The Christian and Politics (John MacArthur)

The Christian and Politics (John MacArthur) November 29, 2011

I disagree with JMac on almost every theological “non-essential” yet he is my Christian brother.  I can imagine that some of my readers won’t like me saying this, but who am I to say otherwise?

In this video, its a refreshing step away from the radical Christian right.  I disagree with the dichotomy he creates, but this perspective is a better alternative than the view espoused by Moral Majority preachers (who would share most of his theological views, I imagine).  What are your thoughts?


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  • Rholtslander

    I don’t know who John MacArthur is really (except that he’s an author) or his significance to people but he seems to make good sense here.

  • In theory, what he says sounds reasonable, and your (Kurt) comment sounds reasonable.  In practice, however, we are, to say the least, inconsistent in our application of this principle. For example, we applaud Martin Luther King and his efforts to lead Americans into a place where their voice is heard loudly enough so that political leaders will hear it, change would occur. A half-century later, we are very pleased with the change in the mindset, but the truth is that the laws had to be changed first, and then came the change in thinking.
    Another example is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The biography which came out last year had me cheering him on as he challenged the German people to think about what the Nazi regime was doing to their country.

    And yet, I agree with MacArthur. How do I reconcile this? Easy. I don’t think of the extraordinary issues in these examples as political issues. Civil rights goes way beyond  politics. Same with the senseless slaughter of Jews. And the indefensible slaughter of the unborn (yes, I said it).  These are not political issues, but emotional ones. Moral ones. And they are based on defending those who cannot defend themselves.

    • @middletree:disqus … great thoughts.  Sometimes political systems need to change so that people can flourish as imagebearers!  That’s why I’m ok with supporting health care for every american… moral issue.  Or why I think we ought to limit our use of violence throughout the world… moral issue.  Or why I loath abortion realizing that policies that empower the poor actually lead to less abortions… again, moral issue.  Politics are not the answer, but sometimes the Gospel of the Kingdom calls us to speak out against governments when they are not upholding basic justices.  This seems consistent with the OT Prophets and the prophetic tradition of Jesus himself.

      • Yes to speak against the government but at the same time who is it that you want to give us all things “the government” I am confused.

      • helenelaine

        My husband and me have a MacArthur study bible here at home.  I have really enjoyed the reading. Many times I thought that John was making assumptions and had many opinions about things that scripture hadn’t really made clear.
        One point that I think of in all of this is that the prophets primarily spoke to Israel about theirs sins and let them know God’s thoughts on things.  I think in terms of confrontations, there are principles we use with those of the faith and principles we use for those outside the faith. One example comes to mind and that is that we are instructed to not share a meal with someone of the faith who is sexually immoral, but we aren’t given the same instruction for those outside the faith. And there was the practice of sending two witnesses to a person of Israel when they were contemplating sinning as a way of turning them from that sin. We are also given instruction in the NT on necessary confrontation in the church which may I say, ” seems difficult enough.”
        Nineveh and Egypt are examples of different types of confrontations that were done for different reasons.
        I am of the opinion that as a for-now free nation, we are given the blessing of using our vote to take part in the political process to  accomplish righteous things. 
        Here’s the thing, if one is called who is in a top political position in the country or world, they don’t necessarily leave their job unless it’s something God wants them to do  (ex. to instruct the body with their knowledge gained). They could just as well move forward with promoting Biblical principles and help support those (financially etc.) who preach full-time. If the people keep voting them in, then they (the politician) could impact the political arena as much as possible before they were voted out, etc. Speaking and voting and acting to promote kingdom love in the world is all they (the world) have. 
        As a Christian being’ in the world but not of it,’ I would imagine it would be one of the most difficult jobs to have as a Christian, but also a very rewarding one.

  • Raysrose08

    I agree with  Jmac  but am a big fan of the man. Do i always agree? No but he is pretty sharp, and has taught me a thing or two.

  • Anonymous

    I do agree with him about the president not having an effect on the Kingdom.  God’s will will not be thwarted by anyone.  However, I disagree when he said made the comment almost sneeringly about Christians “dabbling in politics”.  I believe it’s an individual issue just how much one becomes involved in the political process.  Many who do get involved beyond the voting booth are doing so as a way to be salt and light.  On the other hand, there are those whose theology leads them to believe that they are to change things almost in a theocratic fashion.  Having said that, I do not believe that one’s involvement automatically means they’re prostituting themselves.  I think it’s an issue of individual conscience and I would hesitate to make blanket statements like the ones I feel he made, particularly without knowing another’s motivation.  

