One election away from…what?
A timely word for evangelicals and progressives
A word of warning to evangelical Christians
At a recent event President Trump warned that we evangelicals are “one election away from losing everything.” Doubling down, he added that should the GOP lose in the November election evangelicals ought to expect that violence will be perpetrated against us. To say that this sort of political speech is unusual requires a memory longer than the last two years during which time such exaggerated and inflammatory discourse has, alas, become par for the political course.
Reformed theologian Michael Horton has rightly objected to the President’s fear-mongering reminding believers that we ought not to put our trust in chariots, princes, or anything other than our God. You can read his Christianity Today article here. One paragraph offers a concise summary of Horton’s point:
…[T]he church does not preach the gospel at the pleasure of any administration or decline to preach it at another administration’s displeasure. We preach at Christ’s pleasure. And we don’t make his policies but communicate them. It’s not when we’re fed to lions that we lose everything; it’s when we preach another gospel. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
Something tremendous is at stake here: whether evangelical Christians place their faith more in Caesar and his kingdom than in Christ and his reign. On that one, we do have everything to lose—this November and every other election cycle. When we seek special political favors for the church, we communicate to the masses that Christ’s kingdom is just another demographic in the US electorate.
As a Evangelical Presbyterian minister, I hold some opinions that are profoundly offensive to many whose beliefs are not shaped by the Bible and the church’s interpretive tradition in the same way mine are.
- I reject the notion that humanity is justified by God in any manner other than through the free gift of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by which our sins are counted his and his righteousness is counted ours.
- I reject that marriage as an ecclesial act may be defined in a manner contrary to the witness of Scripture. Marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman in the sight of God and in the context of a congregation (see point number one). I do not object to the state enforcing such a view because this view is not exclusively rooted in revelation, but in the natural law.
- I reject no fault divorce as contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and that divorce ought only to happen with the advice and consent of the Session of a person’s congregation.
- I affirm that the practice of homosexual sex is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and disqualifies a person from church membership and church office. Homosexual orientation is not a gift of God, but a result of the fall as is transgenderism.
You get the idea. The whole world might stand against these views, but so long as my conscience is captive to the Word of God my views are unlikely to change. I find no reason to cloak these views or to dissemble them. Life’s too short.
Furthermore, I don’t particularly need the government to protect these views neither do I need popular opinion on my side. I would be a fool to believe that a GOP majority will somehow safeguard my views.
A word of warning to progressives
It seems to me that evangelicals are not alone in needing to center our faith in God rather than the civil magistrate. The last year has created something of a crisis of confidence among Christians who call themselves progressive or justice-oriented. I know of one author who has not returned to church since the election of Donald Trump because he views the church as complicit in the evil of a democratic election. This is imprudent. If a single election can make or break your faith–evangelical, progressive or any other tribe–then I question the authenticity of your faith in the first place.
Progressive Christians are equally guilty of ceding faith to the temporal realm. Let’s not kid ourselves that this is a uniquely evangelical problem. It’s not. There’s more than enough guilt to be shared.