The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Of Christian nations

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What is the state and what is the church? Once we come to a biblical understanding of these two institutions and what their purposes are, we will have no problem seeing the absurdity of declaring Zambia a Christian nation (or a secular state) and enshrining it in the constitution.

So writes Conrad Mbewe in a slightly reworked version of an older lecture on Zambia as a Christian nation. 20 years after the then-President declared it to be such, Conrad returns to the issue and gives some excellent insights into the relationship between the church and the state, and the roles and relationships of individual Christians in and between each, which we would do well to heed, especially with our Prime Minister recently suggesting that he wants Britain to be a Christian country.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 30 December 2011 at 22:00

Review: “Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative”

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Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative

Carl R. Trueman

Presbyterian & Reformed, 2010, 144pp., paperback, $9.99

ISBN 978-1-59638-183-4

Provocative, punchy and playfully perverse, Professor Trueman writes with gleeful awareness of his contrariness. This republocrat’s fundamental assertion is that theological conservatism and political conservatism do not necessarily walk together in lock-step, in the course of addressing which he turns his guns with deliberate abandon on both the left and (mainly) the right of the political spectrum (including the yoking of religion and patriotism, Fox News, Max Weber, and democracy itself). It is the literary equivalent of deliberately shooting fireworks from the hip: you will enjoy the delightful verbal pyrotechnics, but there may be little real damage done. It relies substantially on the perspective of a British immigrant, and will therefore be of most interest to American believers, although those looking in, and familiar with the more conservative Christian scene in the US, may find it less bewildering and more relevant. This is a volume that raises rather than addresses a variety of interesting issues, and asks some serious questions in a manner so playful as almost to undo itself. I imagine that you will have as much fun reading it as Trueman probably did writing it.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 11 February 2011 at 06:00

Political provocations

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From Paul Helm, who comments on Wayne Grudem’s Politics and Geron & Wehner’s City of Man, concluding thus:

So you see, this is the perennial problem for would-be Christian cultural and political analysts. Usually, by the time they come to write their books, they have stepped over the line. Repeat after me: Such analysts are not doctors and teachers in the church. Isn’t that a shame? No, it is not. Rather, it sets in relief what should be the glory of the Christian church – that the body of Christ is an Accident and Emergency Unit of men and women of various political hues and outlooks, and of none: social misfits, political oddballs, the proud, the vain, carpet-baggers as well as the filthy rich, and those who could not care less. Each affirming the fact of being united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Such it was from the beginning. Why should it be any different now?

Happy?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 15 October 2010 at 14:50

Posted in Culture and society

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Grudem on government

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Yesterday evening I was at St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, to hear Wayne Grudem speak for the Christian Institute on whether political engagement distracts from the gospel.  This was the first date in a planned tour (coming soon to a town or city somewhere within striking distance of you, maybe).

Colin Hart of the Institute gave Wayne a monster build-up, which – while it may be a reflection of genuine respect and affection – does rather tend to give the audience an over-inflated idea of what to expect.  There were no staggering insights here, but there was a clear and winsome presentation of Grudem’s perspective.

Beginning with a gracious review of the place of the UK in the ongoing combat for liberty of conscience and public Christian testimony, Grudem then presented five wrong views concerning Christian involvement in the political sphere, which have been more or less publicly articulated, or are to some extent popular attitudes:

  • Government should compel religion.
  • Religion should be excluded from government.
  • All government is evil and demonic.
  • Do evangelism, not politics.
  • Do politics, not evangelism.

Each was presented with Grudem’s characteristic fairness, and he responded to each with a clear and fundamentally Scriptural rebuttal.

Then, calling on examples from Daniel, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Esther, and John the Baptist, and drawing on apostolic teaching from Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, he called for “significant Christian influence on government” as the right and righteous approach, making application to Christians in general and to pastors in particular.

Positively, it was an excellent example of clarity and fairness of communication.  He employed Scripture wisely and widely, both in exposing error and in promoting truth.  I think that I had a great deal of sympathy with his fundamental conclusion.  I enjoyed it, even though it was – quite rightly – not so much ground-breaking as a heartfelt engagement with the times in the light of God’s Word.

Outstanding issues remain: in terms of his positive conclusion, what is “significant . . . influence”?  I hope I understand the principle, but I think that this needs to be developed, not least in terms of the difference between the engagement of the Christian who is a citizen/member/subject in a state or nation, and the responsibility of the church as a body.  I would like to have seen the right relationship between evangelism in a fallen world and engagement with that world in the political and societal spheres more fully developed.  I think we need to make sure that – while there are helpful principles and illustrations to draw from our Old Testaments (God forbid that we should abandon them here) – we take great care to distinguish between the time when God revealed himself to and through a nation-state in which he was the supreme ruler, and the very different mode of his dealing in the New Testament period and following.  We must take care not to assume that we can simply read across from the days when God tied his name to a national people in a particular land into the days when God has tied his name to his church in every place.  I also think that we must take pains not to pressure the Biblical data into a 21st century Western mould.  Not least, we should not assume that ‘government’ – and, more specifically, ‘good government’ – looks like a modern Western liberal democracy.  I do not think that Prof. Grudem had the time in the context of this meeting to develop these questions, and so I look forward to his forthcoming massive tome on the topic, Politics According to the Bible (from Zondervan later this year, probably September).

On the way home I read Grudem’s new book, Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business.  I got the sense that it is a nuggety version of particular aspects of the larger volume on Politics.  If Business is anything to go by, Politics will be stimulating to the point of provocative.  I hope to give a brief review of Business for the Glory of God in due course.

