Christian Life 

Christians and Politics: an analysis

A recurring question concerns the differing views on whether or not Christians should become involved in the poltical process: much is determined by pre-suppositional theology.

The debate of whether or not Christians should become actively invovled in the political process prompts a variety of responses.
In fact underlying and shaping these views are two competing theological systems; those of Dispensationalism and Calvinism.

Political Spectrum
Stay out of it all Dive in
  • Present age changed through conversions
  • Total separation of church and state
  • No political invovlement whatsoever
  • Present age changed by imposition of God's laws
  • State to act as an agent of and for the church
  • Active Political Engagement

The above bullet points are very much generalisations which gloss over variations within each system. Holding, as they do to markedly different end-time views (eschatology) these theological systems greatly influence individual views across the spectrum of opinion on political engagement. Neither are these bullet points in any way a complete summary of the differences separating Dispensationism and Calvinism.

2. Dispensationalism posits a Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ and the 'any moment rapture' of believers. This eschatology puts a great emphasis on the need to evangelise as Christ  – it is believed –could come any instant. The Kingdom of God is essentially 'future' and in is presently totally divorced from the 'Kingdom of the this world'.

3. Calvinism is post-Millennial; believing that this present age should be brought closely into line through a church/state alliance which will propagate and impose God's laws on society. (The Reformer John Calvin worked to turn Geneva into a City of God on earth.) Believing strongly in pre-destination, evangelism receives little priority.

4. A more detailed summary of the conflicting Calvinist and Dispensational views can be found in the article entitled 'A Covenant-Keeping God'.

Related articles:
Towards a theology of politics         Christians and Politics        Christians and Politics: a debate

The Editor, 28/07/2013

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Colin Ford (Guest) 28/07/2013 21:28
I find these labels a very real problem, in many respects: Just like trying to put "God in a box", we can unconsciously try to put our fellow believers "in a box"?
I appreciate that you call them "generalisations", but that aside these "generalisations" do seem to be the prevailing "truth"? And yet, they are anything but!
I have, on this very site, expressed my belief that Christians and politics, (for want of a better expression), are an unholy mix!
Yet, being convinced (yes,the whole 5 points, that is) that Calvinism, so-called, is NOTHING less than what is clearly taught in God's Word, (I came to this position by my own personal study of the Abiding Word of God). And lo, and behold, (according to popular belief) I am supposed to be "post millennial"! NO! NO! I am pre millennial! Just as the Word of God clearly teaches! We must ever remember that Calvin and Luther were Roman Catholic priests? Look at the VERY, VERY, GREAT darkness they emerged from?
I certainly AM against "Big government" (currently trying to ban home schooling, and much, much else etc). Look; I certainly DON'T idolise Calvin, Luther et'al, but we must remember, these men STARTED the Reformation? They didn't have the greater light that we do today, DID THEY? Many 'Christians' even call "Calvinism" blasphemous! I have never once, introduced myself to anyone as a "Calvinist", No, no, not once, yet a few times, I have been called such because of my beliefs! I know of many who are "Calvinist" yet don't advocate big government, and ARE also pre-millennial!
I think, from this, it can be clearly shown, that Dispensationalism has "won the day", as such in so-called popular Christian doctrine (the frontispiece being the pre-trib rapture). Yes, some Christian folk will say that Calvin is a murderer, Luther an anti Semitic, and on it goes. I realise these men had their many faults, but what about Moses and David, for example? Did not these two men do very similar things? We should read Hebrews 11 for further understanding of the imperfect faithful believers?
So, to cap it ALL off, I agree with EVERYTHING in the top left purple box, yet I utterly oppose Dispensationalism, I am (according to my theological beliefs a Calvinist) yet I am utterly opposed to everything in the top right blue box!
One other thing; if I may add?
Many Dispensationalists, (or those who are influenced by it's unBiblical theology) often times quote from the sublime works of those great men of God of times gone by, such as Ryle, Spurgeon, Mueller, Newton, Tregelles, Pink, the Puritans, etc, yet they will offer the caveat; "Great teaching, but we don't agree with their Calvinism"!!!!
Jack Thomson (Guest) 28/07/2013 21:52
Thanks Colin - you've saved me the bother of writing a response - for all I truly need do is write 'Ditto' under yours.
Colin Ford (Guest) 29/07/2013 12:12
Usually, as I normally understand it to be, the so-called great theological debate of the ages is Calvinism vs Arminianism? Or predestination vs freewill? There are Calvinists who hold to Dispensationalism, or rather Dispensationalists who hold to Calvinism! Calvinism (AKA doctrines of grace) ought really to be called Augustinianism, as he taught this doctrine before Calvin.
A big problem today, when some talk of "Reformed Protestantism and Calvinism", is, as the article above shows, these sweeping "generalisations" are very real. Even though I believe Calvinism to be Biblical, and that Protestantism, and the Reformation etc to be a mighty move of God; when I attend the Churches today that are the public representation of all this, it makes me cringe! The dryness, formalism, religiosity!?
Many talk about the Reformation in a past tense, as a finished work, this isn't true. Some think that Calvinism etc is just Roman Catholicism without the Pope!
How did all this happen?

