Politics According to the Bible
by Laurence M. Vance: One
Reason Why Christians Should Not Recite the Pledge of Allegiance
Wayne Grudem, Politics
– According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding
Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Zondervan,
2010), 619 pgs., hardcover, $39.99.
back in the mid 1990s when I was teaching theology and Zondervan
published Wayne Grudem’s Systematic
Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. I thought
it was a good book, and now see that it has sold over 300,000 copies.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw that the author recently wrote
an equally massive book on politics. It is not everyday when a theologian
is found to have such a different field of interest and, in the
case of Grudem, expertise.
As I have mentioned
in some of my other reviews of Christian books (see here,
because one of my primary interests is the intersection of religion
with politics and economics, I try to read and possibly review any
books on these subjects. Although I am usually disappointed, Politics
– According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding
Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (hereafter just
Politics – According to the Bible), although it has much
to disappoint, and much I vehemently disagree with, is still an
important and needful work that I can recommend to Christians interested
in religion and politics, albeit with many caveats.
is Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix
Seminary in Arizona. He was formerly Professor of Biblical and Systematic
Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. Grudem
holds degrees from Harvard, Westminster Seminary, and a Ph.D. from
Cambridge. He has served as president of the Evangelical Theological
The book is
very well written and organized. Grudem divides the book into three
parts: Basic Principles (5 chapters), Specific Issues (10 chapters),
and Concluding Observations (3 chapters). There is a brief preface
and introduction, a very detailed table of contents, clear chapter
divisions, footnotes, and Scripture, name, and subject indexes.
approach to the issues he discusses is threefold: arguments from
direct biblical statements, arguments from broader biblical principles,
and arguments that do not depend on the Bible but on an evaluation
of the relevant facts in the world today.
Grudem is a
conservative and a Republican, makes no apologies for it, and doesn’t
try to hide it. But although he claims in his preface to "not
hesitate to criticize Republican policies" where he differs
with them and gives as examples "runaway government spending"
and "the continual expansion of the federal government"
under conservative Republican presidents, the book is long on criticism
of Democrats and liberals (with one direct, negative mention of
libertarianism [p. 275], although it is not in the index), and short
on criticism of Republicans and conservatives.
boys are President Barack Obama, Jim Wallis, the author of God’s
Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It,
and, to a lesser extent, Greg Boyd, the author of The
Myth of a Christian Nation:
How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church.
Boyd has written
what I think is a good book criticizing Christian nationalism and
warmongering, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything
in it. Wallis is a liberal Christian that I rarely agree with either.
I also share Grudem’s aversion to the Marxist, socialist, fascist,
corporatist abomination that is Obama. In other words, I feel about
him the same way as I feel about George W. Bush.
go down in history as one of the worst presidents ever. He gave
us the No Child Left Behind Act, expanded Medicare with a prescription-drug
program, started two immoral and senseless wars, justified perpetual
incarceration, torture, and innumerable other violations of civil
liberties and human rights. He had bailout and stimulus programs
before Obama did. He crippled corporations with the Sarbanes-Oxley
Act, destroyed the Fourth Amendment with the Patriot Act, waged
war on the Bill of Rights, created the monstrous Department of Homeland
Security with its groping TSA goons, and increased farm subsidies
and foreign aid. Bush and the Republicans used the federal treasury
as an ATM, doubling the national debt, massively increasing government
spending, and giving us the first trillion-dollar budget deficit.
is mentioned many times in the book, there is only one negative
thing said about "George W. Bush’s administration" (p.
573). It is in the Concluding Observations section, and it is just
basically a restatement of what Grudem said in the preface that
I quoted above about the increase in government spending that occurred
"when Republicans had majorities in both the House and the
Senate." Taken together, both of these statements imply that
there is some criticism of Republicans in the pages between them.
But all you will see is some faint criticism of Republicans on pages
274 (a quote from someone else about government debt), 313 (some
Republicans opposing change because they are fearful of losing re-election),
and 489 (wealthy members of Congress). The only significant criticism
of Republicans is on page 474 where Grudem says he is astounded
"that anyone in either party, whether Democrat or Republican,
would oppose having Congress and the President take the necessary
steps to complete a secure and impenetrable border fence
immediately." Later in his Concluding Observations section,
Grudem reluctantly admits that "President Reagan, a Republican,
supported some reduction of the US nuclear arsenal" (p. 582),
condemns "hyper-conservative people who have opposed any elements
of a plan that would allow any path to citizenship whatsoever for
the illegal aliens who are now here in the United States" (p.