  • We as Christians myself included are too involved in politics.  Just today I wrote an editoral endorsing someone that may run for Mayor of my town. Politics I believe is almost an addiction for many of us Christians. I’d like to beat that addiction and turn back to the real purpose which is the Kingdom of God. Another area we get passionate about is Sports which can also be a diversion. It’s important that we have Jesus as our first love that we truly love God first.

  • Jacqui Norman

    very wise words, we stand for righteousness whichever side of the fence our political views are on.
    I have heard good passionate Christians say “how can a person be a Christian AND support Labour?” and also “how can a person be a Christian AND a Conservative?” !!! 
    This is precisely why I nail my colours firmly to the ‘floating voter mast’ and, at every election, look at the specific issues of the day before deciding where my X will be.

  • Kurt, I don’t think he could be more wrong. I say this as a political theologian, and somebody who rejects easy notions of public theology or theology-to-policy recommendations. However, it’s Mac’s theology that is so problematic here. We need to remember that eschatologically, Mac believes in the Kingdom of God as only a future event, not as something that was inaugurated with Jesus (part of his dispensationalism). Moreover, he operates with a very individualistic, fundamentalist soteriology that is about each person spending eternity with God as the heart of the gospel. The notion of God’s reign here and now in any robust sense is far from his mind. Because of his problematic soteriology and eschatology, then, he’s able to compartmentalize one’s witness to the Gospel from one’s “civic duty,” which itself is a deeply problematic notion. I honestly don’t think he has anything here meriting acceptance.

    • But Brad, even if you believe in an inaugurated eschatology, as I also do, do you not agree that political action cannot effect it (or affect it either)?  I think that’s the boundary that MacArthur is drawing…a “minister of the gospel” (in the professional sense, not the ‘every believer’ sense) must not confuse what is work for the kingdom, from work which, while it may be consistent with kingdom values, cannot actually advance or retard kingdom work.

      • I don’t believe that’s what MacArthur has in mind, Dan, given his eschatology. The fact is, we can indeed hinder the world’s conformity to the reality of the kingdom, and we do so often by conforming instead to what he espouses here: an individualistic, escapist soteriology conjoined with a “civic duty” that is conceived apart from (and largely in opposition to) the gospel.

    • Helenecombs

      I see your point. A person’s acceptance of JM’s words hinge upon their eschatological position. It (their position) gives them an entire perspective on how and in what ways we Christians are instructed to interact with the world at this particular time in history.

  • Ian

    The only problem I see with his answer to vote righteously is that it not that simple. There hasn’t been a candidate out there that I can vote for and honestly say to myself “I have voted righteously”. What I think he mostly means by that is what a lot of conservative Christians might call voting against abortion. I would take it further and say I can’t vote righteously until there is a candidate that doesn’t support abortion or the wars in the Middle East (or wars like them). And this is a bare minimum for me. I’d rather not end up voting for Ron Paul, but there is nothing better out there.

    • Helenecombs

      they might be promoting “issues” and non-parisan voting rather than candidate voting, but I always take the “lesser of two evils” approach on that one.

    • Anonymous

      “That one” being a candidate vote.

  • Wow, this is incredibly healthy.  Probably the only place other than Jesus’ divinity and saving work, where JMac and Greg Boyd would agree!  Totally correct though!

  • Anonymous

    Scary but depending on the worldview and more specifically the eschatological position, we’re basically looking at a spectrum of beliefs that go from believing that Christians should infiltrate every walk of life with the belief that they (we) will take control of all governments and deliver them to Christ at His return (which i personally think is bogus) to the belief that God does everything and Calvin was a god and we should do little if anything to influence the world. Crazymaking at it’s best.
    I’m thinkin’ this 2000-year trip reminds me of a certain forty-year journey that was supposed to take ten days.  OMG. 

    I’m sure we’re right on schedule?  :/

  • John

    Hey Kurt,
    This may be off topic but where do you stand on the Lordship Salvation debate?