December 28, 2015

Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

I’ve really needed to do this for sometime. My goal is to spontaneously and slowly reflect on each chapter of Wayne Grudem’s “Politics According to the Bible.” I don’t know how long it will take me. I created a tag especially for this series: Grudem politics. You can always link to the tag when people ask about the book.politicsaccordingtothebible

Grudem’s book seems to be the most comprehensive approach to “politics according to the Bible” to come out of the modern “New Calvinism” world. It is cited often and people ask me every single month what I think about it. Let me not bury the lead: I am not a fan. I can see why it is influential in conservative evangelical circles, and I think my taking the time to go over it will help provide a much better alternative.

Obviously, I don’t categorically disagree with everything Grudem writes in the book. There are good things here and there. But as we will see, these bright spots are only incidental, arbitrary, and without a principled foundation.

The best thing: Grudem agrees with us that any model for “government” and “law” must be built on the idea that “this world is not our home.” That is, the kingdom of heaven is not to be associated with the various political orders of this world, and it is theologically impossibly to use the sword to advance the kingdom. Most people respond to this by conjuring up images of the crusades: “well yeah, obviously we aren’t supposed to go around killing people unless they convert to Christianity.” But actually, the idea of not using the sword to advance the kingdom goes much deeper than that. Within this very principle is the ultimate reason to reject systems such as the Christian Reconstructionism one. Because contrary to Reconism, the Bible does not teach that the purpose of civil law is to create dominion over the world.* It is better to think of the purpose of a civil law as keeping order and avoiding conflict for the purpose of keeping civilization going until all the elect have been saved per the Noahic Covenant.

And, in line with this, the kingdom of heaven can literally only be advanced intellectually; through the spreading of doctrine and the increase of people assenting to truth propositions.

But riddled throughout the book are fallacies, poor assumptions about social order, bad economics, collectivist arguments, and an inconsistent theory of criminality and the use of government force. We will get to these as we go through.

I hope you enjoy the series.

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*Remember, civil law is ultimately backed up by force. If something is illegal, what that means is that such action can legitimately be responded to with force. If something is legal, what that means is that such action cannot be legitimately responded to with force. Consider murder. Libertarians think murder should be illegal. What this means is that if a murder is committed, the murderer can legitimately be responded to with force. Now consider drugs. Libertarians think that drugs should be legal. What this means is that if a drug is used, the drug user should not be responded to with force.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • Looking forward to this! You should consider doing a podcast episode along with each post. I think that would be very helpful for people.