584), and criticizes John McCain for being an opponent of "coercive
interrogation methods" (p. 582) and a prominent supporter of
campaign finance restrictions (p. 585).
previously, the book is divided into three parts. The first section,
Basic Principles, actually consists of four distinct elements: what
Grudem considers to be five wrong views about Christians and government
followed by his "better solution," biblical principles
concerning government, a biblical worldview, and the court system
as the ultimate power in a nation. The second and most important
part of the book is the Specific Issues section. Although there
are ten chapters here, there are actually about fifty topics that
are discussed, from things one would expect like abortion and private
property, to unexpected topics like farm subsidies and CAFE standards.
The third division of the book, Concluding Observations, has three
unrelated chapters, two of which depart from the stated purpose
of the book.
out with his five wrong views about Christians and government: "government
should compel religion," "government should exclude religion,"
"all government is evil and demonic," "do evangelism,
not politics," and "do politics, not evangelism."
The problems with the first two and the last one are obvious, but
I think Grudem errs in his treatment of the other two.
In his discussion
of "all government is evil and demonic," Grudem is mainly
arguing against Greg Boyd and his The Myth of a Christian Nation.
Grudem takes issue with Boyd’s reference to Jesus’ encounter with
Satan when he was fasting in the wilderness, specifically this:
And the devil,
taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms
of the world in a moment of time,
And the devil
said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory
of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will
I give it.
If thou therefore
wilt worship me, all shall be thine. (Luke 4:5-7)
Boyd is wrong in pointing out that Jesus "doesn’t dispute the
Devil’s claim" because Satan is lying, because "there
is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own:
for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). I think
the point here is that Satan was offering Christ the kingdoms of
the world now, without the Cross, which was not in the plan
of God. Christ later said that his kingdom was not now of
this world (John 18:36), although it will be in the future (2 Timothy
4:1). Christ three times refers to the devil as "the prince
of this world" (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) – the "present
evil world" (Galatians 1:4) that "lieth in wickedness"
(1 John 5:19). It could be argued that the devil had this position
by usurpation and permission (see Job 1 & 2; Daniel 2:21, 4:25;
John 19:11), but he had it nevertheless.
In taking issue
with Boyd’s pacifism (which I don’t necessarily agree with), Grudem
makes some statements that show where he will go later in the book
on the subject of national defense (chap. 11). He reasons that taking
the view that "all government is demonic" (how else could
you describe the current U.S. government?) "would mean less
and less support for a strong military" that could "oppose
evil aggressors anywhere in the world" (p. 43). He is concerned
about "aggressive nations who would attack us and our allies,"
blind to the fact that the United States has the most aggressive
foreign policy of any country and is the only country currently
engaged in foreign wars half way around the world. Naturally, like
all apologists for U.S. wars, he is compelled to mention Munich
and appeasement, as if that someone justifies the aggressive foreign
policy of the United States. (On Munich, see my review of "Buchanan’s
against "do evangelism, not politics," Grudem seems to
equate Christians not using political means to transform society
with not preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God and not
seeking to be a good influence on society. He is arguing here against
a straw man. And I think he is incorrect in more than one respect
when he says that "God gave both the church and the government
to restrain evil in this age" (p. 48). The real purpose of
government, as my friend Tom
DiLorenzo has said, is for those who run it to plunder those
who do not.
I have no argument
with Grudem’s "better solution" to what he considers to
be wrong views of Christians and government of "Christian influence
on government." I wholeheartedly concur that "the responsibility
of pastors is to give wise biblical teaching, explaining exactly
how the teachings of the Bible apply to various specific situations
in life, and that should certainly include instruction about
some political matters in government and politics" (p. 62).
On the subject of Prohibition, Grudem makes the good point that
"it is impossible to enforce moral standards on a population
when those moral standards are more strict than the standards
found in the Bible itself" (pgs. 63-64).
