Many Christians believe politics to be a necessary evil. In other words, politics exist because sin is present in man and the world. We only need political governance because our sinfulness requires it. God should be our ruler and not man! Further, Paul’s statement in Romans 13 that God has put in place those in government is only the case because of the sinful state in which man finds himself.
But is this the case? Is politics a necessary evil? Is it an evil institution by definition? Or is the political governance of people an essential part of human existence regardless of the presence of sin?
Authors Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo argue in their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics (B&H, 2015), that a proper understanding of the nature of man, the mandates God gave man, and the governance of people, will help us to see that politics is actually a good part of God’s created order. Similar to the institution of marriage, just because people mess it up does not mean the institution is evil. Just because politics can be full of corruption, greed, and a whole host of sins, does not mean as an institution it is evil.
In the first half of the book, the authors build a positive case for politics. “Given that politics is simply the governance of a society and the theory and practice of influencing others in a society, politics is not inherently evil” (9). Even in a world without sin, the authors point out, decisions like what side of the road cars can drive on in a given direction still need to be made. People should be engaged in politics to make these decisions. It is through a decision of politics that Americans drive on the right side of the road and the British drive on the left. There would still be thousands of decisions like this in a sin free world. Political governance is the social mechanism through which these decisions would be made.
With this understanding of politics in mind, the authors explore various aspects of the intersection between Christianity and Americas political system which is not characterized as being Christian and is tainted by sin. Of particular interest is the attitude the authors encourage Christians to hold toward politics. Whatever the historical Christian context may be for the founding of America, it is clear that we are far removed from that and are most likely never going back. How do Christians now live in this increasingly post-Christian political climate?
“As faithful Christian citizens, we must never recant our beliefs or act unethically because of pressure put upon by fellow citizens. But as flexible Christian citizens, we must accept the limitations of living in a country composed of fellow citizens who do not share our vision of the good life.” (52)
The idea of a Christian American is probably lost forever but Christians ought to always be concerned for and involved in politics because it is the social mechanism of social governance that affects us all.
The second half of the book seeks to apply the first half of the book in guiding Christians how to think about seven areas of hot political and social discussion:
Life and Death
Marriage and Sexuality
Economics and Wealth
The Environment and Ecological Stewardship
Racial Diversity and Race Relations
Immigrants and Immigration Reform
War and Peace
Each of the chapters first lay a biblical foundation for each issue. These are necessarily short but get to the heart of each issue. Then they are examined from the current cultural/social/political landscape. Finally, examples are given of Christians who are leading the way in the discussion of these various areas as means for guiding Christians in applying the principles the authors laid out in the first section of the book.
One Nation Under God is an accessible, biblically faithful, realistic look at politics from a Christian worldview. Though both authors are theologians and writers, and not politicians, they still write with understanding and authority on this issue. Understanding politics from a creation, fall, redemption, restoration lens helps them to see politics as the good societal structure that it is. I strongly recommend this book for any Christian especially those who are wary of contemporary politics and the Christians role within it.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”