Jack Thomson (Guest) 29/07/2013 14:03
Colin - you ask: how did his all happen ?
The answer, in two words - False Conversions
Let me explain:
Jesus once stated: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7/21-23
There is only one way to interpret these words of Jesus. He’s stating, quite clearly, that not all who believe themselves to be Christian are …..Christian.
‘How can this be?’ a perplexed spectator might enquire, and then further ask with deepening bewilderment, ‘How on earth can a person think themselves to be Christian, and yet not be…Christian?
The answer, believe it or not, is hidden in the question……..because, no person, on their own initiative, can ‘think themselves’ into becoming Christian. It is absolutely impossible for any individual to become a true disciple of Christ purely on the basis of their own intellectual initiative………..
To put it another way - becoming a Christian is not a matter of man’s choice, rather, as Christ confirmed, it is a matter of His choice: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…..John 15/16
Truly it is Christ who must first, through the Holy Spirit, choose to connect with a person’s singular and dislocated spirit before that person’s spirit can be made eternally complete - and replete in Him.
The above process of becoming spiritually one with Christ, narrow as it might be, is the only way in which a person’s spirit can obtain true eternal regeneration, but………
There is another ‘way’ - a broader way - a counterfeit way which, rather than being initiated by Christ’s sacrificial Spirit, is generated by any person on the terms of their own self-preserving and self promoting spirit. In other words, there are people who ‘choose’, or are persuaded to enter a relationship with Christ, not on the foundation of His self-sacrificial terms, but on the basis of their own self-extolling terms, which ‘conditions’ offer them the means through which they can express, via their natural talents and aptitudes, their (worldly) understanding of God and His precepts.
The first and only legitimate way produces true Christians who, having died with Christ to the mantle of self determination will, thereafter, think and believe in complete submission to the Lordship of Christ (God’s word).
The alternative (counterfeit) way produces people who ‘think themselves’ to be Christian, but who, in the absence of the Holy Spirit’s influence, can only continue to operate under the lordship of their own unregenerate spirit.....which spirit, enslaved as it is to the spirit of the world, will lead them to think in any way its rebellious, self-focusing and anti-God nature leads them.
This second group are essentially man-made ‘Christians’ - religious mannequins who pose in the shop windows of their respective religious institutions giving the impression of being spiritually alive but who, in reality, are dead to God’s eternal kingdom.
And, in being insensitive to God, they continue to use their own worldly morality and ideals to adapt and edit His word, thereby continually re-modeling the shop window of their ‘ecclesiastical’ environment to court and complement the spirit of the world (in the name of Christ, of course)………and it is this category of ‘Christian’ who is causing so much discord and devastation in the Churches today.
The traditional Churches are decaying institutions, and they are so because a great, great number of their spiritual leaders are not true Christians - they are not spiritually regenerated believers. They have chosen to ‘come to Christ’ on the basis of their own self-righteous understanding….and they ignorantly use His name as a means through which they can preach their adulterated gospels to their naïve congregations.
The apostle Paul had no good word to say of them:
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted……..For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ……..2 Corinthians11/4&13.

Editor 29/07/2013 20:06
All very interesting but nothing to do with the question of political involvement.
Dale (Guest) 29/07/2013 21:44
Believers in Jesus Christ are called to live out and to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ before a pagan unbelieving world. Believers are to be 'salt' and 'light' and in that sense are in a postion to change the society around them by their witness and their positive influence, in whichever workplace they find ourselves. Some people may be specially gifted by God and called by Him to enter the realm of politics where they maybe able to influence those in authority over us to incorporate Christian values into legislation and society (Wilberforce, Shaftesbury etc). That is God's calling in their lives. But for most of us 'ordinary' Christians, in our everyday living we proclaim the gospel praying that God will use our service to draw men and women to Himself. In these circumstances, I'm not sure whether the 'tags' Calvinists or Dispensationalists are really relevant. In either case, Calvinist or Dispensationalist, we should be ambassadors for Christ in this ungodly world.
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