The one problem
I see with Grudem’s "better solution" is that it includes
voting. Although I think he wisely says that he doesn’t think Christians
should only vote for Christian candidates or generally prefer an
evangelical candidate over a non-evangelical one (Grudem’s endorsement
of Mitt Romney in 2007 over Mike Huckabee proves his sincerity),
he believes that Christians have an obligation to vote. And
not only vote, but to do something else like "giving money
or giving time to support specific candidates and issues,"
"writing letters or helping to distribute literature,"
or "running for office or volunteering to serve in the military"
(p. 75). I think rather that Christians would do better to give
their money and time to churches and charity work instead of politicians
and political parties, distribute religious literature instead of
political literature, and run for a church office instead of a political
office. And above all, stay out of the military. We are only in
chapter two, and once again Grudem’s admiration for the military
shines through. He also mentions here the canard of U.S. soldiers
dying for our freedoms, including in that number those who were
duped to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. One can already see that we
are going to have a tough time getting through his chapter on national
In the third
chapter of the Basic Principles section, Grudem gives us his biblical
principles concerning government. Here we find mostly good, but
sometimes a mixed bag. He recognizes that "governments too
often attempt to restrict human liberty in ways that are much more
extensive and intrusive and that prohibit not only the doing of
things that are clearly evil, but also doing things that are morally
neutral or good but not favored by the government" and that
"every incremental increase in governmental regulation of
life is also an incremental removal of some measure of human liberty"
(p. 94), but then defends the current airport security system that
views all travelers as criminals and expresses support for a federal
court decision that prohibited a religious group from using marijuana.
is on the subject of taxes. Grudem mentions how taxes result in
lost liberty and freedom and rob people of huge portions of their
lives. But he speaks favorably of "tax-supported playgrounds
and parks where families can picnic and sports teams can practice
and compete" (p. 80). We will see the same thing in his section
on taxes in the chapter on economics (chap. 9).
a distinction between "blind patriotism" and "genuine
patriotism" (p. 109), and makes some good biblical points about
the necessity of sometimes disobeying the government, but does not
seem to sufficiently recognize a distinction between a country and
To finish out
the Basic Principles section, Grudem has chapter on "a biblical
worldview" that is straightforward enough. However, his final
chapter on "the courts and the question of ultimate power in
a nation," while it contains much good information, concludes
with the admonition to vote Republican as "the best way – in
fact, the only way known to me – to bring about a change and break
the rule of unaccountable judges over our society" (p. 154).
Grudem is under the delusion that Republicans generally support
"‘originalist’ judges and justices who will rule according
to the original meaning of the Constitution." I guess that’s
why Senator John McCain voted to confirm to the Supreme Court the
liberal, pro-choice justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
and David Souter. It is also delusional to say that justices Alito,
Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas "consistently" rule "according
to the original meaning of the Constitution" (p. 151). Just
look at the case of Gonzales
v. Raich (2005) where Scalia voted with the "liberal"
majority while Thomas wrote a blistering dissent that charged the
majority with making a mockery of the Constitution. And on the federal
appeals court level, in the case of Seven-Sky
& American Center for Law and Justice v. Holder, the
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just recently ruled that the Obamacare
"individual mandate" was constitutional. The opinion was
written by Reagan appointee Laurence Silberman. (On the legal challenges
to Obamacare, see my "The
Supreme Court and Obamacare.")
The meat of
Politics – According to the Bible is the Specific Issues
section. Each of the ten chapters discusses from four to eleven
topics. The best chapter is the one on The Environment; the worst
is the one on National Defense. Although Grudem covers about fifty
topics, I think some important ones are missing; e.g., civil liberties
and the war on drugs.
on The Protection of Life includes the topics of abortion, euthanasia,
capital punishment, and self-defense and ownership of guns. Obviously,
Grudem, as a conservative Republican, is an opponent of abortion,
and states his case quite well, but I take issue with his statement
that "every vote for every Democratic candidate for President
or Congress undeniably has the effect of continuing to protect 1,000,000
abortions per year in the United States" (p. 177). Earlier
in the section on abortion, Grudem says that no government money
should be given to pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.