In the meantime, I would advocate going to hear Professor Grudem with a genuinely Berean spirit.  The very clarity of his address will help to identify the issues with which believers need to wrestle in order to honour God in this regard.  (Plus, excellent discounts on his books, old and new, are given.)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 25 June 2010 at 11:56

Long night, strange morning

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What a fascinating night, and what a curious situation we face as a nation.  Perhaps not so surprising that we have a hung Parliament, but very intriguing is the degree of hungitude (new political word alert).  Looking at the pattern of voting, there does not seem to be a single pattern, and even some of the collection of patterns are more trends with notable exceptions than consistent patterns.  What the immediate and longer-term future holds, who can say.  Expect not many people to know what is really going on for a long time.

Here in Crawley, Henry Smith, the Conservative candidate, secured quite a substantial majority.  Congratulations, Henry!  Commiserations to the other candidates, a couple of whom ran excellent campaigns.

And for the people of God?  We are exactly where we were before: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12.28).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 7 May 2010 at 09:16

Quizzing the candidates

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If you have been following the blog recently, you will know that the pastors of Maidenbower Baptist Church wrote to the Parliamentary candidates of the three main parties with a series of questions, hoping to clarify some of the issues for Crawley’s Christian voters.  All three candidates were kind enough to respond, and their answers are now posted, as follows (alphabetically, by surname):

I am very grateful to all three gentlemen for taking the time to answer.

I should also point out that another Crawley congregation, Three Bridges Free Church, are hosting a hustings on Thursday 29th April from 8-9.30pm to which all the Parliamentary candidates for Crawley have been invited (though I am not sure how many have confirmed their attendance).  If you would like to know more, or would like an opportunity to follow up the answers provided here, that is the place to go.  In addition, the Christian Institute has made an election briefing available.

Quizzing the candidates: Chris Oxlade (Labour)

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The pastors of Maidenbower Baptist Church wrote to the Parliamentary candidates of the three main parties with a series of questions, hoping to clarify some of the issues for Crawley’s Christian voters.  Chris Oxlade, the Labour Party candidate, has kindly provided his answers.  Links to the other candidates’ answers are below.

Chris OxladeHenry SmithJohn Vincent

1.         Is our society broken?  If it is, how does your party hope to fix it?

I don’t beleive our society is broken. I believe there are issues and problems which need a fresh look at and tackling but society isn’t broken. I’ve had the honour of working with charities, faith groups, voluntary groups and residents associations in Crawley for the last 15 years with the Mercury FM Charity Appeal, which I run. So many people are caring, giving, dedicated people who care about society and want to make a difference. To label their work as a “broken society” which some opposition politicians like to do is pretty offensive and degrades the community spirit which is building all the time in Crawley.

2.         Do you believe that Christian values have a beneficial role to play in contemporary society?  Is Christianity merely a private matter, or should it be allowed freely and publicly to influence the words and deeds of those who believe?

I do. I had a Christian upbringing, (was even a choir boy at Worth Church!) and it has given me a passion for trying to help others and care about where we live. It should be allowed freely and publicly to influence the words and deeds of those who believe.

3.         Do you believe that marriage is for a man and a woman alone and that it is the duty of the state to do all it can to strengthen and encourage the institution of marriage?

I strongly believe that the family unit is the bedrock of society and I’d like to see more done by the state to strengthen this.

4.         Do you accept that people who believe that heterosexual marriage is the only proper context for a sexual expression should be free to say so without falling foul of the law or losing their jobs?

I believe in free speech, I also believe that people have rights to a personal life, and that’s exactly what it is. A personal life, which if not hurting anyone else, has nothing to do with anyone else.

5.         Do you believe that churches/religious groups should be free only to employ people whose beliefs and lifestyle are in accordance with the specific teaching of those churches/groups?

Yes, I do.

6.         Should school governors be given discretion over the contents of sex education lessons and should the concerns of parents be taken into account when deciding what children are taught?

Yes.

7.         If elected, would you oppose any extension of Sunday trading hours in shops?

Yes.

8.         If elected, would you support a reduction of 24/7 licensing?

I’m not against more open licensing laws in principal, restricting free choice is something I’m not for, however, more careful implementation of 24/7 licensing needs to be considered.

9.         If elected, will you oppose the introduction of Sunday elections?

Yes.

10.       Do you believe that the law on abortion is too lax, too restrictive or about right?

About right.

11.       Do you think that the law on euthanasia should be changed?

This is a very complex and emotive issue and more research needs to be done into this first

12.       Local issues:

  • Crawley does not seem to have a great reputation locally or nationally.  Is this fair, and what – if necessary – should be done about it?

Crawley is a great place to live. I was born and grew up in the town and work in Crawley all my life. It does get a rough deal locally by our town neighbours, but Crawley’s is where most people locally can fly off on holiday from, work in, shop in and visit reguarly. I’d like to see more independent stores in the town centre to help Crawley have a better identity locally, more new green business on Manor Royal and many more community events.

  • Do you oppose or support the idea of a second runway at Gatwick Airport?

I would not rule out a second runway at Gatwick. I would like to see the new owners bringing up capacity for the airport, as it’s a long way off of reaching passenger capacity

  • If elected, will you actively be seeking to obtain a new hospital for Crawley?

Yes. With full a&e and maternity. In the meantime, I will fight for more services to be brought back to Crawley Hospital.

13.       Why should the people of Crawley vote for you at the upcoming election?

I’m passionate about Crawley, I love the town. I would be honoured to represent Crawley at Westminster, but more importantly I would put Crawley first in everything I do. I want things to change, a new hospital, better housing, more youth facilities, a stronger green ecomony. Crawley is a great place to live. I believe I can make a difference in Crawley in the years to come.

Thank you, Chris.  I know you stayed up late and got up early to get these answers to us as soon as possible.

Chris OxladeHenry SmithJohn Vincent

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 23 April 2010 at 09:22

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