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) 29/07/2013 22:34
Yes, editor, but how can you avoid these side roads? I have just re-read your "lead-in" again, and well, that "great" or "controversial" name "Calvinism" is there, and also that of "Dispensationalism".
It is my sincere believe that not that many Christians have heard of Dispensationalism, much less understand it's doctrine? Yet I sincerely believe that infinitely many more would have heard of Calvin? In fact, I didn't have a clue what Dispensationalism was just THREE years ago!! And I kid you not! Yet, I had of course heard of Calvin.
I certainly am NOT an expert on Calvin, though I do have probably an above average understanding of it's doctrine, likewise with Dispensationalism; as God has blessed me with the time to do so.
But was Calvin a theologian, reformer, politician, statesman, a heretic, or all five?
I have just said in an above comment that you cannot clearly delineate these two "theological systems" into a neat little box? (at least in my limited understanding).
It is therefore my belief that it is somewhat impossible, or naive to try and "pigeon hole" political and theological beliefs together? That is right; I believe that it is NOT that simple?
So to "cut to the chase" as it were; No, certainly Christians (that is true) and politics do NOT mix.
I think the penny may soon drop; an avowed atheist such as Richard Dawkins has the nous, and Biblical understanding to believe such a statement to be true? In fact, he probably has a FAR greater understanding of the Scriptures than many so-called "Christians"? A sad thing to say, but I believe, to be woefully true?
I think Jack is quite correct in what he asserts? I have been to many "Church" meetings where you get the "altar call" invitation to come up, or raise your hand, and say a quick prayer inviting Christ into your heart, to then be told that you are "saved"! Yes I believe that there have been many, many cheap or "false conversions" and subsequently many deceived into believing that they are saved. However; in spite of such unBiblical methods, I believe that there have been many folk over the years who have "raised their hands" at such meetings who have had their consciences pricked, and have gone on to "Seek and find" Luke 11.10?? We can NEVER limit God?
Again we must NOT lose sight of the fact that Dispensationalism teaches TWO ways of salvation, it leads to the separation of Law from Grace, it is a thoroughly unBiblical doctrine, unlike Calvinism.

John Miller 30/07/2013 09:00
I believe in dispensational theology. I do not believe that there are two ways of salvation. I also do not accept that it is unbiblical. The word "thoroughly" is irrelevant!

Richard Dawkins has little or no understanding of scripture and by observation his knowledge of it is quite limited.

Sorry Colin, on these two observations you have shot off in a tangent from the truth.
Editor 30/07/2013 10:17
I will write up a 'lead in' piece for a discussion about the (competing) systems of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology (which is substantially the outworking of Calvinism).

Why I used the terms (with all the problems that 'tags' bring) is to illustrate that the responses to involvement in the political process are often more shaped by systematic theologies and eschatology rather than what the Bible teaches about being 'salt and light'. (See Dale's comment 29/07 21:44 above).

Politics is a legitimate sphere of public life (like the health services, educational sector, welfare systems, trade and commerce etc.) and I haven't yet seen a biblical argument for Christians withdrawing from these sectors (which are no more 'Godly' than politics.

The 'two kingdoms' view is employed in argument to teach an unbridgeable demarcation line between 'the world' and 'God'. But the 'Kingdom of God' has both 'here and now' and 'not yet' dimensions to it.

We are told to pray for "kings and all those in authority". Let's pray also for those who feel led of the Lord to engage in and with the polical realm.
Dale (Guest) 30/07/2013 11:16
Editor's comment - 'Politics is a legitimate sphere of public life (like the health services, educational sector, welfare systems, trade and commerce etc.) and I haven't yet seen a biblical argument for Christians withdrawing from these sectors (which are no more 'Godly' than politics)'.

Absolutely! Well said! Sometimes 'tags' can become a red herring and the main issue, in this case 'politics', is missed or neglected. Both the Calvinist and the Dispensationalist would be wrong if they purposefully withdrew their positive Christian influence from the society around them. The culture of our nation (Great Britain) has been to a large extent shaped by Christians from the days of the past.
Colin Ford (Guest) 30/07/2013 11:51
I said "probably"? And I have listened to Dawkin's talk on the odd few occasions; in order to attack, he must have SOME knowledge of what he is attacking? I would have thought that much to be obvious, yes, you are right, his knowledge is "limited", so is mine!
Dawkin's has, many times tuned down public debates with men such as Creation "big hitters" like John Mackay, because he knows his knowledge of Scripture FAR and away surpasses his, and besides, by debating him, he would be raising Mackay's fame and public profile, which he certainly would not want to do, and of course Mackay, would "wipe the floor" with him with the science as well as Scripture.
Regards errant Dispensational theology, of course, it is a recognised fact, by me at least that some, not all, Dispensationalist theologians actually believe that OT saints were saved by keeping the law and NOT by the blood of Christ! That does amount to two ways of salvation? My problem with this theology, is that it gives rise to such errors, by the separation of Israel (law) and the NT Church (grace) into two separate people groups.
Going back to politics, of course we are to be "salt and light" in every, and any position we find ourselves in.
As regards the health service, welfare state, etc, I think these were started in 1948 by a Marxist socialist? Can anything good come from a corrupt root Matthew 7.17? These systems (big government) do indeed diminish personal responsibility, and reliance upon God's Word?
Editor 30/07/2013 15:44
"Can anything good come from a corrupt root?"

Everything from the Garden of Eden onwards has a corrupt root: that's why we need to engage as 'salt'.
Colin Ford (Guest) 30/07/2013 19:46

Romans 3.4

John Miller 30/07/2013 20:00
Colin I do not wish to prolong this division from the subject but you wrote of Dawkin's understanding of scripture not his knowledge of scripture. Knowledge and understanding are two very different things.

The atheist can read, research and memorise scripture ad infinitude. Understanding God's word comes only with the help of God's Holy Spirit.

I will not address the subject of dispensationalism here as it is not the subject, but will return to it in due course.
Editor 31/07/2013 00:49
For extracted article on Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology see -
W Benn (Guest) 31/07/2013 22:13
Mr Ford, what are the scientific and educational credentials held by your apparent hero, John Mackay? That is not a rhetorical question, I am interested to know.

Mr Miller knowledge and understanding are indeed two very different things.Understanding is the superior of the two but I put it to you that you can't have one without the other. I would add that you can be selective in the securing of your knowledge base and that is where a well chosen curriculum is important. Rote learning is third rate unless you are trying to learn an arithmetic table [or such like] or memorize a wedding speech. One final point if an atheist reads, memorizes and researches religion, and does not find your truth, despite looking and wishing for it, does that mean he goes to hell? Be careful because if the answer is yes it says nothing for your god.
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