But just look at who has been funding Planned Parenthood. This is
post I did on April 28, 2010:
I have seen
it reported in several places that Planned Parenthood, one of
the world’s leading abortion providers, received government grants
and contracts of $350 million for fiscal year 2007-2008 and $337
million for fiscal year 2006-2007. I verified this information
for myself on the Planned
Parenthood website. I also discovered that Planned Parenthood’s
fiscal year ends on June 30. This means that Bush the Republican
was the president during this time. But after doing a little digging,
I also found out that Planned Parenthood received government grants
and contracts of $305 million (34%) during fiscal year 2005-2006.
During this time we not only had Bush the Republican president
but also a Republican majority in Congress. Yet, Planned Parenthood
was still funded. And we are supposed to take Republicans seriously
when they complain that Obama isn’t likely to appoint an anti-abortion
judge to the Supreme Court? Why wasn’t the Republican
Party that concerned about abortion when clinics affiliated with
Planned Parenthood performed 264,943 abortions in 2005?
agree with Grudem on his biblical defense of capital punishment,
I think he exceeds the biblical mandate when he says that he thinks
"that capital punishment should be the penalty for some
other crimes that were intended to or actually did lead to the
death of other people" (p. 192). In his otherwise good discussion
of gun control, I think he compromises when he says the government
should be able to place reasonable restrictions on gun ownership
including "the prohibition of private ownership of certain
types of weapons not needed for personal self-defense" (p.
In his chapter
on marriage, Grudem shines except for his insistence that "only
a civil government is able to define a standard of what constitutes
a marriage for a whole nation of whole society" (p. 222). Marriage
preceded the state, and does not need the state’s oversight. Furthermore,
I think Grudem greatly overstates his case:
governmentally established standard of what constitutes marriage,
the result will be a proliferation of children born in relationships
of incest and polygamy as well as in many temporary relationships
without commitment, and many children born with no one having
a legal obligation to care for them (p. 222).
in reverse order, a child’s parents have the legal obligation to
care for it whether they are married or not, there are many children
born now as a result of temporary relationships without commitment,
and it is ludicrous to think that it is only state oversight of
marriage that keeps people from incest and polygamy. This is akin
to the drug warrior implying that everyone would be on drugs if
all drug prohibitions were lifted.
provides the wrong information on which states have legalized same-sex
marriage. In a book the size of Politics – According to the Bible,
it is understandable that has to be written over a long period of
time. However, every attempt should be made to have facts and figures
up-to-date by the time the book is published. We are told on page
229 that three states – Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont – have
passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, but that the voters in
Maine overruled the legislature and governor. This leaves two states
where same-sex marriage is legal. But on page 596, Grudem tells
us that there are four states where same-sex marriage is legal:
Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Both of these are
wrong. The date Grudem gives at the end of his preface is February
2010. On page 395 he mentions that he is writing in early 2010.
Five states plus the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage
before the book was published. And since Grudem mentions in one
place the latest state to do so – New Hampshire on January 1, 2010
– there is no excuse for the other states and the District of Columbia
not being mentioned.
a good point when he says that if the majority of society decides
to grant domestic partner benefits, "they should not be limited
to homosexual domestic partners, but should apply to all people
living together in long-term relationships where there is mutual
commitment and obligation to care and support each other"
On the topic
of pornography, Grudem begins well: "The fact that something
is morally wrong according to the Bible does not by itself mean
that governments should have laws against it" (p. 242). Yet,
he makes a distinction between laws against looking at pornographic
material (he opposes them) and laws against the production, distribution,
and sale of pornography (he supports them).
chapter includes a discussion of educational vouchers. Although
Grudem believes that "parents, not the government, should
have the freedom to decide how best to educate their children"
(p. 248), he believes, unfortunately, that this freedom includes
the use of other people’s money to pay for their decision. Grudem
wants to see "a system of school vouchers provided by the local
government to pay for the education of children in each family"
(p. 250). To the objection that parents could use vouchers to send
their children to church-related schools, he says, correctly: "The
First Amendment was only intended to prohibit the governmental establishment
of one certain church or religion as the official state church.
It was never intended to prevent all government support for everything
that is done by a church." But this does not mean that the
government should support anything done by a church. What
we need, of course, is a complete separation of school from state,
not a continuation of it through a voucher system. (See my articles
on vouchers here,
here, and here.)
