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Moore: Christians must think theologically about politics
October 06, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
If Christians confuse their citizenship in the kingdom of God with their citizenship in the United States of America, they are in danger of twisting and perverting the Gospel, theologian Russell D. Moore recently told an audience at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, said Christians in America must think theologically when deciding how to vote and where to stand on important issues in the upcoming presidential election.
American Christians are in the unique position that is the equivalent of "Caesar" in the Bible, Moore said. So, when Jesus and Paul are talking about Caesar in Scripture, American believers must realize that, in a constitutional republic, Caesar is the people, he said. Moore's comments were made during a Sept. 16 address on political engagement at the seminary.
"You and I are not in the same position as the first century Christians, gathering together in catacombs, wondering what Caesar is going to do," Moore said. "Instead, you and I are in both situations. We're the church trying to live out the mandate of the Gospel and we are at the same time those Romans 13 authorities.
"The authority in the United States of America is constitutionally invested, not in the White House, not in the Congress, not in the Supreme Court, but ultimately in the people through their elected representatives. So responsibility for using the sword wisely, for fair taxation for all of these things, ultimately rests with us. When we are reading passages [that refer to Caesar], we read it through two lenses: it is addressed to us as the church and it is also addressed to us as Caesar."
Believers confuse their citizenship in the two kingdoms when they mistakenly view America as the fulfillment of Old Testament Israel and desire for the government to function accordingly, Moore said. Instead, Moore pointed out that Old Testament Israel is fulfilled in the church.
Because this is true, spiritual disobedience must be dealt with through church discipline and not through the coercive activity of the state, he said. Believers must think theologically, not only about specific issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, but also about political engagement in general, he said.
"When we read New Testament texts in which we see Jesus or Paul talking about Caesar, we read them through two lenses," Moore said. "They are addressed to us as the church and also as Caesar. Political decisions are important for the sake of the church, for the sake of the Gospel, and for our accountability to God as the ultimate governing authorities in a constitutional republic."
So must an evangelical Christian be a Republican? Moore said that ideally both parties would have conservative evangelicals working within them. However, most evangelicals gravitate toward the GOP because of a profound shift that has occurred within the Democratic Party over the past three decades.
The Democratic Party, once home to most Southern Baptists and other evangelicals, now prefers the influence of groups such as the feminist and abortion rights lobbies—lobbies with a worldview not consonant with evangelical convictions. The loss of orthodox believers in the party has meant the loss of a unity based on transcendent causes of justice, such as the civil rights movement, Moore said. Now, he argued, party activists are more likely to be energized by conspiracy theories such as those found in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Moore said Christians do not identify themselves first and foremost by affiliation with a particular political party. A party is merely a mechanism one uses to further objectives informed by a Christian worldview, he said.
"What is best for America would not necessarily be to have a Republican Party full of evangelicals and a secular Democratic Party," Moore said. "Ideally, it would be wonderful if we had two parties that had evangelicals working and active within them.
"The problem is that you have interest groups within the contemporary Democratic Party that simply will not tolerate evangelicals who hold to some essentials of an evangelical worldview. That's the sad reality."
Believers need not only to think theologically about issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, but must also bring a biblical worldview to bear on other issues such as foreign policy and terrorism. Christians must view these issues in a way that is in lock step with the Gospel itself, Moore said.
"What I'm concerned about in terms of foreign policy is that some of the arguments that are being used completely erode any foundation of justice at all," Moore said. "Should a nation that has been attacked feel a sense of justice toward the capture of Osama bin Laden? Is that simply vengeful human beings who want blood or is that something that resonates with the way God has made the world?
"If we establish a society that no longer understands justice, we can no longer understand the Gospel. The Gospel is not just asking Jesus into your heart so that you will be happy all the day. The Gospel is 'while we were sinners, yet Christ died for us.' There is a just condemnation against us, a sense in which God, in order to be just, the apostle Paul says, must punish evil and He has done so in Jesus Christ. If you don't understand justice, you can't understand justification."