The great things about this book are the very detailed explanations of how our government is supposed to work (concerning how it was originally set up), how it's currently functioning, and some of the difficult issues that are dividing the nation. There really is a great deal of reference material in here and some truly sobering facts.
The down side to the book was how a Christian is actually supposed to respond. He argues that Christians should have significant influence in their government, and he presents some texts that indicate as much. And that is great! But he approaches the Scriptures with a very pick-and-choose attitude as to which texts actually apply to politics.
Particularly disturbing was his dealings with the very school of thought that can actually do much more than simply criticize the current government situation but that can truly offer a substantial alternative with solid authority behind it - the school of thought known as Theonomy.
Grudem was very un-scholarly approach in dismissing theonomic principles when it comes to politics.. His arguments were basically:
Either way, in the case of Grudem in this book, for someone who opposes theonomy so strongly he did sure like to use the Old Testament when it was convenient to his case. But I feel that this only continues to show the world the inconsistency of the evangelical Christian faith in America. We want to evangelize but not make disciples (who wants to teach doctrine? we know they're going to heaven, they prayed the prayer). We want to use the Old Testament as a pattern for societal justice, but only if it's convenient to our own cause.
Example: there shouldn't be an estate tax, and the government shouldn't have so many regulations on the free market; but we shouldn't have such "severe" penalties for crimes like kidnapping, rape, murder, adultery, homosexuality, and we should be allowed to go anywhere in the world to spread democracy whether other countries like it or not.
This is truly Republican principles supposedly backed by the authority of Scripture. The problem is, as Grudem points out, Scripture does not authorize an estate tax nor intrusion in the economic marketplace. But contrary to what Grudem supposes, neither does it authorize a nation the normative prerogative in policing the world. Yet it does authorize “severe” (although the Bible doesn’t call them severe but just (Deut. 4:8; Heb. 2:2) laws for crimes like kidnapping, rape, murder, adultery, homosexuality, etc.
Abandoning theonomic principles (that is, God’s Word should be the standard for ethical norms), Grudem’s main supposition behind his book seems to be whatever seems practical to him in light of what he particularly likes about Scripture or the way things work.
For instance, he likes the idea found in Scripture that education of children belongs to the parents and not to the state. So he presents a case for the option of homeschooling and private schooling (p. 247-248). Yet even then it’s just the “option” for those two - he seems okay with the government taking money from private citizens to support state-sponsored schools (p. 249-256).
But he also likes the idea of the government "enacting laws against the production, distribution, and sale of pornographic materials" (p. 242). While pornography is clearly wrong morally (Mt. 5:27-28), God's Word does not authorize the government to make laws restricting it's uncoerced adult production. That is not a Biblical view of government and its purpose - but since Grudem particularly likes the idea of laws restricting pornography, he upholds it as being “Politics According to the Bible.”
There were certainly some good parts in the book. I must admit that if I wish to be fair (which I do). The best part for me personally was his research on the issues (massive references throughout the book), and his clear explanation of the government's separation of powers (or the separation that is supposed to be there) and how to get those powers back in balance.
But when the foundation is sand, the structure will fall (Mt. 7:24-27). And so while I do think it’s a good reference work, I certainly can’t endorse it as a book that is truly “Politics According to the Bible.”(1)
(1) For a Biblical or theological statement or defense of the orthodoxy of the theonomic perspective, I recommend the following:
Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Greg L. Bahnsen
By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law for Today, Greg L. Bahnsen
No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics, Greg L. Bahnsen
God and Government, Gary DeMar
Theonomy: An Informed Response, ed. Gary North
Institutes of Biblical Law, R. J. Rushdoony
God is Just: A Defense of the Old Testament Civil Laws, Steve Halbrook
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