But as to whether "governments should encourage married couples
to bear and raise children" (p. 245), the government should
neither encourage nor discourage this decision.
is a very good chapter. Grudem defends free markets, personal liberty,
limited government, and property rights while disparaging government
regulation, progressive taxation, the "fair tax," and
income redistribution. My favorites:
- Every increase
in taxes takes away that much more human freedom (p. 286).
all over the world are notorious for waste and inefficiency (p.
- Higher taxes
on corporations are just passed on to consumers in the form of
higher prices (p. 289).
- A strong
argument can be made that the capital gains tax should be completely
abolished (p. 291).
- I can see
no justification in the Bible for a "progressive" tax
rate (p. 292).
- When taxpayers
are allowed to keep more of their own money, there is an increase
in the amount of personal liberty in society (p. 300).
belongs to individuals, not to society and not to the government
- My conclusion
is that the estate tax should be permanently repealed (p. 309).
But in typical
Republican fashion, Grudem compromises, and sometimes a great deal.
Note carefully the downward progression (emphasis mine):
is never an efficient provider of economic goods (p. 313).
- It is difficult
to think of any goods or services that a government might
produce that could not be produced better by private companies
- The free
market is almost always a better way of solving an economic
problem than government ownership or control (p. 275).
- Some services
and products needed by the entire society are best provided
by government (p. 285).
"government should establish and maintain an effective money
supply for a nation" (p. 271), "it is necessary for governments
to impose some health and safety standards on the sale of medicines
and foods or other products such as bicycles and cars" (p.
274), some government regulation is necessary "to prevent wrongdoing
such as theft, fraud, and breaking of contracts (p. 276), "there
is some need for government-supported welfare programs to help
cases of urgent need (for example, to provide a ‘safety net’
to keep people from going hungry or without clothing or shelter)"
(p. 281), "it is appropriate for government to provide enough
funding so that everyone is able to gain enough skills and education
to earn a living" (p. 281), the government should enable
"every citizen to live adequately in the society" (p.
281), "there is nothing wrong with the original idea behind
Social Security" (p. 312), and "some provision should
be made to care for those who truly cannot afford medical insurance"
So, lest there
be any misunderstanding about Grudem’s compassionate conservatism:
I want to
reaffirm that I believe that it is right that government provide
some kind of guarantee of support for those who are genuinely
no longer able to work due to old age, disability, or involuntary
unemployment. And it would of course make sense to provide provisions
for partial benefits to be paid to people who wanted to
take semi-retirement and then ease gradually into full retirement
It would make
more sense to follow the Constitution, which Grudem says is the
highest government authority (p. 153), and that authorizes no such
It is unfortunate
that in this chapter Grudem perverts Matthew 22:17 in maintaining
that "Jesus thus endorsed the legitimacy of paying taxes to
a civil government" (p. 285) and Romans 13:4 in saying that
"governments should do ‘good’ for people." (On the former
see Jeffrey Barr on "Render
unto Caesar"; on the later see my recent analysis of another
of Romans 13.)
previously, this is Grudem’s best chapter in the Specific Issues
section. "It is not wrong in principle, as many environmentalists
think it is, for human beings to modify the world" (p. 323),
says Grudem. Man was placed on the earth to subdue it and have dominion
over it (Genesis 1:28). Grudem demolishes environmentalist wacko
claims about global warming, and perceptively sees the issue as
a controversy over human liberty versus government control:
If the government
can dictate how far you drive your car, how much you heat or cool
your home, how much you will use electric lights or computers
or a TV, how much energy your factory can use, and how much jet
fuel you can have to fly an airplane, then it can control most
of the society (p. 380).
the case that there is no good reason to think we will ever run
out of any essential natural resource. To this end, he examines
data regarding population, land, water, clean air, waste disposal,
forests, species loss, pesticides, and life expectancy, and discusses
energy sources. I also like his heroic defense of increased carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere.
All good things
must come to an end. Grudem’s chapter on National Defense is typical
Republican and conservative pro-war and pro-military claptrap.
