SOUDER: Part 3: Why you can’t separate politics and religion

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Politics is a touchy subject for some, but it shouldn't be.

By Chuck Souder

In my last two columns, I have waded into the often-perceived-as-controversial territory at the intersection of politics and religion. Though many try to keep them separate, it is my firm belief that because God established the idea of government (Romans 13) and because governing is first and foremost a moral and spiritual enterprise (making laws that determine right and wrong), trying to separate politics and religion is not only undesirable, it is impossible.

The basic premise for this series of columns is this: Because the Bible speaks directly to most of our social and political issues and because followers of Jesus should be governed by what the Bible says, all Christians should have similar positions on those issues.

Because that is sometimes not the case, I suggested three reasons that Christians don’t have more uniform positions on the key questions of the day – compartmentalization, confusion, and non-commitment.

As we have discussed previously, some Christians don’t think biblically about social and political issues because of a false belief that somehow their religious views shouldn’t affect their political ones (compartmentalization) and others simply because they misunderstand what the Bible teaches about the issues (confusion).

These first two situations are “treatable” – that is, if people are truly open to investigating what God has said in the Bible about any given issue, then a singular “Christian voice” is possible.

However, as we will look at today, some self-described Christians don’t take a biblical stance because they simply aren’t committed to the Bible as being authoritative in their lives. These people look at the Bible in much the same way that Captain Barbosa viewed the pirate’s code in The Pirates of the Caribbeanwhen he told Elizabeth Swann “the code is more what you'd call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”

At the risk of offending some readers, allow me to ask a couple of very politically-incorrect questions:

  • If a person refers to himself or herself as a Christian (that is, a follower of Christ) yet makes no attempt at conforming his or her beliefs and actions to the Bible (that is, God’s word), is such a person truly a Christ-follower?
  • Further, if you claim that the Bible isn’t totally reliable, then how do you know which parts to believe? If one part isn’t trustworthy, why is it reasonable to believe any of the rest of it is?

In this regard, the atheist who denies God’s existence and casts aside the Bible entirely – though tragically wrong – is at least more logically consistent.

I understand that some will reply that because the Bible has been translated over the years by fallible human beings, it must be full of errors and therefore cannot be taken as authoritative for our lives. However, as theologian and author Norman Geisler has said, “The Bible claims to be the Word of God and the Bible proves to be the Word of God.”

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Indeed, the Bible claims to be the very word of God and, in spite of numerous attempts to discredit it, has always proven trustworthy. In fact, as Geisler and others have shown, the Bible’s reliability has been consistently confirmed by archaeology and is the only book whose divine authority has been miraculously confirmed by the fulfillment of numerous specific predictive prophecies.

When asked about supposed errors or contradictions in the Bible, Geisler responded, “I’d give the benefit of the doubt to the Bible, because of the eight hundred allegations I’ve studied, I haven’t found one single error in the Bible, but I’ve found a lot errors by the critics….When it has been proven to be accurate over and over again in hundreds of details, the burden of proof is on the critic, not on the Bible.”

(For further reading on the topic of the reliability of the Bible, there are many excellent resources, three of which are When Critics Ask, by Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Case for Faith, by Lee Strobel and The Book of Books, by William Kimball.)

Of course, there are some who try to claim the name of Christian but totally disregard what God has clearly said in the Bible. In fact, some churches (and even whole denominations) are known for stances that openly contradict the Bible’s plain teaching.

Interestingly, the Bible actually predicted that would be the case. In 2 Timothy 4:2-4, the Apostle Paul tells his young student Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

It seems obvious to me that the time to which Paul referred has come, and that actually brings me back to a point I have made before:

It is my belief that the great divide in America today is not primarily political, socio-economic or racial but rather is spiritual in nature.

I have found that if you dig a little deeper, most of the issues come down to those who believe God created the world (and is therefore the Ultimate Authority to whom we all must answer) and has spoken to us definitively through the Bible, and those who don’t.

Because of this, as God is pushed farther and farther to the margins of our culture, it is not surprising that our society is becoming more and more polarized. This is readily evident in the political discourse preceding the upcoming election, and the very confrontational nature of politics is sometimes enough to cause many Christians to throw up their hands and wish it was Nov. 7 and the whole thing was over.

But, as Christians, we have a duty to wade into the fray and try our best to be salt and light in the world by helping to elect the men and women who are most likely to govern wisely and honor God in their decisions. We cannot sit this one out, because although politicians might not be able to solve all of our problems, they can certainly make them worse.

Ideas have consequences, and as Christians we have a responsibility to do what we can to make things better.

So what does all this mean for the upcoming election? Is God a Republican or a Democrat? Whose side is God on? For whom should a Christian vote? We’ll take a stab at those questions next time.


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org. Find other columns by Souder at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.