Opinion

Should Ministers Address Politics From the Pulpit?

Several posts on Facebook are asking this question: Should pastors address politics from the pulpit? I don’t understand why this question keeps getting asked. If the Bible addresses politics (or anything else), then pastors must address politics and anything else the Bible addresses. It’s that simple.

Joel McDurmon, President of American Vision, writes:

[I]f it is true that pastors may not weigh in on “political judgements about specific circumstances,” then everything from abortion to sex trafficking to terrorism is off limits. That makes no sense. But if biblical principles have social application to those issues (where it’s clear), then they apply to all social issues as well. Speak up pulpits!

I became a Christian in 1973. That’s 45 years ago. What do 45 years of preaching and teaching look like? Let’s say you attended church 50 times each year. That’s 2250 messages from the pulpit. If you attended Sunday evening services, that would be another 2250 messages. These numbers don’t count Wednesday evening, Sunday School, Bible studies, and your own personal study. That’s a lot of Bible.

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Are we to believe that in all the times the Bible has been preached or taught that the subject of politics should never come up? How does a minister preach and teach for 45 years and not touch on the politics found, for example, in Exodus, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, the prophets, and the politics of the New Testament (e.g., Matt. 22:21; Acts 16:22-40; 22:22-30; Rom. 13:1-4)?

Preachers and teachers are not to “shrink from declaring the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). If a topic is in the Bible, then pastors are obligated to preach on it. R. J. Rushdoony writes:

What is the relation of clergy and politics? Should men in the pulpit speak out on social and political questions, and, if so, under what circumstances? Answer: The clergy cannot faithfully expound the Word of God without dealing with virtually every social and political question. The Bible speaks not only about salvation but about God’s law with respect to the state, money, land, natural resources, just weights and measures, criminal law, and a variety of other subjects. The clergy are not to intermeddle in politics, but they must proclaim the Word of God. There is a difference: political intermeddling is a concern over partisan issues: preaching should be concerned with Biblical doctrines irrespective of persons and parties.1

Consider Acts 16:22-40:

[Paul] was highly indignant that he, a Roman citizen, had been treated in such fashion by the magistrates, who had not done their duty properly in the investigation of the case before them. Paul did not quietly submit to the injustice done to him. In this first-century case of police brutality, he not only asserted his rights, but also put the authorities in the humiliating position of having to come to him and apologize. Paul had these men up against the wall and kept them there, because they could have gotten into serious trouble for this breach of the law if word of it had gotten back to Rome, or even to the governor at Thessalonica. (Source)

There’s a great lesson here for Christians. These first-century Christians’ involvement in politics acted as a protective of every citizen. The involvement and instruction in politics can go a long way to establish justice for everyone.

People ask why young people are leaving the church. It’s because they don’t see any real-world relevance. Yes, when they die they’ll go to heaven, but what do they do until then? God created the world and He established its boundaries and rules for living in every area of life. The justice system we have today is largely based on biblical law. Let’s tell young people this. The late Chuck Colson described the time he spoke to the Texas legislature:

I told them that the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.

The amazing thing was that afterwards they came up to me one after another and said things like, “That’s a tremendous idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?” I had the privilege of saying to them, “Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.”2

If you want to get young people excited and motivated, teach them the whole purpose of God. Present the history of law in the world and how it has impacted the civilized world.

Should only the gospel be preached on Sunday morning? That is, should only the message of salvation be taught? That would mean at least 4500 messages of the gospel for 45 years with no discussion of politics, education, and economics? I don’t think so

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews has a different take on the comprehensiveness of the Bible’s redemptive message:

Concerning [Melchizedek] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (Heb. 5:11-6:1).

Christians need to grow beyond the elementary principles of the Christian faith. No Christian needs 4500 messages of “the elementary teaching about the Christ.” If he does, then he is most likely not a Christian.

One pastor wrote, “as a rule pastors, especially those who preach in an expository (taking a book at a time, chapter at a time, verse at a time) approach, will be guided by the text. To parachute political talking points into the text is spiritual malpractice.”

If politics is not in the text, I agree. But who says pastors must always preach in an expository manner? The New Testament writers didn’t preach or teach that way. Their letters are not full expositions of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). They addressed issues that were confronting various churches with unique problems. The Bible was made contemporary and relevant.

The above-mentioned pastor goes on to write:

One caveat is this: perhaps a pastor will do a topical series on key issues of the day and how Christians should think through them biblically. I’ve done this as a Sunday Night series. This can be helpful, however, a pastor must be faithful to let the text speak to the issue and not wedge your particular political opinion into the text.

But why just Sunday evening? Why not Sunday morning when most of the congregation is present? Some might say that there might be visitors. Leave salvation to God. People come to Christ in the most extraordinary ways. My wife came to Christ after listening to a prayer. I came to Christ after listing to some bad teaching on prophecy.

The Kavanaugh hearing is a great opportunity to address the subject of law, politics, and a whole lot more. It would make a good sermon series on what the Bible says about jurisprudence. Such things are a major part of our lives. If pastors don’t preach and teach on these topics, the people are going to get the information elsewhere.

Joseph was put in prison because of the unsubstantiated testimony of one woman and what looked like a reliable piece of physical evidence – Joseph’s garment that was left behind as he escaped (Gen. 39:12). She lied, and her political “privilege” gave her the upper hand.

Biblical justice demands at least two witnesses.

  • On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness (Deut. 17:6)
  • A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed (Deut. 19:15).
  • But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED (Matt. 18:16).
  • This is the third time I am coming to you. EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES (2 Cor. 13:1).
  • Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim. 5:19).
  • Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true (Heb. 10:28; also John 8:17).

Without eye-witness testimony, a confession, evaluation of evidence (Matt. 26:59; Acts 6:13), — physical or otherwise (Joshua 7:20‑21) — reliability of testimonies (Mark 14:55-56), there is little a court of law can do. Parading supporters before a committee as “character references” or raucous and threatening protests are not legitimate factors in adjudicating a case in terms of biblical norms.

The United States Constitution recognizes the two-witness factor, a point that no Senator raised: “No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court” (Art III, Sec. 3).

Now if only our government would apply innocent until proven guilty to something like civil forfeiture where no witnesses or evidence are needed to confiscate a person’s property.

  1. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 552. []
  2. Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, ed. James M. Boice (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), 154-155. []
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