No one would
have an argument with one of Grudem’s opening statements:
Now, if a
government is commanded by God to protect its citizens from the
robber or thief who comes from within a country, then certainly
it also has an obligation to protect its citizens against thousands
of murderers or thieves who come as an army from somewhere outside
of the nation. Therefore a nation has a moral obligation
to defend itself against foreign attackers who would come
to kill and conquer and subjugate the people in a nation (p. 388).
He also says
later: "No nation has the right ever to use military power
simply to conquer other nations or impose their ideas of social
good on another nation" (p. 394). But all of this goes by the
wayside when Grudem says: "I believe that the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan were just wars" (p. 414). And especially when
he says: "The war in Iraq was a necessary, strategic, and highly
significant step in defending the United States against radical
Islamic terrorism" (p. 417).
not all, Grudem, in typical warmongering, interventionist Republican
fashion, defends coercive interrogation techniques (he justifies
this on the basis of biblical admonitions to discipline children),
John Yoo, George W. Bush, the atomic bombing of Japan, the FBI,
the CIA (we should "be thankful" for it), NATO, more weapons,
missile defense, bigger military budgets, the war on terror, waterboarding
("this procedure does not seem to me to be inherently morally
wrong"), and warrantless wiretapping.
out Congressman Ron Paul for his noninterventionist views (p. 398-399).
He calls his understanding of foreign policy "deeply flawed."
His criticism of the sane noninterventionist views of Dr. Paul is
enough to make you want to put down the book. But your reviewer
There are some
real howlers in the chapter. Like justifying foreign intervention
with the Declaration of Independence (p. 397-398). Like bemoaning
the vote of the Senate to stop production of the F-22 at 187 fighters
(p. 400-401), a decision supported by Senator John McCain, senior
military leaders, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and opposed
by Democratic and Republican senators because they were concerned
about job losses in their districts. Like Saddam Hussein transported
his mass of weapons destruction to Syria (p. 415). And like it is
all Obama’s fault that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is decreasing
(p. 418) when Bush made an agreement to do so in 2008.
review is already too long, I refer the reader to some of my articles
regarding things Grudem brings up. On the sixth commandment is only
about murder (p. 389), see my "The
Unholy Desire of Christians to Legitimize Killing in War."
On soldiers in the New Testament not being condemned (p. 389), see
They Crucified Him" and "Do
Violence to No Man." On the just war tradition being consistent
with biblical teachings (p. 389), see my "What
About Hitler?" On Romans 13 as a justification for national
defense (pgs. 392, 425, 428), see my "Romans
13 and National Defense." On Obama reducing the strength
of the military, see my "Rush
Is Wrong." On torture being okay if we don’t call it torture
(p. 425-433), see my "Waterboard
an A-rab for Jesus," "Christians
for Torture," and "The
Morality of Torture." And on the war in Iraq being a just
war (p. 414-418), see my "Christianity
and the War."
on foreign policy isn’t much better than his chapter on national
defense. But this was to be expected since an interventionist military
policy is just the other side of the coin of an interventionist
foreign policy. No one would argue with the author that the "promotion
of human freedom, human rights, and democratic government is consistent
with the most foundational convictions of our nation" (p. 441).
But it is the way Grudem feels the United States should go about
this that is troubling. He applies the command of Jesus to love
your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) to nations, saying that
"nations should seek to do good for other nations insofar as
they have opportunity to do so" (p. 437). However, the main
way this is to be done is through foreign aid; that is, the looting
of the American taxpayers (see my many articles on foreign aid here).
Grudem supports continuing the Cuban embargo. Grudem is not a dispensationalist,
but still believes that "we should treat Israel as a very special
and close ally" (p. 467). He again states his disagreement
with the noninterventionism of Ron Paul because it is a policy "which
opposes any defense alliances with Israel and all foreign or military
aid to Israel."
an exceptionally hard line on immigration. "The United States
must take immediate action to immediately and effectively close
its borders," he says (p. 473). As mentioned previously, Grudem
favors the immediate construction of a secure and impenetrable border
fence. He sees no valid argument to oppose it or delay it. He favors
more effective law enforcement to prevent employers from hiring
illegal immigrants and the E-Verify program. To his credit, Grudem
does say that the idea that foreign workers will take jobs away
from Americans "is based on a misunderstanding of economics"
(p. 481) And he also says that "immigrants who want to come
to the United States are, by and large, producers who bring
benefit to the economy and helpers who bring other benefits
to the society as a whole" (p. 476). One thing he doesn’t say
is that the welfare state should be abolished to prevent immigrants
draining more resources "from the nation than they provide
to the nation" (p. 472). The fact that Grudem lives in Arizona
may somewhat explain his views on immigration.
presents a biblical and constitutional defense of freedom of speech.
