Christianity and Politics

1 hour 5 minutes
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Dr. Carl Trueman, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Dr. Peter A. Lillback, President of Westminster, discuss the proper relationship of Christianity to the political sphere.

Dr. Trueman is the author of Republocrat, a new book that challenges the reigning partisan brand of politics in the U.S. Dr. Lillback is the other of Wall of Misconception, a book arguing that the separation of church and state does not mean the separation of Christianity and government, as well as the book George Washington’s Sacred Fire, which was featured on the Glenn Beck program.

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11 Responses to “Christianity and Politics”

  1. Jason D. says:

    Great discussion! I think this just radically changed my political views… now I want those books and I’m onto listening to the RMR of Republicrat

  2. Keith says:

    Alright, where is the link to the full episode?

  3. Nik says:

    This episode is like listening to fingernails across a chalk board… Good show idea and provocative though.

    Thanks!

    Suggested supplemental research for economics/politics:
    mises.org

  4. Tim Bloedow says:

    Greetings, I published the following commentary in my ChristianGovernance e-letter today addressing one particular position I heard in this interview that concerned me a great deal (not that it was by any means the only view expressed that I found troubling. (I am a member of the Russell Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ontario, Canada.)

    The seductive deception of “Christian” socialism
    By Tim Bloedow

    Do human beings lose their depravity by becoming politicians or bureaucrats?

    Stop laughing – that’s a serious question.

    Even God doesn’t remove the presence of sin from us when He redeems a person. Nor does He lift us out of the limitations of finite knowledge. We are still fallible and finite, bound to the parameters of this world.

    So, I ask again… Does politics offer a greater salvation than God the Creator and Jesus Christ?

    Why do I ask?

    Because this has become an implicit and unstated assumption for many Christians, including Reformed Christians in the circles most familiar to me, and even among influential Reformed institutions and personalities. Additionally, the way they express their position implies that those who hold competing views are not being as faithful in integrating their political and social theory with key Biblical doctrine. The doctrine in question is human depravity. How do you account for the reality of human depravity in your social theory and political views?

    Most recently, I heard this perspective presented in an interview with Westminster Seminary professors – and presented in the particular way that troubles me because, in many cases, it reflects an ingrained, unstated assumption that is not questioned even though it forms the foundation from which people work out their social, economic and political theory.

    This is the incident where I heard this view expressed: It was a recent radio interview with Westminster Theological Seminary president Dr. Peter A. Lillback and Westminster Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Carl Trueman. Following a comment by Dr. Trueman about the American Tea Party movement being more concerned with “…right-wing, libertarian economics” rather than the concerns of the “Religious Right,” the interviewer said: “Yeah, Business School, when I was there – got hammered into my head about the free market. We don’t want restrictions. And this is the way to go. The market will work itself out. Then study more theology and eventually coming to Westminster I come to a deeper understanding of total depravity…”

    In other words, the recognition of human depravity in political, economic and social theory requires active involvement of the state to mitigate against abuses and to be the natural arbitrator between aggrieved parties. We are, of course, talking about a much more active role by the state than the Western laissez-faire tradition which already argued for limits to free enterprise in terms of legislation against theft, breach of contract, and other expressions of corruption.

    The interview was largely about Prof. Trueman’s new book “Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative.” Prof. Trueman doesn’t like conventional pigeon-holes, perhaps for good reason, but he does admit to being largely somewhat left of centre in terms of the American political continuum.

    Prior to this incident, the last time I heard this view expressed was when I was talking politics with a few students at a reformed post-secondary institution in Canada, Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario. One of the young men, who was finishing up a degree with a political science major, challenged my promotion of a strong presumption of economic liberty. He stated very explicitly that such a position reflects a very idealistic view of human nature.

    That is simply another way of saying the same thing that Camden Bucey, said to Dr. Lillback and Dr. Trueman in his Reformed Forum interview mentioned above (a comment that was left to stand without rebuttal by both guests. This Redeemer student was declaring as a matter of fact, that human depravity requires state intervention as though there was no other rational way, let alone a Biblically rational way, to handle human depravity. He seemed oblivious to the fact that this is simply a theoretical proposition, and that it is predicated on the socialist belief in a messianic state, rather than in a Biblical Christian worldview. Let’s revisit the question that began this column: “Do human beings lose their depravity by becoming politicians or bureaucrats?”

    If the solution to mitigating the effects of human depravity is more state control and intervention, how does that square with the Biblical truth about the comprehensive effects of human depravity in all men? What special concept of the state or civil magistracy do these (Reformed) Christians have that gives them a level of confidence in politicians, bureaucrats and the state apparatus that they don’t have in the unfolding of life in an environment of voluntary associations by free people? Maybe they’ve never thought about this. After all, the fundamentals of socialist theory are almost never discussed at such a foundational level. These ideas are simply adopted at the earliest ages in blind faith by people who have no personal or theoretical experience with alternatives. We have no idea how to conceptualize a life of liberty and personal responsibility.

    But we must shake off these shackles of socialist presumption (realising the idolatry of this view for what it is) because the Biblical alternative for combating the social effects of human depravity emphasizes liberty and personal responsibility – self-government under God. When people sin, you want the effects of their sin to be muted as much as possible. You achieve that result typically with smaller actors each of whom has a limited realm of influence. The effects of sin are multiplied in economic monopolies, and even more so when the state, with the power of the sword, is using its monopoly on power to enforce its sin. It is astounding that any Christian could argue that state regulation and a more centralised civil magistracy is a superior way to mitigate the effects of sin without simultaneously – and explicitly – arguing that politicians and bureaucrats are somehow morally and intellectually superior individuals.

    Many businesses support new regulations and conspire with governments to implement them because governments will often help businesses to cover any compliance costs involved. Meanwhile the regulations make the cost of entry to that industry higher for new competitors. These regulations therefore, are a protectionist measure that encourage monopolisation. These regulations are sold to the public almost always under the guise of health, safety or environmental protections, and because most Canadians, including Christians, operate from a presumptive state-ist disposition, we accept – and even embrace – these regulations as the only serious way to address the perceived problems. Whether the problem arises from ignorance or corruption, the state’s regulation and policing of the sector is deemed the only rational solution to the problem.

    This approach is not a recognition of human depravity; it’s a stark – and tragic – denial of the Biblical doctrine of human depravity because it necessarily implies that sin has a lesser impact on politicians and bureaucrats than it does on everyone else. A rebuttal might be that sin’s impact is softened only when they act in aggregate, or on their communal views, not when they act as individuals. Somehow, when they come together, the good in them overpowers the sin, and the intelligence over-rides their ignorance. If this is the case, what is the Biblical rationale for such faith or confidence in politicians and bureaucrats, while refusing to express such confidence in the work of business associations or private sector accountability bodies?

    I am very glad to see Christians who are thoughtful enough to realise that the Bible and Christian doctrine has implications for every area of life. Many Christians today have never thought that what we believe about human nature, about sin, about God, and other foundational doctrines, has any direct bearing on how we live 6 days a week, let alone on economic theory and public policy.

    But when we bring these foundational doctrinal truths to bear on different issues to develop a comprehensive worldview, we must be careful that we do so accurately. Trying to understand the relevance of human nature and the Biblical doctrine of depravity on social, economic and political theory is important, but we also have to bring other principles to bear on our thinking rather than letting today’s presumptive acceptance of the messianic state go unchallenged.

  5. Cody Corallo says:

    It sounds like you’re producing issues your self by trying to remedy this issue rather than taking a look at why
    their is really a difficulty in the first place

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I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. (Romans 16:17-18)

 

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