In part one of this post, I argued that the idea of ‘Reclaiming America for Christ’ as a politically based agenda for the church is not one that can be biblically justified, as appealing as that idea may sound to patriotic ears.
We all want a better America and we could sure use a more moral and just America in our days of civil unrest, COVID-19 craziness and economic uncertainty right now, yet God’s people should know that we are to do his work, his way and civil revival nor revolution are his ways – particularly by political means.
Therefore, although Christians have by God’s grace the freedom if not the responsibility to vote and vote well, the church itself must be ‘reclaimed’ or return to its Lord and Savior- at least theologically, by getting on the same page biblically, before it becomes more preoccupied with our upcoming presidential election than it already is, according to the just released, biennial Lifeway and Ligonier survey on the State of Theology for 2020.
Perhaps the biggest change in this theological survey of Americans and confessing evangelicals in comparison to 2016, is the finding that evangelicals are half as likely to believe that Christians should be silent on political issues than they were in the prior election cycle. Action on social media right now would seem to affirm this finding, that professing believers are becoming more politically passionate and engaged than in 2016, but at what cost?
Are Christians becoming more politically literate and energized while becoming less so – biblically and theologically? The State of Theology’s survey results are mixed on that question. Among the good news from evangelicals is their doctrine and near unanimous beliefs about God:
- God is a perfect being (97%)
- God is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (96%)
- God cares about our day-to-day decisions (87%)
What is not so good according to the survey results, was the uncertainty among evangelicals in their doctrine about the persons and nature of the Trinity, beginning with Jesus Christ, where a disappointingly high number still believe the heresy of Arianism, which teaches that Jesus is not God but rather his greatest ‘creation.’
Two-thirds (65%) affirmed the statement that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” Moreover, in a question that was new to the survey this year, a sizable minority (30%) of those with evangelical beliefs do not believe that Jesus is God but instead think he is simply a “great teacher.” Frankly, a rejection of the doctrine of the deity or divinity of Jesus, could disqualify one from even claiming to be a Christian, evangelical or otherwise.
As to the Holy Spirit, nearly half (46%) of professing believers say the Spirit is a “force” rather than a person. And almost 2 in 10 believe the Spirit can tell them to do something which is forbidden in the Bible. Both of those assertions are contradictions in themselves with respect to the biblical and evangelical faith and betray a lack of scriptural understanding.
What is an Evangelical?
You’ll note I have not and will not cite the stats or make any analysis of mainstream attitudes of theology among Americans as a nation, from the survey, since we should assume non-confessing believers will have limited if any correct understanding or theology about God and his gospel anyway. They are what they are and are in need of the gospel.
However, the survey’s results are most meaningful when considering the identity of evangelical Christians, a term which traces its roots to a few centuries back, but began to take hold as a label in describing many Christians in the U.S. around the early 20th century to the present.
‘Social gospel’ and other liberal leaning Christians tend to shy away today from the evangelical label, believing as many secularists and politicos do, that evangelical Christian is code for, ‘ A Republican,’ who talks about God a lot in the United States. That stereotype has unfortunately infiltrated much of our county’s discourse over the last generation of time, due to the apparent allegiance or marriage that has taken place between the GOP and politically and often biblically conservative Christians (i.e. ‘The Moral Majority’ and the ‘Religious Right’).
Political partisanship aside, evangelicals are typically characterized by whether one strongly agrees with each of the following four statements for the purposes of discussion:
– The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe (Sola Scriptura– Scripture Alone).
– It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
– Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin (Sola Gratia – Grace Alone).
– Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation (Solus Cristos – Christ Alone).
Interestingly enough, one could say that the above evangelical beliefs are doctrines which parallel at least three of the five sola’s of the Protestant reformation.
So, what does theology and doctrine have to do with “Reclaiming America?” The answer to that question has more to do with the reformation sola of God’s glory alone (Soli Deo Gloria), than simply casting a vote at the ballot box.
God is most glorified by kingdom citizens who understand that their true “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and therefore, are ‘strangers on earth,’ as the apostle Peter’s first letter to the early churches implies, echoing the calling of Israel’s remnant to live as exiles while in Babylonian captivity.
Or to put it another way, we belong to God, not to any political party. It was in Babylon where God’s chosen people were commanded to be theologically and doctrinally pure, to plant themselves in a community, congregate as a people, live godly lives and pray for and seek the ‘welfare of the city’ where they had been sent (Jer. 29:4-9).
Yes, Christians as American citizens of the ‘City of Man’ (non-believers, pagans) as Augustine would put it, should seek the welfare of and justice for their country and communities. Participation in politics is a part of that- it is just not primary to the Lord’s kingdom advance in the U.S.A.
By majoring in the majors, meaning proper theology and doctrine in contrast to some of the State of Theology survey results above, disciples of Christ should be better informed and therefore wiser when they vote.
Voting in God’s will – ‘WWJVT’ (Who Would Jesus Vote For), will best serve this nation and will best be accomplished when true ‘evangelicals’ best and most consistently know their Lord, Savior, God and scriptures.
Let’s get Christian noses in Bibles and in the fellowship of God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated and Spirit-filled churches, doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, before we worry about who and what we vote for on election day.