avoid “getting political.”

  • BedfordDavid

    I believe the comment was hyper-libertarianism, which is rather different.

  • Chris Crane

    Oops. Thanks auto-correct.


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