In doing so he harshly criticizes campaign finance restrictions,
campus "hate speech" codes, and the Fairness Doctrine.
The only problem
I see with the author’s chapter on Freedom of Religion is his advocacy
of government-supported "faith-based" programs because
they "‘promote the general welfare’ of the nation" (p.
508). He maintains that faith-based programs "actually save
tax dollars that would otherwise need to be spent to help the people
who are cared for by these religiously based institutions."
But just like vouchers don’t lower federal spending on education,
so faith-based program funding will not lower federal welfare spending.
Our main disagreement is over government funds needing to be spent
on welfare in the first place.
The last chapter
in the Specific Issues section covers topics like regulators, earmarks,
affirmative action, gender-based quotas, farm subsidies, tariffs,
tort reform, the NEA, Native Americans, and gambling. Grudem favors
"the complete abolition of all affirmative action policies
in law and business and government once for all" (p. 524).
He opposes farm subsidizes and tariffs on principle, but is willing
to make some exceptions. He terms regulators "a vast army of
bureaucrats," and labels increasing government regulation as
"anti-democratic" and "anti-free market" (p.
517), but allows for "certain product control standards and
certain standards for safety and justice in the workplace"
to be "enforced by such government agencies" (p. 515).
His criticism of the NEA is mainly over its opposition to vouchers.
The solution to the Indian problem he sees as private ownership
of property instead of the system of tribal ownership.
Grudem says he is not aware of any specific Bible verses that directly
prohibit participating in gambling" (p. 550), and that it is
his personal practice to avoid gambling, but since casinos and state
lotteries "bring much more harm to society than the benefits
they generate" (p. 551), he would vote against a state allowing
a lottery, an Indian casino, or a commercial casino to operate.
(See my articles on gambling prohibitions at the state
levels.) Since Grudem has a section on gambling, there is no excuse
for not having a section on the drug war.
The third division
of the book, Concluding Observations, has three unrelated chapters,
two of which depart from the stated purpose of the book. Chapter
16, on "media bias," closes with one Scripture reference
at the end. Chapter 18, on "faith and works, and trusting God
while working in politics and government," although it contains
may Scripture references, likewise departs from the subject of politics
and the Bible.
titled "application to Democratic and Republican policies today,"
forms the book’s conclusion. It also serves as the author’s solution
to policies that don’t line up with the Bible – vote Republican.
Grudem criticizes Jim Wallis for writing a book about God not being
a Republican or Democrat and then arguing that "‘God’s politics’
are the politics of the Democratic Party" (p. 573), but this
is exactly what he has done as it relates to Republicans.
Grudem is deluded
to think that the policies and principles of the two major parties
represent very different viewpoints (see my many articles on the
Republican Party here).
He claims that "the Republican Party has been dominated by
people favoring smaller government, lower taxes, strong defense,
traditional standards regarding abortion and marriage, the promotion
of democracy, and the promotion of free market economics" (p.
574). Anyone who has studied the history of the Republican Party
knows that this is simply not true (again, see my many articles
on the Republican Party here).
Rather than the teachings of the Bible mostly supporting "the
current policies of the Republicans" (p. 573-574), it would
be more accurate to say that the teachings of the Bible mostly support
Republican rhetoric that they don’t really believe.
One thing that
will turn people from, and cause readers not to finish Politics
– According to the Bible is its size (619 pgs.). The main reason
for this is the author’s departure from the book’s subject, which
is not limited to just chapters 16 and 18. This does not mean that
all his departures are necessarily bad, but I do think that the
book, in its current format, should have been shorter, or else expanded
and put into a more encyclopedic format.
To repeat what
I said at the onset, although this book has much to disappoint,
and much I vehemently disagree with, is still an important and needful
work that I can recommend to Christians interested in religion and
politics, albeit with many caveats.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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